Podcast #148 Show Notes: Finding Balance in Your Life with Dr. Dawn Baker

Life balance is an important topic as we address physician wellness in the medical community. Why is it so hard for high-income professionals to find balance in their lives? Most of us are striving to do so as we juggle busy careers, family responsibilities, and personal pursuits but it is challenging. Our guest this episode is Dr. Dawn Baker who blogs at PracticeBalance. She became interested in writing about wellness when she experienced a major health crisis during residency training.

In this episode, we discuss what doctors, that feel their lives are unbalanced, can do to change that. Many of us want to do it all but will we be happy trying to do it all or would it be better if we figured out what is most important to us? After interviewing Dr. Baker I feel like I want to hire her as my life coach! Dawn will be a speaker at the WCI Conference next week speaking about how self-knowledge is the key to managing physical and financial health. If you’ll be at the conference you don’t want to miss her talk. If you are not attending, you will be able to buy the video version of the conference in the next couple of weeks. Her blog name, Practice Balance, is a good reminder that finding balance is a continuous practice that everyone can be engaged in to live a healthy, happy life. You’ll find lots of helpful suggestions for practicing balance in your life listening to this episode.

This episode is sponsored by Set for Life Insurance. Set for Life Insurance was founded by President, Jamie K. Fleischner, CLU, ChFC, LUTCF in 1993 which she started while attending Washington University in St. Louis. They specialize in individual term life, disability and long term care insurance. They work on the client’s behalf to shop around to find the most suitable products at the most cost-effective rate. Set for Life is first and foremost a client-centric company. They listen carefully to the needs of clients. Because of the volume and exceptional reputation of Set for Life Insurance, as well as the relationships they have developed over the years, Set for Life clients have access to special services not available elsewhere in the industry. This includes special discounts, gender-neutral policies (saving women significantly), priority underwriting handling and, on some occasions, exceptions in the underwriting process. Contact Jamie at Set for Life Insurance today.

Quote of the Day

JL Collins said,

The market always recovers. And if someday it really doesn’t, no investment will be safe and none of this financial stuff will matter anyway.”

Isn’t that the truth? So while you can’t expect an individual stock to always come back, the overall market is a pretty good bet. You don’t know when, you don’t know how well, but the likelihood of it all just tanking and disappearing forever is awfully low. In the event that that occurs, well, we have bigger problems.

Finding Balance in Your Life with Dr. Dawn Baker

Dr. Dawn Baker was brought up in a privileged middle-class type of household. She never was really worried about money. She never saw her parents worry too much about money, but she did see them spend a lot of money and work a lot.  She said she didn’t really understand the concept of money equaling life energy nor did she think about the finiteness of money and how if you spend it on one thing, you don’t have it to spend on another thing until she got into college. She met her husband and they started rock climbing at that point and that was when she first saw people working part-time or choosing to cut back at work so that they could support the hobby that they loved and have enough money basically to do it but have also enough time to do it. That changed her whole outlook on money.

She pursued a bachelor’s in chemical engineering and a master of science and chemical engineering and worked for a while in that industry before figuring out that she wanted to do something more service-oriented. All the rock climbing and world travel helped her see different cultures and realize she wanted to expand the kind of people that she served in her career. She headed back to medical school and has now been a practicing anesthesiologist for about eight years outside of residency.

Her training was interrupted in residency when she had a large pituitary tumor compressing her optic nerve. Initially, she thought it was just stress and her age and neglecting her health as many residents do. She was doing the bare minimum to address these problems for a couple of years just trying to keep her head down and do her training. I am sure many of you can relate with that feeling. But it started to affect her academic performance. It took a long time to diagnose but she eventually had surgery for the tumor and took some time off her training.

“I’m grateful for it even though it was a dark time in my life and it prolonged my training to a certain degree. It gave me some clarity on my life direction and where I wanted to go in my career. And it made me know what it was like to be a patient and what my patients experience when they’re going through surgery.”

I think things that happen to us early in our careers, really can have a profound impact on the life and career decisions we make. For instance, I had a couple of lawsuits in my first two months of residency, one from my first month of practice and one from the second. They were both eventually dismissed because they really didn’t have any merit, but from very early on, I was very cognizant of documentation and medical legal issues. I think it has affected my practice the whole way through.  I suspect having that experience for Dawn during her training has also affected her career in a lot of ways and certainly what she does on the side.

Practice Balance

Dr. Baker started blogging at Practice Balance toward the end of her residency training when she was suffering from the symptoms of the tumor but thought it was caused by stress and burnout. She really thought she was burned out, and there was a period in residency where every day she would wake up and say she wanted to quit. During that time she read books, went on a silent retreat, and learned stress management techniques. She discovered that she loved writing and wanted to share the information she was learning with doctors. It started with articles on stress management and burnout then through her surgery and recovery and then on to her quest to become a mother she blogged a lot about infertility.  Today her main focus is still back in the self-care and self-knowledge for high-income professionals, not just physicians, trying to find simplicity in life and trying to find balance and know yourself and how to figure those things out for yourself.

She feels like her audience is not necessarily all physicians or just women but she writes for people who are achievement-oriented and are looking for ways that they can have more balance and have a little bit more simplicity in their life and slow down.

Mothers in Medicine

She also writes for a group blog at Mothers in Medicine where she shares some of the information that she learned about being pregnant and working in anesthesiology and in an operating room as well as some of the issues she went through with infertility and what it is like to go through the process of infertility treatments when you’re a busy physician.

I asked her what were some of the issues she had being in the OR while pregnant.

“Well, there are a few different things, mainly I think as an anesthesiologist one of the big difficulties with the fertility treatments was the scheduling aspect of it because our schedules are not in our own control. And when you do fertility treatments, anyone who’s done them know that they are also short notice. So it’s a day-to-day change in plans. That was difficult and then once I was pregnant then, I did write a little bit about being exposed to fluoroscopy, being in the room where they do orthopedics and if you want to step out for when they mix the bone cement and those things.

So kind of environmental factors, and then also just scheduling; it’s difficult to be in a really long case if you are pregnant because you usually have to go to the bathroom more frequently and if you’re in a eight hour case or something that’s really hard. So you have to lean on your colleagues a little bit more.”

You can find all her writings on these issues at Mothers in Medicine. She has been lumped in the category of physician finance bloggers but her main finance-related content is more of the mindset finance, the psychological stuff, not the more quantitative stuff that is seen on a lot of the blogs.

Tips for Finding Balance

Why is it so hard for hard-charging, high-income professionals to find balance in their lives?

“This is why I like the name of my blog because it’s Practice Balance, it’s a continuous practice for everyone. Even me who has a part-time job and who’s very cognizant of the issues and always thinking about it. The thing I think for physicians and other high income professionals is that they’re used to keeping their head down. And things tend to get into a snowball effect for us. Life gets more and more complicated the older we get, the more responsibilities we get, the more accolades we get at work, the more responsibilities we take on, the more money we make, the more complicated life gets.

Then you end up having to outsource all sorts of things and then you have to manage the outsourcing. So a lot of people in our field are just used to putting their nose to the grindstone and hustling and we started this early on. That was how we got into medical school, we were hustling and getting our good grades and just trying to pay attention to that and we got into that snowball effect for all of our lifestyle factors and then we sometimes don’t pause to think about them and look at them and examine if they’re serving us.”

I’m the worst at trying to find balance in my life and continually I let something overwhelm everything else. What tips does she have for a doctor who feels her or his life is unbalanced? The most important thing is figuring out what balance is for you, because it is different for other people. You have to stop and figure out what things you’re doing that are serving you and what things you’re doing you don’t really like and then you maximize the parts of your life that you like and you minimize the parts that you don’t like.

“balance isn’t an endpoint, it’s a continuum and it’s very individual. So the first thing to do is to learn more about yourself, figure out your personality and figure out your likes and dislikes and actually think about it and be intentional because a lot of people, like I said, they just aren’t paying attention to themselves and they’re not taking care of themselves. And so they get just in that mode where they’re not really thinking about what they’re doing.”

