Updated: Apr 1
Today I interview Dr. Heather Fork (Heather) of DoctorsCrossing, who has been a tremendous influence, resource, and inspiration to me in my post-medical career.
Heather is a board-certified dermatologist and Certified Professional Co-Active Coach (CPCC) through the internationally recognized, ICF accredited, Coaches Training Institute (CTI).
She successfully ran and managed her own dermatology practice for nine years before transitioning into coaching. She works with physicians to figure out whether or not to: shift completely into a non-clinical career, seek a change in environment while still practicing medicine, or a combination of both.
1. What prompted you to pivot from practicing medicine & go into coaching?
I loved learning dermatology and was very happy in my residency program at the University of Miami. Running my own practice was valuable and I learned a lot in the process. One of the things I learned though, was that I’d rather spend time talking to people about their lives than about their skin conditions. More fundamentally, I love helping people find true satisfaction and meaning in their careers. When I sold my dermatology practice, I knew there was something else I was meant to do to help people. But I had no idea what that would be. Some might say I was crazy to leave without a plan, but I had faith that if I could take some time and not worry about it, I would figure things out. And when I was ready for my next “hurrah,” it came to me in two weeks. The idea popped into my head and I signed up for coach training and the rest is history.
2. Any pitfalls, or pieces of advice that you would recommend to those undergoing career transitions?
Know that it often takes 1 – 3 years to make a full transition, so patience is very important. If you wait until you are so burned out you can’t stand your work, you are more likely to just take anything to get out of dodge. I’ve had clients make a transition in a few months and have it work out, but that is the exception. Just like someone getting out of a bad marriage, it’s best to not jump into a new relationship (or job) right away.
Before you send off resumes and interview, take time to find out why you want change and what your options are. The nonclinical career arena is complex and rather challenging to research. You want to explore as many areas possible and determine what would be the best fit for you. I’ve had clients look at all the options and then decide they really do want to stay in practice.
3. Who is your target audience?
Physicians who are seeking to make changes in their careers. I also work with residents, fellows and medical students. Some of my clients want to be happier in practice, others would like to blend clinical and non-clinical work, and about 25% make a full transition.
4. What is the #1 fear, frustration that your clients express to you?
#1 Fear is leaving medicine and discovering that the grass may not be greener and they are unhappy again.
#1 Frustration is how dissatisfying it is to take care of patients in this current healthcare system, for the myriad of reasons we all know about. My clients often say that medicine is sucking their soul away and they are unable to be the kind of doctor they envisioned when they started down this path. Many feel like an over-educated assembly line worker.
5. What is the #1 thing that your clients are pursuing?
I would say that there is not a #1 one direction that my clients are pursuing, except finding what is the best direction for them. Some common themes are finding a way to be happier in practice, working in health insurance, life insurance, pharma, informatics, or as a physician advisor or medical writer.
6. What is the #1 question that you get asked by your clients?
How long does it take to transition?
Thank you, Heather!
Dr. Fork can be reached at: