Physician Spotlight: Dr. Heather Fork, MD (Doctor's Crossing)
Updated: May 30, 2022
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Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Today we have Dr. Heather Fork of The Doctor's Crossing. And what's interesting is, I got my journey started in alternative careers by going through her blog, going through conferences. And now it's time to return the favor. So, Heather, welcome.
Dr. Heather Fork, MD: Thank you. Yes, I'm a fan of yours. And I appreciate all the things that you do for other physicians, I've read your story, I have your book. And I think it's great to share what we've been doing, what's worked and what hasn't worked to help others make it easier. They don't make all our mistakes.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah, I totally agree. And what's funny was, I started my journey sort of getting lost and confused in 2016, and at that time, I thought I was the only one and then I squandered around I was lonely for like five, six years, and I happened upon your blog, and I was like, Oh, wow. And then all of a sudden, this whole new world opened up to me. And I know you got started before me. So tell us how you got started and your journey?
Dr. Heather Fork, MD: I'd be happy to, and I didn't know that, Chris, so I'm glad you found me. I am glad I could have been there for you. How did my story start? Well, let's see. I like to let people know that I really didn't want to go to medical school. For any of you out there who this was not your plan, even up to the day of medical school, I was thinking, Is there something else I could do? And that doesn't mean that I didn't enjoy it. And I didn't enjoy being a dermatologist, I did, just thought I would do something different with animals. And turns out, I really didn't want to be a vet. So I kind of lost my plan. And I ended up going to medical school, because a friend of mine suggested that it would be a good idea. But I fell in love with dermatology I think a year into, when we had dermatopathology.
So I felt I had a direction and then I loved the residency and got into practice. I bought a practice right out of residency and just put my head down and got busy learning how to run a business and be a physician. But it was maybe about four and a half years. And when I dared to ask that question. “Are you happy, Heather?” And the answer was no. And there's a lot of backstory to this, it was never about the patients, I had lovely patients and dermatology is a good specialty. But it really ultimately wasn't the best fit for me. And in hindsight, we understand these things better, especially after becoming a coach and finding out that I love being a coach. And my energy continues to expand into this profession.
So that's a good thing to think about for yourself is, when I was in dermatology after a number of years of practice, my energy started contracting. I was thinking, Can I see patients less than four days a week, Can I see them three days a week? And they are lovely people, I still talk to some of them. But it's that I don't really like being in that role of being a doctor and giving all this information out and scientific information, medical information. It really isn't as exciting to me as helping someone make transformative changes in their life and have these conversations where I get to listen a lot and then ask questions to help the person better understand themselves like I never tire of that I find it thrilling. So it was just a bit of a mismatch which I didn't really understand until after I'd been in practice for a bit
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: It's quite an interesting story. So I've heard you speak but when you go to conferences and you say you know I never wanted to be a doctor but then you got into medical school and then you and then you got into dermatology residency. What is people's reaction to that, I'm just curious because you had sort of like the dream path, you know.
Dr. Heather Fork, MD: They’re surprised, but I hear this story from other physicians so I'm more used to it, where they had something that was more artistic or less of a secure path and their parents talked them into medicine. And so they did well at it. Because if you're intelligent enough, you can do it. I could never have been an astrophysicist. But I could memorize things. So I could do the work. I could apply myself. But I think it's a common thing that happens to physicians, because we're used to achieving, so if someone gives us a goal, and they put us on a conveyor belt, we’ll likely stay on that conveyor belt so we can become what's called a success disaster. I mean, you're successful, but it's really not the thing you're meant to do.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Well, yeah, that's, that's so interesting, because what I tell a lot of my clients and followers is that I love medicine, like the learning part, and the medicine part. And then I got into residency and I just, absolutely hated the work. It's quite interesting how people like different things, and how some people can flourish in a career and some people. I think it's just so fascinating, because it's it because it encompasses so many different values, beliefs, needs, and once
Dr. Heather Fork, MD: it's true, and something like surgery you're doing, if you're not aligned with doing it, it's even harder than if you're in a medical practice, in many ways to continue being a surgeon.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah, I totally agree. So it's interesting, because now you talk about, because it looks like you learned a lot of skills, and then you translated them into new areas. So I know a lot of physicians, they fear, oh I don't know how to do other things, I hate my job. But if I leave, what do I do? So tell and relieve some of these fears, by telling them how you went through it,
Dr. Heather Fork, MD: I think it is an incredibly common fear. And it's definitely not a deal breaker, I think it's more of the physician mindset, that we get used to being in programs and having somebody lay out the curriculum, and they put the hurdles in front of us and they say jump in and we jump. So we're not used to bushwacking. But we're, we can be very good at bushwhacking, we just need to know some ways to be a good bushwacker.
