I’m building a platform for people to talk about all things women’s health. It serves the needs of education and awareness, peer support, and community building. These are all things I have wanted to offer, but until now, I didn’t know how to do so.
It started with trying to figure out how to leverage and embrace technology to bring my knowledge to patients. Every day I give the same information over and over again. Same discussion. Same pictures. Same options. Sometimes ten times a day. And I never have enough time to teach even though I love drawing pictures or answering questions. We are given enough time to diagnose and treat medical issues but not enough time to educate our patients about their bodies and what is happening inside them. We are trained to diagnose, treat, rinse, and repeat. The most common complaint from patients is that doctors don’t spend enough time with them. We are not trained teachers, but we should be. People want more information. They want to learn, and they want more options. We don’t have enough time, and because of this void, they go to the internet. I call it the “internet of nonsense.” The internet of nonsense is filling the void that people crave, and as we all know, the internet is full of crazy ideas, easy fixes, and fear tactics. All of these make people click and buy. How do you combat misinformation that is easily accessible? At the same time, how do you spread your knowledge into the world instead of repeating it 100 times a day?
My solution: Build my brand and focus on educating, which doesn’t require more time, but does require some creative alternatives using technology. Patients come to see me, not the healthcare system or the clinic space. Therefore, it’s essential to establish and promote my brand as a healthcare provider. By building my brand, I’m taking control of my message and practice and creating an identity that reflects my values and expertise. I am smart and my street cred is that I look at 30 vaginas daily. The internet of nonsense doesn’t come close to what I have seen, listened to, read, and treated. Despite the abundance of information available on the internet, nothing compares to our firsthand experience and insights. To better serve our patients, we must find ways to share this expertise beyond the confines of our clinics. Some of us have created educational materials, such as videos and courses. I think that is great. I’m taking that a step further and creating a community that will focus on education but, more importantly, provide support to anyone who needs it.
Technology is wonderful, but it does disconnect us. We are so disconnected in today’s world. And we can blame social media, COVID, or whatever the new flavor of the month. But the fact remains we are disconnected, and it’s getting worse. We are human. We need connection and community, and a sense of belonging. We used to live in villages, in groups, and in multi-generational homes. That’s where knowledge was shared. This is where the concept of the Red Tent becomes relevant. It refers to a historical or biblical space where women gathered to support and teach one another. There is something so powerful when you connect with another human being who is or has gone through the same ordeal that you are going through.
My mission is simple: to educate, to be a cheerleader, to support, and to offer a safe space to empower women to take control of their health and bodies. I don’t want any woman to feel like they can’t ask a question and learn about the function of one of the most important parts of their bodies. And I can do this by leveraging technology and spreading validated, accurate information. By taking advantage of all the tools, medical professionals can streamline our work, reach more patients, and ultimately improve our quality of care. Despite the challenges and barriers that may arise, staying true to the fundamental purpose of our profession will always be the key to success.
I’m not leaving medicine. No way. I’m pivoting. Medicine is still the best profession in the world. The other junk won’t stand in my way of finding fulfillment in my professional life. While it’s easy to get bogged down by administrative burdens or other stressors, it’s important to keep sight of the fundamental purpose of our work. Embrace the privilege of being a healer, and let it guide us to find fulfillment in our professional lives, even if that means pivoting the model of care. Our work profoundly impacts people’s lives, and that alone should make you proud.
Reetu Syal is an obstetrician-gynecologist.