Snow On The Ground

“Mom, it’s snowing outside!”, my last man child exclaimed. “Yeah right, what snow, in San Antonio?”. “Dude, I shall believe that when I see it”, were the only words I could come up with in response. You see, even though I couldn’t imagine that my youngest son was lying about the snow, I still couldn’t believe it. Not in Texas…

But it was snowing…a lot.

In fact, it snowed for hours that night, and I LOVED every moment of it!

“I hope we don’t have school tomorrow”, I heard his 16-year-old voice add with a note of finality. “Me three”, I agreed. Glad to hear the happiness in his voice. Ever since the online schooling thing began, he has been outwardly so brave and so agreeable and gone with the flow, even as I know deep inside that he hates it!

My heart went out to him. He is such a brave boy. His parents got divorced when he was only 3. Even though his father is showing a semblance of presence in his life these days, I know it must be tough. Dealing with not having his older brothers in the house anymore, and his mom and stepmom going through a separation.

Being only 16, missing his friends, having to endure high school on a computer, with his mother around the corner, in the same house day-in, day-out, must be hard. But he has been nothing but gracious about it. He is a cool kid. Even if I have to say so myself. The strongest of the three, emotionally, I think. But what do I know? I am only their mom, LOL.

Morning After
Night Of

Back to the snow.

That night I took some pictures and even went live on Facebook to share. I love the sound of snow falling. The softness of it. I love the color of snow. The whiteness of it. I love the peace and calm that often comes in the morning. Everything is white, the sky is bright, the air crisp, the snow cold, clean and inviting.

I ran outside at the crack of dawn the next morning with Lulu, my pet rat terrier-mix who appeared to be enjoying herself as well. She was prancing around in the snow and seemed more comfortable in it than I thought she would be, knowing this was her very first-time seeing this much snow. She is 8 in human years. Wait, did I just spy her lick some of it? Lulu! 😊

I remember the day the boys and I picked her up at the pound. Her sister had just been adopted. Her original name was Honey. She had actually picked us. She was the only Black dog there, and she was beautiful. She kept jumping up and barking at us, like she was saying “pick me, pick me”, and pick her, we did. Her full name is Lucretia, so we call her Lulu for short.

My street was quiet. Everything around me was covered in snow. Roof tops, branches, cars, the street, shrubs, sidewalks, everything. Que buena! Not a soul was outdoors. No cars, no kids, no parents, no school buses, no pets, not even the birds were out yet. None of the usual suspects of neighbors who walk in the morning. Noone. Just me, my dog, my phone, and my thoughts…

For a few moments my mind went to her. I wonder what she is doing right now. Would she be awake? Would she be outdoors? Would she be by her window watching, thinking, wondering? Is she lonely? Does she miss me? Does she even think about me? She did not come to walk Lulu this past weekend because of “inclement weather”, her text had read.

I miss her.

I miss calling out her name, “Elle!” when I walk in the house. I know I would have been all over her this morning, if she still lived here. I would have been in her room first thing, waking her up with my usual Tigger-like excitement, wanting to share it all with her, asking her to come out and join me for a walk, to which she would nearly always respond with a cold “no”. 

“Why do people do that?” I asked myself for the 46th time. “Why did I do that?” Stay in a loveless relationship. Was it desperation? Was it love? Was it to fill a void? Both my beloved youngest sister, and my relationship coach, Dr. Sonia Wright, had asked me the same thing. “How long were you going to stay?” and more importantly, “Why?”

I knew both of them meant well.

“I don’t know”, was the best I could come up with each time. “I don’t know”. As a coach myself, I know that-that is not true. Everybody knows. We all know why we do what we do. We all know why we make decisions that may or may not serve us. We do know, but we mostly choose not to accept it, or more commonly, choose to deny it.

