November 02, 2021 7 min read
The Fabled blog brings together diverse women in medicine to inspire uplifting conversations about life as a medical practitioner. We want to create an empowered community through open discussions about traditionally off-limits topics such as self-care and non-linear career paths. We hope that by participating in these conversations, our readers will go on to live more fulfilling lives. Our new interview series shines a light on the power of personal style, mindfulness, and more.
Our Women in Medicine Q&A series continues with Dr. Tamara Chang and Dr. Luisa Duran of Pink Coat, MD, a vibrant community that provides leadership development, professional coaching, peer support, and other resources for female physicians. Both doctors met at Brown University: Dr. Chang went on to become a pediatric hematologist and oncologist in Tacoma, WA, and Dr. Duran is an adult endocrinologist based in San Francisco, CA. After completing their medical training—and earning dozens of accolades along the way—they decided to band together to help more female doctors do their best work and thrive in their chosen fields. Read on to find out what inspired their decision to start their business, and the workwear that brings each of them joy.
Why did you become a doctor? We want to hear it all: The good, the bad, and yes, even the ugly.
Dr. Duran: Deciding to become a doctor felt like a calling for me since I was a kid. To this day, I can’t imagine anything else I’d love to do with my life. I was really close to my grandmother Luisa, whom I’m named after. She was an incredibly compassionate, loving woman, and she took care of me when both my parents worked. I wanted her to live forever, so I felt a tremendous appreciation for how doctors helped keep her alive and well into her late 90s. A love of science and compassion for others solidified my path to becoming the doctor I am today.
Dr. Chang: I’ve had a deep desire to serve for as long as I can remember. I was deeply inspired by a graduation speech given by an alumnus of my school, who was a speechwriter for Bill Clinton. “We are here to serve” were his final words. When I heard that, I felt a deep resonance within my core. It marked the beginning of my search for meaning and purpose in life. Years later, I discovered the sacredness of hospice and caring for pediatric oncology patients, which led me on my path to become a pediatric hematologist and oncologist.
What have been some of the proudest achievements of your careers?
Dr. Chang: I did a brave thing for myself three years ago, and asked for help when I needed it most. I took a leave of absence, got help, and reflected on my life, my career, and what I wanted. Everything I’m building now came out of that very dark and challenging time in my life. I will be forever grateful for what I learned.
Dr. Duran: Only after practicing on my own as an attending physician did I learn how stressful, isolating, overwhelming and exhausting our profession can be. I nearly gave up on my career because of how miserable I was feeling. Thankfully, I overcame my challenges and learned how to care for myself so I can care for others. Today, I’m most proud of how I saved my career and got my life back.
What’s your #1 tip for young women entering a career in medicine today?
Dr. Chang: We must take care of ourselves first, before we can begin to care for others. Our medical training and the centuries-old culture of medicine champions the opposite approach. Our societal upbringing as young girls and women also grooms us to become givers. As women physicians, we’re trained to give and give, until we have nothing left. This isn’t sustainable, and it isn’t what we want for future generations of women in medicine.
Dr. Duran: Prioritize taking care of yourself, and don’t feel guilty about it! Scheduling time to enjoy yourself and releasing any guilt for doing this will serve you well throughout your medical journey.
What inspired your decision to start Pink Coat, MD?
Dr. Duran: When my daughter Annie was four-years-old, she told me she wanted to become a doctor, too. That was a defining moment for me. I asked myself: “Is this the world I want for her?” Sadly, the answer was no. Today, healthcare professionals are more at risk of suicide and burnout than any other profession, and many women physicians are quitting shortly after finishing their training. We can’t wait for healthcare institutions to design programs to support us. That’s why Tammie and I created Pink Coat, MD—to help women physicians practicing medicinetoday.
Dr. Chang: Luisa and I want a kinder, healthier and brighter future for the young women and girls who dream of becoming physicians. We also want a profession where our healthcare landscape nurtures joy, love, and compassion. Our goal is to change and revolutionize the culture of medicine for the better.
Women supporting women is a big theme in your work. How did this come to be a defining element for you?
Dr. Duran: When I started openly talking about physician burnout and how it disproportionately affects women in medicine, I got a much stronger reaction from my female friends than from my male friends. That’s because women are experts in our unique pains and struggles. We’re also experts in creating solutions to our problems.
Dr. Chang: In healthcare, women make up less than 18% of deans and C-suite leaders, yet we comprise more than 80% of the workforce. How do we change this? We have to begin by supporting each other, and recognize that together, we have the greatest voice and power.
What’s one thing you’ve learned running Pink Coat, MD that helps you build rapport with your patients?
Dr. Chang: I’ve learned how to be a solid team with my co-founder, Luisa. That process makes me a better human being, a better spouse to my husband, a better colleague and most of all, a better partner with my patients. I think working so closely with a lifelong friend as a business partner has been one of the most important lessons of my life, and I’m still learning.
Dr. Duran: I’ve learned about the power of community. We designed Pink Coat, MD to be a safe, loving community for women physicians so that we can let our guards down, open our hearts, share our wounds, and nurture our most authentic selves. I’ve grown so much as a person because of Pink Coat, MD, and I enjoy practicing medicine much more because of it.
Representation is so important, particularly in healthcare. What do you hope your patients will feel when you walk into the room?
Dr. Duran: I hope my patients will feel my genuine concern for their well-being, and my true wish to see them thrive. I’m an optimist at heart, and I believe all my patients can improve in some way. I love transforming people into their best selves!
Dr. Chang: I love that I am a laughing, fun-loving, joyful, Asian woman physician—and that I can show patients and families that a physician can be happy, thriving, and in love with her life and work. I can be silly, warm, and goofy with my pediatric patients and families, and I know they feel safe and comfortable with me.
What are your favorite self-care rituals? Beauty regimens, affirmations, and date-nights are all fair game!
Dr. Duran: My favorite self-care ritual is a 20 to 30-minute walk by myself around my block or neighborhood park with no conversations, no music, and no noise.
Dr. Chang: COVID has impacted this somewhat, but I still get a full body massage every week. I know this gift to myself makes all the difference in my life.
What do you wear to work, and how does it make you feel?
Dr. Chang: I love to dress up, and I feel my best when I take the time to look my best. My go-to wardrobe is a mix of MM LaFleur and J McLaughlin. I think it’s important to show that we can be bright, joyful, and yet completely professional in the workplace.
Dr. Duran: Right now, my go-to workwear is active wear. I need to wear clothes that allow me to accomplish all my activities from morning to evening. My active wear makes me feel comfortable and relaxed.
What does the idea of personal style mean to you, and how do you think your sense of style empowers you?
Dr. Duran: For me, personal style means expressing yourself in a way that is most aligned with your personality. I was never big on fashion or style, and I didn’t grow up with a lot of money, so shopping for clothes always felt like a luxury. As I grow into my forties, I appreciate the value of investing in my personal style more. When I’m wearing something that looks beautiful and feels comfortable, I carry myself differently. Even on my toughest days, I’ll intentionally put-on something bright and beautiful to lift my mood and help me reconnect with some joy.
Dr. Chang: I think personal style is exactly that: completely personal to each and every woman. Only we know what feels best to us, and when we feel best in our own skin. My personal style now is a reflection of me from the inside out. I feel more solid, grounded, confident and myself today, from the inside out, than I ever have in my life.
Photos courtesy of Dr. Tammie Chang and Dr. Luisa Duran.
We love talking with women in medicine who manifest self-care and self-expression. If you know someone who can teach us a thing or two, email us their details!
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