An excerpt from the Docs Outside the Box podcast, episode 2: How a physician found success and fulfillment living outside the box
Dr. Nii: I have an exciting guest that I want to showcase for you. Her name is Dr. Melanie Watkins. She’s a psychiatrist who’s practicing in California. I’ve been following Melanie for quite some time on Twitter. She’s been known to have very poignant Twitter messages — whether they are motivational in aspects or encompass the whole aspect of mental health. As anybody who’s following her can see, she’s got her hand in many different things.
Truly, she is living outside the box, so I decided to take a reach and try to contact her to see if she’d want to be a guest on the show. And she said yes, and the rest is history. Just a brief introduction, she is a board-certified psychiatrist in California, but she’s also an author. She’s published short stories in various publications like Chicken Soup for the Single Soul. She’s also done Chicken Soup for the African American Soul, but I think she’s more known for being a author of her memoir: Taking My Medicine, which you can get right now on Amazon, but it’s about basically her challenges along her path from being a single mom in high school to overcoming some of those challenges, stigmas and becoming the board-certified psychiatrist you know today.
Besides an author, she’s also a motivational speaker. She’s also a social media expert, guru and, at one point, she was also a podcaster. So, she’s got a lot of information that I think you all would like to learn something from. Some of the things that I want you all to grasp from this interview are: I want you to learn about the unique way in which she practices. She’s both employed and also practices as a independent contractor. One thing that I think may apply to all of y’all — and that you may be interested in knowing about — is what are some of the biggest contract negotiation traps that physicians fall into?
Also, some other things that I think we can pick up on is how social media has played a major role in her success. And what are we doing for our own mental health as physicians? We seem to always be concerned about the patient. But as you all know, life as a doctor can be very stressful. She talks about things that we can do to make ourselves a lot healthier from the mental aspect. So, without further ado, I’m going to give you Dr. Melanie Watkins.
Before we go ahead and get really started on the podcast and the interview, why don’t you tell us a little bit of where you’re from, and what med school you went to and so forth?
Dr. Watkins: I was born in L.A., grew up in Phoenix, and went to a lot of different high schools, which we’ll talk about later on, and why that was that I went to so many different high schools, which became part of my story. I’ve lived all over the U.S. After high school, I went to undergrad at the University of Nevada in Reno. Then, I went to Stanford Medical School. After that, I completed an internship at the University of California, San Francisco in obstetrics and gynecology. I realized that my true passion was psychiatry and decided to move back to Reno, Nevada, and did a three-year residency in psychiatry. Then, I decided to move back to the Bay Area, where I’ve been ever since.
Dr. Nii: Wow, so you’ve been basically zig-zagging through the West Coast?
Dr. Watkins: Yes. In fact, even when I was a resident in Reno, Nevada, I was doing some moonlighting in Berkeley, California. I kept my California license that I received during my intern year and decided to keep that active. So, even though I was living in Reno, I decided to do some moonlighting in California, and also, I decided to start doing some locums work when I was a resident. I did some moonlighting in Southern California, as well, so that was very nice.
Dr. Nii: I hear that getting a California license takes, what, over a year, maybe even longer. Is that true?
Dr. Watkins: It takes some time. I don’t know about that. You know, it’s funny, because that was so many years ago that I got my California license, so I don’t know if perhaps things have changed now, because that was back in 2003.
Dr. Nii: Well, so you briefly said that you did residency initially as OB/GYN, and then you said you had a little … well, not a little, but you had a big change of heart and went into psychiatry. I can’t think of two more diametrically opposed specialties, you know? Tell us about what happened. When did you decide that hey, you’re doing OB … or, excuse me, you’re doing OB, and this is just not working for you, and you decide to do psychiatry? Make us a fly on the wall.
Dr. Watkins: Yes. Yes. Well, it’s interesting, because when I was in high school, that’s what I wanted to do. I saw myself being an OB/GYN and helping women, especially young women, make good reproductive choices, and being an advocate for them, and I liked the idea of delivering babies. I was very young in high school, and then in college, it was what I was really focused on, and in medical school, as well, started in a lot of programs and opportunities for my classmates, and working with OB/GYN at Stanford and at UCSF, and that was my mission.
Nii-Daako Darko is a surgeon and founder, Docs Outside the Box.
Image credit: Shutterstock.com