It’s been a whirlwind of a year thus far, and none of the negative energy around us seems to be dying down.
Suffice it to say, we need to move on, regardless.
So, here goes…
September was National Suicide Awareness and Prevention month. Did you do anything to help save someone’s life? Did you try to give hope to another soul? To try to make them smile, feel seen, feel validated? Feel needed? Feel alive?
With all the things we celebrate in the month of October: National ADHD month, National Breast Cancer Awareness month, and one week: October 10 through 17 for National Mental Health Awareness week, and so on, we continue to have our hands full, and the need for compassion, vulnerability, fearlessness and authenticity is never-ending.
This month, I would like to celebrate my successful outing with my first ever Dr. Lulu’s Stop Suicide Now! Summit that took place on September 26th, 2020! We had close to 40 humans sign up, and about 2/3 to attend! The Speakers were “ahmayzeen”, I know all the attendees’ lives were touched, and hopefully someone was saved. Check out this fact sheet we created for the event.
We learned a lot, new connections were made…and…it is officially going to become an annual event! YAY! All glory be to God. To order your copy of the nearly 41/2 hours of recording of the event, simply send an email of your request to email@example.com or send your payment of $37 by clicking this link to my PayPal account.
I am also delighted to share that the month of September had me as a speaker on my very first TEDx talk! YAAAASSSS!!!! It was in Alief, a suburb of Houston. Shout out to my peeps there! Check them out and everything else they are up to by clicking this link right HERE. The official video link is not out yet, but, stay tuned, you are first on my list to know. It is titled : Why Do Our Children Kill Themselves? (NOT What You Think), cool, huh? Check me out below in action!
As far as self improvement during this last quarter of 2020 goes, I have decided to sign up for a formal certification as a life coach! I truly enjoy listening to people’s stories and helping them get unstuck; set achievable goals, guide them and then watch them soar! So, I guess wish me luck, huh?
This past month also saw a HUGE growth in my podcast listenership following my appearance as a speaker for the global podfest event! They went for and broke the guiness book of records for attendance >100K registrants! I also hope the impact of my podcast will be felt, ‘cos that’s my main M.O. I have caught up with all my previous recordings from 2019, and am now finally uploading new 2020 episodes! I am doing a mix of my COVID-19 Doctor Chronicles, and fresh interviews for the podcast itself. As you know, it’s called Suicide Pages with Dr. Lulu, and we talk about LIFE!
This past week for instance, I had an amazing guest on. Her name is Dr. Christine B. L Adams. A Child, Adolescent and Adult Psychiatrist, in practice for over 40 years! She educated us on something I had never heard about: Emotional Conditioning. An amazing concept that explains how the way we were emotionally raised, affects the way we all act/react to situations. And best of all, she only uses TALK THERAPY, NO MEDS! A girl after my own heart! Listen to her episode HERE, and let me know what you think.
One other interesting guest I had this past month was Dr. Bernie Fernandez, another veteran Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist who validated my longtime thought process when he said, “If you don’t have clinical depression, antidepressants cannot protect you from suicide.” BOOM!!! I have known that for so long, but hearing him say those words were like the “Sound of Music” to me! His episode can be heard HERE.
As always, if you find my podcast episodes interesting, simply do me three favors 🙂
My latest book “How to Teach Your Children About Racism“, has continued to do well. We are now at 59 5-Star reviews! Woot woot!! But even better, it received an ALL STAR 5-STAR rating from Readers Favorites, an independent book reviewer. All because I took a chance and wrote a blog, and y’all liked and shared and shared! Thanks to you my readers!
I wouldn’t end this blog post without thanking each and everyone of you for your continued support of me and my mission to end youth suicide by the year 2025! I have also continued to have a lot of support from fellow podcasters and bloggers alike. Various platforms and conferences, and book clubs and such, and this month shall not be different.
Next weekend, on 10/10/2020, I shall be the Keynote Speaker on another upcoming suicide prevention event. It is primarily going to be towards Nigerians, happening in Nigeria, organized by Nigerians, but, since it is virtual, it is technically global. I’d love to see you join me there. See flyer and register HERE… It’s Free!
Aiight, that’s all I have for now. Remember, I just had C-Spinal surgery barely 2 weeks ago! Thanks for all the love and kindness, gifts and get well wishes towards me…Y’all please stay well, wear your masks and do stay safe and don’t forget to vote your conscience come next month.
Until we “see” again, chew on this original quote of mine:
“A suicide attempt is never a cry for attention, it is always a cry for help”
Hmmm, it has been one of those weeks… One of those months. One of those series of days in my life when I think I am in a twilight zone, and that all the things going on around me are not real. How have you been? I know, it’s been a minute. I am sorry. I have honestly had a lot on my mind. But I am back now, so let’s get this party started.
As parents, we are in the driver’s seat. As if the quarantine and lockdown were not stressful enough, due to the recent happenings mainly here in the United States, we have now come face to face with the reality of our poor, no, sorry state of race relations. Even if you don’t live in the US, you are still required to do what is right by your kids in regard to teaching them about racial biases, prejudice, and systemic racism when necessary.
Do you know that racism and prejudice are mostly rooted in fear? Fear that comes from a lack of understanding? Yes. Ignorance leads to fear, fear leads people to draw the wrong conclusions, and soon those conclusions become their truth. And then they are ruled by a concept based on falsehoods like all Black men are a threat, before you know it, it becomes a system and a “way” of doing things and that’s when the cookie crumbles.
Yeah, I know, having that conversation about race is one that some people have neither ever had, nor want to have (but obviously need to), while others find themselves having the conversation nearly every day in their lives. Well, it has to start, and the time is now. Things must begin to change. The world is actually witnessing just how dangerous being “color blind, or color neutral” can be. An issue Blacks have dealt with for years.
You see, what happened to George Floyd, can literally only happen in Amerikkka, oops, my bad, America. For over 400 years Blacks in America have continued to work more than twice as hard to be recognized half as much. The dehumanization must stop! And those who are silent now, MUST examine their why. Some much-needed soul-searching must be on everyone’s to-do list…now!
Sadly, our children are caught in the cross-fire. The other day I asked the following question on my Facebook page: What would happen if we put 10 children in a room for 10 minutes? The answers were interesting. The kids will start playing with each other right away. But if you performed the same experiment with grown-ups, they will either say nothing, or team up according to some categories, preconceptions, and even misconceptions about each other.
So, inspired by a Facebook post that a friend of mine tagged me on, I decided to write to you today, with my thoughts on how parents should approach the elephant in the room: The talk about race, with their young’uns. Enjoy! And do leave me a comment to let me know what you think.
1/ Thou shalt first become comfortable with having uncomfortable conversations with thyself, before ever trying to have them with any other person. Yes, at this point in our earthly lives, we must as a matter of urgency get into that space of vulnerability and face our fears and insecurities. Dig deep to figure out why we are uncomfortable and get past that point with intention and focus.
2/ Thou shalt educate thyself properly, and gather all the facts that thou might need, and yet not have, before embarking on any such discussions with thy children. Children are smart, they will see through your charade. They are already learning about it or hearing about it, so you might as well be their guide. I know that talking about race can be sensitive, and yes, even a bit messy, but the other option is not an option, so just buckle up and do it.
3/ Thou shalt ensure that thy abode is racist-free. Remember, information can be conveyed by thoughts, words or deeds, and thy kids will absorb them all from thee. Yes, you might be racist, your words might be racist, or your actions might be racist and you might not even be aware of it, but your kids will, and then it might be too late for them to unlearn the bad lessons.
4/ Thou shalt first find out from thy kids what they already know about racism (if age applicable) before proceeding with the teaching. A simple question and answer session will suffice. There is no point in building a house upon a faulty foundation. First, dig up the old one, find out what the kids know, reteach them the correct information, and then proceed with teaching them new things.
