Episode 3: Freedom with Dr. Chiagozie Fawole

Show Notes


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Dr. Weisman: Welcome, women in medicine. It's time for another Doctor Me First. This podcast is all about authentic conversations between us, female physicians. No more feeling alone in medicine, hell to the no. You are now in the community of an amazing set of women. My hope is that through my conversations with these other female physicians, I bring you encouragement, inspiration, community, hope, and a little bit of fun to your life and your practice. I'm Dr. Errin Weisman, your colleague in medicine and coach in life and this is episode number three.

Dr. Weisman: In today's episode I'm talking with Dr. Chiagozie Fawole, and her word that she has chosen is freedom. I think you're going to take a lot out of this conversation because not only is she an amazing pediatric anesthesiologist but Dr. Fawole also does real estate, she is working on multiple income streams, and also she shares with us how she has gained some freedom in her own life. So enjoy this episode and then stick around afterwards for that little kick of encouragement with me.

Dr. Weisman: Hey, everybody. I am back with another special guest. This is Dr. Fawole. Trying not to butcher her last name and she's been so gracious with helping me. But today, our word is gonna be about freedom. And so, Dr. Fawole, tell everybody a little bit about yourself.

Dr. Fawole: Okay. So, I am a pediatric anesthesiologist in upstate New York. Originally, Nigerian. I grew up in Nigeria, came to the U.S. at about age 16, and then I was at Howard University for a while, Hopkins. I essentially just went up the East Coast, so D.C., Baltimore, Brooklyn for residency, Rochester, and now I'm in Syracuse, New York. So kind of an East Coast girl, if you may. At this point I think I'm almost half-and-half U.S. and Nigerian in terms of my upbringing.

Dr. Weisman: You're officially a hybrid now. That's great. And tell everybody what you do medicine-wise.

Dr. Fawole: Pediatric anesthesiology. That's my sub-specialty. Take care of the little ones.

Dr. Weisman: Yeah, that is so amazing. Tell me what took you into peds anesthesia?

Dr. Fawole: I entered from the back door, if you may. So actually during med school, I was gung-ho neurosurgery, neurosurgery, I did everything neurosurgery, neurosurgery, neurosurgery. And then by the special grace of God I did not match in neurosurgery. It turns out that at about the time when I did in fact, I had already been having second thoughts about neurosurgery. It just, when it happened, it was like, "Oh wow, so I get a chance to actually think this through, and not commit to seven years of residency training." So I made the decision to go into anesthesia in maybe a ten minute window.

Dr. Weisman: Oh my gosh.

Dr. Fawole: Yeah literally. I walked into the Deans obvious, I think [inaudible 00:03:32] was there when they first had the soap [inaudible 00:03:35] match. He called me, he was like, "I'm sorry to tell you that you didn't match, come to my office." So literally, as I was walking, I'm thinking, "So what can I do? What can I do?" Just two weeks before that I had told myself, "You know what, I like emergency medicine, but I hate the E.R." So E-med was kind of off for me. Then I come to his office and he hands me a little sheet, and on top there the first thing was of course alphabetical order anesthesia. And I'm like, "Oh my goodness, I didn't even think about anesthesia." It's in the OR, I get to do medicine which I love, sign me up!

Dr. Fawole: So that was how I ended up going into anesthesia as a whole and I never looked back. Turned out my application was already like critical care, save the world minded. So was like, yeah, I initially applied in neurosurgery but I think the critical care and so anesthesiologists do the critical care, so here I am. God worked it out and I got a spot in Brooklyn.

Dr. Weisman: Wonderful.

Dr. Fawole: The rest is history.

Dr. Weisman: The rest is history, you made lemonade out of lemons. Go girl! Good for you. I think I probably would've just been a mush on the floor after that. They'd have to scrape me up with a scooper after. Because my journey, I didn't even go through the match, I was a DO and it was when DOs could still sign outside the match with allopathic residency, so that's what I did. I didn't even go through the whole match, I think it is totally anxiety provoking and they should hand out Xanax that day to every medical student.

Dr. Fawole: Isn't it a crazy process?

Dr. Weisman: It is. Horrible.

Dr. Fawole: [inaudible 00:05:13] to make up my mind, I wrote a whole new application, my head had to be in the zone at that time. But once that was done I literally went home and cried my eyes out. Dr. Weisman: Exactly, oh my gosh. Well I'm so glad it turned out for you and thank you so much for sharing that experience, because it could be so ... it just makes my skin crawl even thinking about it. Anyway, let's get our topic as far as freedom why did you pick the word freedom?

