It’s difficult to work in oncology and teach at the same time about it.
It’s also hard to run a non-profit in a conservative industry that usually puts profit above all else.
However, some people manage to do it. And it’s those professionals we want on our show.
Such is the case with Dr. Shikha Jain.
Besides being a practicing oncologist & professor at the University of Illinois, Shikha is also…
– The founder of the Women in Medicine Summit.
– The CEO of the Covid-19 non-profit IMPACT.
– The president of the non-profit Women in Medicine.
– A TEDx speaker.
Her work has also been featured in some of the most respected magazines in the world, such as TIME, Scientific American & The New York Times.
To top it all, Dr. Shikha doesn’t struggle with burnout and is happy to go to work every day.
How can she juggle so many things at once? How does she avoid burnout? And more importantly, how does she balance the work of entrepreneurship with medicine?
To learn all that, listen to our full interview with her!
To schedule a call with one of our awesome planners, book HERE.
Full Episode Transcript:
Daniel Wrenne: Dr. Shikha Jain, welcome to the podcast. Thanks so much for having me. Yeah, I’m excited. I feel like we have a lot of stuff to talk about. You have a lot going on, and, you got these businesses that you’re running. We were just talking about your podcast that you have, that you’re hosting and you’ve had a Ted Talk.
You’ve been involved in conferences and have your practice that you’re doing as well. There’s, it’s, you just have a lot of stuff going on, so I’m excited to kind of get into your journey and talk through some of these things you have going on and kind of talk about how you’ve accomplished all this, this sort of stuff.
But maybe before we get into. Where you’re at now. I would love it if you could tell us a little bit more about you and maybe in particular, like kind of your coming up and how you’ve gotten to where you are today. Like, you know, professionally what’s your journey been like? Have there been, you know, roadblocks along the way?
Everybody has, you know, roadblocks and I’m curious to kind of how you’ve, cuz it doesn’t happen overnight, right? You know, there’s a journey to all this. So if you could give us a little bit about what that journey’s been like for you, I’d, I’d love to start there.
Dr. Shikha Jain: Absolutely. Well, first, thanks so much for inviting me on the podcast.
Yeah. And my journey is really interesting. So I knew I wanted to be a doctor from when I was little. My father is a vascular surgeon. Who also is a serial entrepreneur because he was in private practice affiliated with an academic institution, and he started multiple companies throughout my childhood.
So I saw my dad being an amazing surgeon, being internationally recognized in surgery and clinical medicine, but then also doing all of these other things on the side. And I never thought that’s what I would be. I never imagined that this is where I would be as a physician, but here we are. So, as you mentioned, I’m a medical oncologist at the University of Illinois.
I’m an associate professor and I love seeing patients. So patient care is really what drives me and really improving communities, improving patient care, improving public health, improving public health messaging, improving the workforce. All of these things I think lead to better patient care, better outcomes and better health.
And so for me, everything that I do and where I’ve gotten to now has really been. Mission driven by, I think, a subconscious desire to make things better. My dad always growing up, my dad always said to me, you know, don’t come to people with problems. Come to them with solutions. And so, now I think my fatal flaw is every time I see a problem, I try to come up with a solution for it, which is good, but it’s also bad because it means I end up, you know, running around doing 6 billion things because I want to fix all the problems in the world.
As I’ve matured, I’ve realized that there are certain problems that I can’t solve or certain problems that I should let other people work on while I really focus on the things that I think I can have the most impact on. So when I was in training, you know, I was really focused on becoming the best doctor I could be, becoming a great oncologist.
And then when I became faculty, I started to notice a lot of the inequities that other people were facing. So the interesting thing is I didn’t recognize it in myself. I started recognizing what was happening to other people. I have three children. I have an eight year old and twins who are five. And when I came back from maternity leave with my twins, I was doing more on social media.
At that point. I had written a bunch of op-eds and so, and I’d had some papers that were circulating on social media, and I started noticing that women on Twitter were sharing stories that seemed very similar to things that had happened to me. And so I started reflecting back on my career up until that point, and I realized, holy cow, a lot of the challenges and barriers that I faced, and I’m sure we’ll talk about, Were not related to the fact that I wasn’t a good enough doctor.
It was related to the fact that there were barriers and inequities implicit in our system that resulted in me having challenges or not getting opportunities, not because I wasn’t qualified, but because of the system. And so I, at that point, I was on faculty at Northwestern and I launched the first ever Women in medicine programming there, and it went really well.
I ended up leading Northwestern because I got offered an amazing job somewhere else, and I launched the Women in Medicine Summit, which has now become an international conference that happens every year in Chicago, attended by people of all genders, focused on closing the gender gap in healthcare by empowering people who attend to really take control of their own personal and professional lives.
But also coming up with strategies on how to fix the systems within we, which we work. Then the pandemic happened, and when the pandemic happened, I started getting asked to create all this other programming. So, as my husband likes to joke, my autobiography is gonna be how I accidentally started a nonprofit, because I then started the Women in Medicine nonprofit, which has a bunch of leadership programming to really help women and men, because we have program leadership programming for men as well.
Help them figure out how to get the most out of their career, whether it’s in clinical medicine or outside. And while doing that, also figure out ways to change these systemic inequities that exist in our system. And then to talk about another thing that I, that happened during the pandemic some of my colleagues here in Illinois and I realized that public health messaging was not ideal and we weren’t really getting a great national message from from our leadership on the pandemic.
So we formed another nonprofit called Impact and that one is really focused on public health messaging addressing misinformation, attacking disinformation. And so through that I’m now I now also lead that nonprofit. And through that I was able to do a lot. I now do a lot of TV and news interviews.
I do a lot of media and I’ve become I’ve been appointed to several task forces by national leadership, like the National Academies and the Department of Defense to address misinformation at an international level. So, that’s kind of my journey to where I am now. I could talk for hours about the barriers and the challenges, but I’ll pause cuz I think we could probably go more into depth into many of the things I just talked about.
