Finding Your Tribe

19 Dec 2019

By Feibi Zheng

When I had my first child three years ago, one of my co-residents added me on Facebook to Physician Mom’s Group (PMG) and a dear friend that I met through the Resident and Associate Society Education Committee (ACS-RAS) added me to Surgeon Moms Group and Dr. Milk. During the past three years, these groups have been both a professional and personal helpline for me. Whenever I have a question about finances, daycare, or clogged milk ducts, I have an army of women who willingly share their advice and experience in a safe, (mostly) judgment-free environment.

When I moved back to Houston to start my first job after training, I relied on my local PMG group for networking and practice building. My local group hosts several in-person events each year. Through these events, I met women endocrinologists, all in private practice, who form a substantial portion of my referral base in endocrine surgery. I have leveraged this network for many other aspects of my life as well. One day last winter, I woke up with terrible shoulder pain. I could barely lift up my right arm; a terrible conundrum for a surgeon. I posted a message on my local group and within minutes, an orthopedic surgeon called my cell phone and set me up with an appointment for that afternoon. Last week, I bought a new car. Where was the dealership where I got the best deal? The one where the manager was the brother of a physician mom. 

On the academic development front, I have benefited from participating in these groups as well. I have met collaborators and sponsors. In one recent example, a surgeon mom (who I have yet to meet in real life) nominated me to be a guest editor for an upcoming issue of the Surgical Clinics of North America on Patient Safety. I have also seen women help place members of the group on panels and nominate others as grand rounds speakers.

Lastly, these groups have served as a safe space where we can celebrate successes and commiserate on the daily struggles of being a physician/surgeon mom. This shared experience has allowed me to feel less conflicted and more confident. I now understand that it’s normal to feel that you are not a perfect parent, a perfect clinician or a perfect academic but somehow your kids will still grow up to be just fine. 

What to do if you’re not a mom? There are multiple online groups for women physicians with or without children (Women in Surgery Facebook Group), subspeciality groups (Young Endocrine Surgeons), physicians interested in side gigs (Physician Side Gigs), finance (Married to Medicine Finance), decorating (Physician Moms DIY Home Decor and Design), travel (Mama Docs Travel). Find your tribe, engage and thrive.

Dr. Feibi Zheng is an endocrine surgeon at Houston Methodist Hospital in the Texas Medical Center and Assistant Professor of Surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College. She attended medical school at the University of California, San Diego. During her surgical residency training at Houston Methodist, she helped to establish the General Surgery Leadership and Health Care Administration Track, an 8 year program which blends clinical surgery training with practical experience in optimizing hospital systems for improved patient care and safety. She then completed her endocrine surgery fellowship at UCLA. In addition to her clinical practice, she is the Assistant Clinical Program Director of Surgical Quality and Population Health for Houston Methodist Hospital, where she is leading the development of a telemedicine program for surgical patients who live long distances from specialized centers of care. She also currently serves on the Committee for Perioperative Care of the American College of Surgeons which works to improve the quality of care for surgical patients across the country. You can find her on twitter at @FeibiZheng.

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