We generally choose to say those three words first, “I don’t know.” It is easier. It is safe. It absolves us of responsibility. It prolongs the time of indifference. It allows us to remain in the victim mentality. But it also keeps us stuck. Shackles us to indecision. Prolongs our pain, and might I add, prevents our progress. Because if we can’t figure out what it is, or call it out by name, we can’t truly fix it.  

So, that morning, standing there in the middle of my street, alone by myself, enjoying the scenery, while taking pictures of the snow, of my house, of Lulu striking a pose on the lawn, I asked myself the same question for the 47th time, “Why did you stay?” Reluctantly, I finally responded in a series of whispers…

Because I love her.

Because I wanted her to love me back.

Because I needed her.

Because she saved my life.

Because I loved being married to her.

Because I kept thinking and wishing that we would somehow magically work through all the mess.

Because I wanted us to make it.

Because, even though we were both suffering in the relationship, I still wished we would get through it.

Because I was still rooting for us.

Because I was in denial.

I love the feel of the snow under my rain boots. The soft crunching sound it makes as I walk down the street, Lulu coming along for her morning walk. The air was cool as I inhaled huge chunks of it into my lungs. I am cold, but I am so loving this once-in-a-life-time experience. It snowed, in San Antonio!

Except, I am here by myself. Not able to share the moment with anyone, but me.

Then I recalled Dr. Wright telling me that I had to learn to embrace solitude. “Look at it as a welcome experience,” her soft voice came through the phone. “When we call it loneliness it has a negative connotation to it.” “This could literally be the beginning of the best time of your life, but you have to let it in,” she added. “You have to first go through all the emotions that come with a split from an 8 year-long relationship…”

“What if it’s OK to feel the way you feel right now?” I ran through my list of feelings; Unsure, angry, sad, devastated, disappointed, betrayed, afraid, shocked…” The list went on. Wait! Was that also relief?? Somewhere in the back there, was relief. I briefly looked at it and skipped it. Anguish, panic, despair, melancholy, heaviness in my chest… I continued.

At one point during the call, Dr. Wright instructed me to embrace “I am enough” in every sense of the word. While still crying my heart out to her, I realized that I have struggled with self-acceptance in that sense. I crave companionship, as a result, I have settled for relationships that amongst other things, have been unfulfilling and to some extent, toxic.

I have been entering them from a place of scarcity. From a place of lack. No wonder I remained needy even as I constantly told myself I had a mate. I remained lonely in most of my relationships, even if they all started the same way, with excitement and the idea of commitment.

Apparently, I have always felt like I needed someone in my life in order to feel whole. It became clear as we talked in hushed tones around 11:30pm that night, with snort and tears running down my nose and my eyes, that I have struggled with a fear of abandonment…for years.

My earliest memories of being abandoned came up during the conversation. My mother had been unable to nurse me during infancy, I was told. When I was 6, my father forgot to pick me up one day from school and I had to walk all the way home. I had been the only child from my neck of the woods on the elementary school bus and was consequently bullied like crazy by the other kids.

My parents never came to visit me during my 5 years in a boarding high school in Nigeria, I got into high school at 11. Neither did they come to visit me during my entire time in medical school, another 5 years. I went to med school at 16. Looking back now, I grew up forcing myself to believe that they loved me, but this was their weird way of showing it.  

I remember vowing when I was a young adult, that I would never miss a visiting day in my kids’ lives. That I would be the mother I had yearned for, all those days, the father I had needed those early formative years if given a chance to have children of my own. Today, I can only hope that I am.

Before the call ended, we discussed the possibility that I had-had an emotional affair. What? Yes, she kindly explained. I had immersed my heart and soul into my work on trauma and suicide prevention in youth these past few years, because, in her words, I wasn’t getting the nurturing and attention I needed from my marriage. So, I guess, I cheated with my work. Is that even a thing?

Wow!