A lot of doctors have been told that they can’t do it all, that they have to choose what they want to do with their lives.  What advice do you have for someone like that, who wants to do it all. They want to have a power career, they want to have a big family and be there for the family events or to raise the kids or whatever. Plus they want to pursue their own interests as well. Should they try to do it all,  are they likely to be happier trying to do it all, or would they be better off figuring out what is most important to them?

“I think it’s okay to say that you want it all and to try to do it all. But the one big caveat with that is that you can’t do it all in a good way all the time. So yeah, you can exercise and you can be a parent, and you can be a spouse and you can be a physician, but some of those different areas in your life are going to come to the forefront at certain times and then some of them are going to go to the back seat. And so you have to be okay, and a lot of us are perfectionists so it’s hard, you have to be okay with not being the best at everything.

For instance, I am not the most productive and prolific physician in my group and that’s okay with me. I’m all right with not being the prestigious academic anesthesiologist that other people are because I care a lot more about being present with my daughter at the age that she’s at or I care a lot more about traveling or care about doing certain types of exercise. But you’re not going to be the crossfit champion while you’re the most productive person in your group while you’re present for your family and have six pack abs all at the same time. Just not going to happen.”

It’s too bad because I keep trying to do it and it’s just not working out. She said I had to put some stuff in the back seat at different times and then rotate them.  That’s a good tip. I like that idea of rotating your focuses in your life from time to time because there are times when your kids just need more of you. And other times when they’re kind of autopilot for a few weeks or a few months or whatever. So I think there are times you can do that and I think some of us are better at saying no than others and sometimes that’s what you have to do to rotate and focus on something else, you have to say no to what you’re doing now. Why is it so hard for many doctors to say no? Is that a personality thing that correlates with people going into medicine?

“I do think that. I think that when you’re a high achiever type of person who is used to being self-reliant, you have a hard time saying no. It’s hard to turn down when you get accolades for being successful in your field and then someone involved at work wants to have you take on more responsibility. It’s really hard to say no to that. But I do think that it’s a very important skill to learn.”

Part-Time Work

It has been fascinating to me over the last couple of years as I speak with physician groups. I ask them what they would do if I wrote them a $10 million check today? Would they show up at work tomorrow? And they almost all raise their hands. They truly aren’t working just for the money. Then I ask them would you be working the same number of days a week or number of shifts a month? And almost nobody puts their hands up. It seems to me that almost everyone in medicine wants to do part-time work.

The first thing I tell them is, you should probably cut back to full-time to start with because so many doctors are working 60 or 80 hours a week. But beyond that, I think there is a great desire for docs to work part-time even if it means giving up a significant chunk of their income. Most docs want to work part-time. As a part-time physician Dawn points out,

“There are some trade-offs and you have to just be aware of those trade-offs. You mentioned one of them and that is the money part, so I am willing to take less money for sure. I haven’t succumbed to the huge amount of lifestyle inflation that sometimes physicians get subject to. And you have to be very aware of that and of not getting into that situation where you’re in over your head. But also not just money related but there are social aspects to being part-time that some people may or may not like. I know about myself that I’m a little more on the introverted side and so it really doesn’t really bother me that I don’t have tons of good friends that are my coworkers. Now someone else may actually miss that part, but I don’t get invited to all the social events or I don’t really know everyone at work as much as some of the other people know each other because I’m not there as much.

Think about the roles that you have at work. I knew after I had my health scare that I really just wanted to focus on one or maybe a little bit of two roles in my career. And the main one I wanted to focus on was clinical anesthesiology. So I went out seeking a job that was focused on that. And I said to different employers, this is my ideal job, can you do this? You have to know what your non-negotiables are and what your negotiables are and then what roles you really liked to fulfill at your job and what roles you don’t. Because maybe you can just start to strip those roles away and that will naturally help to get you to go down to full-time or go down below full-time.”

I think it’s one of those things that lots of people transition to but very few people start at. Dr. Baker was part-time from the beginning at her job. I asked if she had any tips for others who wanted to secure a part-time job without working full time initially for that employer.  She said you have to be willing to have them say no to you and be willing to walk away. If you’re financially secure, financially literate, you know what you can afford and can’t afford, you’re much more confident to go into the negotiation for the jobs and the situations that you want and take no for an answer and go look elsewhere.

There is a minimum amount of work you need to be doing to keep the necessary skills, and that amount is probably different for different clinical areas so you are seeing the cases you need to see to be a good practicing physician. There is a little bit of an experimentation that has to take place for people. You’re not going to know if you’re at that level where you’re comfortable with the amount that you’re working and still be up-to-date on all the clinical information that’s out there until you get to that point.

For me, now that I am working half time, I am spending a lot more time and effort on CME. I speak at the American College of Emergency Physicians Scientific Assembly each year, but I am going there and spending the whole rest of the time that I’m not speaking going to class after class after class and trying to make sure that I’m staying up to date because I worry about that. So I think you probably can’t coast quite as much when you’re part-time. I think you have to be a little bit more deliberate about your ongoing learning and about your practice and maybe take steps to make sure that you’re seeing the higher acuity patients or that you are seeing an adequate volume to keep those skills up.

Going part-time might be easier for radiology, anesthesia, emergency medicine, or hospitalist medicine but I think about the various specialties for example, OBGYN, you see OBs all the time drop their OB practice to improve their lifestyle. All of a sudden they’re not in the hospital at 3:00 AM delivering babies and they cut back so their practice is just gyn or just one aspect of gyn.  I see surgeons stop doing trauma, for instance, or you might see somebody not taking as much call or not taking calls. So I think in every specialty there are different ways to cut back, certainly in the primary care specialties, you just have a smaller patient panel. Maybe you’re only there Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday morning, but you have a smaller panel and so you can manage or you do a job share and someone else covers Wednesday afternoon and Thursday and Friday.

But I think a lot of people just assume because they’re not in radiology or anesthesia or emergency medicine or hospitalist medicine, that they can’t cut back in some way to have more time.  I think that’s probably not true. I think there is a way for most specialties to at least be working less. But you have to give something up, whether it’s money or whether it’s prestige or whether it’s the next promotion or what it is in order to get that. And it’s just a matter of deciding whether that’s worth it to you or not.

I Get To

Dr. Baker uses the phrase “I get to. ” We talked about the power in that phrase.

“I have used the phrase ‘I get to’ as a practice of gratitude when I’m getting overwhelmed or I get into a state that is a “woe is me”-like state. I think that stress, even if you have what a lot of people consider to be the perfect situation with jobs or work-life balance, it can eat at you no matter what your situation is and so I use this to help to turn things around.

And what I mean is I’m up late at night doing something tedious like I’m making lunch for my daughter to go to school and I really want to just be watching Netflix, but instead I say: I get to do this, I get to make a healthy food for her so that she doesn’t have to eat junk food or just other tedious things that you have to do or things that seem mundane. I get to do this thing and reframe it as opposed to I have to, I have to go plan blah, blah, blah and a lot of us fall into that category of saying I have to do this, this and this when really they’re just first-world problems, it’s like well I have a house and I get to go clean my house. I actually have a roof over my head. That kind of thing. It can really help to feel better about what’s going on in your life.”

It’s a little bit like that technique where they tell people to smile when you pick up the phone because it goes across the line to the other person. It’s just a mindset change in a lot of ways. The people who are happiest in life are those who choose to be happy. I think there’s a lot of wisdom there for sure.

Finances and Wellness

In order to have good stress management and wellness, we need to have a good handle on our finances and have good financial literacy. They go hand in hand in the aspect of preventing burnout for physicians and being able to have the space to pick and choose what you want to do at work like minimize the things that you don’t love about your job and maximize the things that you do. The only way that you’re going to do that, and not be in that trapped overwhelmed position, is by having a good handle on your money.

Ending

I hope that you can take some of the things we talked about in this episode and use them to help find balance in your life. You can read more of Dawn’s writings on practicing balance at the blogs mentioned earlier in these show notes or at her newest blog Stealth Wealth Family.

Full Transcription

Intro:
This is The White Coat Investor Podcast, where we help those that wear the white coat get a fair shake on Wall Street. We’ve been helping doctors and other high income professionals stop doing dumb things with their money since 2011. Here’s your host, Dr. Jim Dahle.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
This is White Coat Investor Podcast, number 148, Finding Balance with Dawn Baker. Now, I hope those of you coming to the conference next week are super excited. We’re excited for it. We’re pulling our hair out of course because we don’t ever know how everything is going to go and what exactly isn’t going to go well anytime you bring 800 people together, somethings got to not go well.

Dr. Jim Dahle:

So we’re a little nervous about it. And maybe losing a little bit of sleep, but we’re going to have a great time down there and we hope you do as well at WCICON20. Today’s episode is sponsored by Set For Life Insurance, which was founded by its President, Jamie Fleischner in ’93 while she was attending WashU in Saint Louis. They specialize in individual term life, disability, and long-term care insurance. And work on the client’s behalf to shop around to find the most suitable products at the most cost-effective rate.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
Their first and foremost client-centric company so they listen carefully to your needs and because of their volume and exceptional reputation and the relationships they’ve developed over the years, they have access to special services not available elsewhere in the industry, including special discounts, gender-neutral policies, which save women significantly, priority underwriting handling and on some occasions exceptions in the underwriting process. So if you need disability insurance, visit setforlifeinsurance.com today.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
All right, let’s do a quote of the day. This one comes from JL Collins who said, “The market always recovers and if someday it really doesn’t and no investment would be safe and none of this financial stuff will matter anyway.” And isn’t that the truth. So while you can’t expect an individual stock to always come back, the overall market is a pretty good bet. You don’t know when, you don’t know how well, but the likelihood of it all just tanking and disappearing forever is awfully low. And in the event that that occurs, well, we got bigger problems.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
Thanks for what you do. Medicine is not easy as we’ll discuss today in this podcast, it’s difficult to find a balance and sometimes we feel guilty trying to find a balance. And so I just want to thank you for what you’re doing for being willing to go through all that training and for being willing to be on call and to work such long hours on behalf of your patients.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
So if they haven’t said thanks today, let me say thanks to you. I assume you’re probably on your way to work, your way home from work, maybe working out after work, whatever you’re doing as you listen to this podcast. Thank you. After the conference, we’re going to have conference videos available. This is basically, we’re going to package up all the presentations from the conference with their slides and with the audio and video from it, into an online course. It’s going to awesome, it’s going to be way cheaper than going to the conference and obviously it’s not quite the same experience, it’s just a little bit hard to network with an online course, but all the material and all the learning will be available there from the great speakers that we’re having at this conference like Rick Ferri and Phil DeMuth and others.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
And you’ll be able to have access to all that material afterwards. So watch for that, it’ll be coming up hopefully within a couple of weeks of you hearing this podcast. We have a special guest today on the podcast, let’s bring her on the line. So our guest today on the White Coat Investor Podcast is Dr. Dawn Baker, who is coming also to the White Coat Investor Conference, she’ll be giving a talk there. So I’m looking forward to that. I actually met her at the first WCICON in Park City and it was a pleasure and I’m excited to have her come into the White Coat Investor Conference this next year. So welcome to the podcast, Dawn.

Dr. Dawn Baker:
Hi Jim, thank you so much for having me on.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
So to start with, can you tell us a little bit about your upbringing and how that affected your views on money?
Dr. Dawn Baker:
Yeah, I was brought up in what I would say a privilege middle-class type of household. My father was on that upward mobility track and my mom mainly was a stay at home mom and then did some part-time work, but I would say that I never was really worried about money. I never saw them worry too much about money, but what I did see was them spend a lot of money and work a lot. My father worked quite a number of hours. He wasn’t a physician, he was just doing the executive ladder, corporate ladder if you will.

Dr. Dawn Baker:
But I didn’t really understand the concept of money equaling life energy though I would say. I don’t think that I thought about the finiteness of money and how if you spend it on one thing, you don’t have it to spend on another thing until I got into college. And I met my husband, we started doing rock climbing and at that point that was when I saw people working part-time or choosing to cut back at work so that they could support the hobby that they loved and have enough money basically to do it but have also enough time to do it. And that changed my whole outlook on money.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
The dirtbag lifestyle, Alex Honnold.
Dr. Dawn Baker:
Pretty much.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
Living out of a van, spending your days on the wall.
Dr. Dawn Baker:
Yep, and now here I am with a van, but it’s not my only vehicle.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
It’s interesting that you mentioned that because I wonder how much of an effect that has on my own views on money, just that exposure to dirtbag culture? We’ll talk about that more I think a little bit later in the podcast though. First, tell us a little bit about your education and career to this point.
Dr. Dawn Baker:
So I was a nontraditional medical student, I went through engineering school and did a bachelor’s in chemical engineering and a master of science and chemical engineering as well and I worked for a while in industry. I just knew that when I was getting out of engineering mainly at the undergraduate level, that I didn’t exactly want to leave that I didn’t exactly want to lead that typical engineering lifestyle, I wanted to do something more service oriented.

Dr. Dawn Baker:
And at the same time, I was doing the rock climbing, and doing some world travel and just saw different cultures and realized that I wanted to expand the kind of people that I worked with or served in my career. So I decided at that point to go to medical school. And I’m really glad that I waited, I think it was really good to not go straight away because it did give me more life experience, it gave me more maturity and then also financially it was a little bit better because we were able to support my medical school tuition somewhat with some of our money that we had saved at that point.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
And how about your career since then?

Dr. Dawn Baker:
Yeah, so now I did my training in anesthesiology and I have been practicing as an anesthesiologist for maybe about eight years outside of residency.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
Now, you’re training was interrupted by medical issues, can you tell us a little bit about that?
Dr. Dawn Baker:
Yeah, during my anesthesiology residency, I was having some problems, which to make a long story short, we’ll just call hormone-related and I was chalking it up to stress and age being that at that point now I was 35 years old and I was really neglecting my health and doing the bare minimum to address these problems for a couple of years just trying to keep my head down and do my training. But it started to affect my academic performance and there were some times where I remember some attendees saying to me like, “What is wrong with you?” And I said, “Why, I have no idea. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Dr. Dawn Baker:
But it turned out that I had a large pituitary tumor, it was compressing my optic nerve. So it took a long time to diagnose this, but once it was diagnosed then it made much more sense because I had had trouble interpreting ultrasound and doing some of the procedures that are required for anesthesiology training. So I had to have surgery for this tumor and it required some time off during my training obviously.
Dr. Dawn Baker:
It was a slow recovery. I had a lot of electrolyte and hormone imbalances that had to be taken care of after the surgery. And in the end, I would say that it was something that I’m grateful for even though it was a dark time in my life and it prolonged my training to a certain degree. It gave me some clarity on my life direction and where I wanted to go in my career. And it made me know what it was like to be a patient and what my patients experience when they’re going through surgery.
Dr. Dawn Baker:
And I was really grateful that it was something that was benign and fixable and that it wasn’t the diagnosis of some sort of malignant tumor that you have six months to live type diagnosis.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
Yeah, a lot of people say their hormones are off, but yours really were. And it really was affecting things aside from the effects of just the mass pushing on nerves, et cetera. That can be pretty debilitating, so congratulations on all your hard work getting through all that. It would not be an easy road for sure. And I think things that happen to us early in our careers, really can have a profound impact on the life and career decisions we make.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
For instance, I had a couple of lawsuits in my first two months of residency, one from my first month of practice and one from the second. They were both eventually dismissed because they really didn’t have any merit, but from very early on, I was very cognizant of documentation and medical-legal issues and I think it’s affected my practice the whole way through. And I suspect having that experience during your training has also affected your career in a lot of ways and certainly this thing that you do on the side that we’re going to talk about next. So can you tell us the origin of practice balance?
Dr. Dawn Baker:
So practicebalance.com is the blog that I started toward the end of my residency training and it was something that came to me as an idea of what I wanted to do when I was experiencing and suffering from the symptoms that were later attributed to my tumor, but I was thinking that they were all related to stress and burnout. I really felt that I was burned out and there was a period in residency where every day I would wake up and say I want to quit.
Dr. Dawn Baker:
But I read books, I went on a silent retreat, I learned about how to manage my stress during that time and I learned a lot about me and a lot about stress management techniques in the process. And being that I loved to write, I decided that I really wanted to share this information with doctors. And so I started out, the blog, on an informational type of basis where I was sharing articles and things that were related to the topic of stress management and burnout. And as my symptoms change and my surgery happened and then my career changed and I evolved into being attending anesthesiologist, I’d say the blog evolved as well.