Dr. Fawole: It's a word that has kind of been on my mind a lot this year. The full context has been like freedom to fail. In medicine we're held to such a high standard which is good, considering all that we're doing we have to maintain high standards. But what that does to us or for us, when you think about it is that we don't ... we feel that life has to do exactly like you planned it, otherwise there's a lawsuit coming, or someone's going to come spank you, or something really bad is gonna happen. Until we are free to take risks, we are free to [inaudible 00:06:25] myself alone.

Dr. Weisman: I don't think so I think that's exactly right. I mean I think we have so many factors where we are forced to be perfect. Perfection is not possible. It just is not, that we don't even give ourselves the grace to make a mistake or you know, like you said the freedom to fail. When do you ever say, "Oh I'm free to fail."

Dr. Fawole: A few months ago I actually thought about writing on this, but I paused, even on the very topic. Then I was like, "How's it gonna look if your patients look you up and find out that you're the author of the book Freedom to Fail." When I found myself thinking more about it I was like, "Wow, this is actually pretty serious." That even, we thinking through our decisions in the context of "What is this gonna look like if my patients ... what is this gonna look like in my patient's family member, in my case 'cause what I do with kids, sees this or sees this about me? What if things don't go well, and then they look me up and this is what they see?"

Dr. Fawole: And then, we end up caging ourselves in a box. A box of our own making by the way. 'Cause remember, this whole conversation hasn't happened with anyone else. It's literally happening all in your head. The fears may not even be real, who knows? And it leads us down this path of self-deprecation. Just unnecessarily high standards in things that don't necessarily have to be that serious if you may. A few years ago I ventured out of medicine to learn real estate and for at least two years, I kind of kept it just within the family. I didn't really tell people I was doing it, 'cause what was the thought, "Oh my goodness, you're a doctor why are you in real estate? Oh you're a hustler. Why?"

Dr. Fawole: I kept it within, just to myself. I told a couple of people then who actually invested with me at the time, but even then, it took a while for me to tell myself, "You know what, you're a doctor, but you're free to do whatever you feel you need to."

Dr. Weisman: Absolutely.

Dr. Fawole: Becoming a doctor does not have to mean being put into rigid box where you can't turn left, you can't turn right, you can't live. And so that was why I chose that word freedom. 'Cause I feel like there are so many errors in our lives where if we simply allowed ourselves, we would be able to break free and actually do a lot more.

Dr. Weisman: Yeah, I agree with that. I honestly just had a conversation this morning with a colleague, that we gotta talk in the conversation and she was like, "I have to tell you something." And I was like, " Oh, okay." She's like, "I'm not clinical anymore." And I was like, "Okay. You the bomb girl, that's fine." And she was so fearful, because she even said she's like, "Well you know, there's other females doctors that if you say you're not clinical anymore, or that you're not quote-unquote practicing medicine traditionally, then they look down on you." And I was like, "Girl, no! No! That is your own perception." I mean there may be some people out there and what I told her I was like, "That is more about them, than it is about you." And I think it's so true, because I even remember getting accepted to medical school and then like looking at my wardrobe being like, "Oh, is this what a doctor would wear?"

Dr. Weisman: Like we start building these walls on these perceptions of like who were supposed to look like, or sound like, or not say f-bombs anymore. When in reality, we need to lean into ourselves more. You know, doctor does not become our entire identity. It's just another piece of the pie in it all. I just so applaud you for even saying that, because I think truly so many times, once we take on the white coat, there's something strangely triggers in our brain.

Dr. Fawole: I think there's that ... being a doctor is at least, growing up I saw it as a very honorable profession, and it is. 'Cause you get to do really great things working with the patient, get to meet them at a very critical point in their lives, and walk them through processes. But sometimes, even those good things, if not managed properly will end up becoming like glass houses. Places where you now can't have your child just be a child. Your inner child can't be a child anymore. That child has to now be tamed 'cause they run the risk of breaking whatever you've built up, 'cause you feel ...

Dr. Fawole: Another thing is also, all the time that we spend in training we're like, "Well I spent the last 14 years of my life building up to this, I don't wanna lose it. I don't wanna lose the status. I don't wanna lose the credentials." Let me find a way to shut up these notifications. I don't know how to do that right now, anyway.

Dr. Weisman: It's no worries, it's life, we roll with it. It is. It is that build up and you know, I find that so many people once they kinda get to the ... they got through training, they're done with residency they did their fellowship, they're out in practice. They kind of look around and be like, "This is it?" And you know, and recognizing that we have the freedom, if you wanna change your path.There's thousands of ways to use our education, to use all of our years of experience, to get that life that you truly, truly love, and that you've worked your ass off for. So that you can find it.