Daniel Wrenne: Yeah, I mean, I guess first of all congrats. That’s like a lot of like cool sounding things. I mean, you got a lot of different things too, and. And the interesting thing about that, it’s like I’m sure you’ve experienced this is when you have some really good wins, especially when you start getting into entrepreneurship and that sort of thing.
It, they seem to like snowball on themselves and you, they open up like new opportunities and you kind of have to like be sometimes careful or at least that’s been my experience is like sometimes it can take too much of me where I am able unable to balance it. My first thought is like, how in the world have you been able to balance all that?
Like with, cuz I’m sure that there’s you, well you said three, you have three children. I have three kids. I mean, goodness, that’s a whole lot in itself. And I have the easier role. I mean, you know, I was the husband, I didn’t have to bear the children and you know, I know my wife had a struggle with that and that I can’t imagine doing all those things while also.
Having children and all the stuff at home, and how do you balance all that? And I know perfect balance is impossible, but like
Dr. Shikha Jain: Yeah, I don’t think I balance it well. I think I do the best I can. My biggest way that I’ve been able to do all of this, and I say this to everyone who I can tell this too, it’s my support system.
So I have an incredibly supportive family. My parents live nearby, which I know I am incredibly privileged to have my parents here. My in-laws come in to help periodically when we need help. My husband, even though he’s a very busy physician, he has, I would say our relationship has evolved.
One thing my mom is saying all the time is marriages are constantly evolving and growing and adapting based on what you, your needs are, each of your needs are. So, I’d say we’ve come a long way and he is my biggest supporter. And. Outsourcing. So, you know, if there’s times where we can afford extra help, we use it.
And that is, I think, the only way I’ve been able to do all of these things. If I did not have that incredible network of support I would not have been able to do 99% of what I’ve done. We actually recently moved from the city to the suburbs and I lost my, you know, I had an amazing network of babysitters and childcare and helpers that I could call in a whim.
And when we moved out here, I realized how much I really relied on that network and that help, and how much I’ve been able to accomplish, specifically because I had people who were able to pick up the pieces when needed. Not only that, my, I’ve been able to be very fortunate in making friends with my children’s friends’, parents.
And so, you know, there would be a time where I’d get stuck late in the clinic or I’d have a meeting that would be running over and I’d be able to text one of them and say, Hey, any chance you could pick up my kids today? You know, and I’ll come get them when I’m done. And so I think. You know, when they talk.
When I was younger, I used to think this concept of it takes a village was really silly because I was like, my parents take care of me. We don’t need a village. And that was a very, I think, innocent, naive way of looking at things. Now as an adult with a career and children and a working spouse I realized without that village of help, I would be drowning every day.
I mean, I’m still drowning to a certain extent, but at least it’s a controlled drown as opposed to floundering.
Daniel Wrenne: Yeah. You’re just above water. Yeah, exactly. Is, was it ever hard for you to ask for help?
Dr. Shikha Jain: Yes, it was. I feel guilty a lot. I used to feel guilty a lot more than I do now because I’ve realized that my children also see how hard I’m working and they appreciate what I’m doing to a certain extent.
I mean, I was giving lecture to residents the other evening, and my daughter just got an Apple watch because she sometimes walks to school by herself, so it’s a security safety thing for her. And I’m giving this, I’m doing a journal club with the residents and I’m getting texts from my eight year old, mommy, come home, I need you now, mommy, get home now with like, gifts and all these things.
And I was feeling very guilty. But I also knew that, you know, my, my husband was home and I texted him and I said, Hey, can you just check on our daughter? She’s texting and I dunno what’s going on, but tell her, he’s like, where’s she at? But so I wa it has been difficult for me to ask for help in the past, but, but one thing my parents taught me and ingrained in me growing up is, if you need help, you ask for help at whatever capacity it is.
And so I think that because I grew up seeing my parents, you know, ask each other for help. I think it gave me a little bit more confidence to do that, but there’s still a lot of times where, you know, especially when facing challenges at work, like if you’re facing bullying at work or micro or macroaggressions at work or things where you feel like you’re not being treated fairly in those situations, I still sometimes have difficulty asking for help to help me navigate those things because it’s almost societal for us to believe that the problems that exist are our fault.
And so if I feel like something’s happening and it’s because I’m not good enough, then I have trouble asking for help, but I’m growing. So hopefully that won’t be an issue soon. But I think that’s a, it’s a very common thread that I see amongst a lot of women physicians.
Daniel Wrenne: Yeah. It’s, and you can apply it to all different areas of life.
It’s like, it kind of ties in with the whole, like, I should be able to do this. Like, I can do this. Or, or maybe even you say like, I. You have shame about not being able to do it and you don’t wanna, mean there’s a lot of lot that goes into that whole asking for help and it’s really hard. Especially I think perfectionism is, makes it even harder to do.
Yep. All that sort of thing. And, but I know in order to build what you’re, you have built, you kinda like, unless something, unless you’re working like a thousand hours a week, which is impossible, you have to enlist the help of other people because it does take a village. Even if you didn’t have all these businesses.
I mean like raising a family is just like,
Dr. Shikha Jain: Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, my, my husband and I would not have gotten through the first couple of years of parenthood without our incredible support system, and that was before I was doing all these other side things. We were, our daughter was born when we were both fellows.
that itself was a challenge. And then I had, we both had to take our boards and we had like a one-year-old when we’re both studying for boards. So it’s always, I think we both, he’s gotten better at it. He had a lot of difficulty asking for help early on too. So I don’t think it’s a, it’s necessarily a woman or a man or what, any gender specific issue.