Dr. Dawn Baker:
Then I ended up going on the quest to become a mother, so I talked a lot about infertility in the blog and nowadays, I would say that my main focus is still back in the self-care and self-knowledge for high income professionals, not just physicians, but it’s just become a lot more general and a lot more about trying to find simplicity in life and trying to find balance and know yourself and how to figure those things out for yourself.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
Now, you were never anonymous on this, you’ve had your name out there from the beginning, is that right?
Dr. Dawn Baker:
Yeah, that’s right. I thought about it in the very beginning and then I decided that I didn’t really want to share anything that I wouldn’t want people to know. So I just went with my name straight from the beginning.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
And has that had any repercussions in your career or personal life?

Dr. Dawn Baker:
No, it hasn’t. Actually, now that I have a daughter, I do put her on the blog and I put images of her on the blog and different people have different comfort levels with that as you know because I know that you’ve discussed that about having your children be models, but I haven’t had any kind of professional repercussions either I think because I tend to stay in neutral political areas and I just talk about important issues that are relevant to everyone. And I don’t tend to do really controversial things, I would say.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
You also blog at Mothers In Medicine, can you explain how Practice Balance and Mothers In Medicine, the two blogs interact and what the deal is with that connection?
Dr. Dawn Baker:
Yeah, so I had my blog before I joined the Mothers In Medicine group. It is a group blog so a lot of the people that are regular contributors, you have to be selected for it by a head person, but most of them have their own blog as well. Not every single person does, but I joined it basically when I was pregnant and at that time I really wanted to share some of the information that I had learned about being pregnant and working in anesthesiology and working in an operating room.
Dr. Dawn Baker:
And also just some of the issues that I had gone through with infertility and what it’s like to go through the process of infertility treatments when you’re a busy physician. And so that was my pitch to joining Mothers In Medicine and since then, it was about 2014, maybe 2015 that I joined. I’ve been a regular contributor and so I write there periodically, in addition to writing on my own blog.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
So what were some of the issues you had being in the OR while pregnant? Did you have to step out when they shot films or you had to keep your baby bump out the sterile field, or what were the issues you found that you ran into?

Dr. Dawn Baker:
Well, there are a few different things, mainly I think as an anesthesiologist one of the big difficulties with the fertility treatments was the scheduling aspect of it because our schedules are not in our own control. And when you do fertility treatments, anyone who’s done them know that they are also short notice. So it’s a day-to-day change in plans. That was difficult and then once I was pregnant then, I did write a little bit about being exposed to fluoroscopy, being in the room where they do orthopedics and if you want to step out for when they mix the bone cement and those things.
Dr. Dawn Baker:
So kind of environmental factors, yeah, and then also just scheduling, it’s difficult to be in a really long case if you are pregnant because you usually have to go to the bathroom more frequently and if you’re in an eight-hour case or something that’s really hard. So you have to lean on your colleagues a little bit more. So I discussed those issues and if anyone’s interested in reading those, they can search my name on the Mothers In Medicine website and you can actually just read all the posts that I’ve written is an easy way to find those.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
Yeah, I can certainly relate to that. I think a lot of medical students can or they wondered if they should put a Foley in before they go into some long case. And just because for some reason the surgeon seemed to have a bladder of steel and go for hours and hours without going, but maybe they just deliberately dehydrate themselves before the case, I don’t know.
Dr. Dawn Baker:
I think they do. Yeah, it’s pretty scary actually. It’s pretty unhealthy.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
I wonder what the rate of kidney stones is among spine surgeons and others who do long cases?

Dr. Dawn Baker:
I don’t know.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
So not everything you write goes on the Mothers In Medicine blog, is that totally new content you put there or is that republished content from your regular blog or what is that?
Dr. Dawn Baker:
You can do either one. I sometimes will write original posts there and then sometimes I’ll also take an idea that I wrote a blog post on in my personal blog and then I’ll riff on it a little bit differently to change just for the audience because mainly the audience there is mothers in medicine as the description goes. So you can kind of do whatever you want. There aren’t really rules on there, but I’ve done both.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
And who do you see as the audience for Practice Balance? What’s the avatar for the person you’re writing for?
Dr. Dawn Baker:
My personal audience, they don’t have to be physician, they don’t have to be women, just people who are achievement-oriented and they don’t necessarily have to be high income either, but I would say people who are high achievers who are looking for ways that they can have more balance and have a little bit more simplicity in their life and slow down.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
Do you consider yourself a physician finance blogger?
Dr. Dawn Baker:
I definitely been lumped in that category before. I would say that my main finance-related content is more of the mindset finance, the psychological stuff, but that is not the only topic that I cover. So yeah, I would say that I’m a finance blogger, but it’s definitely not the more quantitative stuff that is seen on a lot of the blogs.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
Okay, so you write a blog called Practice Balance, so presumably, you’re an expert in balancing our lives. So can you explain why it’s so hard for hard-charging, high-income professionals to find balance in their lives?
Dr. Dawn Baker:
This is why I like the name of my blog because it’s Practice Balance, it’s a continuous practice for everyone. Even me who has a part-time job and who’s very cognizant of the issues and always thinking about it. The thing I think for physicians and other high-income professionals is that they’re used to keeping their head down. And things tend to get into a snowball effect for us. Life gets more and more complicated the older we get, the more responsibilities we get, the more accolades we get at work, the more responsibilities we take on, the more money we make, the more complicated life gets.
Dr. Dawn Baker:
Then you end up having to outsource all sorts of things and then you have to manage the outsourcing. So a lot of people in our field are just used to putting their nose to the grindstone and hustling and we started this early on. That was how we got into medical school, we even backed to grade school, we were hustling and getting our good grades and just trying to pay attention to that and we got into that snowball effect for all of our lifestyle factors and then we sometimes don’t pause to think about them and look at them and examine if they’re serving us.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
I feel like I need you as my life coach now. There’s no way I could call my blog anything about balance. I’m the worst at trying to find balance in my life and continually I let something overwhelm everything else. What tips do you have for a doctor who feels her, his life is unbalanced?
Dr. Dawn Baker:
The most important thing I think in trying to figure out balance for you, because it’s different for you than it is for other people is trying to know yourself better. And you have to pause and figure out what things that you’re doing are serving you and what things you’re doing you don’t really like and then you maximize the parts of your life that you like and you minimize the parts that you don’t like. It’s kind of like what a lot of finance bloggers talk about budgeting and they have pie charts and this amount of money allocates to this and this now goes to this other area, it’s the same with balance. I feel like that the term gets dogged a lot, people say oh, there’s no way to get balance.
Dr. Dawn Baker:
Well, balance isn’t an endpoint, it’s continual and it’s very individual. So the first thing to do is to learn more about yourself, figure out your personality and figure out your likes and dislikes and actually think about it and be intentional because a lot of people like I said, they just aren’t paying attention to themselves and they’re not taking care of themselves. And so they get just in that mode where they’re not really thinking about what they’re doing.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
A lot of doctors have been told that they can’t do it all, that they got to choose what they want to do with their lives, that they can’t really focus it and they push back a little bit on that. They want to do it all and what advice do you have for somebody like that, that wants to do it all. They want to have a power career, they want to have a big family and be there for the family events or to raise the kids or whatever. They got some other goals, they want to go climb El Cap, or whatever.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
Should they try to do it all or are they likely to be happier trying to do it all, or would they be better off figuring out what is most important to them?
Dr. Dawn Baker:
I think it’s okay to say that you want it all and to try to do it all. But the one big caveat out with that is that you can’t do it all in a good way all the time. So yeah, you can exercise and you can be a parent, and you can be a spouse and you can be a physician, but some of those different areas in your life are going to come to the forefront at certain times and then some of them are going to go to the back seat. And so you have to be okay and a lot of us are perfectionists so it’s hard, you have to be okay with not being the best at everything.
Dr. Dawn Baker:
For instance, I am not the most productive and prolific physician in my group and that’s okay with me. I’m all right with not being the prestigious academic anesthesiologists that other people are because I care a lot more about being present with my daughter at the age that she’s at or I care a lot more about traveling or care about doing certain types of exercise.
Dr. Dawn Baker:
But you’re not going to be the crossfit champion while you’re the most productive person in your group while you’re present for your family and have six pack abs all at the same time. Just not going to happen.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
It’s too bad because I keep trying to do it and it’s just not working out.
Dr. Dawn Baker:
Yeah, you just have to put some stuff on the back seat at different times and then rotate them, I think.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
That’s a good tip. I like that idea of rotating your focuses in your life from time to time because there are times when your kids just need more of you. And other times when they’re kind of autopilot for a few weeks or a few months or whatever. And so I think there are times you can do that and I think some of us are better at saying no than others and sometimes that’s what you have to do to rotate and focus on something else is you have to say no to what you’re doing now.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
Why do you think that’s so hard for so many doctors to say no, is that a personality thing that correlates with people going into medicine or what?
Dr. Dawn Baker:
I do think that. I think that when you’re a high achiever type of person who is used to being self-reliant and is used to searching those gold stars, you have a hard time saying no. It’s hard to turn down when you get accolades for being successful in your field and then someone involved at work wants to have you take on more responsibility. It’s really hard to say no to that. But I do think that it’s a very important skill to learn.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
All right. Let’s turn the page a little bit. I want you to tell us about Kristie Reynolds and why maybe we all need a Kristie Reynolds in our life and household.
Dr. Dawn Baker:
I wrote a blog post about Kristie Reynolds on Mothers In Medicine, so that’s one, that’s an example of something I didn’t write about on my personal blog but I wrote it straight for that website because I wanted to talk about all the roles that as mothers in medicine, we sometimes play. However, Kristi Reynolds, it’s kind of an interesting story.
Dr. Dawn Baker:
So my husband has a virtual law firm and he realized that there were certain things in his virtual business that he really just didn’t like doing and that were unsavory parts of his job and he wanted to maintain kind of an era for professionalism with being a one-man firm and then also wanted to have someone else be the bad guy. And what I mean by the negative parts are like collecting bills or reminding people of deadlines, talking about things that are not very fun to talk to clients about.
Dr. Dawn Baker:
And so he made up this administrator and he just made her name be Kristi Reynolds, I don’t know where he came up with this name. So he sends emails to people when he has to collect bills and things like that from this name and I hope I’m not giving anything away, I don’t think any of his clients are listening to this, but-

Dr. Jim Dahle:
I guess we’ll find out.
Dr. Dawn Baker:
It’s genius. I was really like, wow, this is amazing that you thought of this idea, but I think the reason that people do need this idea in their lives is that we can all be a Kristi Reynolds. If you have some sort of business interaction that you need to do that isn’t very savory, you have to separate your personal feelings from that interaction. It’s kind of like saying no or being the bad guy. Sometimes you just have to be that person. You may not be able to have the luxury of hiding behind the mask of another name, but we all have to learn that skill.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
And has Kristi Reynolds found her way into any other aspects of your lives?
Dr. Dawn Baker:
Well, what I wrote about in that particular post on Mothers In Medicine was how I sometimes am Kristi Reynolds because her duties have expanded not just to sending emails about getting bills, but also to being the voice for the voicemail, greeting on his firm and then also going and picking things up, I’ve been a runner, I’ve dropped things off at local offices and things like that. And it’s just funny. It made me think about all the roles that we all have. It doesn’t matter if you’re a mother or not a mother, or male or a female, if I’m a physician, I’m a mom, I’m a chef, I’m a chauffeur, we all take on lots of different roles in our lives.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
Yeah, I really like that idea of having somebody else to be the bad guy. And sometimes our businesses are big enough that we can hire somebody to be the bad guy for example, when Cindy came to work with me in 2014 and I put her in charge of collecting money from advertisers. And it was so nice that I could just talk to them about content and talk to them about questions, I didn’t have to talk to them about when they’re going to pay me and how much they’re going to pay me.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
So why not create a virtual person if you don’t actually need the time from somebody else? I just thought it was a genius idea. I thought it was worth talking about today. But something we probably ought to spend a little more time on is part-time work. And this is been fascinating to me over the last two or three years I think. I have a routinely gotten to the point when I’m talking to groups of physicians when I pull them, I ask them… I usually start asking them what would you do if I wrote you a $10 million check today?
Dr. Jim Dahle:
Would you show up at work tomorrow? And they almost all raise their hands. They truly aren’t working just for the money. And then I ask them well, would you still be working for a year from now, or are you still going to be working? And maybe one or two people put their hands down, but pretty much everyone still interested. And then ask them would you be working the same number of days a week or number of shifts a month? And almost nobody puts their hands up. It seems to me that almost everyone in medicine wants to do part-time work.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
So the first thing I tell them is well, you should probably cut back to full-time to start with because so many doctors are working 60 or 80 hours a week. But beyond that I think there is a great desire for docs to work part-time even if it means giving up a significant chunk of their income. Most docs want to work part-time. Now, you’ve been doing this for a while, so can you tell us what part-time work is like, why these doctors all think it would be awesome and how doctors of the various specialties can conceivably go part-time?
Dr. Dawn Baker:
Definitely it is as good as people imagine it to. I definitely have liked my part-time schedule. And there are some trade-offs and you have to just be aware of those trade-offs. You mentioned one of them and that is the money part, so I am willing to take less money for sure. I haven’t succumbed to the huge amount of lifestyle insulation that sometimes physicians get subject to. And you have to be very aware of that and of not getting into that situation where you’re in over your head.
Dr. Dawn Baker:
But also not just money-related but there are social aspects to being a part-time that some people may or may not like. I know about myself that I’m a little more introverted on the introverted side and so it really doesn’t really bother me that I don’t have tons of good friends that are my coworkers, now someone else that they may actually miss that part, but I don’t get invited to all the social events or I don’t really know everyone at work as much as some of the other people know each other because I’m not there as much.

