We're going to go out on a limb and guess that most people think that "ER doc" and "olympic pole vaulter" are mutually exclusive career paths. Dr. Leila Ben-Youssef is not most people. That's why you have to meet her. She's an emergency medicine physician in the San Francisco Bay Area and she shares with us how she embraces challenge and adventure in her life.
Tell us about a time you felt really proud of yourself.
A few weeks ago I had the insane idea to blow up an inflatable kayak I had never used before, carry the kayak across mud flats, throw all of my camping gear into it and then row across Tamales Bay with a mini-oar to meet some friends for a weekend of camping. It was literally 45 minutes across a huge bay so I was pretty impressed with myself when I managed to find them. I do admit though that I could've planned a little better — like, I could've packed some food, figured out where I was supposed to dock and learned how to paddle around the occasional friendly sea lion!
What's something about you that might surprise others?
Just shy of 5'2", people are always surprised to learn I was an Olympic pole vaulter in my past life. Pole vaulting is one of the most technical sports out there — it requires sprinter-like speed, a jumper's vertical skills, gymnastic ability and strength. It takes years of training to master but it's so, so much fun! My closest friends are from my vaulting career and I'm so thankful to have had the opportunity to train and compete at that level.
Just shy of 5'2", people are always surprised to learn I was an Olympic pole vaulter in my past life.
What's your biggest insecurity or fear, and how do you manage it?
Medicine is such a humbling career and the rigorous training can often make you feel less than confident in yourself. There really will always be something you don't know, especially in emergency medicine where you're expected to manage potentially any type of patient or condition that walks through your door. It took me a long time to accept that I'll never know everything, but as I've gained more experience, and having recently graduated from residency, I've become confident in my skills and knowledge. And that's a great feeling!
How do you recharge outside of work?
Exercise and sleep are my top priorities. I try to work out 3-4 times a week and love switching it up — stairs, swimming, boxing, spinning, yoga, and the occasional track work out. And because of my varying day/night shift schedule, trying to reduce sleep debt is an absolute must. Good food is also super important to me and as it turns out, I married an exceptional cook. I'm totally spoiled! I also love going on the random adventure and hanging out with friends and family. One of my all-time favorite adventures was white water rafting on the Nile River in Uganda.
I also love going on the random adventure and hanging out with friends and family. One of my all-time favorite adventures was white water rafting on the Nile River in Uganda.
A thrill-seeking elite athlete-turned-physician, everything about Leila seems to be next level. Have friends or colleagues in healthcare who might also be looking for an extra dose of adventure 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).
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