Podcast Episode 30 | Facing Racism in the Medical Community

With Dr. Aaron Brandt

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The Prosperous Doc™ podcast by Spaugh Dameron Tenny highlights real-life stories from doctors and dentist to encourage and inspire listeners through discussions of professional successes and failures in addition to personal stories and financial wellness advice.

Shane Tenny, CFP® is our podcast host and Partner at SDT. He has lectured numerous times for hospitals and physician groups and, most importantly, helped hundreds of clients develop strategies to navigate through turbulent times toward their financial goals.

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Aaron Brandt:               00:00                Is there a day that I am not reminded that I'm a Black man? No.

Intro:                            00:08                From Spaugh Dameron Tenny, it's the Prosperous Doc Podcast. Real stories. Real inspiration. Real growth. A show for doctors who are ready to improve their overall wellness in every aspect of life. Now, here's your host, Shane Tenny.

Shane Tenny:                00:26                Welcome to the Prosperous Doc Podcast. I'm Shane Tenny, and glad to have you with us today. If you're a regular listener, you know that part of our mission on Prosperous Doc Podcast is to bring you real-life stories of your colleagues in white coats around the country to educate, motivate, inspire you to professional emotional, relational, and sometimes, financial wellness. Today's topic, I have felt compelled to address for a number of months now, but frankly didn't know how or where to begin. I'm not talking about global pandemics, and certainly not talking about politics. Today, we're going to talk about racism.

Shane Tenny:                01:11                Now, candidly, I've been nervous to address this on this show because of a number of reasons. I'm a middle-aged white guy with no training on the topic or in social justice, and I'm not even sure I have the right vocabulary to use. If I'm as honest about the topic as I want to be, and as I wish people were, I know I've got blind spots in my own life when it comes to racism and implicit bias. But I want to do my part to try and change the tone in our country around this. I'm sad and embarrassed that it's taken video footage of horrific circumstances for me to understand that racism is a real problem in America, and I believe that any genuine, thoughtful conversation brought with a little humility is way better than hiding. That's what I want to try and open up today.

Shane Tenny:                02:12                At the risk of misspeaking or handling the topic in a way that might hurt or offend, I want to ask up front that you give me the grace, and hope that you'll hear my heart in addressing this topic in hopes that it can encourage you, in your family, in your practice, in your corner of the country. I'm joined today by Dr. Aaron Brandt. Dr. Brandt is currently a pediatric orthopedic surgery fellow at Children's Hospital Colorado, as one of nine adopted children. I think you're going to quickly see why his perspective on this topic is pretty compelling. Dr. Brandt, thanks so much for being with me today.

Aaron Brandt:               02:55                Yeah, thanks for having me. Feel free to call me Aaron, of course.

Shane Tenny:                02:59                Okay. Well, Aaron, you and I have crossed paths a couple times over the last few years, and I've really enjoyed getting to hear the highlights of some of your story growing up in a large family, with adopted siblings from three different races. So maybe we'll just start there. Can you tell us a little bit about your childhood and family growing up?

Aaron Brandt:               03:23                Of course, yeah. Obviously not the authority on racism, so when you asked me to be the speaker on that, I was a little nervous myself, but my family story is pretty unique and pretty impactful, and kind of just brings a different perspective for sure. When it started for me, I obviously was born in Nebraska, and then I was adopted as a baby, but kept a lot of contact with my mom throughout that. I was the third adoption into my family. They already adopted a couple Korean children from an orphanage coming from pretty dire circumstances. And then I happened to be in need of a home, and my dad was willing to open the doors. It started off as a temporary thing, and then morphed into permanent. Then we had six more follow me, building the Brandt 12, because they had already had three of their own.

Aaron Brandt:               04:19                Yeah, so we have five Korean, four Black, and then obviously the three white children to my parents, and all of us living in small town Nebraska. So it was pretty... I mean, you can imagine what that sets you up for.

Shane Tenny:                04:33                Yeah, what was life like in the community and in school and in things like that for you?

