Why did you decide to pursue a
second career in public speaking and stand-up comedy?
|Lynette Charity, MD, is a dynamic speaker
who uses storytelling and humor to help
other physicians recognize symptoms
of depression, redirect negativity and
use laughter to deal today’s “health care
soap opera.” At this year’s pre-convention
Physician Wellness Workshop, she’ll present
“A Prescription for Success in Your Medical
Career.” Next month, we’ll hear from
workshop co-presenter C. Nicole Swiner,
MD. Register for the Wellness Workshop at
In 2012, my “calling” became a day job. I was
60 years old and after “adapting” to the new
health care model over and over again, I got
fed up. I assessed my abilities other than my
33-year career in anesthesiology. I decided that
my next career would be in stand-up comedy!
So that’s what I pursued, while working
part-time in an ambulatory surgery center.
In addition, I attended a conference put on
by SEAK, which helps physicians evaluate
possible nonclinical careers. I spoke with
career coach Heather Fork, MD, who
suggested that I perfect my “people skills”
through acting classes, comedy classes
and speaking classes. After all, I am an
anesthesiologist – trained to put people to
How did you get involved
Dr. Fork suggested that I join Toastmasters
International. After doing some research on
the organization, I joined two clubs in my
area. I honed my speaking skills by competing
in speech contests and won quite a few
trophies. In 2014, at the Toastmasters World
Championship of Public Speaking held in
Kuala Lumpur, I won a third-place trophy. This
was a defining moment for me.
I began speaking professionally, first for
free and then for a fee, while perfecting my
comedy skills through doing “open mics” and
Why is it important to incorporate
humor into your speaking engagements?
My primary presentation is titled “Medicine
is Your Calling, But Don’t Let it Kill You!”
Speaking on physician suicide is DEpressing.
I learned from my comedy coach that any
subject can have humor. No matter how
“dark” or boring the subject, there needs to
be comic relief!
Why is physician wellness in such
jeopardy these days?
Physician wellness has been in jeopardy for
quite some time. If you Google “physician
wellness,” you’ll find numerous articles on the
subject, but no clear-cut solutions. Many of
us chose medicine to help people, to make a
difference, heck, to promote WORLD PEACE!
But that has been taken away from us. We
have been lumped into a category called
“providers.” We are the scapegoats for all
that’s wrong with health care. Administrators
demean us; patients demean us; WE demean
one another. We were never trained in the
art of negotiating. Where is that satisfaction
we used to have in what we do? Without that
satisfaction, and with the stress and anxiety
of our litigious society, depression rears its
head. If untreated, depression can lead to
suicidal ideations and the ultimate sacrifice,
loss of life.
We are all trained to do our jobs but now
need a committee to do so. There is no trust
anymore in our ability to take care of our
patients. We are being worn down by the lack
of support. When did we stop taking care
of our patients – developing a relationship
through face-to-face communication – and
become data-entry clerks?
What do you hope physicians will gain
from your presentation?
This is a workshop for those in attendance to
reconnect, recommit and recharge. We will
learn from each other and most important, we
will have some F U N! For two hours, attendees
will be able to shed some of their physician
personas, find humor in their lives and learn
some immediate action steps to begin taking
care of themselves before taking care of others.
Without self-care, nothing will improve. We
can’t change what’s going on in medicine, but
we can change how we react to it. We have
hard decisions to make as physicians in this
new health care soap opera. I hope that we
will find a few answers in our time together.
Why is self-awareness so important
to personal and professional success?
In my career, I initially wanted to go the
academic track. However, I came to realize that
my joy came from DOING, not teaching. For a
while, I felt that I had let some people down
by choosing to leave academics. I realized that
I was a better physician doing what I wanted
to do than doing what I was expected to do.
Maya Angelou describes success as “liking
yourself, liking what you do and liking how you
do it.” That’s good enough for me!
“Work-life” balance is a misnomer. It’s
just LIFE, and you need to make the hard
decisions as to what works for you and “just
do it!” No regrets. Taking care of one’s self
is not selfish. It’s necessary in order to take
care of others. Adapting, reinventing and just
saying “NO” are all a part of being self-aware.
For some, this will not be easy, but you will
thrive rather than just survive if you turn your
focus inward and see what YOU need in order
to stay true to yourself.