Help me welcome Dr. Listy Thomas. Dr. Thomas practices Emergency Medicine at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport Connecticut. She is an Associate Professor of Medical Sciences at the Frank H Netter MD School of Medicine, Quinnipiac University where she currently serves as the Assistant Director of the Clinical Arts and Sciences course. She received her BA at New York University, MD at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, and went on to complete her residency in Internal Medicine/Emergency Medicine at North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System. Dr. Thomas is interested in the development of physicians with strong clinical and communication skills for benefiting the physician-patient relationship.
welcome to essential wisdom. Inspiring future female physicians. Ah, podcast for engaging and informing the next generation of women in medicine. My name is carried a bow. I'm 1/4 year medical student at the Frank H. Netter, MD. School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University. Essential wisdom is a podcast for discussing the joys and the challenges off being a woman in medicine through the sharing of stories and advice by women who mentor us. Take a seat with me at the desk of the mentors, come along, tow, walk the holes of the hospitals to experience residency and life as a physician personally, as we get to know these phenomenal physicians and scientists. Hello and welcome back to essential wisdom inspiring future female physicians. My name is Carrie Deebo, and I'm so delighted that you decided to join us again this week. Help me Welcome Dr List. See Thomas. Dr Thomas practices emergency medicine at ST Vincent's Medical Center in Bridgeport, Connecticut. She's an associate professor of medical sciences at the Frank H. Netter, MD. School of Medicine, Quinnipiac University, where she currently serves as the assistant director of the Clinical Arts and Sciences Course. She received her B A at New York University, MD. At SUNY Downstate Medical Center and went on to complete her residency in internal medicine slash emergency medicine at North Shore Long Island Jewish Health System. Dr. Thomas is interested in the development of physicians with strong clinical and communication skills for benefiting the physician patient relationship. Dr. Thomas, thank you for being here to join us. Welcome to essential wisdom. Thank
you, Carrie. I'm excited to be here. Thank you for having
me. So the way that we begin most of the conversations is just to ask you to tell us about your path to becoming a female physician, I'm
sure. So, I actually always wanted to be a position since I could remember. I think even in grade school, I wanted to be a doctor. Um, and then for no reason, no, no one in my family are physicians. And, uh, you know, we grew up in a very poor harming environment on then. Came here a cz immigrants to this country, and I think I just always like to be in the service of others. And, um, I thought being a physician gave me the best opportunity to do so and um when I actually set forth those plans and applying to colleges, my parents were like, Oh, don't do it. It's hard to raise a family being a position, and it's not worth it. And so they actually kind of didn't really encouraged me to do it, which probably, uh, motivated me a little bit more. In the end,
Did you do have any people practicing medicine in any way in your family at the time? Oh, no, no. My mom is a
nurse and s o that was a big, uh, She was a big role model for me and my training and career. I think seeing how hard it was to be a nurse especially probably helped me decide not to go into the nursing career, but to pursue medicine instead. Honestly.
So you said that medicine was something that you've wanted since you were young, and it was just kind of a part of this action of wanting to serve others. Did you have her second guessing or did it Was it just something you wanted all throughout college as well? Yeah.
I never second guessed it. Um, I I honestly feel like in terms of, um you know, being a female physician. None of these factors really played into my decision making. It never occurred to me, except when my parents said it's hard to raise a family. That was the only be back I had ever heard or received about how a woman couldn't do it all. And so it never really crossed my mind. I just pursued it as a academic goal. And, um and then, you know, kind of probably face the consequences of not having made a well informed decision down the road once, Ah, multiple other factors, like Children and family life did come into play. But, um, it was really because I wanted to say the world I wanted to, you know, do mission work. And I wanted to have the best skills under my belt to be able to do those kinds of
things. Will you talk a little bit about what the process was of beings not as well informed, you know about family and about what all that would mean for your life. When
I was in training and college and even in medical school, we were probably at a different point in our culture than we are now. And although I had female position role models, I think it was still kind of like that, you know, female physician, that kind of gave up sacrifice a lot of the things that probably we hold dear now in our culture, like being able to raise a family and, you know, having the best of every possible part of our lives. And so I think I learned from positions both male and female, who didn't have a lot of responsibilities at home or elsewhere. Um, and really sacrificed a lot of other parts of their life for their career and for their academic goals. And, uh so it's like it was taboo to talk about a lot of these things. I didn't really have many conversations with my colleagues. Residents are people who are mentors to me about, you know, what would my day look like as a physician in one specialty versus the other? Or, you know, how would roles change in a multi physician family? Or, you know, any of those things? I think, uh, I at least didn't know to think about her ask about and, uh, didn't really have conversations with anyone about so I feel like on Lee after a lot of these online, uh, forums like Facebook and social media came about where we started having open discussions about these things among a female positions. I realized these are conversations that I've had in my mind, but probably not with many anyone else. And then I realized, probably there are students and trainees who probably would have have these conversations. And so that's what really pushed me thio create the AMA group at at our
school. Absolutely. Um, thank you for doing that personally, because I know how much I enjoy it and how much other students at Quinnipiac find it to be a good for him to talk about those things. And actually, one of you would be able to talk a little bit about the group that you're enough east. I know we talked about before, but not everybody is aware that it exists. Like the face for, uh, talking about mother loving all of this all being a position.