Aaron Brandt:               04:39                Honestly, it was all over the place. That's the funniest thing is that there was so much randomness and chaos to everything that we did, our home was kind of like that. Obviously a lot of different personalities. People coming from really tough situations all kind of dropped into one place. And then during this time, growing up, I remember kids coming in... Like my dad and mom pulled in about 30 other kids from all over the world just for temporary... some of them, like foreign exchange students, young mothers who just needed a little bit of a retreat, but these people were coming in. It was like a revolving door. And me as a child, I'm just like, "Oh, new play..." like play things coming in and out. That weirdness was normal for me.

Aaron Brandt:               05:24                And then I went to school and it almost was more odd because it just became a much more uniform group of people. But initially, I didn't really think much of it. I was the only Black kid in the school, obviously. We were the diversity of our community, but in general I didn't really feel it up until, I guess, first, second grade when people started realizing. I mean, we were obviously just visibly different. So yeah, it was interesting. It kind of just sets you up for the most simple and basic differences, and a lot of growing pains of that.

Shane Tenny:                06:05                I'm picturing your family as the melting pop United Nations in central white Nebraska.

Aaron Brandt:               06:13                We were. Yeah. That's the joke, yeah. And it was. All over the world we tended to have people from, and I put out that story through a great website called Love What Matters recently, and a lot of the people that came through our home, they're back in other countries, Venezuela and Colombia, things like that, and they actually reached out to Facebook to my parents and checked in with them, which was pretty cool. It got down to them, and they loved reading that too.

Aaron Brandt:               06:42                But it really was, it was a crash course in different cultures. I picked up a little Spanish along the way, trying to keep up. It's a crazy environment to be in and to see work and not work both at the same time, and how we kind of worked through that together was pretty awesome.

Shane Tenny:                07:05                Now, how old were you or what was the circumstance when you remember first being aware of your own difference from the community around you?

Aaron Brandt:               07:18                It was right when we started school. I mean, that was the simplest way to put it. I had very close friends from the start. If we talk about colorblindness, and I don't like using that word. I think it's silly. I usually correct even people within my family when we try to use it, but there is a little bit of element of that as children, and there's an opportunity there for us to not push them down that path, but it was very easy for everyone to realize I'm a Black kid. I was also taller than everybody, so I stood out like a sore thumb.

Aaron Brandt:               07:53                I had very close friends who it was never an issue, but I was definitely kind on the outside for a period of time, and definitely kind of just focused on that group. But I mean, any little thing people can use to pick on other people, and that's how growing up is in general. I think everyone's got their things, and mine just happened to be being a tall Black man in a small town. Yeah, I realized it quick. I think I went through that frustration of being different early, and dealt with it very, very early compared to some of my siblings. And I also was there from the start. You know like I was there as a baby, so some of my siblings came when they were 13, 14, one of them, 17. It's just hard to... You're just kind of getting thrown into the lions' den, whereas I got to grow up and grow through that.

Shane Tenny:                08:50                When do you remember first being mistreated for being Black?

Aaron Brandt:               08:59                I just found a journal that I was keeping, and I remember my biological mother giving me this journal as a birthday gift, but it was a way to write down feelings during a harder time, so it was a great journal. I went back and read through it, because I found it in my old stuff as I was packing. I specifically talked about a track meet and being called some racial slurs and then called out for stuff like that when I was 10. I wrote about it. It was pretty hard to read, because I don't remember that.

Aaron Brandt:               09:34                I don't know if it was like suppressing some of my memories, because I do have a hard time going back in my mind and remembering before I was about 16, just some of the specifics, but reading that was kind of like a little slap in my face that says, "Well, just a reminder that stuff was going on," and I was kind of feeling it during that time. That was definitely that period where I was going through it and having to find a little bit of strength.