I do think women often feel a little bit more that they have to be supermom and superwoman and they should be able to handle the home and also handle work and. There’s a lot of memes going around where they say, you’re supposed to work, like you don’t have a family and you’re supposed to have a family.
Like you don’t have work. And I feel like women feel that a lot more than men because, I mean, we get the comments of, oh, you’re, you’re coming to this dinner meeting, who’s gonna watch your kids? Or, oh, you wanna go on this business trip? Well, who’s gonna be taking care of your children? And if, you know, if our partners get asked those types of things, it would, it’s unusual for them to get asked, oh, you’re coming on a business trip and who’s gonna watch the kids?
It’s just default to assume that, you know, if you’re married, if you’re in a heterosexual couple, that your wife will be watching the children.
Daniel Wrenne: Yeah. No that’s completely cultural. And, you know, that amps it up makes it harder to ask for help. And I think, you know, I mentioned perfectionism.
I think entrepreneurship at least in my experience, has been kind of like, I’m, I would say I, I’m a recovering perfectionist. I think a lot of people are, are there? But I feel like entrepreneurship forces you to get out of that a little bit, or it maybe requires those skill sets of asking for help and like failing forward, which is kind of like the opposite of perfectionism and like, I got this, like, I’m just gonna work through it, or I’m not gonna open up.
Has that, I’m curious about your experience with entrepreneurship. Has that been your experience as well? Yeah,
Dr. Shikha Jain: it has. You know, they always say, what is it the enemy of perfection is, or the enemy of. Perfect. Done is perfection, or the enemy of perfection is good. There’s some phrase that says, basically, I know what you’re talking about.
You know what I mean? Right. Basically, I mean, I have been very, I’ve been very open and honest with myself knowing the things I put out there aren’t perfect, but I like getting them out before I start spiraling because especially in academia, what you’ll find is that people will review and revise and review and revise, and part of it is cuz that’s what you’re trained to do in med school, right?
You’re, you’ve got a research project, it needs to be perfect. You’re taking a test, you need to be perfect. So I think part of it is beaten into us as students and as trainees that you should know everything. You should, you know, if you’re getting asked questions on rounds, you should know all these answers.
And so I think that that is something that, especially for physicians, it’s really hard sometimes to break out of those chains of everything needs to be perfect. I, over the years, have really gotten very good at putting stuff out there and being like, okay, well this is what we’re gonna do and I’m gonna learn from many mistakes.
So that’s, I think, how I’ve been able to grow all of these things, especially with all the women in medicine initiatives we’ve done. I create things and I’m like, all right, we’re gonna put it out in the world and let’s see what happens. the ideas I’ve had, people are like, this is not gonna succeed.
And I’m like, no, let’s, let’s see what happens. And sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. And I think that is the risk that you have to take as an entrepreneur. You are doing something new and different and innovative. And you don’t always know how it’s gonna stick or how it’s gonna land.
That being said, it, it also, I go through phases where I’m like, oh my God, what am I doing? I’m wasting all this time this project is never gonna go through, or this initiative is horrible. And then my perfectionism starts to kind of kick in where I’m like, well, I need to fix this, this, and this. And so when that kind of thing happens, I have, again, I go back to my, my network.
I have different support networks for different things. So when it comes to the entrepreneur side of things, I’ll send it to some of the people who I work with. I’m like, does this look good enough to send out? Does it need to make changes? I have other people’s fresh eyes look at things. So it’s not just me constantly criticizing myself because I can always find ways that I can improve.
But I think the objective, outside opinion and view is sometimes really helpful to reframe what you’re doing. And to me that is how I really have been able to push things forward where I’m like, okay, well this is at a point where I feel comfortable showing to somebody. Let me get, you know, another set of eyes on it.
And if they say, yeah, this looks good, then I send it out into the world and see what happens. Which is, I think if you’re gonna be an entrepreneur, you gotta learn to take some risks. They may be financial risks, they may be personal risks, they may be just risks that your personality’s not comfortable taking, but I think that’s how you, you become a successful entrepreneur.
Daniel Wrenne: Yeah. I feel, and I feel like a lot of those characteristics required in entrepreneurship are, they have a lot of good, like life application. Like they’re good things. A lot of us culturally could probably benefit from like, especially like perfectionism as an example. It can kind of pull us away from that.
I know you’ve had like a lot of experiences in your journey. You had a lot going on. I’m curious of like challenges and not like, you know, any particular challenge. I’m more just thinking like what phase of time. Was the most challenging, like, looking back through all of it and I can, I have a guess of what you would say, but I’m just really curious.
Like, what, of all the, you know, time professionally and your growth, like what would you describe as the most challenging point?
Dr. Shikha Jain: So, it’s interesting, you should ask cuz I don’t think it’s gonna be what you think it is. So having children and being pregnant, that was challenging.
But, you know, I, I navigated it. You know, we, with my first daughter I had, I ended up with some it was both my pregnancies were interesting pregnancies, let’s say. But I navigated, I figured it out. And again, looking back, I see all of the things that I would’ve, if I knew what I knew now, I would’ve done things a little bit differently.
And I probably would’ve responded to people differently and navigated it a little bit differently. They’re actually the most challenging time in my career was actually a few years ago where I was at an institution that I ended up. Interacting with somebody who was a real bully. He was
microaggression, macroaggression, like every kind of aggression, sexist, racist, like everything you could think of. Just like a real jerk. Yeah. Just not very, and I, being the naive person that I was believing, everybody is good, and good things happen to good people. And I was succeeding at that point. I just gotten some awards.
I was like, I was thinking, okay, I’m doing okay. I’m like, I’m at a point in my career where I feel comfortable and, and confident in where my career is going. And something happened where I was just kind of ignoring this guy. I didn’t report him because I said, you know, I, I don’t wanna make a big deal out of this.