Yeah. It's called PMG physician Moms Group, and it was created by Hello, Sabri, who's ah, position in California currently. And, uh, I think she just started it to thinking about, you know, raising her child on doll the stressors, and started talking to other other position moms who thought she realized for going through the same thing. And we were kind of just doing it in in silos and science silence, you know, just tryingto bigger had a balance, all of the different priorities in our life and give equal weight to each of them. You know, because I think, for all of us are our careers and why we set out onto this path of medicine. Who we became in that journey is a critical element of ourselves and one that we don't want to lose. And yet, as you become a mother, a parent in any right, you know, you you realize there's a whole other an element of your person personhood your character that requires just as much weight and then so trying to figure out how to balance both of those things. I think learning from others and speaking with each other about our frustrations along the way has has been a huge support group that I think I could not find in a doctor's lounge in a hospital
so amazing that that exists in that brutal, like media and culture online wasn't able to create a form for that. I mean, I think it's just incredible.
Yeah, it is. And it, you know, it comes with a lot of the same negative aspects of it that social media creates. But for the most part there are 70,000 plus female positions on this group, uh, for a reason, you know, and I think that it speaks. It speaks to the experiences of many of us when anyone posts anything on it. And as a as a forum, I think the the admin is of the group have been able to do a significant amount of positive for many people nation nationwide and also across the world through this group. So it's been nice
in your experience. How do you set those priorities? Did a change. There are times you have to do with the setting you're working in.
Yeah, so I think it does definitely change over time. And, uh, when I had my first child in residency, and so I think the motherhood tax was a really thing that I did not expect to encounter, I really did not believe that women were treated differently than men. And I think being sheltered by academia helps you not see those things, perhaps for the average person. I think there are many enlightened students and residents along the way that are able to perceive the nuances and the implicit biases that gender might play. But for the most part, I never thought about or encountered any of it until I think I became a mother and realized, like, you know, I was being kind of taken away from opportunities that I should have had or, you know, just silly minor things and always being told Well, focus on your family hugs on your family by my my seniors, my mentors, you know, my attendings. And I'd be like, Oh, okay, well, that's nice that they're letting me focus on my family. But I think it was not something that I had expected, you know. And, um, I think that translated a lot when I, uh, you know, my my own perspectives changed and I realized, with a little baby, a newborn, a one year old that I didn't really want to pursue the same academic career that I was on a trajectory to do and you know, switched where I worked as an attending my first job. Significantly, because of this child that I know how to take care of. And so, um, that that was a big change that I hadn't anticipated, expected to forever work in an academic environment teaching residents And, um, you know, being being a part of that. And I'm the kind of person that if I do something, I want to do it 100%. But then now I have about had to figure out how to balance to 50% and make them 100% you know? So I you know, trains And I was fortunate enough to be able to go through all of my training except maybe my last year and 1/2 of residency as, ah, a single person, as you know, a newly married person and that only in the end of my residency that I have a baby. And I think for those students and residents of struggle with trying to make it work even early on, it might be good because you learn how to prioritize earlier. But, um, I also felt like I was able to devote a lot of my attention. Just tow the one thing of training when I was in that role and then then I switched altogether to a role of motherhood. And 456 years kind of really just tried to focus on that and focus on being a new attending and figuring out how to make my new priorities as an attending Because all you know, for all that training that you do with the 13 years that I train, you know, it was somebody else telling me what to do along the way, you know, getting to the next milestone, and then all of a sudden it's kind of like figure it out on your own. And so yep, that was a new new phase of my life attending hood and motherhood. And then, you know, I had the fortune of being able to work at the medical school that was new, and being involved with that and curriculum development kind of helped me bring back a lot of those academic interests that I had. And then I had to re balance, you know, being able thio, do the clinical roll, the academic roll and then motherhood at the same time and it's it's it's possible in doable to the extent that you wanted to
be when you had the transition to being attending and Mom kind of in the same period of time, Did you work full time? The entire journey?