5/ Thou shalt expose thy kids to other cultures, by visiting their museums, their churches, or attending civic events organized by them. There is no better way to get immersed in African American, Jewish, Native American, or Hispanic history than by visiting their museums, civic centers, places of worship, or one of the many events these cultural communities often hold in a city near you. The time is now! Summer is on its way, so, put on your masks and get going!
6/ Thou shalt endeavor to cook, order-in, or learn about foods of other ethnicities. This is a must! Humans are social beings, we love to eat during celebrations. So, when next you go to visit your Nigerian friend perhaps (wink wink), ask about fufuati efo riro,jollof rice with “shikin”, fried plantains (dodo), isiewu (goat head delicacy), ofensala (fish pepper soup), or nkwobi (cow foot delicacy) to name a few. These are seriously tasty mouth-watering meals that you can only learn about by having an open mind. Take it from me, they are all #delish!
7/ Thou shalt listen to music and learn dance moves from other cultures…yes, thou must! 🙂 I told you to have an open mind. While I wouldn’t necessarily ask you to learn the acrobatic nkpokiti, or break-dancing, it is certainly time to expand from your line dancing days to something else that is fun and exposes a whole new world to you. Your kids will love the moves, the melody, and the novelty, and they can brag about their new skills to their friends. This could also be a form of a bonding exercise for y’all.
8/ Thou shalt encourage thy kids to make friends with, and visit homes of kids of other races, and have them visit your home in return. Get to know their parents, and learn a thing or two about their history and upbringing. Extend a hand of friendship. Offer to take their kids to a game, pick them up from school or even buy them dinner. Get out of your comfort zone a bit. Live just a little bit, you might even like it 😉
9/ Thou must become acutely aware of the microaggression some things you do or say can cause to people of other races. Like calling me the nurse or “miss”, when my name tag clearly says MD or asking me where I went to medical school, or wondering how my English is so good, or not trying at all to pronounce my name after I have told you how to say it…more than once! And do try to let your guard down when I am in the room. I don’t bite. Oh, and…STOP touching my hair, this is not Ripley’s Believe it Or Not!
10/ Thou shalt police thyself, thy relatives, and thy kids with purpose, intention, and mindfulness. Yes, you must ensure that you are not perpetuating intolerance, hate, or prejudice in any way. You know your family members who are racist. Everyone does. You must be bold, take action, and police them. Speak up. We are tired of being tired of being tired. You must have “the talk” with your family and friends. And if they choose to be silent, I suggest you re-evaluate your relationship with them.
11/ Thou shalt endeavor to learn a foreign language, preferably a language in Africa. Thou shalt also teach said language to thy kids. Yes, spread your wings, fly far away to the land of communication and understanding. To the land of open-mindedness and love. Because learning a new language will help you understand, and when you understand there will be no fear, and when there is no fear, there is no racism.
12/ Thou shalt visit the predominantly Black part of the city or town thou lives in…with thy kids in tow. Get to see what life is like over there. You might begin to gain a bit of empathy, compassion, understanding, and maybe even respect. Your daughters want to date our sons, and that’s a fact. You might as well get to know where she will be hanging out, and get ready to have soul food at the wedding 🙂
13/ Thou shalt teach thy child to recognize bullying behavior and speak up when other kids are being bullied, especially on account of their race. Bullying is a catalyst for suicide, and it is a serious problem in our schools (stay tuned for my next book out in a few weeks, it tackles bullying head-on). Teach them to find the kids who are ostracised and sit with them on the school bus, at the cafeteria, or play with them at recess. That will go a long way towards ending the current epidemic of youth suicide.
14/ Thou shalt not make a mockery or joke about any person who is different from you on account of their race, and neither should your kids. Yes, don’t discuss their skin tone, their kinky hair, their body type or any other physical attribute that pertains to their race, except in a good light. Or if they let you. I don’t really care much for people touching my hair to know what it “feels like”, that’s actually an intrusion.
15/ Thou shalt ensure that all the above are adhered to, and from time to time, check in with your kids to assess for progress. Yes, you must also continue to work on yourself and on your family members like Karen, Becky, Amy, Stephanie, Derek, Gregory, and Travis. There is much work to be done. Policing the police is not enough, we must also police ourselves, our thought processes, and mindsets lest we remain imprisoned by them.
“The only way, to really talk about race and racism, is by activating a growth mindset.” ~Amber Colemen-Mortely
I say “The only way to talk about it, is to freakin’ talk about it”
“If you BElieve it, you can BE it. I BElieved it, so I AM it.”
~ Dr. Lulu®
“Be careful what you ask for, cos you might get it.”
I daresay I have become an embodiment of that quote. When I turned 50 in March of 2019, one of my birthday wishes was to become an international speaker. I had absolutely no idea how that was going to happen, I knew no one on any international stage, but I believed in myself, and I knew I not only had a story to tell, but also a message (an urgent one at that) to deliver.
Looking back now, the only ingredient I needed besides having the message, was the belief in myself. Many of you reading this may not know that I quit my regular pediatrician job late 2018 to start speaking on hot topics that affect our youth, particularly our teens. I had initially wanted to only focus on teen depression, but the universe steered me in the direction of bullying, and now specifically to youth suicide. With the help of social media, particularly Facebook, I am slowly becoming the go-to gal for all things concerning suicide in our youth.
As heavy as the topic is, and as difficult as the job of spreading awareness and educating the world on youth suicide is, I knew someone had to do it, and that person might as well be me. Since I love to write, my journey began with this personal blog I started, to share my thoughts and experiences with the world. I also created a website, http://www.teenalive.com, an online resource dedicated to teen wellness, and started looking into how best to get my voice and my face at the venue, at the table and on the menu.
Following a suicide attempt by my then 7yr old patient in May of 2018, I decided to quit traditional pediatric practice and start speaking publicly about child and youth suicide. I had no idea how loud, or how far my voice would reach. I had no idea what the process of doing so would be. No idea how the world would receive the information, if anyone would notice, or even care. All I had was a heart full of concern and compassion for my patients and doctor colleagues (amongst others) who were choosing death over life daily.
In June of 2018, following the advice of a business coach, I recorded my very first Facebook live video. It was awkward, it was surreal, it was uncomfortable, but I did it. And I connected to an eager audience that I had no idea was out there. They included family members, friends, parents, teachers, counselors, fellow empaths and many others in between. Propelled by the success of my Facebook live videos, I started entertaining the thought of becoming first, a National Keynote Speaker, then an International Speaker. I knew my message was needed, but I had no idea how urgently.
In October of 2018, I landed my first Keynote speech on a National stage in Charlotte NC. It was for the 6th National Convention of the Black Doctoral Network, I was invited to speak on suicide in young adults. How exciting! I couldn’t believe my luck! I have heard luck defined as opportunity meeting determination and preparedness, so off I went to a very successful first National talk. That boosted my confidence SO much that I returned from that event, a changed person. To prepare for it, I watched dozens of talks on YouTube, listened to many speaking coaches, PowerPoint slide experts, and even listened to a book on TED talks! I designed and created my very first slides, delivered the talk straight from my heart, and boy did I connect with the audience! At the end, I had a long line of attendees waiting to share their depression and suicide stories with me. Through all of that, I noted I did not have a book to sell, as I watched other speakers for the event sign their own books, #wakeupcall.
After that experience, I vowed to have a book to sell at my next speaking event. I had already started working on an idea of a book on teen suicide at that time, but it was still in its infancy and it was taking me a while to get my thoughts together. I hired a book-writing coach and started putting the outline and my thoughts together on paper.
