The Lean Medic
Prior to my fellowship with Medics.Academy, I thought the three words everyone wants to hear were ‘I love you’. After my exposure to the business world, I have another phrase at the top of my list.
Build, Measure, Learn.
Build, Measure, Learn are the three principles needed for a healthy enterprise of any kind. I first came across them in Eric Ries’ seminal book, ‘The Lean Startup’.
I came across the book during the first few weeks of my two-month fellowship with Medics.Academy. I was suffering from severe imposter syndrome as I navigated my way through the startup. I questioned everything. Was I talented enough for this fellowship? Did I belong in a room filled with intelligent, innovative, creative individuals? Did they accidentally choose me and now are too scared to tell me so the easiest thing to do is to let me stay?
As you can tell, like many, I tend to assume that what I’ve accomplished is not enough – I must do more. I view it as a drive to succeed, but it held me back at the start of my time with Medics.Academy. It was intimidating to walk into our offices every morning, being greeted by creative, strong and talented people I look up to. I couldn’t believe I had the honour of joining them and felt out of place.
Everyone at Medics.Academy is an inspiration and being there reminded me that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Forget what you see on the internet, where everyone is the CEO or the founder of an amazing new startup or movement. At Medics.Academy I learned no one wakes up one day with a clear path to success before them. The journey is always an iterative process.
Exactly like the principles of a healthy startup – you Build, Measure and Learn your way through life. You become a lean medic.
With previous experience in public relations, the fellowship was the chance for me to build on skills I already had. Researching and creating a brand from scratch for a completely new project was a massive step up. As a fellow, I worked with the team on graphic design, marketing and research and it was a dream to have real consumers in mind. Going through the creative group work required me to form original ideas. My personal highlight was when the brand name we finally chose was my creation.
Building yourself isn’t just about skills. It’s also about networks. From doctors of every specialty possible to software engineers, film-makers, artists – working with people from diverse professional backgrounds enriched how I thought about being a doctor. One of the best parts of the fellowship was being able to attend events in the heart of London delivered by individuals leading their fields. No topic was off-limits. Such is the beauty of a career in medicine that having a global outlook on issues and being able to network is an asset.
The Lean Medic doesn’t build blind.
Without measurement, we run the risk of wasting tremendous amounts of time. Your efforts can feel more successful than they are without tracking your progress. You might even start building in the wrong direction if you don’t check in on yourself. Honest reflection and objective measurement are crucial on this journey.
Measuring has different contexts. During my fellowship, I would check in early with my colleagues so as not to waste time or resources. A group context is good training. Apply the same skills in the context of your own life.
Check in on yourself. Did you get a lot out of that course you went on? Did you enjoy the clinical placement you took or the job you’ve just started? Assess yourself regularly to make sure you’re on track toward your goals. We get so wrapped up in life, we can forget to recognise our own achievements. You’ll be pleasantly surprised when you acknowledge how far you’ve already come.
The Lean Medic employs deliberate learning.
We all know how to learn in a lecture theatre, but few of us know how to learn in the theatre of life. We know how to do online research and retain facts, but that stops being useful after graduation. True life-long learning is hard on the emotions, and on the ego. You’ll need to admit mistakes you’ve made if you want to learn from them. You’ll need to stand in a room of experts and admit how little you know if you want to learn from them.
I’m sure you hold yourself to high standards. The thought of admitting your flaws and limitations to people you look up to is something I found painful. You can apply this to any new job, internship, or hospital placement at medical school. The key is to embrace this and take it as an opportunity to BUILD. Don’t sit quiet and agree to do something you cannot do. If you do, you won’t learn anything. It becomes a vicious cycle of not progressing and achieving the things you want to because you won’t allow yourself to feel the initial pain. At Medics.Academy, every day was a learning opportunity – and for more than medical knowledge. One of my favourite things about our office was the humble bookcase – a place we all came to for a break and a quick coffee. Listening to everyone’s favourite books and what they took from them formed some of my fondest learning memories. I was encouraged to read the book ‘Emotional Intelligence’ by Daniel Goleman which was a pivotal moment for both my professional and personal life.
This simple three-step cycle is essential to keep yourself growing whether or not you have a strict career plan. Talking to friends who study medicine about the future paints a colourful picture. Ideas range from becoming the country’s best orthopaedic surgeon to taking the USMLE and moving to America, to leaving medicine altogether and going into strategy consulting.
I feel the appeal in combining clinical practice with other pursuits. I’ve learned that it’s okay to not have an exact idea of how! Nobody has that perfect plan. With an increasing number of doctors leaving the profession, it’s a confusing time for us medical students to think about the future. Having explored areas outside of the direct medical realm, (such as working for a MedTech startup and public relations in fashion), I have developed many skills that aren’t found in med-school. I had no idea where to place them as part of my identity as a medical student. At the end of my fellowship, I accepted that this is ok. The key is to be a lean medic – to keep learning and evolving.
Back in medical school, I receive incredulous looks when people discover I worked every day over the summer. While others detail a beach holiday in Bali, a city break in New York or an advancement on a research project, my internship at Medics.Academy was the springboard to my professional and personal confidence. As medical students, if we don’t go out of our way and seek experiences outside of the conventional realm of our degrees, I doubt can reach our full potential. I went into the fellowship a good medical student with entrepreneurial skills. I came out an aspiring dermatologist who can lead herself and others in setting focussed goals and solving problems in the medical field with the iterative methodology of successful startup enterprises.
About the Author
Anisha Bandyopadhyay is currently a fourth-year medical student at King’s College London and Medics.Academy fellow. She has a longstanding passion for clinical entrepreneurship and a particular clinical interest in dermatology.