Aaron Brandt:               10:04                One of the things I remember, Jackie Robinson became a hero of mine pretty quickly. Part of that was by necessity. Me and my dad talk about this a lot, and obviously there's things that he can't help me through with relation to race and dealing with that stuff. He had told me one time before that even adopting me was a big deal to him because he did not know if it was going to be the right situation for me to bring a Black kid into that community, almost assuredly was going to have an impact and have its challenges. So he was really thinking through that one and trying to make sure that it was going to be the right situation.

Aaron Brandt:               10:46                I mean, adoption is a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful thing, but you can also adopt into tough spots, and it may not be better than the circumstances that you came from. So he talked to me about that when I was older, and an adult, so it was kind of a cool moment for me and him to go back and rehash. I wanted to kind of learn his motives and understand his thinking, and it was cool to hear that from him. And then Jackie Robinson just came into my life just because that was a Black man, athlete, who was kind of misplaced and in an area that he didn't have a lot of people that looked like him and acted like him. There were some parallels that I could latch onto, and he's been a constant figure for me.

Aaron Brandt:               11:34                As I've gone through life, he's been kind of a big... My family, and then obviously have been big focal points in offering me some guidance.

Shane Tenny:                11:45                Have you had to learn how to talk about race and racism, or growing up with the diversity that was present in your family, has it just been a natural part of your life?

Aaron Brandt:               11:59                That is a tough one because I still feel like I'm learning. It has always been a part of my narrative and my story. It is what it is. You come up in a family like that, people want to know about it. And then even just with the adoption side of things, I've talked to families and then had those conversations. I remember that going back pretty early. So I've always had to have those conversations and discuss that type of stuff, but even then, just having these conversations with my friends growing up was not easy and took some challenge. A lot of things I let slide that even just in the current climate I'm realizing was probably a little bit of a disservice to us in the past, and just kind of defending myself a little bit.

Aaron Brandt:               12:46                But then I went to NYU for medical school, and I did that to just open up my world even more. I got there and realized that I don't have the vocabulary and I don't have the background, and I didn't grow up in some of these Black communities that have had to deal with different types of issues, and different types of racism and prejudice. It's just a completely different ballgame there. I think that that was very valuable for me, because I can't talk about this... me and you just talking about this is not the end here. There are so many stories, so many aspects of this. There's so many ways that people can experience prejudice and go through that and deal with that.

Aaron Brandt:               13:32                I'm still learning and I'm still making a lot of mistakes. I don't use a lot of the vocabulary because I don't know it well enough, and I don't want to do it a disservice. My way of approaching it has always been just to talk about my experience, talk about my family, talk about the experiences that I've seen because that's the important thing too, you've got to live life with other people.

Shane Tenny:                13:58                You were telling me earlier, you've got a story where I think you started finding your vocabulary around the dinner table one night, right?

Aaron Brandt:               14:04                Yeah. Vocabulary's an interesting way to put it. The dinner table story is one that my dad told me. Again, this is late, I think I was living in New York and I was about to present race as a topic within the medical school. In professional America, the numbers are not there, so obviously these types of things come up. But I remember him telling me this story, and it was a way for me to kind of understand sometimes just being blunt and honest is as good as anything. But I will give this to you and your audience at risk of making it make people uncomfortable, but this was literally just a normal evening night that we were sitting around the dinner table, and one of my little brothers got in trouble and he threatened to run away, which was a common occurrence, obviously, with a bunch of adopted kids. I mean, that card can get pulled anytime... but threatened to run away.

Aaron Brandt:               15:03                One of my other little brothers just called him out and goes, "Go ahead. Go ahead. Run back to your old family if you want to get beaten again." And then my immediate response was to defend my other little brother, and I made fun of him for not being brought home from the hospital, because my other little brother, my dad went out and got him from Jersey like two days after he was born. So essentially just calling each other out for the tough past. I remember my dad saying he sat there and was super uncomfortable, and almost biting his nails wondering what kind of reaction we would all have, if it was going to turn into a fight. He said after a couple seconds we all just started laughing, like laugh out loud, rolling on the floor, just could not contain ourselves.