Dr. Dawn Baker:
So that’s something to think about too. Now, the other thing is that I would say as far as part-time work goes, a good way to think about it is to streamline your different roles. So we just talked about Kristi Reynolds and all the different roles that we all have in our lives. Think about the roles that you have at work. I knew after I had my health scare that I really just wanted to focus on one or maybe a little bit of two roles in my career. And the main one I wanted to focus on was clinical anesthesiology. So I went out seeking a job that was focused on that. And I said to different employers, this is my ideal job, can you do this?
Dr. Dawn Baker:
And the one job that I took, it did give me everything that I wanted in criteria, but I got a couple of other situations that I could have potentially worked at but they weren’t ideal. So you have to know what you’re non-negotiables are and what your negotiables are and then what roles you really liked to fulfill at your job and what roles you don’t. Because maybe you can just start to strip those roles away and that will naturally help to get you to go down to full-time or go down below full-time. You’re right that a lot of people even if they’re part-time, they’re still working a full-time schedule.
Dr. Dawn Baker:
Now, I think that it’s easier in certain fields to go into part-time work and I’m in one of them and you’re in one of them. Anesthesiology and emergency medicine, so other fields are a little bit harder, but if you’re willing to do job sharing, that’s another way that people who have more of a role in a clinic can do part-time work. But you have to know that you’re not going to be that golden child person that is always the highest achieving, most producing, most prolific physician in your group and you have to be okay with that if you’re going to go down part-time.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
I think it’s one of those things that lots of people transition to but very few people start at. It sounds like when you went to at least your current job, that was the plan was part-time from the beginning. Do you have any other tips on how somebody can secure a part-time job right off the bat without working full-time for a number of years for that employer? Is there anything special to do? It sounds like it would have been a pretty tricky negotiation and maybe would cost a lot of money to be able to do that right off the bat. Any tips there?
Dr. Dawn Baker:
So I can’t really talk for things that aren’t the kind of the OR anaesthesiology type of job because that is harder. It is harder to secure a part-time position in a clinic, but for me my days are very clear. I said I really want to just work three days in the operating room and I tried to find a position where that is what they offered me. And I said, this is my ideal situation, what can you do? And I think I got pretty lucky with the job that I am at, but I think as far as tips for other people you have to be willing to have them say no to you and be willing to walk away.
Dr. Dawn Baker:
And so this gets to what you talk about a lot on your blog and in your podcast and everything which is financial literacy. If you’re financially secure, financially literate, you know what you can afford and can’t afford, you’re much more confident to go into the negotiation for the jobs and the situations that you want and take no for an answer and go look elsewhere. It’s the whole F-U money concept.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
So how early in your career is it advisable to do this? Do you think there’s a period of time when somebody really needs to be full-time to consolidate their skills at the beginning before they should even consider going part-time or do you think that it’s reasonable to go to part-time right from the beginning? And how does that work out for somebody who for instance who wants to be home with kids at that part of their career because usually coming out of residency you’re in your early 30s and if you’re going to have kids, now is the time to get going on them. How do you reconcile those two things?
Dr. Dawn Baker:
Yeah, I think that I’m biased because I went straight out of training and went part-time, but I didn’t go too part-time, I was in that 75% FTE range. I feel like that there is a minimum amount and it’s probably different for different fields that you want to do if you’re going to go straight out of training and be part-time that will give you the experience and the exposure to the clinical areas needed to be able to see what you need to see to be a good practicing physician.

Dr. Dawn Baker:
And it is something that isn’t a perfect measurable number that I can just throw out because I do think that it’s probably different for all the different specialties, but I felt like for anesthesiology, at least half-time is important but probably more like the three-quarter time is still enough and it depends on your job too. So if you are going straight out and you’re practicing in an area where… say you’re an anesthesiologist and you’re doing supervision of mid-levels, you have a different skill set than if you’re doing the cases on your own. So you’re not actually in the operating room doing every single thing for the anesthetic as an anesthesiologist who works in the operating room by themselves.
Dr. Dawn Baker:
So I worked it by myself and so I knew that I was still getting a lot of skills and I was still seeing a lot of surgeries. The other thing is that my job is at a tertiary academic center, referral center so I got to see a lot of sick patients. I justified my part-time work with the fact that number one I’m doing my own cases and number two I’m seeing a wide variety of things including rare clinical presentations and diseases and surgeries because of the practice setting. So it would be a different situation if you were going in and you were a number one supervising, or number two, a smaller town surgery center or something like that where mostly the patients are more healthy.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
Okay, so that’s the early part of the career. How about later in the career, mid to late career, you’re thinking about cutting back, how much can you cut back before you really shouldn’t be practicing medicine at all? When you’re really not staying current, your skills aren’t good, how many days a month do you think you need to work in order to be a competent doctor, be a doctor that you think your patient should trust?
Dr. Dawn Baker:
So I think just like all of the different questions about part-time, they answer is it depends as we were just talking about on the practice specialty and the practice settings. I have been thinking about this issue myself because I think that as I get older, I would want to head back even more than I already am. And so with anesthesiology, it’s a very procedure dependent field and so you have to know how much is a minimum amount that you can keep up your skills. And I know that physician on fire has talked about that on his blog too being that he just recently retired.

Dr. Dawn Baker:
There is one person that I know has talked about this and he’s a surgeon and he blogs. His name is Cory Fawcett and he has a lot of insight and information as to how he cut out different areas of his practice and in what order he did it. So for the surgeons out there, that might be a useful thing to look at. But I think that there’s a little bit of experimentation that has to take place for people. You’re not going to know if you’re at that level where you’re comfortable with the amount that you’re working and still be up-to-date on all the clinical information that’s out there until you get to that point.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
Yeah, I know it’s something that I’ve thought about a lot. Some people cut back because they want to work less, I cut back so I could work more. I actually end up working a lot more than I ever did at least as an attending, I was working until 12:30 last night. It’s one of these problems of having a job you can do anytime, anywhere that you have a cell phone connection essentially. But it’s one of those things I have really thought about as I have cut back on my clinical practice over the last three and half years, three and half years ago I went to 75% time and then a year and a half ago I went to 50% time.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
And I know that I am spending a lot more time and effort on CME for instance. I speak at the American College of Emergency Physicians Scientific Assembly each year, but I am going there and spending the whole rest of the time that I’m not speaking going to class after class after class and trying to make sure that I’m staying up to date because I worry about that. And so I think you probably can’t coast quite as much when you’re part-time. I think you have to be a little bit more deliberate about your ongoing learning and about your practice and maybe take steps as you mentioned to make sure that you’re seeing the higher acuity patients or that you are seeing an adequate volume to keep those skills up.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
But I think about all the different specialties, obviously, you go around the physician blogosphere and you see all kinds of people part-time. You’re part-time and everybody in the White Coat Investor Network has either been part-time, is part-time, or wants to go part-time. And so I think a lot of people are seeing all these docs out there that are doing part-time just because they’re the ones who have the time to have some other sort of pursuit and have some sort of presence out there that you hear about them and you learn about them.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
But I wonder how applicable this really is to all of medicine and I think about the various specialties for example, OBGYN, you see OBs all the time drop their OB practice to improve their lifestyle. All of sudden they’re not in the hospital at 3:00 AM delivering babies and they cut back so their practice is just gyn or just one aspect of gyn and I see surgeons stop doing trauma for instance or you might see somebody not taking as much call or not taking calls. So I think in every specialty there are different ways to cut back certainly in the primary care specialties, you just have a smaller patient panel. Maybe you’re only there Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday morning, but you have a smaller panel and so you can manage or you do a job share as you mentioned and somebody else covers Wednesday afternoon and Thursday and Friday.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
But I think a lot of people just assume because they’re not in radiology or anesthesia or emergency medicine or hospitalist medicine, that they can’t cut back in some way to have time. And I think that’s probably not true. I think there probably is a way for most specialties to at least be working less. But you’re right that you have to give something up whether it’s money or whether it’s prestige or whether it’s the next promotion or what it is in order to get that. And it’s just a matter of deciding whether that’s worth it to you or not.

Dr. Dawn Baker:
Yeah, I do think that people, they don’t want to ask for what they really want. That’s a hard thing, they don’t want to be told no, they’re worried about what the other people in their profession or in their group are going to think of them and that’s unfortunate because a lot of people go in the motions that they’re doing all the while they want to work less or they want a slightly different role in their practice.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
Right, it’s almost like I don’t want my partners to think I’m weak because I don’t work night shifts.
Dr. Dawn Baker:
Yes.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
But at the same time, I don’t want to work night shifts. And so you got the fact that you don’t want to look weak and yet at the same time most of your partners are probably jealous that you’re now half-time. And so I think there’s a lot of weird things that happen in our mind when we start talking about not being… and it’s not even just full-time, it’s time and half kind of doctor that you’re weak and I don’t know. Maybe that’s trained into us during medical school and residency or maybe even as a pre-med trying to compete to get into medical school. But I think it’s hard to overcome for a lot of docs.

Dr. Dawn Baker:
Yes. For sure.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
All right, let’s turn the page a little bit again and let’s talk about the power of a phrase that you have used. The phrase is I get to. Can you talk about that?
Dr. Dawn Baker:
Well, even though we’re talking about part-time work and oh, I must have this perfect setup, a balance in my life. I still get overwhelmed too. And I have used the phrase I get to as a practice of gratitude when I’m getting overwhelmed or I get into a state that whoa is me like state. I think that stress even if you have what a lot of people consider to be the perfect situation with jobs or work-life balance. It can eat at you no matter what your situation is and so I use this to help to turn things around.