Dr. Weisman: So you mentioned it before, what areas in your life outside of medicine have you found freedom? You mentioned the real estate thing, but are there other examples?

Dr. Fawole: Yes, the most recent one is one I find myself almost having preface what I'm going to say, like I'm probably doing right now if you can hear me. Is actually joining a network marketing company. Now, as of earlier this year ... it wasn't that much on my radar, I'll put it that way. Two or three months ago I got to chat with another physician actually who had been a real estate for awhile and then added on a network marketing business. So she was telling me about it and I was like, "Oh my goodness, yeah, dug, light bulb." But even then, I didn't sign up with her at the time. But the more I thought about it somehow it just kept coming my way. I was like, "You know what, I'm going to give this a shot."

Dr. Fawole: The other end of it has now been talking to people and they're like ... actually someone asked me just yesterday, she was like, "Are you still working full time? 'Cause I see you doing all these other things." I do my real estate, actually investing, I teach a real estate course, well I just did at least, and I'm really working on building my brand and shaping it around the idea of helping other physicians, or really other people in general to build their own thing, as it is just being pure employees.

Dr. Fawole: So I have lots of different companies that I've been trying, and trying to put in here and there, and [inaudible 00:14:38]. Excuse me, marketing came up and it actually fit into my model and I'm like, "I'm going to give this a try." People may not understand what I'm doing. People may not understand [crosstalk 00:14:50]-

Dr. Weisman: And that's okay. There's freedom in it. My life!

Dr. Fawole: At the end of the day, if I'm able to make something with it, great. If it helps fund me being able to cut back on regulated hours of work, fantastic. It won't matter how I got there as long as it was legal, legal and [crosstalk 00:15:12]-

Dr. Weisman: Are your kids fed and are the lights on, and if you get that burning desire filled inside of you, you are rocking it. That's amazing. I love it. In what ways have you found freedom in your practice of medicine?

Dr. Fawole: One thing that I've told myself is you know what, I'm going to be myself. For example, we have anesthesia techs at work and things like that, and they're awesome. They do a great job. But every now and then, they're tied up doing other things, right? Sometime last week, I have an example, we had a case that wasn't necessarily on the schedule and was kind of thrown in there, and they weren't aware they were tied up, and I began doing what they would have been doing. Someone commented she was like, "No stop, stop. People are paid for this work, and blah, blah, blah." And I was like, "No, no, no hold on. My goal right now is to get this case going. My goal right now is to get this case going, okay? I know people are paid for it."

Dr. Fawole: We're all human beings, if you're free get your hands dirty, get the work done.

Dr. Weisman: Be the team.

Dr. Fawole: Do it. It's funny cause, she actually asked me to like stop and just back down. She was very forceful about it. After a while I was like, "You know what, just calm down." I patted her on the shoulder and was like, "You'll be okay. I'm going to do what I'm going to do." Later on she comes back to me and she's like, "Oh my goodness, I love you so much." And I'm like, "Really? You tried to stop me from doing what I wanted to do. And now you're trying to tell me you love me so much. That was a test or something?" Again, not letting your role make you feel like you're above anything, above any trivial task or responsibilities. You do have your job, so as long as you're not leaving your job to do someone else's job of pushing carts or doing things like that. I mean those are all jobs too.

Dr. Fawole: My point is, when you really let yourself be free from any other things that bother you otherwise wouldn't be as much of an issue, scheduling and time. Sometimes things don't go according to schedule. If you free yourself to understand that, "You know what, I did my best, I showed up, but this wasn't in place. I can only do what I can do. I'm not going to beat myself up. I'll talk to those that need to be spoken with, to or with, but ... " It really takes a lot of weight off your shoulders when you're not trying to carry the weight of the world.

Dr. Weisman: Absolutely. Yeah like you said, when you free your mind to kind of let go of those unrealistic expectations. Like we all like to be on time, we do, granted. I know I'm super type A and I'm like to the minute. I like to be on time, but when I personally in my own practice started just letting it go. I'm like, they'll get back when they get back. Or my nurse will room them when they room them, or patients will or will not show up. I have no charge in how that happens. The monitor Ashley was using is not my circus, not my monkeys. And I wanted to let things go, because we do want to just control it a;;. And when you let it go and you say, "Just the freedom of the situation." Gosh, it makes an amazing difference on that weight that we all carry around on our shoulders.

Dr. Fawole: Sometimes people ask me how I'm able to juggle a lot of things, and the story that I tell people sometimes was that, When I first got married to my husband, I noticed that he liked being in the kitchen. Now before we got married, I was very particular about where my individual spices were kept. But, when I noticed that he didn't mind being the kitchen, I also had to come to terms with the fact that, that means that my spices may not end up in the same place. I have to make a choice.