I did. I worked full time, um, and had two more Children, Uh, as an attending, and I think with the each incremental responsibility load of each child, I realized how hard it was to work full time. But I did. I did continue it. I think there was, like, maybe a six month period where I had to go part time when I was pregnant with my third Childs and I was working over nice. Primarily, um, on dhe, you know, And no one, I don't think, honestly, no one had taken maternity leave in residency. When I was there, no one had taken maternity leave. And when I worked as an attending, I think that was, like, probably one person beforehand and that, you know, So it was kind of like make your own trail along the way of trying to figure out how to do it. And so, with my first child, I took four weeks off after a C section. And that was just like my four weeks of vacation time that I had accumulated. By the time I had my third child. I was like, Okay, I need to take the full 12 weeks and enjoy my you know, not enjoy. But like not kill myself because, you know, trying to learn to pump and work and, you know, manage three Children. It was, ah, challenge that I had not anticipated it anyway.
Well, in your experience now, seeing these things play out in the culture we live in today it was easier for people to go ahead and take that full maternity lever or not.
No, I think that having worked with Millennials for No. 67 years now, and, um and really getting to understand their perspectives in a way that I would not have had the opportunity to do otherwise, I think I really, really appreciate the perspective on life that millennials bring that you know that wellness is important. Balance is important. I think we were kind of like a swing generation with the values of the people that came before us and trying Thio adjust to the life that we were given. But I think the millennials have it right, honestly admit in a lot of respects. And I think that that is such an important skill to know and understand that you you do need balance. And you do need, uh, to take time off when you need to take him off. You know, and I think that, uh, early motherhood is probably one of those times where you need. So you need to just that back a little bit if you can, you know, our allow space in your life so that you know, 11 of your aspects of life doesn't consume you, you know, And for me, I love have I honestly thought going to a shift in the e. R was easier than being home with my three Children many, many days or even with my one child. You know what I want? I appreciate it. Have any the outlet,
the venue to do something else I can't even have been. I'm both impressed and just I think that you're fired, you know, determine everything that you had to do both things and and I just love it. So actually, I have a question and I do like then lifestyle. Do you think I know what 20 AK? We spent a lot of time doing lifestyle medicine conversations during our sweet sets up drugs. Do you like? How do you see that moving in medical education? Well, people in the future, do you think expecting that continue to be integrated into our education? That's a truck. That's a
really good question. And I hope it is something that does continue, um, and create a sea change within the House of Medicine itself. I don't think it's sustainable, and it's not actually good for the future generations that come after us because I think both parents need to be home. You know, paternity leave was not even a saying when I was raising my Children, and I think that's a huge, huge boon. I think, uh, for equality to have fathers in the home available to help in understanding the nuances of what it takes to to raise Children appropriately. I think Children need parents at home. You know, I think ah, lot of us outsource a lot of our responsibilities as as we get as recline this ladder of medicine. But, um, I think the more that your your family can see you there. I think the better off all of you will be. You know, it's a short Honestly, I see it as a very short time line, like you only have these Children for less than 20 years. That's pretty much how long it took me to train. And that's a you know, it's all over. So, um, you know, I think this is just another phase, and then it moves on. Different people are different parts of their career and their academic goals. But I do. I do think and hope that that ballot balance and, you know, treating even students and residents and juniors to you at any point with the respect that you would expect from others, I think is a crucial part. Part of, uh, that, um, better environment that we all create for each other.