Dr. Dawn Baker:
And what I mean is I’m up late at night doing something tedious like I’m making lunch for my daughter to go to school and I really want to just be watching Netflix, but instead, I say like I get to do this, I get to make a healthy food for her so that she doesn’t have to eat junk food or just other tedious things that you have to do or things that seem mundane. I get to do this thing and reframe it as opposed to I have to, I have to go plan blah, blah, blah and a lot of us fall into that category of saying I have to do this, this and this then really they’re just first-world problems, it’s like well I have a house and I get to go clean my house.
Dr. Dawn Baker:
I actually have a roof over my head. That kind of thing. It can really help to feel better about what’s going on in your life.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
It’s a little bit like that technique they tell people to smile when you pick up the phone because it goes across the line to the other person. It’s just a mindset change in a lot of ways. The people who are happiest in life are those who choose to be happy. And so I think there’s a lot of wisdom there for sure. All right, let’s talk about your recent trip to the Virgin Islands and what you learned about locum tenens from it.

Dr. Dawn Baker:
I’m actually on a sabbatical from my part-time job and this was something that there was a precedent in my group for doing and I wanted to do it now when my daughter was not quite kindergarten age so that things weren’t more complicated with school responsibilities and such like that. So I took nine months off and during part of that time I wanted to do something clinical that was different and branch out. And you were just talking about keeping up to date in your field and there were a couple of things in my practice of anesthesiology and the current job that I have that I don’t really get to do on a regular basis.
Dr. Dawn Baker:
So I wanted to do either a medical mission or locum tenens position so that I could get my hand back in those and also just see what it was like to be a traveling physician and I found this position at a community hospital in the US Virgin Islands. And I thought that that would be a good one because part of my time off was really the main primary reason is to travel with my family. So they came along with me and I felt like that that was a good destination to go to.
Dr. Dawn Baker:
And I would say that this locum tenens position wasn’t your typical locum tenens position, it was kind of odd. I haven’t done any other ones so it’s hard for me to compare but just based on talking to other people about what their locum tenens experiences are like, this was a little bit untraditional. It was a little bit like working at a VA in a third-world country. Of course, it’s a US territory, but still, they have limited resources. It’s an island that was devastated by a hurricane just less than two years ago, well, about two years ago.

Dr. Dawn Baker:
And things are still being rebuilt so you can imagine that in general things move at a very slow pace over there. So I got to see what it was like to work in an environment with very limited resources and I know that you have done that with some of your travel work, but then also at the same time kind of the politics that go along with the government-run hospital and some of the inefficiencies that you see. Money is thrown in certain directions and then there’s such a scarcity mindset when you look just in the opposite direction.
Dr. Dawn Baker:
So it was an interesting experience. I’m glad I did it.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
And what the family think of the trip?
Dr. Dawn Baker:
They liked it. They stayed mainly near to where our Airbnb was on the days when I worked because we didn’t want to have to rent two cars, but you definitely need a car to be in the US Virgin Islands. It’s actually ironically very hilly. You think of an island you think oh, I can just walk along the beach to go anywhere but it’s not like that there. It’s very steep hills and so my daughter is at the age where it takes very little to entertain her so they built a lot of sandcastles and do a lot of ocean things and then after my time that I was working it was kind of an intense period, a little longer than a week of work, then we had some days where we moved onto one of the other islands called Saint John and we did some just relaxing stuff.

Dr. Dawn Baker:
We did a lot of snorkeling and going to the beautiful, beautiful beaches that were there. So we all got to enjoy the area as a family in addition to me working there.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
So did your husband take a sabbatical as well, or did he just continue on with his virtual law practice?
Dr. Dawn Baker:
So my husband, because it’s a virtual practice, is still able to do his work and he has to do some flights here and there to do some depositions and things like that, but mainly his work is done on a computer and on the phone. And so he’s able to continue that as long as we have an internet connection.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
That’s a wonderful thing how the economy’s change. Back in the ’90s we all thought the internet was going to change the world, but I think it was 15 or 20 years later when we actually saw the real changes that came from it and there’s so many of us that are just working online from home or from the US Virgin Islands and it’s pretty amazing how the economy has changed that way.

Dr. Dawn Baker:
Yeah, I think it’s true. Although as you know being a physician, you can’t just see patients over a computer all the time. I know some people do telemedicine, but not all fields of medicine can be done virtually. So there has to be some time that we’re really in the hospital. So it’s a little different for us as doctors.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
Although I’m amazed how much that is creeping into our practices. For example, a lot of my hospitals after 10:00 when we admit a patient to the hospital as service, it is not a doctor that’s even in town that we’re admitting to. And then the regular hospital comes back in the morning and takes over care of them.
Dr. Dawn Baker:
That’s interesting.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
It’s pretty interesting. Yeah, they’re putting in the orders and they’re taking the calls from the nurses and so I was surprised to see that but that’s a change in our hospitalists just in the last month or two. So who knows how it’s going to change. You wouldn’t have expected… you expect radiology to be outsourced to Switzerland or Australia, but you don’t necessarily expect that from the hospitalist. So maybe things will change more than we think.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
All right, we hinted earlier in the podcast that we’re going to talk about climbing. Now, a lot of people might not realize this when they look at your blog, but the header image on your blog is Red Rock National Conservation Area, just outside of Las Vegas where we’re going to be having the conference coming up in about a few weeks from the time this runs from the time people are listening to this, but a few months from when we recorded it. Tell us about your rock climbing and how you got into and what kind of climbing you do?
Dr. Dawn Baker:
So I started rock climbing back in undergraduate days, I was maybe about 20 years old. Now I’m 45 so I’ve been climbing quite a bit, quite a long time off and on for all those years. I would say lately for the last few years, it’s been more off, but we still do climb a little bit. I got into it because my husband has a geologist father who had taught him how to rock climb a really long time ago when he was a kid. And it was one of our first dates and it became part of our lives just an integral part of our existence for those kind of early years in the mid to late 20s especially. It dictated all of the travels that we did all over the country, all over the world, all of the time off that we would have in between jobs or schooling or any kind of training that we were doing was always taking up by rock climbing.

Dr. Dawn Baker:
And we have climbed quite a bit in the Red Rock’s Preserve there that you were referring to on the photo. And we have a home in the Las Vegas area, so we do frequent that area.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
So what kind of climbing do you do? Are you a sport climber, are you a tread climber, you climb ice, you done big walls, what are we talking about?
Dr. Dawn Baker:
I’ve tried it all except for big walls, which is pretty gear intensive, but my main focus has always been sport climbing. So clipping bulbs and doing single pitch type routes, but I’ve tried all of those different things. Ice climbing, I’m so easily cold that that was just so unpleasant. I definitely didn’t like that kind of climbing. But the sport climbing is something that is very easy to do in a short day or a long day or even at the climbing gym. It’s very athletic, it’s very focused on the movements and not so focused on the gear which is nice. The gear is kind of an afterthought. And I have really liked that kind of climbing the most.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
So what’s the hardest you’ve climbed?
Dr. Dawn Baker:
The hardest route that I had done without taking any kind of rest or falls is a 5.12A, so the rating goes from 5.0 to 5… now they have 5.15 something, so up there in the higher levels. It’s been a little while since I’ve climbed that hard.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
Yeah, that’s hard climbing. People don’t realize that is difficult climbing, that’s impressive climbing. I’m really impressed with that. Do you have a favorite rope?
Dr. Dawn Baker:
I have a couple favorite areas… I don’t know, that’s kind of asking for favorite child, I think When you love climbing so much. But I would say that my favorite areas that I’ve been to and I have been to a lot of climbing areas are Maple Canyon, which is in Central Utah near the town of Nephi, Utah and you maybe familiar with that, but it’s a conglomerate type cobblestone climbing. And it has all different grade levels and it has roots that are more kind of vertical and technical and it has really overhanging dynamic gymnastic routes.
Dr. Dawn Baker:
And then as far as out of the country goes, my favorite climbing can be found in the Island of Kalymnos Greece and it is limestone, two foot climbing and pinching these weird two for rentals and a lot of overhanging climbing there. So those two places are my two favorite places.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
how about Red Rock, you got a favorite route at Red Rock?
Dr. Dawn Baker:
Oh my gosh, favorite route at Red Rock. Have you climbed there?
Dr. Jim Dahle:
I’ve been, I’ve spent entirely too much of my life in the Red Rock National Conservation area. I don’t know, I probably spent a month to two months of my life in that area just putting together a whole bunch of different trips.
Dr. Dawn Baker:
We used to do that a lot too and that was part of why we ended up buying a condo down here when there was the real estate kind of bust in that late 2000s was because we were always coming down here to go climbing anyway. But I think probably my favorite, one of my favorite sport climbing routes at the Red Rock area is at the gallery and there’s one wall that has a bunch of 12s on it and they’re pretty hard. They’re actually really thin, but there’s an 11 called the Yack Crack that is really challenging and goes up kind of on the side. It’s kind of an Arête, an Arête is where there’s a lot of exposure so you got your legs hanging out in the air and not necessarily on the rock and it’s quite challenging.