Aaron Brandt:               15:55                He says that it's the moment that he realized he was doing something right, which I thought was just so cool. Because it is super crazy for me to go back in my mind and think about how aggressive and mean we were to each other. It's just so up front. We were never fed lines. There was nothing sugarcoated with how we were raised. He couldn't do that. If he wanted to bring that kind of family into a home like that and try to paint a different picture... I mean, I just think it wouldn't have worked. Man, we knew our past. We were able to embrace them early on. I think that that gives you a real strength and ability to kind of deal with things as they come, and we dealt with stuff together.

Aaron Brandt:               16:45                Like I don't think there's any shame in any of our pasts because of who we are today, and that's kind of what's important, I think.

Shane Tenny:                16:52                Yeah, I think as you remember it and experience, and your dad recounts it to you, it was a healthy event, not comfortable, but because in my mind I'm just hearing it and thinking it was the epitome of speaking the truth in love. Because you were in a safe environment where you knew you were loved, then I'm going to hit you directly and you can take it.

Aaron Brandt:               17:15                Yup.

Shane Tenny:                17:16                Now, the word racism has been used more this year and entered our society more than at any time I remember. And in thinking about my own reaction to the word, I realize that I used to think that it was being used by people who were overreacting or trying to get a reaction to something. And now, I see and believe that our society is finally acknowledging abhorrent actions and attitudes with what seems to be the right label to me. What's your take on it?

Aaron Brandt:               17:57                Yeah, I mean, that's a hard one. Like we talked about, vocabulary and how you use it is important. I think racism is the right word. I think it has just taken a really dark kind of meaning and then people aren't understanding the simplicity of what racism is, it's classism and things like... some of those types of concepts, they're just social-based. They shouldn't have as much of an emotionally-invoked response in my mind. If you're just looking at them at their base, they cause issues and they cause these systemic and deep-seated problems, and that's what we realize. There is racism going on all the time.

Aaron Brandt:               18:40                And if you are a Black person... a woman from a sexism standpoint, if you are in any of these categories, these aren't new things. These are things we deal with on a daily basis. I was talking to one of my other co-residents and good friends, and we were talking, like, "Is there a day that I am not reminded that I'm a Black man?" No. And I'm pretty open and comfortable in my skin. Obviously, I'm happy with where I'm at. I've dealt with that as a child. I'm done, and I'm really happy to be here. But there are not days that I'm not obviously aware. I wasn't around it all the time.

Aaron Brandt:               19:25                Even if I'm in a community of Black people, I'm still aware that I'm a Black man that grew up in a white community, there's an element of disconnect there too. It's there, and it's created these undercurrents that are constantly at play and that's what's important right now is I think unfortunately, it's taken social media and just the presence of it for more people to become aware. But you're still seeing a lot of people, "You're overreacting," or we're overdoing it. It's just hard to say that it's there in front of you. I mean, there's image of it. It's hard not to look at it. That's what I think we're seeing more is just more people are being presented with these images and these facts, and it's becoming more hard to deny.

Aaron Brandt:               20:22                That's kind of how I view my childhood too. I am very close with a lot of my friends and my classmates. There's seven or eight of us there still. We were all in one of my friend's weddings a couple years ago, but even within that group, we've went through ups and downs, and a lot of them talking about my experiences and just not understanding where I was coming from or, "You're overacting." Gaslighting is a word that's being talked about more. That was going on.

Aaron Brandt:               20:53                It usually took a bad situation and them having to see it or experiencing it with me for that door to open, and then our relationship changed. I think that's probably why we're so close now is a lot of the walls that could have easily... because I've been gone for nine or 10 years. I don't get home very often, but we're all about as close as I think we've ever been. And a lot of it is probably related to that. Then some of my siblings went through school and didn't have that type of experience, didn't have those types of relationships and open and up front and dealing with things together and openly, and it shows because they're not as close. So I think that that's what is important. Racism is a strong word, but I do think it's the right word.