Night Of
Morning After

As Lulu and I turn the corner at the end of the street, I spy one of my White neighbors who never speaks to me, walking slowly in our direction with their own dog in tow. I immediately made a U-turn, I really couldn’t care much about messing up my beautiful and serene revelry with a snooty neighbor this morning…

We walk on, slowly, quietly, in the opposite direction. Lulu appears to step on something, and momentarily begins to limp. But she regains her gait, and we continue. She stops from time to time to do her business. I register the deep yellow color of her urine against the white snow, and make a mental note to check on her water supply when I get home.

I can barely hold on to my phone by the time we get back to the house. My fingers are so cold that they hurt, but my body is warm, my heart is happy, there is snow on the ground even if I have no one to share it with. I walk in the house and call my name, “Dr. Lulu!” I am doing what my coach has told me to do. I am getting used to being with me.

In the distance, the world is beginning to wake up.

It will be a good day.

“In life, you must know when to make a you-turn if possible” ~ Dr. Lulu

BB

5 Tips To Help You, Your Teens and Young Adults Cope with The Pandemic

Earlier today, I coached a family whose 16 year old had recently attempted suicide. His parents were concerned that he has been at home for the past one year, and amongst other things, had become depressed and anxious. He has been separated from his friends, his teammates and his girlfriend since starting online schooling. His grades are also beginning to suffer, and so is he.

They wanted tools to help them reconnect with their child.

As a pediatrician and speaker on youth suicide prevention, as a coach who works with parents of teens, but most importantly, as a mother of a 16 year old teenager of my own (and with the pandemic lingering on and with no end in sight for our current situation), I think this list might help us parents better manage our relationship with our teens and young adults (YA) at this time.

CNN’s Chris Cuomo recently twitted his concerns about the rising trend of suicide amongst teens. Sadly, this trend also affects our young adults who may or may not be in college as well. Suicide rate in their age range (10 to 34 years) is second only to accidents as the leading cause of death, and that trend seems to be compounded by the pandemic.

As someone who has struggled with suicidal ideations myself, and as an author of a book on teen suicide, I know the loneliness and hopelessness that can occur, and the despair and anguish that accompany them. While chatting with my youngest son tonight, we both came up with the following tips that might help you and your teen or young adult.

Acknowledge and Validate Their Feelings

One thing that I preach about all the time is the need to validate your teen or young adult’s feelings by acknowledging them and empathizing with them. Your teen needs to know that you understand from whence they come. Tell them you get how frustrating and disempowering they must be feeling without access to their friends and peers and all the activities they enjoy.

Share your own frustrations as well. Tell them exactly how you feel and let them see that while you don’t necessarily have all the answers, you do share their fears. However, end with a note of hope. Share your stories of struggles and how you navigated them in the past, listen to them as they share their own stories. Allow your kids to see the vulnerable side of you by sharing a challenging story from your past.

Trust me, children want to know that their parents are just like them in some ways. They do need to know that you have also struggled in life. That you don’t always have the answers. That helps them accept and deal with their own limitations as well, and helps them connect with you on a deeper and might I add, more realistic level.

One of the major issues I notice with some of the parents I coach is the tendency to want their children to think they are perfect. That is a dangerous precedent. Kids need to see their parents show them the full range of emotions that they can express. As an African, I know first hand how our parents almost never show any other emotions besides stoicism. #notgood.

Hang out with your children, enjoy the time with them.

Check-in With Them Frequently

If your teen or YA is currently enrolled in distance or remote learning, find ways to support them through it. We can all agree that these are unprecedented times. In my home, all three children are affected, and each child is dealing with it differently. Since I am home with my high schooler, I can only directly affect him, but I do ensure that I also have access to, and engage with his brothers often.

For his older brothers, we have twice weekly check-ins that have been instituted. Each one calls me on the telephone on a pre-selected day, usually on the weekend. And I in turn have a mental health check-in via text on Wednesdays. I send a simple text message asking how they are doing. These seemingly “little” habits have had the dual effect of keeping open connection lines and reassuring me, the mama bear.