Dr. Dawn Baker:
I both love and hate that kind of climbing. So that’s probably one of my favorites.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
Yeah, I think I’ve hung dog my way up that one at some point.
Dr. Dawn Baker:
Yeah, well, me too.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
Probably hanging on all the bolts, but awesome, good stuff. All right. We’re boring everybody with all this talk about rock climbing. I’d rather have a rock climbing podcast, but I can’t get anybody to listen to that one. So we’ll have to talk about finance and stuff, but you said you consider yourself a financial blogger, what do you see is the intersection between finances and wellness?
Dr. Dawn Baker:
So I feel like that in order to have good stress management and wellness, we need to have a good handle on our finances and have good financial literacy. So they go hand and hand in the aspect of preventing burnout for physicians preventing that overwhelm and being able to have the space to pick and choose what you want to do at work like we were talking about minimize the things that you don’t love about your job and maximize the things that you do. And the only way that you’re going to do that and not be in that trapped overwhelmed position is by having a good handle on your money.

Dr. Dawn Baker:
And being able to know where you stand and how to live a comfortable life by your standards and minimize your debts and pay off your debts quickly and those kinds of things. We all accumulate a lot of debt in medicine and then also as far as just wellness goes, in general, having good self-care is having a good handle on your finances and being able to know what enough is for you and being able to not just spend money in order to numb yourself from the bad things that might be happening in your life, but finding out other good ways to take care of yourself that aren’t involving buying Maseratis or spending money on fancy bags or something like that.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
Yeah. Now, you’re going to be one of our speakers at WCICON, which I think maybe next week by the time for the people hearing this, in fact, they might be listening to this on their way there, I don’t know. But why did you apply to speak there?

Dr. Dawn Baker:
Well, when you had the first conference in 2018, I saw the advertisement and definitely wanted to go. And I reached out to you by email basically with the argument that I was a local and would be happy to fill into the conversation if needed in your bloggers panel. I think you said something on your advertisement for it, oh we’re going to have a blogger’s panel and I said, hey, I’m a blogger and I’m right here and I can drive there and that kind of thing.
Dr. Dawn Baker:
And it just opened a can of worms for me. Not only was the conference awesome and unlike any conference that I had ever been to with very practical information that was important for everyone in every specialty and all levels of training, but when I did that bloggers panel it introduced me to a whole community of bloggers that I’ve stayed friends with and made contacts with since that time.

Dr. Dawn Baker:
And the panel and the conference really got me thinking about how money and lifestyle balance issues relate to each other. It even had me to start another blog. I have a new blog that only has a few posts on it, but it’s called stealthwealthfamily.com and we hope to use it for participation from my daughter as she grows up. And also as we travel a little bit more, but I really wanted to participate in the follow-up conference because of how indebted I felt to your initial conference opening me up to this whole new community.
Dr. Dawn Baker:
And I came up with a few different ideas and things to speak on and you chose one of them. And so it’s going to be awesome. I’m taking a deep dive in the topic of self-knowledge and how it can help physicians to better manage their stress levels and their finances. So we’ll be talking about why and how and resources to gain self-knowledge and the possible effects that it can have on you.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
Cool. Now, we’re running out of time, but you got the air of, shoot, probably 30,000 people, mostly docs, similar high-income professionals who eventually going to listen to this podcast. What would you like to tell them that we haven’t talked about yet today?
Dr. Dawn Baker:
We haven’t really talked much about outsourcing too much and one thing I’m in a lot of different social media groups for especially women physicians and physicians moms and I see so much that is thrown to outsourcers. And I’m not anti-outsourcing, but I would like to say that just because you’re a physician or high-income professional, that doesn’t mean that you have to lead this super complicated life where you have a morning nanny and a night nanny and a cleaning person and a person that makes your meals or meal service and blah, blah, blah.

Dr. Dawn Baker:
You have to think about the things that you really enjoy doing and the things that you don’t enjoy doing. And if you really don’t enjoy doing any of that stuff, then go ahead, by all means, outsource everything. But I think that people nowadays outsource too much and don’t think about what they really want to spend their time doing. And you can lead a simpler life than what you’re doing now.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
So it’s okay that I still mow my lawn?
Dr. Dawn Baker:
Definitely, the perfect example. I still clean my own house, even though at times I had someone clean it, I went back to doing it myself. Yeah, an example.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
Interesting. Peter Kim, the voice behind Passive Income M.D. just shakes his head every time I tell him I mow my own lawn. He just thinks I’m crazy for not outsourcing more than I do, but-
Dr. Dawn Baker:
Yes, I know. I’ve had those conversations with him too actually.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
Yeah, Dr. Baker, thank you so much. I think this will be very helpful to listeners and they can learn more about you at practicebalance.com and stealthwealthfamily.com and let’s see, what’s the other blog, mothersinmedicine.com. So they can find you all over the place and certainly are going to have an opportunity if they’re coming to the WCICON conference that they’ll be able to meet you there. So I’m looking forward to it, thank you so much for agreeing to do it, and I’ll see you at the conference.
Dr. Dawn Baker:
Yes, I look forward to it too, thanks.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
So that was great having Dawn on. She has got a great perspective. I feel like I need to hire her as my life coach though. She’ll help me have a little bit more balance. So certainly I hope you get a chance to see her speak at the conference, should be a great talk.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
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Dr. Jim Dahle:
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Dr. Jim Dahle:
Now, the conference is coming up next week, within a couple of days of you listening to this I will be heading down to Las Vegas. We’re hauling, I don’t know how many books, 4,000 books or something, 5,000 books, how many is it? 5,000 I think, books we’re taking down to Las Vegas that are going to be included in the swag bags, we got to fill up the day before the conference. And so we’re looking forward to it. It’s going to be great to see everybody down there. If you are not able to go though, you can still get a piece of this. We are going to package up the conference into an online course and we will be getting that up and ready for you to purchase hopefully within a week or so of the conference ending.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
I have great hopes that our tech folks can get that turned around quickly after the conference ends, but it’s obviously a lot of material to get incorporated into an online course very quickly, but hopefully, within a couple of weeks of you hearing this, this will be available on the website. So watch for that and get your chance to participate at a far lower price than flying across the country to Las Vegas to participate in person.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
Thank you for leaving us a five star review on iTunes and for telling your friends about the podcast. Keep your head up, keep your shoulders back, you’ve got this and we’re here to help. We’ll see you next time on the White Coat Investor Podcast.
Disclaimer:
My dad, your host, Dr. Dahle is the practicing emergency physician, blogger, author, and podcaster. He’s not a licensed accountant, attorney, or financial advisor. So this podcast is for your entertainment and information only. It should not be considered official personalized financial advice.