Dr. Weisman: I have that exact sample example. My husband, not that he loves putting the dishes away, but he does. He like nightly will just go and put dishes away. I was so anal, I was like, "No, the pots go in the bottom not the top." But, I think I don't know if it's just years of marriage, or just doing this work about letting things go. When I started letting it go I'm like, "Oh the dishes got done, that's good." So absolutely, when we stop trying to control the result and we just are gracious for the results, make such a huge difference.

Dr. Weisman: Well it has been great talking with you today. If my viewers have any interest in what you're doing with real estate, or the network marketing, how can they find out more about you? Dr. Fawole: They can find me on Facebook and/or Instagram. So my Facebook name is my first name and last name, Chiagozie Fawole, and I can spell that because it's always difficult.

Dr. Weisman: We'll put it in the show notes too for everybody. Dr. Fawole: And then on Instagram it's Chiagozie_Fawole, that's my page. And I have a website actually, again ChiagozieFawole.com just straight up.

Dr. Weisman: I love it! Simplicity is for the best. Well great. I will definitely send people your way. 'Cause it sounds like you're doing amazing things in life and in medicine, and I just love how you have embraced this word of freedom. So thank you so much for talking with me today.

Dr. Fawole: My pleasure.

Dr. Weisman: See I told you it was a really good episode with doctor Fawole. One thing that she said in that conversation that I ... well there was a lot of things, but one in particular that I particularly took away from her conversation was when she said, "Having the freedom to fail." I really do go back and think of how many times, in so many situations, where nothing less than perfection was acceptable. I know that we all struggle with the fact of trying to complete our job, and do the very best for our patients, and trying to be exemplary in everything that we do. But I think we have to fall back on the fact that perfection really is unattainable in every single portion of our lives. We have to embrace our humanity and say, "We're messy, we're human. We can't be perfect all the time." I think also recognizing when good enough is really good enough.

Dr. Weisman: How many times have I sat over a patient note when I was a medical student, and though it was good enough I kept combing through it, and I kept going back in tweaking it, or changing a little part of my physical exam, or adding more history, or perfecting that assessment and plan? How many times do I think about other things now that I continually go back to, even in my personal life, because it's not quite perfect? I'll be perfectly honest I am a recovering perfectionist, it's something that I have to deal with in myself every single day, but when I started taking know that perfection is not the goal excellence is the goal, but you don't have to be perfect to be excellent ... that's what I made a huge shift in my life.

Dr. Weisman: I know for many people that drop since a perfectionism brings on so much anxiety, because with that perfectionism comes anxiety and fear, and fear is a huge thing that I think many of us deal with in healthcare that we don't speak about. I encourage you to sit down today and think about, "Where in my life am I being too perfectionistic? Where in my life am I having anxiety around? That maybe perhaps I need to reevaluate this." Or one really awesome thing that I have been able to start is called colleague-to-colleague calls. These are absolutely free, no selling, no slime, no sleaze. It's just where you and I get on the phone and we talk about these exact issues that I bring up the podcast. It's an opportunity for you to sit with a colleague to kind of process through your thoughts, process through things that are going on in your life, or perhaps that you have been dealing with for weeks, months, years, in the presence of a colleague, who is also a trained life coach.

Dr. Weisman: Now I offer this up to any of my listeners today, because four years ago I needed that. I needed to be able to go to a colleague and say, "Hey, can you just listen and maybe bounce some ideas, and help me out with this?" And so because of that, I wanna pay it forward to anyone else who feels like that's what they need. Again, if after talking an hour with me you feel better, you can move on with your life, I am so happy to serve you. And then, maybe it's a trial to see, "Hey, is this life coaching thing really worth it?" I personally think it is, so I went and got trained in life coaching, that's why I serve you, my colleagues in medicine, because I think it's a service that we all absolutely need.

Dr. Weisman: So, check out the show notes, click on the link, get a call with me. Believe you me, it'll be fun if anything. Well that's it for episode number three, it's in the books today. I hope that you can find a little bit more freedom within your life and your practice. I wanna give a special shout out to my team. Thanks so much to Jenn Edds at the Brassy Broadcasting Company who is my podcast producer. I wanna thank Courtney Brown, my assistant who keeps my life in order so that I can go out and have fun. And I wanna thank my family, my husband Craig, my three littles, and all my supporting cast, friends and family that have helped make this project a huge success, and just a joy in my life. So thank you everyone. Again, if you need to reach me, check in the show notes, and as always, your life, your calling, your pulse matters.

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