In November of 2018, I landed another speaking opportunity to discuss depression and suicide in the elderly. I dedicated it to my own aging parents, and had a blast delivering it. I believe that was the day I finally decided I was officially a “speaker,” and that-that first talk in Charlotte, NC was not a fluke. But, I still didn’t have a book!
In January of 2019, my new year resolution was to add the word “Author” to my name. Early that month, I traveled to South East Asia on a class trip with my UTSA Executive MBA cohort. I knew each leg of the trip would last between 14 to 18 hours, so I decided I would use that time to finish my book. As it turned out, the book on teen depression needed a LOT of research which I was unable to pull off on the airplane, so I decided to write a short parenting guide based on one of my more successful Facebook Live videos called “How to Raise Well-Rounded Children”, the book, a bestseller, is available on Amazon.
I took advantage of the couple of afternoons we had to ourselves during the trip, to work on transcribing and writing the book, and I used most of the flight back home to edit it. Upon returning, I found beta readers who gave me their honest corrections and their blessings. With my innate dislike for computers and most things tech, it was an uphill task, but I worked really hard learning everything I could about formatting and uploading a book to Amazon KDP, and by the end of February 2019, a bestseller was born!
Enter March, my 50th birthday. I decided to host an event for parents and teens, called Dr. Lulu’s PYT (Parenting Your Teen) Workshop, in San Antonio, Texas. I had never done anything like that before, and I was naturally a bit anxious and a lot afraid of what the reception would be like. I wanted to have an event where parents and their teens could come together and learn how to communicate better, to avoid most of the issues that arise and often lead teens to take an unwanted turn. I hoped for 100 attendees, my speaking coach called it ambitious, but I called it dreaming big. My younger brother told me when I first consulted him about my dreams to start a speaking business that, “if your dreams don’t scare you, they are not big enough”, I listened, and I heard him. My dream was to host the event in up to 5 cities across the United States.
I graduated from my Executive MBA program in May with honors! I then spent the next few weeks working on planning my second PYT Workshop, this time, in Lancaster SC, where I once owned and operated a pediatric practice. It happened early June. My attendance was double that from my first, and I was overjoyed. I had speakers, poets, dancers, and breakout sessions. My heart was full, and I was encouraged to continue my quest to do a 5-city workshop event.
Later in June, an opportunity to guest-speak on a virtual international stage presented itself, and I jumped in with two feet! My audience was online and scattered across the globe. That was my first taste of the international stage, albeit virtual, and I loved it! I knew then that my original dream to speak internationally, live on a stage, was going to come true. I just had to work diligently towards it. June also had me speaking for the first time to a room full of Nigerian Physicians as a Hot Topics guest speaker! That singular (unpaid) opportunity has opened so many doors for me!
By July, I had hosted my third installment of Dr. Lulu’s PYT, this time in Dallas, Texas. And August had me doing another one in San Antonio to round up a total of 4, one less than the original 5 I had planned (not too bad). But July was also a very special month because, it was the month that welcomed my podcast, Suicide Pages with Dr. Lulu, now available on up to 10 different platforms with nearly 3000 downloads as I write this. In keeping with my mission to create awareness for suicide in youth, I mostly interview people who are “talking their walk” with suicide, suicidal ideations or suicidal attempts. I talk with everyone and anyone kind and brave enough to share their stories with my audience.
In September, during one of my Facebook Live videos, I interviewed a young woman who is the CEO of Africa’s Mental Health Matters. A non-profit organization dedicated to spreading awareness for mental ill-health in Africa. Ladies and gentlemen, that is how I received my official invitation to be a guest speaker at their second annual convention on Mental Health in Africa, to be held in December 2019, in non-other than Lagos, Nigeria! BOOM! #InternationalSpeaker!
November was a very special month. It marked my first ever grand rounds teaching opportunity! I was the guest lecturer at Richmond University Medical Center at Staten Island, NY. This was a ripple effect of my talk in DC, and it was never even on my to-do list…but it was sooooo welcome! I went to NY, dressed in my signature red, and killed it on that stage! That already yielded follow up lecture AND, a second invite from another department in that same hospital…#success! I also started working diligently on finishing up my second book as a matter of urgency in order to have it ready for my trip to Nigeria in December.
All this while, I have continued to speak at schools: to teachers, counselors, PTAs and students. I guest speak at civic events across the state of Texas. I guest blog, and interview on radio stations, TV stations and podcasts across the country, and, I am currently looking at an opportunity to produce my own TV show in San Antonio, TX. I trademarked my brand name, Dr. Lulu, and I opened my own private practice where I only attend to high-risk teens in a direct primary care (DPC) model. Oh, and I finally completed the book on youth suicide! It’s called “A Teen’s Life.” I pulled it off, just prior to traveling overseas for my international speaking gig! It is available on Amazon and on my website: www.teenalive.com/books.
I am writing this blog to encourage someone out there to not only dream, but dream BIG! My ultimate goal is to become the United Nations’ speaker on Youth Suicide. That position does not currently exist, but, I am claiming it… I ask you to set goals and work towards them. Have an open mind, be committed and stay positive. Take feedback and allow yourself to edit your journey (as frequently as needed) along the way. Reach out to as many people as possible, and… stay… focused! Look at failures and disappointments as opportunities and building blocks, not obstacles or roadblocks. Resist the urge to allow self-doubt and negativity to come in. Don’t listen to the voices inside telling you-you are not good enough, cos they will come in and get comfortable if you allow them. Continue to forge ahead with determination, an attitude of success, AND UNWAVERING SELF-BELIEF.
Stay tuned for part 2 of this story, where I discuss my trip in full detail. See you then!
I am sitting in my home office on a sunny Thursday afternoon, as I write this letter to you.
In the past year since I quit my full-time job as a pediatrician to start speaking on child, teen and young adult depression and suicide, (read about it here and here). I have discovered a different side of me. The side that loves to write, and speak. The side that is an activist for a cause. The side that was lying dormant until the passion to actively save the lives of children and teens through creating awareness was ignited when my then 7-year-old patient attempted to hang himself in May of 2018.
I have always known that medicine, pediatrics, in particular, is my life, and public speaking is second nature, so it was sort of a natural progression for me. I have never had any trouble speaking in public to air my opinion, so when this opportunity to practice medicine in the most preventative way picked me, I had no hesitation to say, a resounding…yes! As the good book says, “many are called, but only a few are chosen”.
Though I don’t know when it will get published, I couldn’t think of a better day to write this letter than today, the 12th day of September, two days after September 10, which is recognized as World Suicide Prevention Day. This week marks National Suicide Prevention Week 9/8 to 9/14. A week which eerily includes September 11, a day suicide bombers set our country on a never to be forgotten path, a day that will forever go down in infamy, in the month of September, suicide awareness and prevention month.
This letter is, however, not about suicide days and suicide bombers. It is about a path that has led me, a Nigerian-born mother of three, a board-certified pediatrician, to become a speaker, bestselling author, and activist on youth suicide. It is about how finding a new way to practice medicine is allowing me further my cause. Every time I tell people what I speak about, it never fails, they look up, and suddenly get interested, no matter what they were doing before I started speaking. Some look at me with concern, some look at me with disbelief, and yet some look at me with sorrow, especially when I tell them my story, my why, which you can read here. Usually, by the time I am done, a majority of my audience wants to know where they can find me, where I practice.
For the past year, my response to that line of questioning has been a combination of the following…” nowhere in particular”, “I don’t have a practice”, or “I quit medicine to speak publicly”. To which even more eyes look at me with a mix of wonder, pride, gratitude and amazement… and then after a brief thought, pretty much everyone says a combination of “that’s such an important topic” or “that’s so needed” or “wow, thank you for the work you are doing”, etc.