Shane Tenny:                21:41                As you talk about it, or as we talk about it, I guess, it's a big word and a heavy word, and in many cases the right word, but it also isn't the final word. Just like the redemptive stories from Nazi Germany or from the 1800s where Nazi captors realized the horribleness that they were perpetuating and then repented, or slave owners realized the wrong they had furthered and repented, the tendencies can change whether it's racism, whether it's sexism, whether it's classism, we can become aware, we can ask forgiveness, we can humble ourselves, we can open our minds and change.

Shane Tenny:                22:27                You mentioned the friends that you've developed over the years through training and things like that, thinking back to maybe high school or that time period of your life and friendships that you had then, how would you maybe help define or describe the difference between maybe not being racist versus really seeing other people?

Aaron Brandt:               22:51                Not being racist. So that anti-racism and racist thing is, again, not a new concept, but I think that that's where we're trying to clarify the vocabulary a little bit. A lot of people were like, "We're friends. There's no way I could be racist." There's things like that that I've heard, and I don't disagree, but anti-racism is active, and there's an element of awareness to it. You go living your life and ignoring the undercurrent and ignoring that it's there does not make you not part of the issue, if you will.

Aaron Brandt:               23:30                I'm at fault for this too, is in a way, yeah, I mean, this is hard for me to even talk about. At NYU, I spent a lot of time trying to avoid being a part of their multicultural club because I just didn't want to be categorized, and I was just like, "I don't know." I saw them as speaking up too much and wanting to create things, and like we're talking about, like there is almost too much. I was like, "I'm okay. I'm going to deal with people as they come, and I'm going to do it as Aaron, and I'm going to deal with my group and go through things."

Aaron Brandt:               24:09                But it took that situation later when I was just like, "Man, this is a huge problem." I moved to New York to see diversity and to see people mold together, and it just wasn't there. I realized that I was doing a disservice, and I was part of the problem. You can't just avoid this stuff. If you're not a part of it, you're letting it go. And so I think that that's the difference between being a true racist, sorry, I don't mean to use that word again, or anti-racism. There has to be a more up front way to look at it, so I think that that's the difference. That's kind of what's important.

Aaron Brandt:               24:50                Even within my family, there's been times where you can't understand it until you see it or experience it. Even if you read stories about it, you don't understand it. Even the first time that I experienced it, rural racism, I had read multiple books about Jackie Robinson. I had read about Martin Luther King. I had done all this stuff. But to experience it was... it made me sick. I mean, obviously, but it was just one of those things where I was just even at a loss for words and didn't know how to react. So until you open your eyes and want to go through it, and it usually takes you knowing someone and really caring about someone for you to open that door and let those emotions in. Because that's what it is, it's kind of an emotional response. You have to have a connection to it. You have to have your heart open to it for it to hit you in a way that's going to make you part of the solution.

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Will Koster:                   27:12                Retirement or financial independence is often one of the biggest goals for physicians and dentists. If you need help with your retirement planning, check out some of our free resources, which we'll link to in the show notes. For this episode's financial wellness tip, I'm Will Koster.

Shane Tenny:                27:33                Now, I want to believe or tend to believe, I hope not wrongly, that most listeners of this show don't engage in overt racism or bring that approach to their day or condone prejudice, but there's one thing I feel like I'm learning over the last several years is that this isn't a problem that's in other people, in an 'us-them' sort of thing, it's a 'we' thing, kind of like what you're bringing up here. Can you think of scenarios or maybe share with us examples of subconscious racism or bias that you've experienced that maybe people aren't even aware of?

Aaron Brandt:               28:17                Yeah, of course. I mean, there's plenty. I think just focusing now, professionally... obviously Black in medicine or Black in orthopedics is what I do, we're about 1.5% of the group. And women is 6 or 7% of the group, so we're obviously on the lower end of that spectrum. There's been progress and kind of just acceptance of that fact, but obvious things that still occur. We had an intern that reached out recently having dealt with something with a patient that we had all experienced and had to deal with. Usually it's related to just not being seen as a physician, I guess if you will, and patients just not trusting that you're the doctor or anything like that.

