So last week, I did the bravest thing I have done in a very long time — I quit my job. Yes, I put in my 60-day notice. This was my dream job post service in the U.S. Air Force. I had dreamed of working in this establishment for months before my service time was up. I could not have been happier when I joined their team, a group practice enjoying every specialty I could ask or hope for. Coming from a private solo practice with little or no subspecialty support, then joining the U.S. Air Force, serving four years, and getting a taste of a “giant” practice with all kinds of specialties at your disposal, my current employer was the only other place I wanted to go to after my time on active duty. I found a perfect combo of indigent population, military dependents, the insured and access to specialists for my patients.
With my love for foreign languages (I speak six languages, one of them Spanish), I marveled at the opportunity to practice my Spanish on their large indigent non-English speaking population. I had my very own brand-new building in a brand-new location, with a chance to build my own patient following fast, a feat that I performed easily to the tune of 136 percent productivity at the peak of winter; thus, becoming one of the top-producing providers working there.
My superiors were kind enough to allow me to set a flexible schedule that permitted me to enroll for an MBA at the local university, a benefit I am enjoying from my veteran status. I was even able to negotiate an enviable salary, one that I remember my then 17-year-old son had insisted I “negotiate like a man,” and I think I did a pretty good job. We work weekdays only, no weekends, our call rotations consist of only telephone coverage for one week every three or four months. I got an opportunity to precept family practice interns from our local medical school, another very enjoyable benefit I had craved after leaving my graduate medical education program at the Air Force. Life, for the most part, was great, so why did I put in my two-month notice last week, you ask? Well, I found my passion, my calling: depressed teens.
In my first article published on KevinMD about depression and anxiety and suicide in teenagers; I talked about my nearly daily encounter with these beautiful hurting souls who have persisted and finally found their way to my heart, and how I am poised to answer the call of the great beyond to help them in any capacity that I can.
Well, I approached my superiors about part-time hours to allow me to pursue my dream of forming a sort of outreach organization to bring these teens closer to help and farther away from the darkness, self-harm and ultimately — suicide. I want to pursue my entrepreneurial spirit and venture into the world of nonprofits, app development, public speaking and even coaching, all in an effort to reach one teen early enough.
After my request was turned down, I had no choice but to follow my heart, my passion, my dream. Am I full of all kinds of doubt, uncertainty, fear and even regret? Absolutely! But I read somewhere that courage is going ahead and staying the course, afraid. So, with that knowledge, I take daily unsteady steps into my uncertain future, with faith and vision, like a toddler learning to walk and unsteadily toddling across to the open waiting for the arms of their parent.
It does help to add that my CEO came in today to thank me for my service to the establishment. He congratulated me for following my passion, adding that: “Many think about it, many more plan on doing it, but you are acting on it.” He also pledged support for me, and cheered me on, and ended by saying their “doors will always be open” if I ever decide to come back. Wow! These past few days, my arch nemeses fear and self-doubt have remained close companions, but my vision and faith have remained closer, leading me, cheering me on, and constantly reminding me that “little girls with dreams become grown women with vision” and (dare I add) success.
Uchenna Umeh is a pediatrician and can be reached on Facebook and YouTube.
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