As I have continued to speak locally, around the country and internationally, and as the questions have continued to come in, I have had to finally admit to myself that I have missed practicing medicine. I have missed clinical practice, but most of all, I have missed having physical contact with my patients. Those who know me, know my patients are my “anti-kryptonite” (if that is a word). That been said, I have known in my heart that I did not want to go back to traditional medicine (what I call “assembly line” medicine). The kind that is run by CEOs with little or no knowledge of what it’s like to have boots on the ground. The kind that has enslaved us doctors and caused burnout to now become a household phrase. The kind that puts profit and the bottom line before patients and providers. The kind that you, me, we, did not sign up for. The kind we did not dream about in our days in medical school. The kind that has unfortunately driven too many of us (400 per year at last check) to early deaths through suicide.
I knew that kind of medical practice was definitely no longer for me. So, I tried out Locums, but with my son still being in grade school, I am unable to travel out of town as much as most locum gigs would require, plus, I am only licensed in Texas so that limits me as well. I know the hospitalist route is not for me. So, while I was still pondering my next move, I happened upon a facebook group called DPC Docs. A two-thousand strong community of doctors practicing medicine on their own terms. I had actually heard of DPC about 2 years ago. Direct Primary Care. Three words that are turning out to be life-changing for those of us who care to look closer, look further and farther, think outside the box, and dare to be bold enough to say “enough already” to the big bosses and take back our lives.
I happily jumped in with two feet. You see, Direct Primary Care is exactly what Dr. Universe ordered for me. A spin-off of Concierge Medicine, DPC seeks to allow doctors to practice medicine the way it was meant to be. I had heard about it through a podcast that featured one of the true pioneers in DPC practice Dr. Josh Umbehr of Atlas MD in Wichita, Kansas. I remember excitedly running to find my spouse to tell her all about it that evening. I was so intrigued by the model, I was immediately hooked. And even though I knew the traditional medicine model I was in as an employee at that time was toxic for me, it still took me nearly 2 years to act on it. Not because the process is hard, but because I needed the right mindset and star alignment to get over the voice in my head telling me to stay put.
As soon as I decided to start back clinical practice, I knew it had to be on my own terms. My first order of business was to call the Texas Medical Board and enquire about my idea to only attend to at-risk youth aged 8 years to 18 years who are the exact population that I speak and write about. When the lady on the telephone told me I could, that was one of the happiest days of my life! Her words were something like “ma’am, as long as you are licensed to practice in this state, you can see only those born on the 5th of May if you like”. That essentially spun off my dream to open my own youth health center that would cater to the children that had picked me those many moons ago!
Do you know that it took me less than 6 weeks and cost me less than $10,000 to set up? I have a micro DPC practice model, that means I have no front or back office, no fancy equipment, no staff, and an expected patient panel of less than 300, compared to nearly 2000 which I had at my last place of employment. The way my practice is set up, I shall see only 6-8 patients a day for up to 1hour or more per visit, three days a week, compared to 35-45 patients at my last multigroup practice employment. My monthly overhead is far less than I had when I owned a traditional practice, my EHR is user-friendly and convenient, my stress level is low, my patients are happy, and so am I 🙂
While this might not work for many, it works for me and others with a small niche. My friend, Dr. Amber Price of Willow Pediatrics up in Chicago, Illinois’s niche is only newborns. She incorporates home visits as part of her practice. Yet another friend, Dr. Sara Sultz of the DOC group up in College Station, Texas does home visits as well as telemedicine as part of her pediatric DPC practice. She even gives vaccines and IVF right there in the patient’s home! Such is the new way to practice medicine, and I am proud to be a part of it, and to announce that I am the first and only pediatrician in Texas and the US with my specific niche in this particular model.
So, what exactly is DPC? And why is #yourstruly so elated about it? Ironically, many of the doctors that I speak with have never heard about it. A few have heard about concierge medicine, but not many, much like I was a few short years ago.
In the Direct Primary Care practice model, the emphasis is on affordable care. In its purest form, no insurance or third-party payer is accepted. That right there puts the first nail in the burnout coffin! I was like “whaaat?” No insurance means; I. Get. To. See. My. Patients. For. As. Long. As. I. Want. To! Yassss!! We do encourage patients to keep their health insurance, and some practices will even generate invoices that might be reimbursed by the patient’s insurance after each visit. The model is based on a flat monthly fee in exchange for services, longer times spent with the patient, more intimate doctor-patient relationship, overall lower healthcare costs, direct access to patients both virtually and in person, improved work-life balance for physicians; thus drastically reducing burnout, reduced patient load, and reduced administrative costs and overhead burdens. The increased intimacy with patients is a huge win for me, especially with the niche I see. Like any business, the fees vary depending on location and market competition.
The key here is; it is a membership model, much like Netflix or your gym membership. My patients have access to my cell phone number to call, text, email or facetime me whenever they need to, and they can be seen, as many times as they like to, each month! My question to you is; when was the last time you had that kind of access to your doctor? Let’s take for instance a 14 year old who is experiencing a depressive crisis at 2pm in the afternoon while at school, they would have the ability to call or text me right away, and not have to wait until they get home, inform their parent, who calls the next day only to get an appointment for the next week, take time off from work and school to arrive at the appointment, only to wait for one hour in the waiting room, and the doctor spends all of 10 minutes seeing them. Then wait another 2-3 months to get an appointment with the psychiatrist who may or may not accept their insurance, or is very likely to charge them 2 or 3 times my monthly fee for only one visit! Get it? #aintnobodygottimefordat!
Some DPC doctors are set up like traditional practices with office staff, laboratories, X-ray equipment, EKGs, and whatever else they need. Depending on state laws some also dispense medication in their practices, (Texas aint one of them…:) all for the same flat monthly fee. It’s just like a gym membership or Netflix for your doctor! In my case, for less than a cup of coffee at #Starbuxx my patients can see me everyday. Oh, and they don’t need to live in San Antonio Texas, I also have telemedicine included in the practice, so I can consult with patients virtually. Other services I am so proud we offer are a teen-2-teen support group (because teens speak teen, they don’t speak adult) and parent coaching, both of which I facilitate.
For now, I am loving DPC. It affords me time in my week to “mother” my children the way I want, be an awesome spouse to my Beloved, make time in the week to blog, work on my speaking gigs, record and edit my podcast; Suicide Pages with Dr. Lulu, The Podcast, you can subscribe, download and listen to it here and everywhere you listen to podcasts. I am finishing up my second book, a chronicle about Teen Life (my first book; a Parenting Guide, can be bought here). I have many more tricks up my sleeves in the coming weeks, so #staytuned.
In conclusion, I believe I have found my happy place in medicine again. While DPC might not be for everyone, it is for me, and it might be for you too, think about it. You never know. Here’s what you do, first start by conquering, silencing or banishing that voice telling you you can’t do it, the rest will fall in place. Ultimately, Happy Patient: Happy Doctor is what we all seek, right? Keeping it simple is what our mom’s taught us, yes?
So, I ask this time, dear doctor, will you DPC?
“We can’t be afraid of change. You may feel very secure in the pond that you are in, but if you never venture out of it, you will never know that there is such a thing as the sea, or an ocean. Holding onto something that is good for you now, may be the very reason why you don’t have something that is better.”
― C. JoyBell C.
The month of September is the halfway mark for the 50th anniversary of my birth.
Today, I am reminded that I am #Becoming a new me, a more fulfilled me, a more conscientious, mindful, freer and more productive me.
As I look back at the past 6months, I see a lot of change, a lot of progress and a lot of challenges that have been on my path, and I see myself as a woman conquering.
As I look into the future, I see my dreams on the verge of fulfillment, it is going to be a mix of uncomfortable, inconvenient, uncertainty, pain, and who knows what more.
My ever-constant companions, fear, and doubt, still rear their ugly heads from time to time. Tugging at me, distracting me, taunting me…all the way.