So one of the principles when you're trying to do something different is first of all, don't let the how get in the way. Because that's usually what happens when we think of an idea, like a physician might say, I might like to be a medical writer, or I might like to invest in real estate, or maybe I could go into pharma or something else. And immediately, the question is, well, how do I even get a job? Do I have to have experience? What do I put on my resume? How do I do this? And then they get discouraged. And then you get paralyzed, because it's easier to just keep doing what you know how to do and then to get uncomfortable? Doing something new?
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Oh, yeah. That's quite interesting. And, yeah, and then what's interesting also is, as physicians we do a lot of these skills like we write, we speak, we educate, and it's just interesting how a shift in mindset, you can translate these into areas into coaching such as yourself. And so when you are going from medic, medicine, coaching, what, what drew you to the field, what experiences? I know, a lot of physicians are interested in helping others but in just a different capacity.
Dr. Heather Fork, MD: I just wanted to add that, so once you sort of get the mindset that you can figure this out, and don't worry too much about the how right away, tell yourself, remind yourself that when you started medical school, you didn't know how to do so many of the things that you know how to do now to be a physician, you learn them. So you might not be going to a school to learn how to do what's next or even how to make a transition. But there's always logical steps to follow.
For example, it's best not to apply for a job until you've created a resume and have an understanding about how to prepare for the interview. So there's a logical sequence. And there are always people and resources to help you. But instead of somebody putting in a curriculum, you find these steps out by doing research. Having a coach can help too. So the steps are there to make it doable. It just takes a little more effort to figure out the steps, but we can learn all the things we need to learn to do anything different.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: And what's the know for these skills? How should one go about learning? Is it like through conferences, through any sort of books, seminars, any coaching that person in particular that will help them excel, get these skills and help them along their way?
Dr. Heather Fork, MD: I think it really depends on where the physician wants to go. So there are the general skills of using LinkedIn or writing your resume and those things. So those can be found with different resources. A lot of these jobs, for example, when you go into a new pharma job, they don't expect you to know how to do most of the things you'll be doing on the job, they will teach you in the first six months to a year. But you already have a lot of the fundamentals of knowing how to learn.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: And I know, especially from LinkedIn, because I know, a lot of physicians, they're not with a lot of them, are they they don't have a LinkedIn profile. But in this day and age, online networking is really important. And I know you just create a course on LinkedIn, can you tell the audience about the importance of LinkedIn, how you can use LinkedIn, and ways of getting started.
Dr. Heather Fork, MD: Okay, so I'll try to be brief on that. But I like to think of LinkedIn as a great networking resource that levels the playing field. For anyone who's interested, you don't have to be an extrovert, to be able to be good on LinkedIn. Because a lot of people think of traditional networking as needing to be good at small talk and schmoozing. On LinkedIn, Introverts can do really well and so can extroverts and everyone in between. So you have millions of users on LinkedIn, and you create your own profile. And as a picture, and you can have a banner photo, and you basically put your information that you'd have on your CV or resume, but you also get to include additional content.
And when you're there, you can start connecting with people and building your network. So then when you want to reach out, for example, you'd like to find another physician who's working in a non clinical job that you're interested in, you can search for that specialty, you can search for that company, or that medical director title that they have. And then find people who could actually do informational interviews with you. They might be physicians who can even sometimes open doors at the company they're working at. If you're an entrepreneur, you can advertise on there if people find you. So there's so many different ways to use it. I just think of it like a really powerful Rolodex on steroids. But it's so much more than just a listing of people it's, it's a way to be found and also find others.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Hmm, that's, that's such a, that's an interesting concept. I like the idea of an online Rolodex, because they say that your network is your net worth. So it's just fascinating how physicians can now establish online brands and online identities to help them achieve career fulfillment.
