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July 30, 2017

Dr. Elisa Malin is a pediatric hospitalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Few of us truly appreciate the importance of play and spontaneity in leading a full, happy life as much as she does. Maybe it's the pediatrician in her, but we think she's on to something.   

Tell us about a time you felt really proud of yourself.

My husband and I started going to Burning Man a few years ago. A couple days into our first visit to Black Rock City we immediately knew we wanted to build an art car the next time we went. So the following year we decked out a picnic table on wheels and called it the "Dirty Little Rainbow Funtime Machine". We had so much fun with it that we built a brand new art car this summer. The design was inspired by traditional Moroccan hanging lanterns  the outside structure is made from beautiful laser cut wood panels and the inside seating is modeled after Bedouin living spaces. We plan to drive around handing out gifts [hidden inside vintage post boxes built into the car - see banner photo above], and serve grape leaves and mint tea. It's been so rewarding to see our art car come alive, from just kicking around an idea to a fully functional ride! And we definitely couldn't have done it without the help of our closest friends.

We had so much fun with it that we built a brand new art car this summer. The design was inspired by traditional Moroccan hanging lanterns  the outside structure is made from beautiful laser cut wood panels and the inside seating is modeled after Bedouin living spaces.

What's something about you that might surprise others?

I traveled to Croatia after high school to volunteer at a summer camp for kids who were affected by the war in Bosnia, and I went back every summer for five years. Those summers heavily influenced my decision to go into pediatrics, but witnessing the resiliency of those kids shaped my perspective on life in general. And for that I'm eternally grateful. Traveling to Croatia also inspired many future global health missions that took me to places like Kenya, Tanzania, Thailand, and Lebanon (where I met my husband!). 

Those summers heavily influenced my decision to go into pediatrics, but witnessing the resiliency of those kids shaped my perspective on life in general. And for that I'm eternally grateful.

What's your biggest insecurity or fear, and how do you manage it?

Sometimes I worry that there's not enough time in life to do everything I want. Studying and practicing medicine is a significant time sacrifice, and it's humbling to be regularly reminded how fragile life is. And as much as I love what I do, I always try to make the most of my time outside of the hospital. I try to surround myself with people I love, be outdoors, travel, go to festivals, and be spontaneous. Sometimes I wish I had ten lifetimes!

How do you recharge outside of work? 

I love being outdoors, and if I spend at least thirty minutes in nature before or after work then I feel energized and grounded. I adore the Bay Area because there's so much going on in the city centers, but you can also find yourself in a beautiful redwood forest only a few minutes drive away. Spending time with my dog is also a great way to de-stress  seeing how happy playing ball makes her gives me so much happiness. And dancing has always been a good outlet for me, too. I think the only thing that kept me sane in residency was salsa dancing three or four nights a week!

I adore the Bay Area because there's so much going on in the city centers, but at the same time you can find yourself in a beautiful redwood forest only a few minutes drive away.

Elisa's seize-the-day attitude is contagious. Know a healthcare professional who could use a little extra play in their lives? Please share this post with them!

We love to hear about how healthcare professionals are doing the whole work-life balance thing. If you know someone who can teach us a thing or two, email us their details (with their permission, of course).

Learn more about the Shirati hospital in Tanzania where Elisa volunteered here. Check out their site to read about medical volunteering opportunities, or donate to one of their development projects that support education, clean water and nutrition for local communities.  

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