What is, Ah, one piece of advice that you would give somebody considering that work life balance or that priorities at this stage in our career? You know, I think it's
different for every every person and really depends on this sites. The type of social support systems that you have. Um, I really think if you're planning to do residency, um, in a place that you're, you know, at a time where you're also planning thio perhaps, you know, grow your family or, you know, consider that as an option, you might want to be around people that could help you. You know, whether it's, uh, parents are, you know, extended family or whatever. I think that's an important things that just there in mind. I mean, you know, ah, lot of they has changed and you can't always anticipate our plan. But I think to the extent that you can set up yourself to have a good support system and often in medicine, we don't have time to do that or build those support systems. But if you are mindful of it, I think it would. It would only help just. There are so many things, so many last minute things where I have to lead on people that I didn't anticipate having to do. And I think that's hard for all of us in medicine to want to do. Um, but I think the thing that I really learned the most is that we're not that different in medicine than everybody else. I think in terms of motherhood, in terms of being a woman, you know a lot of the things that I went through before I had PMG the people that I confided in where the nurses and, you know, texts and everybody else that I worked with in and in my department because we were all going through the same thing at the same time. Or we had a role model who had just, you know, who was just getting her kids off to college or something, you know, And like, I think those conversations that cross, you know, professions, but really just preserve the fact that we're on women kind of in this together. I think those were some of the most meaningful things that I've I've learned in ways Toe extend my social support.
Okay, that's a gym important sentiment that we really are more like each other than everyone thinks you're Sometimes it's easy to get trapped in your own role. You know, I'm looking for someone who has the exact same rule is you and now pay attention to how everybody else that maybe in a different role, actually has similar experiences
and a lot of my really strongest friends right now are our PS and our ends that have who you know, we're all in the same pieces of life, right? And
so Absolutely. Who would you say then, Um, has served us to, like, important mentors. Do you have a cabinet of tons of different types of people? Do you have? I'm into her for each different role. Well, how do you go about that? Yeah, I think, uh, I wish I had been
better about it for sure. Um, this last month I had the opportunity to just go to a bunch of reunions that I hadn't. You know, you know, people I hadn't seen a long time. And I think along the way I had different mentors. I just didn't label them as such and didn't know to appreciate them as such. Right. But one of the big reasons why I went to my residency program was because of a female attending a Barbara Burnett who became a program director up terms there. And she was a big old model to me, um, in a mentor and someone that I really and even still now it's fire to become like at some point, but as soon as I met her like this is who I want to be. And, um, that was an important, um, person in my life on the career that I developed. And I, you know, I learned from, um her how to be a mother in a physician at the same time, too, as well as you know, a few other female attendings that I worked with. Dr Pam ourselves and Helen Block week. They all, you know, constantly spoke about their challenges of motherhood, and and still, we're like, the most amazing Edie attending that you could ever work with, you know? And so I think that was something that I really wanted to aspire to. They were big mentors, but, you know, outside of that, I really I really haven't. I still struggled now to find the right mentors, and I think it's because early on I didn't know where to prioritize, Right? And so a lot of my mentors were actually men, um, and on and they taught me many things and very, very valuable in my, uh, um, career and and the goals that I wanted to pursue. So I think you have to really do diversify your mentoring portfolio as well. You know, anything that's important? Some of my mentors air are my students. I'm like, Wow, I want to be just like that I knew in the way that they just have Oh, great outlook on life And, you know, and that And the hope is that I think students spring right. I think that that I love working in that environment and being able to to see things from the lens of someone just starting out, too.
Club one of the greatest rewards for being a female in medicine. For you, I get to hear different
perspectives, the perspective of a stay at home mother and the perspective of ah, you know, 95 mother versus the shift work by there, I think I think I really, really value um, being able to be a physician on It's something that I think you know, as much as we struggle with trying to do it all and being a super mom and you know, superwoman and medicine, the ability to just think about or do something different makes me better in every role. You know that I have currently and that's not for everybody. Some people are just experts in one thing, and that's what they're they're going to do. And that's, you know, you have to identify within yourself What are your personality characteristics that help you thrive And, you know, for me being a combined resident, having learned two different things at the same time every time, I think that just kind of helped me set up for a life of being able to, um, be flexible in in my different roles. And so I value having the outlet in each each way. Like I love being able to come home and snuggle my Children. And I love being able to leave them and go to work when I need Thio. You know, you love being able to teach what I'm just kind of like I gotta walk away from both of those things. So yeah, I do. Do you think it It's a great career to pursue for females?
Thank you for sharing that and thank you for just saying that that's the case. I know that these collisions, regardless of whether we're comfortable talking about them a little bit more now or not, still resonate with people, you know? Can I do this? Is this possible? So thank you for, you know, sharing. Why, that is possible for you in terms of then the flip side of this conversation. What is you would say, the biggest area or challenge that you faced being a few mental medicine.