I’m just gonna avoid him as much as I can. And I’m just not gonna deal with it. And then something really bad happened where the rug basically got pulled out from under me. And I found out that this guy had been kind of creating a narrative about me that was completely false and had basically tried to do a bunch of things to destroy my reputation behind my back without me having any idea about it.
And it was a huge punch to the gut because I had all of these people giving me accolades, telling me, wow, you’re so amazing. You’re so great. You’re doing all these great things. And then all of a sudden I was about to lose my career. I was about to lead clinical medicine. cuz I was like, I don’t wanna deal with this anymore.
I didn’t know that I was in this situation where this person could potentially harm me. And I was very naive. And so it took that for me to realize that all the work I’m doing it, it’s super important, but there’s a lot of people out there who don’t support it and who actually feel threatened by it. And they will do what they can to try to destroy people who are doing this kind of work.
And it sounds very melodramatic as I say it out loud, but it’s literally what happened. And so again, I went back to my network when all this was going on and I said, you know, what do I do? Do I stop doing all this work that I’m doing? Do I leave clinical medicine? Do I, you know, leave medicine altogether and just, you know, spend time with my family who I love and I would love to have all this time with my family.
And I ended up extricating myself from that situation and. I am, and ever since then I’ve been much happier. I’ve been able to grow all these other initiatives that I’ve been doing and reflecting back, and this is something I tell my mentees, my trainees, when you’re in a situation like that, I think many of us are taught.
Not to make waves. We’re taught not to report. We’re taught not to engage and address these types of things. And we’re told that if you’re not doing anything wrong, nothing bad can happen to you. And I have now learned of many other women who very similar things have happened to where they’ve been told, keep your head down and just ignore and keep plugging away.
And many of them have lost their jobs because this has happened. Many of them have lost their income, have lost their side gigs, have lost their reputations because of situations where these types of things have happened. And it’s unfortunate that in 2023, these types of things happen. And then these men often fail up and they end up with a pro because they don’t, the institution doesn’t want to address the issue or doesn’t wanna make a big deal out of it.
And so they move people forward or send them to a different institution with a bigger position. And. In retrospect, looking back, I wish I’d handled that situation very differently, but I learned a lot from it. So now when I come across similar situations, I navigate it very differently than I did when it happened to me initially because I really, I was very close to leaving medicine all together because it was that horrible of a situation where I had, I had thought that I was doing well and that I was stable, and this person had the opportunity to basically destroy my entire career with this flick of a pen.
Daniel Wrenne: Yeah, I imagine that was disheartening. And in that moment I’m just curious, like, so was it like immediately afterward you’re like, I’m out, like this is insane? Or how did you feel in the moment? Was it kind of shock and then it was like set in, you’re like, and then you slowly kind of gravitate towards this, like, I’m either out or I gotta do something.
Dr. Shikha Jain: It was shock. It was complete and utter shock. And then it was, I need to figure out what my next step is to get me out of this situation because this is not good for my mental health. It’s not good for my health and I can’t continue to work in an environment like this. And I went through I think the many phages phases of grief.
You know, you go through whatever they, denial, anger, yeah. Acceptance, all those different stages. And so I think I went through all of them, like in rapid succession over and over again. to the credit of my, of my family, I told them, I said, tell me what to do. And they were like, we can’t tell you what to do.
We can help you figure out what your next step is. But one thing is very clear, like you need out of this situation because this is not sustainable. It’s not good for your home life. It’s not good for your work life and it’s just gonna continue holding you down. I mean, this individual was so egregious in what they were doing that I still looking back, can’t believe that I didn’t report him.
And that’s why I, I tell a lot of women that I work with, I’m like, you. You may think that, you know, what they’re doing is harmless, but at the end of the day, they’re building up like a, if they build up a narrative about you and you have never done anything to report this stuff is happening, then it’s just your word against theirs.
So, a lot of lawyers I’ve talked to, you know, through my podcast and through all the organizations I run, the biggest advice they give to people is document, document, document. So if something like this happens, start documenting, you know, report it to whoever you, to faculty affairs or to leadership because you want a paper trail to show that that this is happening to protect yourself if the person tries to come and defame you.
Daniel Wrenne: Yeah. That’s just nuts that that’s a thing. But I mean, I guess part of it doesn’t surprise me, unfortunately. So would that be your advice to say someone is early in their career and their. They’ve had something like that happen. Is that kind of what your suggestion is? Like documentation, like rep, you know, make sure and share it.
Don’t hide, don’t hold it in.
Dr. Shikha Jain: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, number one, don’t be embarrassed because that’s the other problem. Again, a lot of us feel like it’s our fault. We must have done something wrong, so you shouldn’t be embarrassed. Number two is find a trusted mentor, whether it’s within the organization or outside of the organization.
Tell them what’s happening and get their advice. And then third, you need to document and report, document and report, document and report. Because I mean, the number of cases that are coming out over the years that we’re seeing in healthcare, there’s been so many of these types of things that have happened and many, many more that we haven’t even been alerted to.
Where now I think we’re in an environment where it’s a little bit easier to see the repercussions of this type of this type of impact that these things have. And I think it’s a little bit easier to report, but we’ve still got a long way to go. There’s actually an organization called Physicians Just Equity, p j e that Dr.
Pringle Miller and Dr. Roberta Gek are on the leadership committee for, and that that one, that organization has actually done a lot of work specifically in physicians and other healthcare workers who have been attacked and in some cases, you know, legal issues have been brought up. And so they have been a really good organization that’s just started a few years ago that’s been doing some really great work in this space.
So if you don’t have somebody you can go to, that’s a great organization to reach out to, to see if they can help find you some support and some people to help you navigate the situation.
Daniel Wrenne: Yeah, I think a lot of it is going back to like what, where you were talking about balancing everything is.