Aaron Brandt:               29:06                And then even taking this back to... Honestly, I think women have it harder even, and I think they're part of this conversation too, but there's times where I have a female attending, and I'm the fellow or the resident and I have to redirect the patient from me to the attending, who is taking care of them, because that stuff happens all the time. There's a preconceived notion, and it's embarrassing for that patient... sometimes. Sometimes they don't really care. But it's embarrassing sometimes to correct people to do that, but that moment is a moment where they have to recognize this is the authoritarian, "Dr. So-and-So is my doctor, and I'm learning from her." So, eyes over here is essentially the point. So it's constantly there.

Aaron Brandt:               29:53                There is a new movement going around, hero in a white coat... I don't remember the whole lines, but it's someone I know, but essentially just pointing out the fact that in the hospital I am a doctor, but when I leave in street clothes, I just become another Black man. Those types of things are constantly in the back of my mind. On my car I have my white coat draped over my car seat. It's almost just a little bit of a safety blanket to... When I get pulled over, I'm safer. It's essentially what it points out. It's a sad thing, but it's there. And I think that those types of things are constantly happening, and we almost have to kind to decide which ones are worth bringing up or addressing at times, which is as hard as dealing with them themselves. It almost just takes more energy to think about it than to deal with them up front.

Shane Tenny:                30:51                Has there been a circumstance where there's been an environment or an action or something where you just had to speak up?

Aaron Brandt:               30:56                Yeah. I mean, often. I don't try to be rude or anything, but I don't have a lot of problems speaking up. I've had situations with patient... I mean, most recently someone just talking politics and getting into things that don't need to be talked about, and clearly are not things that I'm going to agree with. I essentially just had to say, "It's quiet time," and go back to doing what I'm doing, because I still have to do my job and take care of the patient. But yeah, I was essentially just, "We're going to work in silence now," and shut that down, but it's constant.

Aaron Brandt:               31:33                Everyone has their different thresholds for it, and we do have to be... There's a fine line. I think Black, women, everyone, if you address too much, you're a whistleblower or you're too much or you're high maintenance or whatever label you want to put on it. If you don't address enough, you're not doing enough. It's just kind of... There's a fine line there, and I think it has even shifted a little bit over the past year just because of just how up front things are. That's the nature of the beast, but it's also... I grew up just kind of realizing that we've got to do better.

Shane Tenny:                32:07                Yeah. Now the topic and the way we've been talking about it so far is so much of just the interpersonal relationship and the way that different people view each other and treat each other and things like that. But there's also a very real element of this that takes place internally between your own ears. I'm thinking of the podcast just before this one where I interviewed Dr. Gail Gazelle, and for those of you listening, if you haven't heard that episode, I would encourage you to go back and listen to the interview with Dr. Gail Gazelle. But she introduced to me the imposter syndrome. I think that belongs in this conversation as well. Talk a little bit about that, Aaron.

Aaron Brandt:               32:51                Yeah, imposter syndrome... I mean, it's something I still deal with. I think everybody probably does in certain ways. So, imposter syndrome is essentially just from the most simple standpoint is just essentially a person that is in a field are a group, they've earned that right, and they've obviously gotten there, but just never quite feel like they deserve to be there and deserve that spot, that place. It's that little internal tug of war of you looking around and just thinking they're going to find me out. I'm not going to survive in this environment.

Aaron Brandt:               33:29                So it's just something that I think that anybody... self-doubt and insecurity. It preys on that. What I think imposter syndrome also adds is that an element of that systemic issue though as well, because a lot of this is because of the environment. One of the big things right now is we're trying to give women, we're trying to give Black men, we're trying to push people into the field because we obviously don't have the numbers, and we want them to feel comfortable there. But at the same time, I want you to feel comfortable here, but I'm also telling you, you're about to come into an environment where you may be the only one, or you may be one of the few. So you have to be comfortable not being comfortable is essentially what the message...

