this is what a competitive sailor-turned-doctor looks like
Dr. Stella de la Vega is an urgent care physician based in Long Beach, California who transitioned to practicing family medicine from surgery in search for more work-life balance. There's not much she can't do, or won't at least try, which might be the most impressive thing about her.
Tell us about a recent time you felt really proud of yourself.
I recently completed a 1.2-mile swim in a half-ironman, just seven months after a shoulder injury. I wasn’t even sure if I’d ever be able to swim again. I'm actually scared of the water but recently taught myself how to swim with the help of youtube videos! I’m hoping to finish an ironman sometime soon.
I’m actually scared of the water but recently taught myself how to swim with the help of youtube videos!
What's something about you that might surprise others?
I was a competitive sailor and raced in a pro-amateur team before going to medical school. I became more serious about sailing at the same time that I decided to go back to school to be pre-med. It was quite the juggling act, but I made it happen because it was actually sailing that largely inspired me to pursue and stay focused in medicine.
Biggest insecurity or fear, and how you do you manage it?
I lost my mother to a sudden unexplained death in the middle of med school. My impulse to compartmentalize went into high gear, unfortunately at the cost of losing a bit of sensitivity in general, and compassion for myself. I’ve since regained these, but losing them again is a fear that stays with me. I manage this fear by meditating, being present and vulnerable, and embracing life in all of its complexities.
How do you de-stress outside of work?
I de-stress mainly by being physically active, be it swimming/biking/running/sailing/SUP (stand-up paddle board-ing). I'm usually up for any kind of adventure that gets me in touch with nature or helps me nurture relationships with people I care about. I rejuvenate mostly with food, travel, and music—either listening to or playing it.
I'm usually up for any kind of adventure that gets me in touch with nature or helps me nurture relationships with people I care about.
Staying physically active is huge for our mental (and, duh, physical) health, but finding the time in our schedules can be tough. Please share this post with any friends or colleagues in healthcare who are looking for a spark of inspiration to get more active.
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).
Follow Stella's adventures on Instagram here.
Read more from in the wild
Shop our scrubs