Your the, I think the things that I remember you saying that at least stuck out to me, where you talked about network, your network and then your family and it takes a village and then outsourcing you mentioned as well, but the, and kind of the unifying thing with all those things, it’s like the people around you are huge and if when we start to go, that’s why Covid was so terrible is like we kind of started to isolate.
So that is a problem in itself, especially when something bad happens when you start to like isolate and sometimes you have a tendency to isolate when something bad happens, but that’s when you have to lean on it most is like your people like around you. Because they’re gonna, if they are like loving people, like if they’re your close contacts, they’re gonna like level on you.
And which is that’s really what you need in that sort of circumstance, cuz that’s just a hateful experience that would take anybody down.
Dr. Shikha Jain: Well, yeah. And the other thing along with networks, I mean networks are so key in everything that I do. It’s also you’re professional networks, right? So, I reached out when this was happening.
I reached out to a very dear colleague who is more senior than me and I called her crying and I said, this is what’s happening. And she was like, this is what you need to do. And she literally just told me, cuz she talked to so many other women who this is happened to. She’s like, this is what you need to do.
Do this first, do this second, do this third, and then. Get the heck out of there. And so she was it’s also your professional network and then, you know, leading when you’re leading something. So I lead two organizations and they’re large and they do a lot of things. The only reason they’ve been successful, they’re not successful because of me, they’re successful because I know where my gaps are.
I know what things that I am not very strong at. I know where I need to fill the holes, and I bring in people smarter than me to do that stuff. And that, I think, you know, at the end of the day when you talk about networks, there’s all different kinds of networks, right? There’s the networks that you were saying like the, your family support, your friend support, your your career support, your financial support.
There’s all different types of networks that you have. As a leader, the network that has allowed me to be successful in all of these things is also creating networks within my organizations where I know that, okay, we are weak on this. Let’s bring in somebody who can strengthen this aspect of our organization because none of us have this as part of our skillset.
And it’s the same thing with the networks you have, whether it’s your family or your friends. I know which people I can go to just complain and vent. I know which people I can go to who will give me solutions and say, do X, Y, and Z. Right? And I know the people who I can go to who are gonna say, Hey, let’s go get a glass of wine.
Cause they Right. Everybody’s what I need. Everybody knows what I need in a different way, and I know who to go to for different aspects of, of that. And I think, you know, the one silver lining of covid, if you could say that, is while people were isolating a lot, I think people were also finding networks and communities outside of their normal circles.
So impact the organization we formed during Covid, all of us who lead that organization hadn’t met in real life for the first year and a half of the organization. So we had become an official 5 0 1 . We, I, we were all doing like national news media, we were meeting on Zoom multiple times a week. We had a group text where we were texting each other hundreds of times a day.
And it wasn’t until almost two years, a later that we actually met in person. And so, Those networks don’t have to be people who you live near or people who you went to college with or people who you’ve known for long time. These are people who I now consider some of my dearest friends who are people who I didn’t know at all at the beginning of the, some of them I didn’t know at all at the beginning of the pandemic.
So I think that there’s that silver lining to covid that we were able to bridge that digital divide a little bit and actually meet and connect with people outside of just our normal circle.
Daniel Wrenne: Yeah it’s, it feels like you have a lot of these leadership principles down pretty good. And I mean, it shows with what work you’re doing, but at least from what I hear, it doesn’t sound like that’s typically on the.
Agenda for learning in medical school and training. And so I’m curious how you’ve, I know your dad was a serial entrepreneur and I’m sure he had a lot of those skills, but where did you, how have you been able to learn all this? It’s
Dr. Shikha Jain: been kind of on the job training, I would say. So I, I grew up with it, so I saw it, like you said, with my dad and my mom, cuz my mom also helped run these companies with my dad.
So I, I saw it and I, I guess I was absorbing it without realizing it. And then I think part of it is my personality. You know, like I said, I see a problem, I wanna solve it. And it doesn’t necessarily, when I was doing that in med school, like in, in medical school, I realized we weren’t learning anything about health policy.
So I started a health policy elective with one of my friends. So I think that a part of it is just, is just my personality and then, I’ve learned a lot from others. I’ve been very fortunate in that I’ve been able to connect with people who have helped me kind of navigate this. When I did my first Women in medicine programming I’d never led a national conference.
I had no idea what I was doing. And so I reached out to people who had done it before and I said, what are some lessons that you learned? How do I make this better? And then I learned from my mistakes because we all make mistakes. And I think that is a really big way that I’ve kind of learned some of these leadership skills.
I take constructive feedback very Deeply. It’s always hard to hear. I don’t have as thick of a skin as I should. People tell me I should go into politics and I tell them I can’t because I don’t have a thick enough skin to go into politics. But I think a lot of it has just been on the job listening to other people, seeing other people’s leadership styles and saying, oh, I definitely wanna emulate that, and I definitely don’t wanna do that.
And then trying to kind of take the best of everything that I’ve seen in my career so far. And use those skills and then constantly be learning. I learned so much over the pandemic from people who would give me advice whether I wanted it or not. And and they would look at, you know, the agenda or the steering committee and be like, Ugh, you need more diversity, or, I don’t really like these topics.
Think of some different topics. So, It’s, I think a lot of it has been just seeing what other people have done and cherry picking what I like from that, and then seeing what works and getting feedback to say, okay, this is what I’ve been doing. Do you think this is an effective way? And I’m still, I mean, you know, this many years in, I’m still learning almost every day.
I’ve learned from a lot of mistakes and I’m hoping I take those lessons and don’t make the same mistakes again. Yeah. I
Daniel Wrenne: think physicians are, at least the ones that I know are, are, tend to be like lean heavy towards problem solvers and of course are very much into lifelong education typically.
And what I see them, a lot of physicians struggling with is the, and I’m talking about the system in general seems to make it difficult sometimes in certain situations like hospital settings oftentimes where they. Kind of like take away a lot of this problem solving and autonomy and all that stuff.
And because they, you know, have their rules and you gotta see more people and that sort of thing. And I think when you take away like that natural, if you’re like a problem solver and you love doing that, and I mean, in the form of helping people, your patients, and that’s taken away. I think at least, like that seems to me like the, one of the biggest issues behind a lot of this whole burnout or whatever you want to moral injury type stuff going in, going on in a healthcare.
But I’m curious of your take on the whole, you know, frustration with the system.
Dr. Shikha Jain: So I wanna be perfectly clear. I have a lot of those problems as well, and all of the problems that I wanna solve, I can’t because of barriers that exist within the system. And it is frustrating and I bang my head against the wall and I, it drives me bonkers that I can’t do these things that I need to do.
And you’re absolutely right, it is driving burnout because we see that the systems are set up to benefit the bottom line and not necessarily benefit the patients. And we’ve gone to school for years. To treat patients and give them the best health possible. And when, you know, the prior authorization system, the peer-to-peers that we have to do the fact that you need to see this many patients in this amount of time, the fact that, you know, you’re being measured on metrics that aren’t about quality of care, but are about how many patients you can see in an hour.
Those are really demoralizing for physicians. And I think that’s one of the reasons why we need to take back the healthcare system and we need to kind of dismantle it and rebuild it so that. Patient focus is the primary focus, not, you know, money. Because at the end of the day, and this is something I think every hospital leader should hear, when you are providing better outcomes, when you’re providing better work environments, when you’re providing equity in the workforce, you’re gonna get more awards, you’re gonna have better retention, you’re gonna have better recruitment, you’re gonna have the ability to really improve your bottom line.
And I think that, the problem is a lot of the people making these decisions are business people. They’re not healthcare physicians, nurses they’re administrators who only are looking at the numbers and are forgetting about. The patients a lot of times, and that is very demoralizing and frustrating for positions.
So what I have done, because I’m trying to launch two programs in my institution right now where I, where there’s lots of red tape that comes along with it, but I’m, I’m still plugging along. I think the way that we can navigate that is I. One, I’m not gonna say don’t get frustrated because that’s impossible.
I mean, I’m frustrated almost on a daily basis with these types of things, but I think it’s figuring out where your maximum impact is gonna be and focusing on those solutions. So the two initiatives that I’m currently working on are gonna have a huge impact for our GI oncology patients. I have an incredibly supportive boss who has told me, you focus on these and I will make them happen.
It might take longer than we want it to launch, but I will help you navigate. We will find solutions, we will find workarounds. And I think you have to find those allies and those stakeholders who can help you identify what are the problems you can focus on that will actually, you’ll be able to make a difference on, because.
It’s really hard to keep trying to solve problems where you keep getting, you know, stonewalled. If you can find problems that need to be fixed where you can actually make an impact. And taking those small wins, sometimes those small wins can lead to a really big win. And so the small wins I’ve had so far are leading to hopefully these two programs being launched, which will be big wins for me and for the institution and for the patients.
And so I think it’s really about being very careful about where you dedicate your time and your energy. The other thing I think that’s really hard for physicians, and this goes back to financial compensation a lot of the work that physicians, especially women physicians do are unpaid. And unfunded.
So a lot of the citizenship tasks like committee leading committees or, you know, creating a task force to improve the workforce and all of these things that that oftentimes get women get voluntold to do is unpaid. And McKinsey actually came out with a survey in the middle of the pandemic saying that women do the majority of invisible work and they don’t get recognized for it.
And Dr. Julie Silver wrote a paper on that before the pandemic, basically talking about how women physicians do a lot of invisible work. Dr. Amy Gottlieb published in the double, was quoted in the double A M C saying Women do a lot of work that’s unpaid. And it’s because the way our systems are set up, we are not compensated for work that is critical for keeping institutions open.
I mean, the stuff that women do, it’s just, it’s like working on the mental health of your faculty, making sure that everybody you know, is doing okay. That type of work isn’t compensated. So one thing that I’ve been advocating for is we need to start compensating for those, for that work because the work that women are often doing is not necessarily as much R V U, it’s more helping make sure the, the institution or organizations stay afloat.
And so I tell men and women this, I say, you should be compensated for what you’re doing. If you get asked to be put on a committee, you need to say, okay, is this gonna give me a raise in my salary? Is am I gonna get protected time for this? How am I gonna, how am I gonna do this because, We often let our good wishes and our mission drive us more than our self protection.
So I have, I tell people I’ve implemented a rule in my life that I try to maintain. It’s hard because I wanna fix everything. But I, when I’m offered an opportunity, I say, okay, is this gonna advance the mission of me or my organization? Is it gonna provide me any financial compensation? Is it going to bring me joy?
And is it something that is gonna help someone else? So if it doesn’t fall into one of those four categories where it doesn’t give me any financial benefit, it doesn’t give me any professional benefit or my organization any professional benefit, if it doesn’t allow me to further somebody else’s career or help somebody else, or if it doesn’t bring me joy then I say no.
I say no, or I offer it to someone else. I say, you know, I can’t do it, but let me sponsor this other amazing person who this might be the perfect opportunity for them because, They’re at a point in their career where this could help launch them to the next level, or they’re at their point in their career where I know they’re looking for these opportunities.
So for me, it’s really about figuring out how do I protect my own time and how do I use that time wisely? My mom always tells me, everybody is gonna be asking for things from you. You do good at a certain thing, everybody’s gonna want more of you, right? Everybody wants you. You succeeded in this initiative.
Great. They’re gonna have six other things they want you to do and you’re gonna feel good about it cuz you’re gonna say, wow, they’re recognizing my work. She’s like, but then when you say yes to that, you’re taking away time from something else. It might be from going to your kids’ soccer game, or it might be from another leadership opportunity.
Maybe you say yes to one podcast and now CNN N is asking you to come on tv. So which one are you gonna, which one are you gonna pick? You say yes to one thing. You have to say no to something else. That’s just, there’s only so many hours in a day and there’s only so much of you to go around. So think really critically about your mission and your goals and your happiness and your health.
And then figure out what should you say yes to and what should you say no to, and maybe offer the opportunity to someone else. Yeah.
Daniel Wrenne: That’s awesome. It also makes me feel a little good that you said yes to be on our podcast, so, absolutely. Yeah. Well, I think all that stuff is fantastic. I think there’s I think maybe the underlying issue oftentimes for people that struggle with this whole, like, should I be asking for compensation or more money?
Is, you know, maybe part of it is this whole, how do they view money or what’s the purpose of money to them? I think, you know, you can think of like, some people see it as like the root of all evil. That’s like one extreme of the example or like, I don’t deserve anymore, or I’m o okay with what I have. But on the other side of the coin is like money is a tool to advance whatever purpose or mission you have and if you’re using it for the right purpose or mission.
It’s completely the opposite of evil. It’s actually your tool for good. It seems like you’ve kind of adopted, I mean, everything you’re saying embodies that last principle, and I think that’s super important to, to kind of get out there is once you see it that way, you’re like, well, asking for compensation more compensation for X, Y, Z job that they’re not really paying me for.
That’s gonna allow me to, you know, whether it’s save the money to go focus on a mission project or like work less in the future to have time to go advocate for something or, you know, whatever. I mean, like the sky’s the limit. You can redirect that to a good, solid purpose, but you kind of have to get that foundation down.
Dr. Shikha Jain: Absolutely. And I think you know the way, because money is always a, an icky topic, right? We’re not supposed to talk money, we’re not supposed to share salaries. We’re not supposed to do that. That’s just wrong, right? I beg to differ on that. I think pay transparency is key because there’s a wage gap in healthcare.
There’s a wage gap in the country. It’s not a question, it’s a fact. And the part of the reason that women are getting paid less, and especially women of color, are getting paid even less is because there hasn’t been paid transparency. So I think that is that I can’t leave your podcast or a financial podcast.
I can’t leave it without mentioning that. But I think that the thing that is so important, and the thing that was hard for me because I used to have trouble asking for money. Like if I get offered an opportunity to speak, I used to feel uncomfortable asking, is it an honorarium or what is the honorarium?
But Dr. Kimberly Manning actually talked to me about this one day and she said, you know what? Your time is valuable. It’s not that you’re asking for money because you’re greedy. You are just saying that you are valuable and the content you are putting out there is valuable and the work you do is valuable.
And they should value that. If they are asking you to do something and they’re asking you to do it for free, then they don’t value what you’re doing as much as they should. And that being said, I don’t wanna say I only do things for money because I absolutely, I go on podcasts for free. Sometimes I give speaking talks for free.
Sometimes it depends on who’s asking, right? Like if a group of med students say, can you come talk to us about what it’s like to be a Heoc doctor? I’m not gonna say. Yes. How much are you going to pay me? But if somebody’s asking me to come speak at a conference or speak, you know, to their organization and, and, and I feel that I should be paid for it, then I will ask.
You know, what honorary are you offering? And again, it’s not because I’m greedy, it’s not because I, I feel like, well, I deserve to be paid. It’s the work I do, the stuff that I put out there. Me as a human being, I have value. And by me agreeing to do something, I am taking away time from something else.
And then what I decide to do with that money is up to me. If I decide to use it to go on vacation, great. That’s my own self-care. If I decide to do it, to put into the Women in Medicine nonprofit to help advance that mission, great. At the end of the day, I think women are often told that we should not be asking for money because it’s not polite.
And I still sometimes feel icky sending emails saying, you know, how much is the honorarium? But I’ve gotten, I’m trying to get past that because. We are setting the standard for the people who come behind us. And for too many years, physicians have been doing free work. We get on, we do things uncompensated all the time.
I mean, I worked in New Zealand for a while as a locums physician between residency and fellowship, and my husband and I were shocked. We would get paid every time we called the hospital to answer a page. We would get paid every time we went into the hospital to see a patient. This was on top of our base salary.
I mean, there’s ways to provide compensation for the value that we provide. And I mean, obviously physicians get paid, most physicians get paid well on the specialty you’re in. Some physicians get paid very, very well. But there’s also a lot of time and energy and training and debt that goes into becoming a physician.
I mean, we sacrifice a lot to get to this position in our lives. And, and I don’t think it’s wrong to, to ask for compensation when you’re doing work. You wouldn’t ask a plumber to come to your house and, you know, fix the plumbing for free because you know, it’s only a 15 minute project, they still charge you.
So as physicians, I think we really need to start thinking more about the value of what we’re providing and how it should be compensated. And the compensation, again, it doesn’t have to be monetary. I’ve been compensated before where, you know, at work, sometimes I take on a position, I’m like, I need protected time for this, or I need an administrative assistant, or I need, you know, X amount of c m E dollars.
It’s it, the compensation doesn’t have to be financial. It can come in other ways, but we need to stop undervaluing ourselves because if we undervalue ourselves, there’s no reason for other people to value us.
Daniel Wrenne: Have you ever struggled with the I think everybody’s struggled with this at some ex some point in their life, but like the whole, like, I’m not good enough.
I’m valuable enough. Imposter syndrome I think is what they would call that. So like, I’m, so that’s a little bit of a different flavor. It’s like, you know, maybe I don’t, maybe I’m not good enough to ask for x y especially like with speaking, that’s a hard one cuz it’s like zero to unlimited.
Yep. So you’re like, how do I what am I worth? And that’s a tricky thing. And most people lean towards low and not low. They do.
Dr. Shikha Jain: They do. And so actually I’m gonna make two points about what you just said. So one, we actually launched the Women in Medicine Speakers Bureau specifically to help with this.
