Author: Dr Amy Imms, Founder of The Burnout Project and Medical Entrepreneur
An atmosphere of enthusiasm and warmth filled the Arts Centre Pavillion in Melbourne as founder, Dr. Amandeep Hansra, welcomed doctors from across the country to the second Creative Careers in Medicine Symposium (CCIM).
CCIM proudly celebrates the curiosities and talents of doctors beyond traditional clinical medicine, drawing a diverse crowd including consultants, junior doctors, medical students, non-clinical doctors, and doctors who have left medicine behind altogether. This movement isn’t about leaving medicine, or dwelling on the problems in medicine, but about celebrating the humanity of doctors, the array of skills and interests they exhibit, and encouraging them to find the best ways to bring them to to the world.
GP and television presenter Dr.Ginni Mansberg led attendees through a day of stories and insights from emergency physicians, general practitioners, radiologists, paediatricians, and surgeons who had taken brave steps to seek a more fulfilling life. For some, it was a slow realisation and incremental pathway, where others faced abrupt moments of realisation after life-changing moments including illness or the death of a loved-one. The gathered crowd was unified in a desire to improve the culture of medicine through sessions covering issues of burnout and bullying, creating engaging places of work, collaborative leadership, and empowering doctors with new skills, such as management, leadership and governance.
The stories that were shared highlighted just how difficult it can be for doctors to break away from a traditional career pathway. Many shared stories of criticism from concerned family and friends, and decades of hiding their aspirations in shame. Making the firm decision to embark on a new adventure didn’t necessarily make things easier, with lingering turmoil of identity and uncertainty about how to answer the dreaded question: “What do you do?”
Journeys shared from on-stage and in the audience showed that being a doctor doesn’t have to mean setting-aside other interests, ideas, and creativity. According to radiologist and music school founder Dr. Yvonne Ho AM, doctors “can have parallel careers,” or can incorporate their other skills and talents to enrich their medical practice. This was illustrated by speakers such as ballet dancer and jeweller Dr. Jason Lam who works in dance medicine, emergency physician and award-winning photographer Dr. Andrew Peacock, and GP/magician Dr. Vyom Sharma.
A keen interest in health and medical technology permeated the room throughout the symposium, sparked by Dr. Nic Woods of Microsoft sharing exciting new innovations, and and Dr. Chris Jeffrey covering technological breakthroughs in orthopaedics, as well as a myriad of technology ventures at the StartUp Showcase hosted by Quantium Health the evening before. There wasn’t fear of change, or concern that doctors would be replaced by automation, rather these amazing advancements technology were celebrated for what they can contribute to patient care.
It’s important to note that creating a brand new career for yourself—after so many years on a well-trodden medical path—isn’t always straight forward. One fundamental truth that underpins the creative medical careers movement is that the journeys are inevitably meandering, described as “serendipitous crooked winding paths” by Dr. Melissa Naidoo, and “steps sideways or backwards” along the road by Dr. Vyom Sharma. A “master plan” can’t be created for this adventure. Speakers instead advised taking risks, being open to new opportunities, and being willing to walk away from situations that no longer serve you.
CCIM is a hub of innovation, thought leadership, and passion that seeks to normalise and demystify the concept of creative medical careers. It has the potential to drive change, forge new paths for the future of medicine, and empower doctors in finding or creating sustainable and creative careers. Dr. Hansra’s hope is that these events will help doctors find what they’re good at and what makes them happy, and use that to improve the health system.