Have I accomplished everything I set out to do this year? No.
Do I still believe the future I dreamed for myself is attainable? Hell Yeah!’
Am I going to go forth, afraid? I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Isn’t that the definition of courage? Going forth…albeit afraid?
One kid is a senior in college; the other, a sophomore in college; the baby in high school. A blog, a bestseller, a parent and teen workshop, speaking engagements, a podcast (another in the making), two brand new side gigs and a brand new private practice, all in the space of one year, ain’t too shabby if I might say so myself.
For once, I refused to listen to the bully inside my head. The one that goes about telling me lies, telling me I am not good enough, not girl enough, not woman enough, not man enough, not Black enough, not White enough, not… simply put, I am just not enough.
I also refused to listen to those that said I couldn’t do any of these things successfully, what more doing them all!
I quickly realized this past year that friends and family are sometimes worse than strangers and foes, and strangers are sometimes better than friends and family.
Many still think me a fool for helping others along the way…for free. Many think I have the formula wrong because I am not charging $$ for “every small thing”.
To them I say, was it not given to me freely? Is money really the heart of everything? When do you then use your heart to help? Only when you get paid? Ha!
Neither one of us can take that money with us. None of us can add one single day to our lives with all the money we (shall) acquire.
So, what’s the fuss?
I shall go forth, loving myself more, caring for myself more, even daring to praise myself more. I am, and should (after all) always be my own self’s best cheerleader.
It has been a long hard road to that realization…so…
Never again will I critique myself negatively. Constructively? Yes.
Never again will I allow my inner bully to convince me I am not enough. I might not be good enough at somethings, but I am darned great at many things.
Never again will I allow others to dictate my direction for me. Guide me? Maybe.
Henceforth, I will allow myself to fail as often as is needed because failure, to me, is now nothing but fuel for success.
It is a chance to say to myself “maybe things weren’t supposed to end that way”, “maybe we should regroup and retry”, “maybe just maybe”. After all, none of us can see the future.
We are all work in progress, but we must get out of our own way.
In the end, I have realized that… I was good enough yesterday, I am good enough today, and I shall be good enough tomorrow, as long as I continue to believe in my process of #Becoming.
“If you want to go somewhere you have never gone before, you must be prepared to do something you have never done before” ~ Lisa Nichols
“Adult Ed is a Mother, but it’s also a Keeper!”… Dr. Lulu
Last Friday as I found myself finishing up the last day of the last week of my 27-month journey into the land of a Masters in Business Administration at UTSA, my heart was a mixture of all sorts of emotions, the strongest of which was joy! Since I couldn’t keep it to myself, I did an impromptu FB Live and literarily broke into song and dance on screen! I no longer have to stay up late studying and doing homework EVERY NIGHT. I can now stop using “school” as my excuse for everything (I really don’t want to do). I get to add those coveted three letters to the other two after my name. I can now get much-needed rest (umm, say what?) Let me rephrase that, I shall try going to bed at 11pm every night (yeah right!) I finally, realize my dream of walking on an American stage wearing the black gown and black “crown”, and as an added treat, I get to wear VA cords!
In September of 2016, my 4yr term as a Lt Col. in the United States AirForce came to an end. In deciding what to do next, I realized I had multiple options to pick from; join the Air Force Reserves, go back to school and get a Masters Degree, or get a regular job as a pediatrician. I decided to go for the last two options. And no, I had no specific “why”, I simply wanted to use the VA educational funds I was entitled to, it was more like a “why not?”. The decision was met with a combination of gasps, shock, surprise and some reluctant encouragement from friends and family. Never one to waste too much time chewing on a thought, I jumped in with two feet (before I lost my nerve) Coincidentally, my first son was about to go into college at the same time and my spouse had also decided to get her Masters degree as well…so, I was in good, no, great company! (That sh** just about cost us our union, but that’s another day’s blog, LOL)
Later that month, as I was walking out of my job interview at Communicare Health Centers, I remember wondering to myself how I would manage a full-time work schedule and a full-time school schedule. I had initially wanted to do the combined MPH/MBA program, but FEAR and its close friend DOUBT, proceeded to discourage me and talk me out of it, so I settled for just the MBA. I was as excited as I was anxious! My colleagues, (after getting over the initial disbelief) quickly got on board and started cheering me on. I still had no idea how I was going to “manage” it, but I put my best Naija Igbo Woman foot forward (as per we no de eva carray last) and started the regular MBA at UTSA. Not online, in person, albeit, nearly 30 years post graduation from medical school, owning my own private practice for nearly 15 of those years and doing a brief 4yr stint as a Lt. Col in the US Air Force! I was going about mine backwards.
The first semester went like a breeze (or did it?) I now only remember that I had a hard time getting used to not only going back to school but also going back to school in the tech age! Just like my initial shock when I first came to the USA which I shared here in this earlier blog, going back to school, in America, was FULL of new experiences…!
First off, I was one of, if not the oldest student in that regular MBA class! I was not happy about that at all. I hated the fact that I was in class with late teens and early twenty-something-year-olds. Their mannerisms were a total lack, they were disrespectful, noisy, lackadaisical, and sometimes rude to the professors(s). What struck me the most was their tendency to not do the work! They were very content with not showing up for class, joining in class discussions or even doing their portion of the school work at all… (I guess I am seriously old school) This bothered me so much that after that first semester, I went back to my student adviser and requested to disenroll. Luckily, she was kind enough to understand my position and suggested I sign up for the Executive MBA program instead. I was really lucky because I literally made the interview on the last day! Reminds me of a similar incident with Howard University Hospital Residency interview, I also talked about here. Thankfully, I got in! Since my paperwork was already in the school of business, all I needed was an intradepartmental transfer. She hit the jackpot with that suggestion because once I understood what an Executive MBA was, I TOTALLY LOVED the idea! However, a couple of my “friends” queried the “executiveness” of it all…”make sure it is not a watered down version of an MBA”, is it an E-MBA as in online/electronic? “are you going to have a real MBA degree when you get done?” and, “why de heck are you even going back to school, aren’t you tired?” Hmmm…how does one respond to all that love?
At the Executive MBA program, my cohort comprised of people closer to my age, adults. managers, business owners, entrepreneurs, vice presidents, CEOs, executives, parents, grandparents, wives, and husbands. A fair number of them were still younger than me, but the age gap was not nearly as much. The youngest in my class was 31 yrs old. They had all seen life and lived it a little. A lot of them were well-traveled. They were much more experienced and for the most part, wanted to do their school work. My kind of people. We were different, yet the same. A few were veterans like me, a few were foreigners like me, a few were mothers of kids in college like me, a few were divorced like me, and one was not only the other one Black person, he is also Nigerian like me! Awon Naija sha! I believe I lucked out!
In spite of all that, the school work was still a huge challenge for me. I had to get used to school the American way. Folks actually call their professors by their first names around here, huh? Not in Nigeria, tufiakwa! I went to medical school in the 80s, graduated in the very early 90s. We had real chalkboards, not smartboards. Our blackboards were not virtual, they were really black and physically present in the classroom. I had no concept of the word office-hours, luckily, my son who was then a freshman at Stanford University explained what that meant to me. I had no idea what it meant to access library books online, and be able to “check them out” virtually? What de? As shocking as these findings were to me, there was more to come.