As for my last-man-child (LMC), I frequently stick my head into his room, and ask how his day is going. I make sure he takes frequent breaks from his class computer (which he built himself for his 16th birthday) by walking around every 2 hours or so. We have regular discussions about relevant topics; school, his grades, his friends, who is dating who, football and basketball, his haircut, and even racism and politics…

Encourage Social/Physical Distancing and Wearing Masks

For this, frequent reminders and open-hearted (non-judgemental) discussions are critical. Talk about the fact that ‘their friends might be sick and not know it’ aka asymptomatic. Remind your young’un, that while they themselves might not “get sick”, there is a clear danger of bringing the virus home, and possibly getting you, their grandparents or other family members sick.

This is quite possibly the most challenging part of this entire pandemic for teens and YAs. Because they mostly feel they are invisible and can’t catch the disease, they often balk at the thought of wearing masks or socially distancing. They also fall prey to peer pressure if their friends do not also do the same.

I encouraged my LMC to have his friends come to visit last summer. This idea was a hit, and I watched him and his friends reunite one night outside our home. It was a brief but heart-warming (and much needed) drive-by socially distanced visit with their masks on. The smile on his young face the rest of that evening was all the payment this mama bird needed.

Encourage Healthy Habits

Pandemic or not, we must still champion healthy habits in our children. The usual suspects: adequate rest and sleep, healthy eating and drinking, frequent water breaks, exercise, etc. are all still a daily requirement. In my book “How to Raise Well-Rounded Children”, I state clearly that the one ingredient needed to make our kids do the right thing is us!

Share moments of laughter with your teens

We MUST exemplify any behavior we seek in our children. That means getting with our own program. I love to exercise and read. And my kids see me practicing that daily. My LMC and I bonded with Spanish lessons in the heart of the first lockdown. Those were special moments that we shared each night. I enjoyed the one-on-one, and he got to stay proficient with his spanish, win-win!

These days, we bond through cooking. He has always had a flare for the culinary department, so the lockdown gave him an opportunity to watch a lot of Master Chef and Master Chef-Junior. These TV shows helped him blossom into our very own Chef Boyardee 🙂 These days, he literally picks the recipe, shops for the ingredients and boom! Gourmet meal!

Use Technology to Your Advantage

This last one is simply inevitable in today’s world. I smile as I write this, because I am the world’s most notorious “hater” of technology. But, I am learning that it can be my friend if only I allow myself to find the good in it and learn to use it to my advantage.

While I understand that we don’t want our kids playing video games all day, or stuck to their phones day in and out. I ask for grace for them through these trying times. Allow them to use their phones or play their video games a little longer, as long as they complete their school work and house chores.

Over time, I have learned to give in to my boys and their gaming. It actually warms my heart anytime I pass by my LMC’s bedroom and hear his brothers’ voices on the computer playing with him…bonding with their sibling… or just hanging out. That is such a good feeling!

We also used the power of Zoom to celebrate my eldest son’s graduation from Stanford last year, attend my brother’s son’s christening, and check in with the extended family and long lost friends from time to time. Thank goodness for that, I truly can’t imagine how this pandemic would have been without video conferencing! It’s all good.

Go Forth and Make the Best of it!

In ending, as the pandemic rages on, we must approach it like any other challenge, with positive determination and confidence. We must not give in to the uncertainty, the anxiety, or the sense of helplessness and lack of control that we are all in no doubt experiencing individually and as a community. Let’s lean-in to the unknown, and sit with all the feels that come with that.

As parents, the time with our offspring is finite, so we should learn to give in a little, loosen up and try to enjoy them while we still can. My favorite question is: “Remember your teen years? What did you want the most from your parents? Now give that as a gift to your own children. Thank me later 🙂

At the end of the visit with my clients today, I reminded them that adolescence and teen years don’t last forever, but parenting does. So, I will ask you what I asked them as the visit drew to a close… What is the best thing that could happen to your relationship with your child from this pandemic? Write it down, and go for it!

If you are looking for a coach to help with your relationship with your child, let’s talk. http://www.calendly.com/drlulu. Al see you on the inside 😉

BB

My Pain

It started as overall body aches, with burning throughout my skin, pain in m’bones, joints, occasionally involving my tendons.

There were muscle aches and a few headaches. There was a diagnosis, fibromyalgia. Or was it? What is it? Was it stress, was it my diet?

No ma’am, it’s chronic pain…for life! And oh, it’s common in women your age. YIKES!

It all began after the I sold the practice and filed bankruptcy. Becoming a single mother, an airforce officer, commander, medical director… divorcee…

Then a little neck pain, then my upper back. Those didn’t really bother me much at the start. Then more neck pain and hip pain and knee pain… hmmm

Then knee swelling, and painful cysts. I can’t run, walk, kneel. I can’t. It hurt. A lot.

Then numbness and paresthesias in my hands and sometimes, my feet.
Then more neck pain, and now with neck stiffness
Needing massages multiple times a day, but my muscles hurt, so massages were out!

Then physical therapy, which they said would help, but it still hurt to do everything.
Then doctors, doctors, and more doctors, more orthodox medical practitioners.

Ayurvedic doctors, DOs, MDs, dieticians, house wives, friends. The essential oils, the snake oils…Then the neurologist, the pain doctor and the neurosurgeon, everyone!

Then X-Rays, CT Scans, MRIs, dietary change, eat this, drink that, avoid this, apply that.

Then LOTS of PAIN, I mean LOTS!

Then crunching sounds when I move my neck
More crunching sounds
I HATE the crunching sounds…!

Then pain medicines, injections, radio ablation, Tinz unit, Vicks, Robb, “Ukwuma”.
Muscle Relaxants
Doctor visits, follow ups, referrals.

It hurt when I typed, it hurt when I did my hair. I LOVE doing my hair!
Pain on the right side of my neck, my right shoulder. Lots of pain and difficulty even with opening cans, opening the front door, shaking hands, you name it.

FEAR!

What if I have to suffer this way for the rest of my life? What if my spinal cord gets affected? What if I get paralyzed? What if, what if, what if?

*During one procedure by the pain doctor, my Blood Pressure crashed, and I was nearly a Code Blue! HELP! I will do anything!

More pain.
Much more pain.

I wake up some nights, my fingers are numb, and ask my wifener to pull at them to “wake’ them up. She does.

More pain, I am now consumed with thinking about pain… Is this my life?

But, like a true trooper, I smile, take my meds, exercise, do Facebook lives, inspire people, coach them.
I cook, clean, mommy my kids, wife the wife, daughter my parents, sister my siblings, doctor my patients, love my friends.

More pain.

Then one day,
My LMC said, “Mom, I am tired of massaging your neck.”
“You need to see a doctor”.

Oh?
I thought I was already seeing them, too numerous to count…

Then a pandemic, lockdown, no elective surgeries…
Then September 14, 2020

4 years
4 hours
4 screws
An ACDF (Anterior Cervical Disc Fusion)
A scar

And STILL I had pain!
But this time, I have a scar
Do you have a scar?

Mine reminds me that I have had pain. I did have surgery, I did try doctors, lots of them. And I gave orthodox medicine a chance

Over 3 months after my surgery, my neck, shoulder, back and entire body still hurt…WORSE!

Until last week. My repeat neck CT showed proper alignment. All my screws are in place. So why am I still hurting? What is that about?

I can’t sleep at night, I am obsessed with (not) being in pain. It is all I can think about.

So, I decided no more meds, I had taken all of 5 bottles of pain meds and muscle relaxants. I was done. I vowed to heal myself. To do it myself. I returned the meds to the pharmacy.

And that was when the universe sent me Dr. John Sarno, a doctor with a difference. The brain behind TMS (Tension Myositis Syndrome)

A doctor who asked questions. One who challenged the norms. One who changed the narrative, my narrative.

And now I am pain-free! TOTALLY!

After nearly 10 years of suffering with fibromyalgia, I have no more pain at trigger points. No neck pain, no back pain. no shoulder pain. NONE!

Are you in pain? Are you a chronic pain patient like I was? Check out his books, they will save your life! But you must first believe…it’s that easy.

My name is Dr. Lulu
I am a former chronic pain patient.

What about you? Where do you hurt? Let’s talk.

“You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have” ~ Bob Marley

BB

If You Can Do It Today, Don’t Plan to Start Tomorrow!

Lessons from a life coach on procrastination

No truer words! Sadly, many of us are often twisted and tied down to that word…procrastination!

When I was in medical school, I remember my roommate taught me a Yoruba phrase that also happened to be the title of one of Fela Anikulakpo-Kuti‘s hit songs! If I remember correctly, the title was in Yoruba, and it went like this: “Oun t’awa she n’iyara, ejeka bere”, meaning, “let’s start what we have come into the room to do”

While Fela probably didn’t mean it in the sense of avoiding procrastination, I believe he meant for us, as his listeners to not waste time in getting what needs to be done, done. In essence, STOP procrastinating! If you need to do something today, start today, not tomorrow.

How many times have you had stuff that needs to be done and are not doing it? How many times have you found yourself at your desk, tapping your fingers and daydreaming? Or ruminating on thoughts about your “to-do” list, or simply scrolling through social media for the third time in 20 minutes?

What is the impact of putting things off in your life? When was the last time you stopped and took stock of that?

Procrastination is defined by Merriam-Webster online dictionary thus: to put off intentionally and habitually something that has to be done. Meaning, you are aware of it, and you also know the full implication of not doing it, yet, you consciously choose not to do it.

Sometimes, repeated intentionality leads to habituality.

You procrastinate because factors such as anxiety or fear of failure outweigh your motivation and self-control.” ~ Solving Procrastination

Since signing up to become a licensed life coach, I have slowly started noticing my habits. Things I did once upon a time, that I continue to do, that have now become my way of doing. Some of them, better, (getting at least 7-hours of sleep daily), some not so much (putting off marketing my books, or finishing my 4th book).

After deep soul-searching and major self-coaching, I realized that the main reason I procrastinate is self-doubt, aka lack of self-belief, or simply put…FEAR! Fear of judgment, fear of failure, fear of negative feedback, all kinds of fear!

Case-in-point: For the past 2 years, I have been toying with the idea of shooting a documentary. It will be loosely based on my second book A Teen’s Life (available on Amazon and Barnes and Nobles online). Everyone I have told my idea thinks it’s great. And I also believe it is…

I initially had a hard time finding a movie or documentary director. Then in the past few weeks, I found one who also writes. I shared my dream with him, and he LOVES IT! In fact, he believes so much in my idea that he has already started doing background research and treatment with my book as a guide.

Now, all of a sudden, I am not so sure anymore. I started giving him excuses like; “I am really busy right now”, “My plate is quite full at the moment”, “I don’t think I can take any more on my calendar”, “I have school”, “Can we hold off until I graduate?”, “I might not find subjects to share their stories”, etc. The list goes on.

I know deep inside that it can be done. I must admit that I thought it would take a longer time than he has suggested. Somehow, once I realized it might become a reality sooner than later, I freaked out. And am still freaking out. I now understand what the Bible story about Jesus, Peter and walking on water means (Matthew 14:22–36).

Even though the documentary is my dream, and has been so for nearly 2 years now, I must admit that I have little faith, and so I am doubting. I am afraid, afraid of the unknown. Afraid that I might succeed. Afraid that I might fail. Afraid. It’s a new venture for me. Nothing of its kind has ever been done before. I have no experience. I have nothing but my dream.