Dr. Heather Fork, MD: Oh, it's very powerful. Like, for example, I had a physician who wanted to work in a particular pharma company, and I said, use your alumni network. I call this the alumni hack, where you go and you see if you can find somebody who went to one of your schools, it could be college, it could be med school, it could be your residency program, and see if they're working at the company or interested or even an industry. So she found this individual who had gone to college. He was older than her, so they didn't know each other. And she said she was interested in his company. And he had a position there and as soon as she reached out to him, he said, I want to send your resume to the hiring manager. He did that. Within a day or two she had an interview and then she ended up getting hired. That was one company, in one job application, and hired and happy.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Wow, that's such an amazing story. So, what are some like just and I know because LinkedIn is a broad topic, just broad strokes, what are some ways that physicians can get started in terms of their profile, just getting set up on LinkedIn, and start getting connected?
Dr. Heather Fork, MD: Yeah, first of all, if you don't have a profile, don't be intimidated, it's not hard to do, you definitely want to have a headshot on there, get your basic information going, you could probably do that in about an hour to just the basics. And then once you're there, you start inviting people. And I just invite any physician, anybody who's a physician, I invite them, and I accept their invitations, you can also custom invite people who might be in a career direction that you're interested in and reach out to them.
And in the course that I have, I talk about how to message people to get a good response. Then if you're interested in searching for jobs, there's a lot of wonderful jobs there. You can search for recruiters, make connections with recruiters, you can even treat it like your own personal website, it's easy to write an article and post it on there. So say, for example, you're interested in medical writing, but you haven't really published much. You could write a 500 word article on a topic of your interest, and put it on your LinkedIn. And then you can link to that so recruiters can see samples of your writing.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Hmm, wow. So then, you can actually just as opposed to just networking, now you can start to use it for education and communication, a website, listing different opportunities. So, it's very, very powerful. So, any pitfalls that physicians should avoid?
Dr. Heather Fork, MD: I think the biggest pitfall is not being on LinkedIn. Because now when you search for somebody, if they don't have a profile, it's starting to look a little bit odd. Not to make you feel bad if you're not there, there's lots of people that aren’t. But it's starting just to become accepted.
Another pitfall is messaging people with a message that doesn't really work. So I like to think of three C's to put in your message. So the first one is you want to connect. The second one is you want to compliment and the third one is you want to clarify. So when you're reaching out, you want to connect with somebody by mentioning something personal from their profile to show that you read it. You could compliment them on a job promotion, or something in their about statement that they mentioned. Then you compliment them.
People love compliments, tell them something you like about the profile, it could even be like the writing. And then clarify is, be clear, and clarify why you're reaching out, it could be, I would just like to add you to my network. Or it might be that they've transitioned into an area that you're interested in and mention that you're interested in transitioning into this area as well. And then once they've connected with you, you can send a longer message, because the first initial one is 300 characters, you can't say a whole lot. But you can then clarify why you're reaching out. I would like, if possible, to have 15 minutes of your time where you could see if I seem to be a good candidate by looking at my resume. Be really clear on what you're wanting and limit the time.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Those are some fantastic tips. And I know, in your course you go more in depth into it. Thanks so much. And I know you've given so many gems and pearls you know about your journey. And about your course I know a lot of people are interested in contacting you either about your course or your coaching. And I know you're speaking at Peter Kim's Leverage & Growth Summit for Physicians. So how can people contact you?
Dr. Heather Fork, MD: Sure and, thank you so much. If people want to reach out to me, they can go to TheDoctorsCrossing.com website. And you can also find me on LinkedIn. I'd love to connect with you there. And if you have a specific question, you can also reach out to the team at team[at]doctorscrossing.com.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Excellent. Yeah, I know. It's funny because I know your coaching. I know your schedule is almost all booked then you're always doing new areas. So for all the listeners, connect with Dr. Heather Fork, she is very open and answers questions. So Heather, thanks so much for being on the podcast and I'm happy to come full circle after all these years and have you on the podcast.
Dr. Heather Fork, MD: Oh, likewise, thank you. It's such an honor Chris and I’ll have to have you on my podcast. It would be a real treat. So thanks for all you do, and I really appreciate it.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Many thanks again for being here. If you’re new, you can find me online at Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD, where I have links to other episodes or links to online resources that will support you on your financial literacy journey. I’ll see you there in on next week’s show. While I bring you thoroughly vetted information on this show regarding a variety of financial topics, I cannot promise you a one size fits all solution. This is why I caution you to continue to learn. Educate yourself and seek professional advice unique to your situation. If you want to talk to me, I welcome it. Please reach out via my website or email at Chris@drchrisloomdphd.com. I read and personally respond to all of my emails. Talk soon!
Editor's note: This transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity.