Erkeda DeRouen talks to Dr. Liz Aguirre, MD, CCDS. Liz is a board-certified Internal Medicine physician with ten years of experience in hospital medicine and six years of Clinical Documentation Improvement experience. An educator to physicians, nurses, and students, Liz is passionate about person-centered wellness, focusing on mental and spiritual health.
She is an established speaker with a specific passion for speaking about personal wellness to maximize the quality of life and work performance. In this episode, Erkeda talks to Dr. Aguirre about her atypical path to medicine, the social determinants of health, and the importance of positive self-talk.
- [00:35] Introducing Dr. Liz Aguirre, MD
- [06:40] Getting into Medicine
- [10:14] Social Determinants of Health
- [13:35] Wellness in Healthcare Workers
- [21:03] Getting Unstuck through Prioritizing Wellness
- [24:30] Hospitalists and Nocturnists
- [28:07] Dr. Aguirre’s Advice to Pre-meds and Medical Students
Dr. Aguirre’s Winding Journey
Dr. Aguirre had an atypical path to becoming a physician and believes many prospective students and doctors will find her journey relatable. Liz grew up in a poor home and community, and for most of her life, she didn’t know that she wanted to be a doctor. She was sure that she wanted to go to college to lift herself and her family out of poverty.
Liz had two jobs and volunteered while she was going to college full time. Her struggle with impostor syndrome kept her from considering medical school as a viable option for a long time. She joined the pre-med society and did rounds at the Texas A&M Health Science Center, where she impressed the attending physicians until they learned her MCAT score. Despite being firmly discouraged, Liz applied to and got into medical school on her first try.
Prioritizing Wellness for Physicians and Patients
Person-centered wellness requires physicians to take all facets of an individual into account, including their socioeconomic circumstances, traumas, relationships, and beliefs. Failing to incorporate non-anatomical factors is a disservice to the patient. All recommendations must be within reach of the patient.
In 2018, Dr. Liz lived a professional life she describes as unhealthy. She worked long hours at the expense of her sleep and nutrition and began feeling the physical effects of her routine. It was then that she realized she had to begin practicing what she was preaching. She shifted to non-clinical work and made herself a priority. Despite the move for her well-being, she was left feeling unfulfilled and like she wasn’t making a significant contribution to medicine. And, when she looked around her, she realized that the nurses around her probably felt a similar way. So, she began teaching them about wellness.
You don’t ever have to be stuck. We all have soft skills that are transferable, and we don’t have to do anything we don’t want to.
Dr. Aguirre’s Advice to Pre-meds and Medical Students
Liz urges all pre-meds and medical students to remain wary of the nay-sayers and keep close to those that encourage you. We all have limiting beliefs with the potential to derail us. So, when you fall off track, you should have people to turn to that can build you back up. Turning to the wrong type of person for advice can change the entire trajectory of your life.
It is vital that you do not compare yourself to others. No one has your life experience and circumstances, and you never really see the full picture of anyone else’s life.
Whether you’re a student, resident, or attending, you often feel like you never have enough time. Even established and accomplished physicians struggle with time. And, as difficult as it may be, You have to be able to say “no” to some things, so you can say “yes” to the things that are more important to you.
Take small steps towards improving your health. If you don’t make time for your health now, you will be forced to make time for your illness later. Healthcare professionals struggle with self-care and prioritizing wellness. Remember to hydrate, introspect, exercise and rest.
Dr. Aguirre’s book recommendation: The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM) – Hal Elrod