I I used to call a disappointment. I'm not sure I call a disappointment anymore. But in a patients or family members face when they air when I walk in and introduce myself is Dr Thomas and they're expecting, you know, somebody different. That bias is still riel. After working in the same place for many years, I I am the staff that I work with the department that I am in the hospital. I think everybody's gotten used to it and, you know, understand that I am the physician when I walk in and the patients do as well, which, because we have a bunch of, you know, repeat visits and things like that. But I think that bias made me feel like I was not good enough when I when I started. And it's not because I'm not a good position. I had to learn that I had to relearn that, you know, after 15 years of training, because I had to learn that I, although you know, excelled throughout medical school and residency could not make the same impact to my patients because of things that I really had no control over. And I think that was something that I had to really become comfortable with and own and then kind of overcome. And that probably maybe took like, 78 years, you know, because again, I'm trying to map managed two or three different new roles. And so, um, that, I think, was the hardest thing Thio to see people that I knew and trained with really excel ing and and, you know, excelling in the eyes of patients, but also in the hands of departments and and, ah, I didn't really have the same trajectory even though I had all the same skills. And I think that it was something I had to realize, Really. I couldn't change, you know, and just become okay with and that I think it's hard for a lot of people because in medicine we're so used to excel in and
so I don't know about that process of growing to understand that you couldn't necessarily change yourself. Like how did you How did you go about that? Was that just over time, like a maturation? Or did you talk to some on our What was that? Like?
I changed best when I learned I feel like so I just needed to build my knowledge base. So I I started reading about it. I started learning and becoming, you know, very knowledgeable about unconscious bias. And, you know, even the understanding that that was what was going on probably took many years, and I, you know, delved into the literature, medical literature and social science literature. I you know, I got my MBA. I I did whatever I could on my end too. Learned the leadership skills, this the the social attribution skills that I did not possess. Well, I was learning medicine, right? And that helps me. That was how I dealt with it, you know, by trying to become as as knowledgeable about what's going on, You know, if there is something that I could change, right? You know, I I always thought that I understood patient care, clinical reasoning, excellently, um, and then developing that you know how to effectively communicate with the other person who knows those communications skills and soft girls that I think, you know, We we now do really nicely at the medical school. But I think that was not really something that was in our curriculum, the medical education. I had a lot of work in teams and howto work into professionally. All of these things are based off of real trial and error problems that I encountered her in it. And so I think, uh, that was that was a way I I developed into the place of acceptance change. I realize this society, it's still it's still lagging. I honestly never thought we were as, um I don't want to say backwards, but as behind as we, as we may currently seem to be, you know we are. We are growing as a society, but there are areas, and I think when you change institutions changed regions of the country. As you move along in your career, you'll realize even there's a lot of regional variations
such important point on why I'm doing this podcast because I think that becoming informed about what's ahead of you and what the situation is is so, so, so important. And I appreciate you being very honest with me about that in terms of kind of wrapping down our interview. Is there a piece of advice that you would have for a medical student who's determining and imagining her journey? Interesting. See India,
you know, limit yourself right? Do what you what you think you I want to do and don't really Don't limit yourself based off of, um, only the negative feedback. You know, I think we hit the negative feedback. Probably speaks loud, look more lovely and everyone's ears, and then any positive be back. But I have seen a lot of students kind of walk away from a dream because of someone negative encounter with someone along the way. You know, whenever I have had negative feedback, I've definitely wanted to crawl under a rock and never go back and do it again. But, um, I think, you know, you've got to this point of being in medical school because of your strength and your abilities and not much else, you know. And so build on those negatives and make them your strengths also on, and you'll find that you could probably do more than you ever realized.
Thank you, Dr Thomas. For all your advice, all of your wisdom, it's just been a really lovely conversation. So I appreciate you taking his time. Shocked us.
Thank you. I appreciate you doing this, Carrie. I think it's so It's such an important work and so meaningful. And I think we're we're excited for you and the career that you pursue a
swell Thank you so much. Thank you so much, Dr Thomas, for coming and talking with us on essential wisdom. Inspiring future female physicians. What a G impact episode. I really enjoyed having this conversation with you. And I hope that our listeners enjoy listening to it just as much as I enjoyed having it. This was an absolute blast. So everybody thank you again for tuning into essential wisdom this Tuesday. Come back this Thursday for another episode. This is a special episode with another fourth year medical student. So we'll be having a medical student only talk on Thursday. This week. Thanks, Everyone have a great week. Happy January