So, I want to procrastinate. I want to hold off until tomorrow, that which I can start today.

“What has this got to do with anything Dr. Lulu?” You ask. Well, since I started life coaching, I have realized that many of my clients, if not all of them also struggle with self-doubt. The lack of self-belief is very strong. I never knew how much of that is freely floating around.

It is so bad that when asked how committed they are to accomplishing their goals, most of them helplessly give me a number like 7–8/10. And when asked what would make it a full 10, they shake their heads and shrug their shoulders and look at me helplessly. And I see it clearly in their eyes, doubt. Self-doubt. Self-doubt and unbelief.

And so they procrastinate. They put off working on their goals. They procrastinate. They think they can’t achieve their goals.

I recently had a client who when asked, responded with “Because I am known to not complete my tasks”. Another said “Because I am known to procrastinate”, and yet another simply said “Because I don’t believe that I can do it”

This article on Psychology Today explains the concept of procrastination and why people do it so well. It begins by stating “…understanding why you procrastinate is crucial if you want to figure out how to stop doing it”.

Reasons given in the article for procrastinating include but are not limited to Abstract Goals, Indecisiveness, Overwhelm, Perfectionism, Anxiety, Fear of Failure, Lack of Motivation, Laziness, Low Capacity for Self Control, Distractibility, Impulsivity.

As I read through each item on their list. I kept hoping to not see myself in them. Alas, I saw myself in nearly 80% of them. In a sense I feel good because that makes me “human”, but then I feel sad because, I need to do something about mine, soon!

What about you? How do you set your goals, and how do you ensure they are achieved? Are you able to achieve them on your own? Who holds you accountable? Do you also procrastinate? How badly do you, if you do? What, if anything are you doing about it? Do you need a coach?

Even as I struggle with mine, I still hold space for my clients. I help them prioritize themselves and what they want. Prioritize their goals, and work towards them. Work through the self-doubt. Work through their unbelief. Work through the reasons they procrastinate. Ironically, I sometimes believe in them more than they do.

The good news is, the article also delves into what can be done about procrastination. It has a laundry list of action steps that essentially begins with self-awareness.

I shall continue to work on my procrastination. I know what I have to do. The question is; will I do it? Hmmm, only time will tell. And as for Fela, well, I plan on making him proud.

Dr. Lulu

Mindset and Motivational Life Coach For Physician Moms

It’s October, What Are You Doing About it?

Dear Blog,

I woke up this morning with you on my mind.

I knew I had to make my monthly entry.

It’s been a whirlwind of a year thus far, and none of the negative energy around us seems to be dying down.

Hmmm.

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 askdoctorlulu@gmail.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 🙂

  1. Subscribe
  2. Share
  3. Leave a review. Here is how to on Apple podcasts/Itunes.

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”

BB

15 Commandments on How to Teach Your Children About Racism

Dear Blog,

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.

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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 fufu ati 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 😉

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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”

Cheers!

BB

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Nigeria in 10days; Becoming an International Speaker, Pt 1

“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.TEEN ALIVE logo

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.A Teen's Life

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 SA Family-2Dr. 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!Anpa suicide talk.PNG 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!Naija 6

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, NY!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!

PS: “You are enough”  ~ Dr. Lulu®

BB

 

Dear Doctor, Do U DPC?

Dear Doctor,

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.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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.img_2524

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!Placeholder Image

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?

Me, Red Dress

“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.

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#Becoming

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?Me, Red Dress

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

BB

 

The Making of My MD/MBA

Dear Blog,

 “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)

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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…!

Crocs store-1.jpgFirst 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?IMG_0818

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.

IMG_0841As 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.

IMG_0800Economics 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.

Singapore 4.jpgI 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!

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I cannot put in words the excitement of Singapore! Its clean streets, ultramodern Singapore 2.jpgarchitecture, 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! 😉Singapore 3.jpg

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.

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UU