Work/Life Balance

There goes a firetruck…

A hobby is defined on Google, since we are in the electronic era, as “an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure.”  As part of my residency, fellowship and the beginning of my academic career, I would see instructional course lectures (ICLs) and other lectureships related to the work-life balance.  Visiting professors would even often incorporate topics like this into their grand rounds or “extra” time with the residents. As an academic hand surgeon focusing on the pediatric upper extremity, I wanted to grow my practice, publish papers and teach.  I would often think to myself, “that’s easy for XXX to say – they’re almost ready to retire” or “they’ve already made it,” whatever that means.  Often these individuals are well established with regards to their practice, their research, their notoriety and their financial situation.  However, I do feel that we all need an outlet to sit back and enjoy life outside of work.

Many of us already have hobbies.  For example, sports – whether it’s watching them or playing them – are often what people are passionate about.  However, many of us have somewhat unique hobbies that people love to hear about and talk about.  For example, some members of ASSH are into woodworking, some are into collecting art, some are into music, and then there’s me – I like firetrucks.  When I was in high school and college, I had the opportunity to volunteer for the local fire departments both on the fire engines and on the ambulance.  This was truly a passion of mine.  In addition, my parents sold hobby supplies so I had the ability to easily start of collection of replica fire trucks.  As I got older and ultimately made some income, I realized that people collected the real stuff.  My collection started slowly by acquiring fire extinguishers, helmets, etc. (small items that could easily be placed on shelves next to my replica fire trucks.) However, ultimately my goal was to own some “real” trucks.  Today, I have several real firetrucks that I enjoy driving with my children and showing to my friends.

What I have learned is that you don’t need to spend a lot of time “doing” your hobby, but you should, even early in your career, have some time where your brain is focused on something that gives you pleasure – other than the obvious aspects of family and work.  It’s these moments that will allow you to sit back and recognize why you work so hard.  I think it is best to find something that does not require a lot of time but obviously interests you.  Finding a somewhat unique hobby can provide the young hand surgeon with many positives.  It may allow you to have something to talk about when you interview for fellowship or your first job, or more importantly it may permit you to bond with patients and their families.  I routinely discuss my hobby with my young patients since every child likes fire trucks and wants to be a firefighter when they grow up.  But even more important, it gives me the opportunity to show parents that I’m more than their child’s doctor – like you, I’m a person.  In this day and age, I think we would all agree the physician pedestal is gone – we are and should be equals to our patients.

So I would like to encourage you – whether you’re a resident, a fellow or an established attending – find something that gives you pleasure and do it regularly – identify that “hobby.”  Hopefully, you can find something that doesn’t take up too much time away from family time and something that is somewhat unique.  Once you find that something – tell us what it is – maybe there’s another ASSH member that has the same passion…

Article written by:

Joshua M. Abzug, MD is a dual fellowship trained orthopaedic surgeon in hand and pediatrics. His practice focuses on the pediatric upper extremity. Currently he is the Deputy Surgeon in Chief, Director of Pediatric Orthopaedics, and Director of the Brachial Plexus Clinic at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital.

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