As the only physician and one of 2 Blacks of the lot, 33 of us to be exact, I had no one else wearing my exact shoes, hmmmm. I had no one to hold on to when Statistics got tough (yea, I know, I did biostatistics in med school, so I recalled sensitivity and specificity, but certainly not Anova or Covariance Analysis) I had no one to hold on to when Accounting reared its ugly head, or when Finance got crazy (my poor mom, a retired accountant, who was visiting at that time, got a daily dose of complaints from me). As a self-proclaimed hater of numbers (except those on my paycheck and bank account) I loathe Excel…still do! First of all, I had never really heard about it, furthermore, I not only had to learn its basics, but I also had to learn to apply it to Accounting, and Finance, WHY!? All of which made for many a tear-filled day at the professors’ office. Every now and again, I did feel lonely and left out in my cohort, but my resilience and adaptability would kick in and I would win the little battles.
Economics was good as long as it was Macro Economics and the professor who worked for the FED was a kindly older gentleman with a thick Texan accent and a friendly smile. Still, I spent too many afternoons in his office at the high-security Federal Building downtown San Antonio. Corporate Restructuring was okay at the start until we got deeper into the mathematical aspects and calculations, then it ceased to be fun. Since I love words, Organizational Behavior was great, Ethics was a bit confusing. Marketing, Negotiations, Business Strategy, and International Business Studies were easy for me because I had no numbers to worry about, furthermore, I LOVE reading and discussions. Looking back now, one of my favorite subjects was Leadership. Not only was our professor really cool and soft-spoken, but the cases were also interesting, intriguing and thought-provoking. I enjoyed learning about exemplary leaders. I learned about myself and my own flavor of leadership. I thoroughly enjoyed the final TEDx talk we each had to give at the end of the class. Oh, my talk was on the power of the word, NO.
One of my favorite experiences during my business school was Executive Coaching. As a matter of fact, I owe my executive coach, my entire career journey today. She is one cool Chica. She used to work for NASA, so she is equal part brains, beauty, class, and control. I absolutely admire her poise and her presence. She exuded knowledge and she helped me figure out who I am/was, and what I wanted to do with my life after school. Truth be told, I only signed up for the MBA partially because the VA was footing the bill, and partially because I used to counsel my subordinates in the Air Force to take advantage of the GI Bill and Post 911 educational grants and go back to school and further their education. I never even thought I could do it, but I had to heed my own advice.
I must say the highlight of our entire MBA experience was the 12day international trip to South East Asia! A trip that cost me the attendance of my youngest brother’s wedding in Nigeria, which just happened to have been scheduled for the exact same day. We left San Antonio bright and early that January morning and went through LAX. The 17hour flight both ways was no match for the excitement I felt in finally seeing the world famous Singapore and Vietnam! I grew up in the 70s and 80s and remember listening to the song “Vietnam” by Jimmy Cliff, so, this was a sort of homecoming for me. Singapore, a country born with a golden spoon, is eating its cake and having it too. It is an example of how hard work pays off no matter what. Vietnam, a country that is well on its way back from the ashes of multiple wars, betrayals and “destruction of men in their prime, whose average age was 19” a la Paul Hardcastle in his Jazz Masters hit (one of my faves). After everything she has been through, her people still wake up every morning, practice Tai Chi, get on their motorcycles and ride!
I cannot put in words the excitement of Singapore! Its clean streets, ultramodern architecture, eclectic suburbs, fine dining, high-end shopping, educated minds, and multiracial indigenes all living harmoniously in spite of differences in religion, language, customs, cultures, etc. A hard lesson for all African countries to learn (sadly). Singapore welcomed me with open arms. I even got a chance to sing old Karaoke tunes with a local band at a local pub! Vietnam was different. More real, dirtier, noisier, almost “happier” than Singapore. Our class got to visit the Crocs factory, eat with the locals in a traditional Vietnamese home, and take a canoe ride on the river to the coconut village, where my sense of smell was completely mesmerized by the indescribable smells of coconut. Since my wife is part Island girl, and I am the quintessential Tropical Chic, this, was HOME! I was immediately taken back to my childhood, my grandmother’s hut…her smell, her heart, the essence of her being my Nne Akuobu. As unbelievable as the trip was, I topped it up, by finishing the final edits of my first of many Amazon bestsellers on the plane ride home! BTW, get your copy on Amazon or on my website, it is the best parenting book ever! 😉
I shall miss school. I have always been studious. I have always had a quest for knowledge. Though old age is setting in and my memory is not quite as good as it used to be. I am proud to say that I completed the MBA and can now print out my new business card with all five letters in their proper order MD/MBA 🙂 I earned it. Considering I got the degree after I have already been in private practice for nearly 30yrs, and considering I have no idea what I am going to do with it…yet, I am still thankful for all the potential doors it will open for me. I admit I had NO WHY, I simply did it because I could, because the funds were available through the VA, and because I might have needed to prove to myself that I still gat it after all these years, or simply because…
In ending, I would like to say; just like that, my 27month program is done. Was it hard? Yeah! Is it doable? Hell yeah! Can you do it? All day! So follow your heart, try something new, push yourself. No one ever died wishing they spent one more day playing a round of golf. This is my legacy, what is yours? What is holding you back from following and fulfilling your dreams? Work? Kids? Family? What are your priorities? Are they in proper order? Remember, life is what happens while you are busy planning…so get off your phone, get off your couch and just do it! If I could do it, with my schedule, you can do it too! Peace still.
My name is Uchenna Umeh, MD/MBA, and I approve this message.
Howdy? Long time! Just wanted to touch base and check in with you. I am having a fabulous life, you? So, after about one month off from my Rideshare seat, I returned to it today, and as usual, I was pleasantly delighted to meet my clients. The beautiful thing about Rideshare is you never know who you might pick up next. My clients are often so different from each other. Each one teaches me a new and different lesson about life. Again, that is why I do this. The story goes like this… I am writing a book on teens, depression, and suicide. I woke up this morning and as usual, I worked on a couple of chapters, but I just didn’t feel like it was flowing the I wanted, I was having a hard time getting into my characters’ minds to tell their stories, so I declared to my mother “I NEED a depressed and suicidal teen in my life right now!”. I proceeded to explain why, when I saw the puzzled expression on her face. We both shrugged and concluded that-that was going to be a tough one to pull off. So, I go about my business for the day.
Later on, since my numéro très had a birthday party to attend for 2 whole hours, I decided to seize the opportunity, take a break from my preparation for my Executive MBA midterms next weekend, and go online on my UberXL/Lyft apps to see if anyone was interested in a fun ride with Dr. Lulu! Unbeknownst to me, the Good Lord was going to use my clients today to show me yet again that He alone is Lord and King and more importantly, the Author of the universe.
My first client, whom we shall call “Joe” was picked up less than a mile away, he was going in for his night shift at the “Howl at the Moon” downtown San Antonio. We exchange pleasantries, and I decide on a whim to give him one of my brand new business cards and inform him that I am a Public Speaker on Teen/Young Adult depression and suicide. He, in turn, gives me two free admission coupons to HATM, with discounts on happy hour drinks etc, and proceeds to sign me up for their email list for more (free) Happy Hour goodies! I am elated, accept my coupons graciously, thank him, and self-declared it would be a good shift for me today because I had started my day literarily touched by an angel. I inquire about his choice of music vs my audible book. He says he doesn’t really care, he would rather watch “Sex and The City” on his phone, and he would have his earbuds on. We both settle in for the ride downtown, and I proceed to continue listening to my “Four Hour Work Week, by Tim Ferris”. As we approach downtown, I shut the audible off to focus on the traffic and the people, I ask him if he heard about the 12yr-old boy who had committed suicide in a nearby town lately, his response almost knocked me off my seat! “Oh yes! my co-worker’s younger brother is his best friend, they are from Jourdanton” was his immediate response! I had never mentioned the name of the town, but he knew the right one… At this, I am completely speechless at the smallness of this world! What are the odds? How could it be? But it sure was. Sitting right behind me, in my car, was someone who knew someone, who knew someone, who knew the 12-year old that had been bullied on to taking his own life at a local middle school yesterday! Wow! I LOOOOVE doing this!