Aaron Brandt:               34:11                And again, I'm a very blunt person, so when I'm mentoring a female med student or anything like that, I'm not painting a pretty picture. I try to talk to them about the love of what we do and how awesome it is, but I'm like, "You just need to understand, I think you're a boss for doing this. I think you're amazing for wanting to do this, but you have to come in ready, because you're going to be dealing with stuff on a day-to-day basis that is going to challenge you beyond just learning and dealing with the job. I just want you to come in and be ready for that." So that's the big thing, because imposter syndrome is just constant, and I've dealt with it at every single stage. I still don't know what I'm doing here, honestly.

Aaron Brandt:               34:53                Medicine was kind of like, "Oh, I'm going to do this." And then it became people saying, "Well, you're not going to be able to do this," and it became a challenge so I kept going. I'm very fortunate that it's worked out and I love what I do, but at the same time, at every stage I'm almost just like, "The ball's going to drop or something's going to happen." That's the biggest thing. I think that that's one thing that we can kind of do better is see that and be a little bit more open and honest about what that can do to your emotional health and things like that. And specially just if you're taking care or have someone in your groups or hospitals or things like that that are clearly a minority or in a minority group, just be aware. You may not see these things happening on a daily basis, but this stuff is there, and it requires just a little bit more openness and understanding, and these people are going to be... They deal with situations different.

Aaron Brandt:               35:57                I deal with things differently than the majority of people because of my background, because of the things that I've done. You can either look at me and judge those actions and then jump on those and try to categorize me, but I mean, I haven't figured out myself, so you go ahead and try, but it's very hard to do. Imposter syndrome's all over the place and it sucks, but it's a great way for people to kind of connect, because everyone has felt imposter syndrome at some point in their life and can connect to that awful feeling of being the only person in a situation. If you can put yourself in that mentality, I think that that's a good step forward in helping the process.

Shane Tenny:                36:44                Yeah, and I think that... I mean, overall as I have conversations with physicians and surgeons and dentists daily, and week in, week out, I feel like what gives me hope is that it feels to me that there's a growing tone of authenticity and a willingness to talk about things. So just the more we put things out there, the more there's a willingness to talk about burnout or imposter syndrome or racism or suicide, the better we can work through these things and grow through them.

Shane Tenny:                37:16                Aaron, as we close I want to pivot back to the lessons you learned in your home growing up, in a family full of siblings who in many ways were more different from each other than you were like each other. And now, as a doctor, as an adult, when you're in circumstances where your antenna's going up, because you're feeling judged for being different, or maybe you're feeling tempted to judge someone without fully understanding them, what is a question that you've learned to ask to help open the relationship instead of shutting it down with prejudice?

Aaron Brandt:               37:59                That's big. I want to say there's a question that goes off in my mind, but definitely a stop like you're kind of describing. My personality is just... I just have a kind of level way that I deal with things, and it's always been something that it opens the door for people to decide what's going on in my head or how I'm reacting to a situation or doing things like that. So I've always kind of had that. And then it's almost never been accurate, so it's always required a conversation and that's all it takes, because I'm also an open book. So if you want to know me or get to know me, then it just takes a conversation.

Aaron Brandt:               38:40                So that's how I have approached things. I'm a big believer in just getting along and working through things and then doing our jobs. We don't have to be best friends, but we can be colleagues and good, but if it gets to a point where we need to have a conversation or things do get... that moment where I want to judge you, something like that, that's when that red flag goes up. It's either I need to address it and we need to have a conversation, or I need to exit and separate. And that's just how I've approached things from that standpoint, just because I know what it's like to have that, and have that used against me. So that's how I try to take advantage of things.

Aaron Brandt:               39:26                I've seen it a lot, and even just with people like mentees and close friends, when I try to give people advice and use personal anecdotes and things like that, it can be frustrating. I do that to give my opinion and advice, but it's not to say things are done... "My way is the right way," because I just don't believe that there is any way that is the exact right way to have these conversations, to deal with these issues. You have to try. And so I'm willing to talk this stuff through and have these tough conversations. They're not fun and they aren't good, and we're going to struggle through them. You're going to say something that's going to make me mad, and I'm going to say something that's going to bother you.

Aaron Brandt:               40:11                That's the turning point is are we going to push through that, and with authenticity and care about each other? Staying in these conversations, staying in people's lives is about caring and that type of love that comes with that. It requires a little bit of resilience in the personal life, so you can walk away and categorize someone or you can stay in there and try to understand them. One of the funniest things... one of my very close friends in residency read that recent article, and we've had a lot of conversations, dealt with stuff, had a mentor together, but he texted me after that and he essentially was just like, "I had no clue about your background or the depth of it. It makes more sense why you, not demand, but have higher expectations of people now that I've seen that." I just laughed and I was just like, "Dude, so you just thought I was just demanding, that had too much..." I didn't realize how little people do know about me or how little I do know about certain people.

Aaron Brandt:               41:25                Then you're still making judgements and thinking that you understand people's motives, and are understanding those people and are jumping on that bandwagon. We have dealt with stuff together and really became very close. But suddenly he's just like, "Oh, I get it now. I get why you are the way you are." It just was one of those moments, I was like, "Man, I think that's perfectly fine because we don't have to get into the nitty gritty of each other's lives to love each other and to care about each other." It's such an eye-opening thing to see his reaction and just be like... if he had been on the category and not liked how I was doing things and not liked the message that I was spreading, that would have been tough, because clearly it's based on a lot of what I grew up with.

Aaron Brandt:               42:14                That's kind of what me and my family have always done. That's what we were taught is if you do things out of love and do things with the right motives, and out of that genuine, authentic caring, you may not be the most loved person in the world, but you're doing the right things, and it's a worthwhile cause. That's how we've just always been raised.

Shane Tenny:                42:36                I think you're touching on something that has been striking me over the last... I don't know, months or years. The why is so important. As people, as a country, I know even in my own marriage, I'm not going to argue my spouse into seeing my point, and I'm not going to argue other people into believing they're wrong, but if I can slow down and ask, "Why are you believing this?" or, "Why are you coming at this so strong?" or, "Why is this feeling like the hill to die on?" then I can begin to understand a little more what's driving them or what's behind it, and then we can come together, move together, when we'll stop and ask why.

Shane Tenny:                43:16                You referenced your article a minute, I want you to give it another shout out. You've written a more detailed narrative of your background and story. What's the website where folks can find that if they want to check it out.

Aaron Brandt:               43:25                Yeah. Love What Matters is the website. It's a very nice website, just a lot of nice heartfelt stories. That article is currently pinned to my Twitter.

Shane Tenny:                43:38                Well, Aaron, I am so grateful that you were willing to give this conversation a try. It has been fun for me, and eyeopening too, so thank you.

Aaron Brandt:               43:47                I appreciate your willingness to come on here too. It's not an easy thing to do, but it's good.

Shane Tenny:                43:54                Yeah.

Aaron Brandt:               43:55                It's good to see and good to hear.

Shane Tenny:                43:56                We won't change everything, but hopefully the conversation at least makes a bit part in helping to change the tones, so thanks for being here. And thanks to you for giving us some of your time listening to the conversation today. We appreciate you listening to the Prosperous Doc Podcast. We'd love it if you'd subscribe, then you'll know every other Monday when we've got new episodes coming out. Also, welcome your feedback. You're welcome to email me shane@whitecoatwell with any thoughts on suggestions you have, or if there's compelling stories you know from your colleagues. Love to understand that and see about having them on the show as well. So, thanks so much. We'll see you back here next time.

Outro:                          44:34                This episode of the Prosperous Doc Podcast is over, but you're not alone on your journey. Spaugh Dameron Tenny has been helping physicians and dentists prosper through financial planning for over 60 years. To connect with us, visit sdtplanning.com today and take your financial wellness to new levels. Join us on the next episode of the Prosperous Doc Podcast.