So you can join our speakers bureau because we help figure out how much you should be getting paid. You can sit and we kind of help you navigate that and make it less uncomfortable for you because if you don’t wanna navigate it, we can email the people and say you know, this is how much they charge.
So that’s one way to do that. Talking about imposter syndrome or imposter phenomenon. So that phrase was actually, that concept was actually introduced by Dr. Pauline CLA and Dr. Suzanne ies. And Dr. Cnce actually was one of our keynote addresses at our first Women in Medicine Summit back in 2019. So I met her and she said, you know, it’s actually not a syndrome.
When we coined this term, we called it imposter phenomenon for a reason, because making it a syndrome makes it sound like there’s something wrong with you. I actually published a paper with Dr. Cla and Dr. Kelly Cockett on the Imposter Phenomenon, implicit Bias Burnout. Cycle that happens because very high achieving women often have very high levels of feelings of him feeling like an imposter.
And then when you have all this implicit bias beating you down saying You’re not good enough, you’re not getting this leadership opportunity, you’re not getting this award. So you’ve got external validation of your imposter phenomenon telling you you’re not good enough. All of us then leads into this endless cycle of burnout because you already feel like you’re not good enough.
And then the world is telling you you’re not good enough. So obviously you’re gonna leave medicine, which is what we’re seeing. I have struggled with it a lot. I struggle with it every day. I mean, I, every time I get an invitation to do something, I’m like, why are they asking me every single time without fail?
My it’s really funny sometimes because I’ll get an invitation and I’ll tell someone, I can’t believe I got invited to do this. They’re like, what are you talking about? You’re the perfect person for this. And I’m like, no, I’m totally not. I don’t have X, Y, and Z. And then I need that external validation of someone to like, actually tell me, no, you, you are totally appropriate for this.
So I think we all struggle with it. I personally feel like it, it keeps me humble and it makes me better because what I do when I get those imposter feelings is I think, okay. Why am I feeling this way? Am I actually somebody who does not, is not an expert in this? Or do I need to read more before I go on to do this?
I ask other people, am I the right person for this? And then I use it to make myself better. So I’ll say, all right, well, this is where I’m feeling like I’m not good enough because of X, Y, and z. Reason is some of this just in my head. Okay. If it’s in my head, then. I’m gonna put that in this box. Is it because I actually need to do more or learn more?
Okay. Well then I’m gonna focus on making myself better in that avenue. And then I’m gonna go for it. There’s this joke I give in my talks, which is if there’s 10 criteria that you need to fulfill in order to put your name in the hat for some opportunity, women will often wait until they fulfill 15 of the criteria, and men will often wait until they fulfill three.
Because I’ve seen it happen anecdotally. And again, this is not all men. I don’t want to get a bunch of comments where people are like, oh, she’s, she’s sexist against men because I’m not, men suffer with this as well, but it’s been studied that women have even more higher levels of imposter phenomenon in imposter syndrome because of a variety of reasons.
And it’s usually very high achieving women. And it’s because, again, not only because they have these internal, this internal dialogue, but then they have this external dialogue from other people telling them. You should be having a baby. Why did you have children? What do you mean you’re taking maternity leave?
What do you mean you’re not taking maternity leave? It’s like you can never win. So, to answer your question, yes, it exists. The way that I utilize my imposter phenomenon is I use it to try to make myself better and I have to put this out there because I don’t want people to think that, you know, I’m a man hating woman.
I have gotten to where I am today because I’ve had amazing male allies and sponsors who have gotten me to the point I am in my career. We actually created an inclusive leadership longitudinal programming for men because I’ve had so many men who’ve done so much for me in my career, and you continue to do so much for other people that I feel like these are skills that you can learn to really work towards elevating everybody no matter what your gender is.
I think we should all be in this together and we should, we should be helping each other rise up together because, It leads to better organizations, it leads to better happiness in the workplace, and it leads to better outcomes for our patients at the end of the day. So this is something, this is not an us versus them situation.
This is a, everyone should be working towards this together because whether it directly impacts you or not, it really at the end of the day, has a huge impact on all of us.
Daniel Wrenne: Yeah. Well, you, I really want to keep going with all this. This is such a good conversation. I love what you’re saying. And Chika, this is fantastic stuff, but unfortunately we have limits on these time things and we’ve committed cut off about the next few minutes.
So I wanted to make sure and circle back to kind of, I’m sure people are, are loving it just as much as I am and want to find out more about you. And we’ve already thrown out a lot of stuff and I’ll link to all the stuff we’ve mentioned so far in the show notes. But what’s the best place for people to like, connect with you or find information about you or what you’re up to?
Dr. Shikha Jain: So right now Twitter is where I am pretty active, but who knows what’s gonna happen with Twitter moving forward. I was verified, who’s dead this morning? I know I was verified. All three. Me and both of my organizations had verified check marks until yesterday and then all of the blue checks just disappeared cuz we’re not paying for Twitter Blue, I guess.
So anyway, so Twitter is one place you can find me. I’m at Chika Jane MD and the summit is at w I M Summit and Impact is at Impact four hc. Otherwise I have a website, chika jane md.com. The Women in Medicine Summit has a website it’s women in medicine summit.org. And then our nonprofit also has a website.
It’s wi medicine.org. impact has a website as well, which is Impact four hc. So, that, I think that’s all gonna be in the show notes and I’ll make sure to get those to you so you have them. But you can reach out to me on any social media platform. I’m on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter you can find me in all those places.
Daniel Wrenne: Nice. Well, as I said, Chik, it’s been fun. I love the conversation and I feel like I don’t want to cut off, but I know we gotta cut off given time constraints, so I don’t want to dishonor that as well. So thank you again for coming on. It’s been fun.
Dr. Shikha Jain: Thanks so much for having me. This is a great conversation.