Next, I pick up a (two couple) party of 4 baby boomers at the Westin. One of them is disabled and has a wheelchair. Though my Sasha is a 7/8 seater UberXL-ready 2017 Toyota Highlander, they had the hardest time getting that wheelchair to fit in her trunk. They eventually did, and I sensed they were a bit flustered with the entire process. When I asked my usual icebreaker question “so how has everyone’s day been today?”, they all grunt and puff and reply “it has been a rough one”. Trying to cheer them up, I gingerly quip, “well, at least we are on our way to fun now”, to which one of the ladies retorted, “well, we are late to our event”. I think to myself, I had nada to do with it, then I hear myself say “well this Saturday evening downtown traffic is not going to help that”… an awkward silence follows. Then I change lanes and perk up by sharing a bit about what I do as I distribute my business cards. Front seat guy now informs me that they are from Florida, but he would certainly keep my card and keep me in mind…I am like, YES! We have some small talk about hurricane Michael and its toll. Things get a bit worse when the address that he had put in as their destination on the Uber Navigation, was in the middle of the nowhere! not Shuck Shack, on Grayson and Broadway as they had wanted. Turns out all that initial frustration I had sensed was because they were with a food tasting party and had missed their bus! A couple of phone calls and a couple more U-turns later, they are safely delivered to their destination. “Bon Appetit”, I think to myself as they say their thank yous and I drive off.
I hop over to Nueva Vista, an enchanted and quaint neighborhood tucked away next to the Pearl to pick up a couple who right away complement me on Sasha. I thank them and start my usual icebreaker questions. He quickly responds, “we are doing fine, but we are interested in this your car, we are looking for a multi-seater vehicle”. I happily tell them everything I can about my Sasha, as he tells me to ignore the Uber navigation system, and proceeds to guide me through their wonderful enchanted streets instead. I note the air is different there. I inform him that I am officially in love with his side of town. We make a right turn into San Pedro on our way to the movie theater on Route 410 and he points out Alta Vista a sister neighborhood on the left, another whimsical looking part of town. As I drop them off, I note to myself (be sure to bring the wifey here for a “romantical” drive someday) Ironically, his wife or rather, lady companion did not so much as utter a single word throughout the ride, and I can’t even remember if she said goodbye. But before I could process that thought, I got a chime to pick up my next client.
Handsome “Diego” joins my space at North Star Mall. He is an energetic, mid-to-late-twenties sweet smelly, colorful young man, getting off his shift at Michael Kors. He gets in the front seat, acknowledges my white LV Neverfull which I pick up and place on the floor in the middle row, thank him for the compliment, and tell him to get comfortable, as we start our ride. With a megawatt smile, he shares that he is “dog tired” because even though he had known he had to be at work this morning at 0900hrs, he had proceeded to go out last night, and got back really late. I go into mama-bird-mode and we talk a bit about growing up and taking responsibility for actions and such. We talk a bit more about his dreams and somehow get to the topic of his roommate with whom he had had a recent fight, he gently adds that he had bought him a small (make-up) gift from MK because he “hates the energy in their apartment when they argue and fuss”. I am full of admiration for this young man, who wants to make the world a better place, one gift at a time. I like him. We arrive at his apartments shortly thereafter, but he remains in the car because he is telling me all about the recent shooting at Pegasus downtown. Apparently, he had been there that night. He recounts how his mother had unusually texted him up to three times that night, the last text coming just minutes before the shooting. He says he suspects his mom somehow sensed something bad was going to happen and had been trying to reach him. I share my own mama-bird story about me and my son at Stanford, the night I had seen him in a dream reaching out to me, I had woken up with tears in my eyes, and when I called him, it turned out he was burning up in a fever and needed his Mama. An instant friendship is born. Diego left my car after earning one of my world famous warm hugs and promising to text me his employee discount code at MK…another satisfied client.
To pick up Ms. Megan, I had to make several U-turns, drive into the gated apartment complex, and wait for almost 2 minutes. As Uber starts charging her for my wait, I note a tall slim female approaching the car. As she walks up to me, wearing the latest millennial garb of a black mid-section-revealing-cropped-tee, on black double slashed jeans and tousled hair, I note that she is easy on the makeup and I think to myself with a corner smile… “that is exactly what my daughter would be wearing if I had one”. She greets me pleasantly, apologizes for her lateness, gets in the middle row, I move my Neverfull back up front, and she gets comfy. Right away I sense she has had a sad life. She has an ever so slight air of melancholy. I note that unlike most teens her age, she is not on her phone. She is not texting, she is not talking, she is looking straight ahead, both hands resting on her thighs and deep in thought. I remark on that, to break the ice, and she smiles ever so slightly. I know I am right. I start telling her about what I do, give her my business card. She asks for more cards and the next 23 minutes fill me with more awe than I could have ever imagined. She opens up and says the words that every parent of a teenager or everyone who is acquainted with one would give money to hear… “that is pretty cool that you are doing that”… I smile as I say, “thank you”. Then she not only proceeds to tell me that at her high school, they have had 7 suicides in the past 5 years, (the last two in the past year, one of which its anniversary is today!), but that she herself has had not one, or two, but three attempts at suicide! I CANNOT believe my ears! Earlier this morning, when I had asked the universe for a suicidal teen, I had absolutely NO IDEA this was in store for me. I thank the good Lord immensely, reach back with my right hand and take her right hand, she grabs it with both hands. and holds on, and I simply let her hold it as long as she needs to. I take a long deep breathe after she gets off at the LongHorn Steakhouse on I-35 South, shake my head slightly, and vow henceforth, to only speak out, that which I know I really want because it will come to pass.
Last stop for the evening was about a mile up the road on I-35 south. I pick up four Airmen from “the best tattoo place in town” according to front seat guy. They are young, late teens, early twenties-ish, full of life, and bright expectations for what the future has to offer in the best Air Force in the world, the United States Air Force, “first in flight”. After back row seat guy curses twice, I clear my throat and proceed to tell them I am a veteran of the USAF and ask how they were doing. Front seat guy tells me they are recent basic training grads from Lackland AFB, and currently at Camp Bullis for Security Forces training. Then comes a barrage of questions from all of them at the same time; “did you go through OTS?”, “did you ever get to deploy?”, “what do you think about Tyndall AFB?”, “would you do it again if given a chance?”, “what’s life like on the outside after a brief taste of the inside?” “did you do your 20yrs?” “what did you do while you were in?” etc. I smile and try my very best to address all of their concerns. One tells me he is from Kansas and would love to be stationed at McConnell AFB after I mention my brief manning-assist there. Another wants to know if I know anyone at Robbins AFB in Georgia, yet another asks me what I think about going in the reserves afterward, and then another wants to know about Alaska and if I could confirm that it is truly considered an overseas deployment. I marvel at all of this. It turns out to be such a fun trip, but I made sure I still got time to squeeze in a quick note on depression and suicide and the need to ensure they formulate good relationships and stick to the straight and narrow. By the time I drop them off at Top Golf I feel truly fulfilled and thankful for a fairly eventful and awesome shift. In a little under 3hours, I feel I have gained much more in knowledge than the nearly 80usd I have earned in cash today.
“if you want light to come into your life, you need to stand where it is shinning”
After a month-long hiatus from my Rideshare seat, I finally got to do some Uberizing this past weekend.
Oh, you didn’t think a doctor could be a Rideshare driver? Dude, I have heard about company executives doing just that, try it, you just might like it. You can thank me later.
Dr. Lulu’s Rideshare began as some sort of a dare. My eldest son at Stanford was spending so much money on Rideshares at school, that I was like, “son, with all this money you are spending on Uber and Lyft you should probably be driving Uber to help your mama out when you come home on your vacations”. He agreed in theory, but in the end, since he was too young to sign up, he said, “mom, you are over 21, why don’t you sign up?” you love to meet people, and you love talking. One thing led to the other, and I found myself driving Uber/Lyft, and totally LOVING it! The “funnest” part has been the facial expressions I get from most people when I tell them what my “day job” is. It is so different, yet similar, to my life in a white coat. I ask questions, I listen to stories and I give feedback. And with all the talk about physician burn out, this has indeed been a much-needed stress reliever for me personally, I can go incognito, or I can go as myself, but in the end, it is has been about the people and their stories.
So, buckle up and enjoy the ride… my Uber tales.
After class that Friday (I am currently getting my executive MBA at UTSA), I picked up a family headed to the Alamodome for the UTSA vs Texas State game, go RUNNERS! As it turned out, they were from out of town and were going to watch their first ever live college football game! I was delighted simply to be their preferred mode of transportation. Their excitement was palpable. And in the 18-20 minutes, it took for the ride, I got to listen and learn from one of them basically breaking down the game of football to all of us; from interceptions to fumbles, to 6-point touchdowns to Hail Marys and field goals, and everything in between. I gladly shared that my sons played instruments in their respective high school marching bands, so I have heard those words often thrown around, but never really knew their meanings. I thanked them for the free lesson. First clients for the day… that, went well.
Next, were about 3 short trips around the downtown area, mostly to the game or to hotels around town… I was so glad to finally pick up clients headed out of the downtown area… all those one-way streets, road closures, and human traffic can give a girl a slight headache. The passengers, 2 girls both dressed in black skimpies, destination, Still Golden, a bar on Broadway Street. They appeared irritated and annoyed about something. They spoke in Spanish to each other in short sentences. They were either not in the mood for banter, or had had enough for the day, I was only too happy to leave the downtown area, so I was totally cool with their demeanor. After one wrong exit, and a U-turn, I eventually made it to their destination, they got out and said their thank yous. I kind of sensed that wrong turn did not help their moods too much, but oh well, it was all good by me. Next, I picked up a very happy group of middle-agers going only 1 1/2 miles up the road but didn’t wish to walk. I said, “hop in, and I will gladly take you”. During our short but interesting convo, they were very content to encourage me and my side-hustle and blessed my day with their presence. The main lady has just moved to San Antonio and is wishing to learn as much about the town as she can. We exchanged similar stories about raising teens in midlife and memories. Her, two boys and a girl, are about the same age as my tres hijos. Driving down Broadway, I mentioned that the Witte museum was actually around the corner from their destination. As soon as I said that, we drove up to it, and I pointed it out, to which she eagerly exclaimed… “I have been meaning to go there and visit!”, and I laughed aloud at her reaction as I responded, “so now you know exactly where it is, you should”. We bade each other a joyous farewell, and I drove on.
Next, I went back to the apartments across from Still Golden to pick up a young millennial couple heading up to the Japanese Tea Gardens. Ironically, I had observed the male of the pair earlier while dropping off the girls in black. He was walking back to his apartment building, his little dog trotting behind him. I don’t know why I singled him out in my people watching exercise, but I did. He was dressed in a well-ironed or maybe wrinkle-free white collar shirt, turn up blue jeans and a pair of loafers. He looked fresh and clean. Something about him reminded me of my eldest son…was it the turn-up jeans, the little dog he was walking or just the air of LGBT about him? I will never know, but when I picked him and his woman up, I shrugged and let the thoughts go. They informed me that the annual San Antonio Jazz Alive festival was going on at Travis park downtown. I exclaimed and offered that my eldest son and his Jazzy friends the “Four O’clock Five” had performed there only 2 years ago, I had noticed evidence of activity at the park earlier while driving through the streets of downtown, but did not know what was going on. This mention of music playing by my son sparked off keen interest from Mr. White-collar-shirt.. He eagerly asked me what instrument my son plays, and that led to a lively discussion about Flutes, Trumpets, rival football games between Brandeis high school and O’Connor high school, state competitions, marching band competitions as well as the Battle of the Band competitions in San Antonio etc. He joyfully shared that he had played the Tuba at Reagan high school. I smile and ask him if he still plays, sadly he said he hasn’t “in a while”, and I encourage him to start again. In hindsight, I guess it was the musical-instrument-playingness of him that I had sensed earlier while he walked his dog…
Driving people to and from their various destinations always gives me a mix of emotions, but every now and then, I pick up the occasional unlikely ally… like the older couple that I picked up from the airport. They offered that they haven’t been to San Antonio “in a while” and are here for what they described as a “long weekend”. I enjoyed watching the excited energy with which they entered my car, they made some nice comments about its cleanliness and nice smell and thanked me for picking them up. During our very light-hearted discusses, it came to light that the lady works as an assistant program director of a family practice residency program in Virginia. When I explained that I am a not only a Pediatrician, but I lived in Northern Virginia during my residency training at Howard University, she excitedly wanted to hear more about me. I smiled and shared a very truncated version of my story to date, she was so happy that I am following my passion and not letting anything stand in my way, that she promised to get her program director to invite me to speak to their residents about physician burnout and of course, depression and suicide in young adults. Wow! I smiled widely, looked up to the heavens, offered a wink, and whispered: “thank you”.
I believe the highlight of my night, however, was the young teen couple I picked up to take home from the game. Though San Antonio dwellers, the young girl, and her beau attend Texas State University at San Marcos. They were leaving early because according to her, the game was “pretty much over, and UTSA was pounding Texas State. She, however, cheered up when I asked her about school, and she, in turn, asked me if I had any children. I informed her that I have two in college, and one in middle school. She probed further. Wanting to know what high schools they had attended, and what schools they attended. My responses started an avalanche of excited exclamations from the two of us! She, a junior was glad to know my eldest is also a junior. However, her joy settled in when she realized he not only attended Brandeis high school, but he is at Stanford where her very best friend also attends school! She exclaimed that she was on her way to visit with him in October for her annual game day visit. I told her I might even know the kid a few moments later, it turns out I described her friend to the tee! This tickled her pink as she declared that was him! Right there in the car, she texted him and told him all about it!! Teens, what a breath of fresh air. I ended the trip by giving her young heart a hug and wishing her all the very best in life.
My last clients were 4 teenagers that had requested UbeX, all girls. I figured their ages were between16 and 19 years. One of them is in college, the other three are in high school. I enjoyed listening to their excited banter about who was coming to the party, who wasn’t, how they planned to crash another party after the first party and so on. Luckily, their destination was at The Dominion, a huge neighborhood on my side of town, home to some of the San Antonio Spurs players, their coach, and a host of other crème-de-la-crop. Prices of some of the homes begin in double-digit millions. One of the girls complimented me on my car, another complimented me on my hairpins, both made me smile, and renewed my faith in the younger generation of women. We somehow started talking about the need for us women to always uplift each other, and naturally, that was a golden opportunity for me to talk about teen depression and teen suicide. I ended up making them promise me they would always be kind to each other. We arrive at the neighborhood gates, and I discover, none of them had their IDs… what? I shook my head and smiled. Luckily, the security detail at the gate noticed my Air Force Veteran plate and shared that she had been in the Navy. We bumped fists, I gave her a knowing wink, identified myself as the Uber driver, showed her my ID, she thanked me for my service to this country, and the gates opened up. Phew!
Hopefully, you have a smile on your face, as you finish reading this piece. Hopefully, now that you know a little more about Rideshare driving, you agree with me that, indeed, life is always about the stories, the faces, the beating hearts, the people…
“Be proud of who you are and not ashamed of how someone else sees you”
PS : Happy to announce that my blog was featured on the Top 40 Women Lifestyle Blogs in 2018, check it out here.