Podcast Episode 25 | Non-Clinical Career Options with the Doctor's Doctor

With Michelle Mudge-Riley

About the Prosperous Doc® Podcast

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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Michelle Mudge-Riley:  00:00                I never thought I was an entrepreneur or interested or even good at business. In fact, I shied away from it.

Intro:                            00:10                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:                00:28                Welcome back to another episode of the Prosperous Doc Podcast. Shane Tenny here and glad as always to have you with us. As I get ready to introduce today's guest, I want to share a little story with you because just about three weeks ago, I was in a conversation with a client of our firms and in that conversation, he confided that he's exhausted, being in clinical medicine. He's discouraged after 15 years, he's finding himself trying to take fewer and fewer shifts each month and even though he knows it's to the detriment of his own income, he's looking at just the quandary of, is there anything else I could be doing and still make an adequate income? Or am I just forced to grind it out for another decade or two until I have enough money to retire?

Shane Tenny:                01:24                And it's a really, really hard spot to be in, and perhaps one that you can relate to, or your friends or your colleagues that you know might be feeling similarly. And so with that background, at least in my mind that I'm really excited to introduce today. A friend who has been called the doctor's doctor, Dr. Michelle Mudge-Riley is with us today. She's clinically trained as a physician, has a background as health administration and a little over a decade or 15 years ago or so transitioned out of clinical medicine to start her organization called Physicians Helping Physicians specifically geared at coaching and working with docs who are looking for alternatives to clinical medicine. And so I really hope this conversation is going to be an encouragement to you, if this is a topic that kind of resonates for you, or it's a conversation that you'll find helpful to pass along to someone that you might know.

Shane Tenny:                02:25                So Michelle, thanks so much for your time and connecting with us today.

Michelle Mudge-Riley:  02:30                Thanks for having me, I'm excited.

Shane Tenny:                02:32                Absolutely. I know it's been a couple of years since we even did an event together for clients. And so I'm looking forward to catching up with you and just knowing what's been going on in the last couple of years.

Michelle Mudge-Riley:  02:41                Sounds good, yeah.

Shane Tenny:                02:42                So let's just put the punchline right at the top of the episode here, you spent all the time, energy effort and expense training to become a physician. And now you're not practicing as a doc. What caused that transition in your background?

Michelle Mudge-Riley:  02:59                Yeah, so you're asking, do I feel like I wasted all that training basically, which yeah I've been asked before and I've wondered myself. So I actually left about 16 years ago and it's hard to believe it's been so long now, but I get asked this question quite a bit because now it's a lot easier to talk about leaving clinical medicine or doing something non-clinical, whether it's full time or as a side hustle or however you want to do it. But when I was transitioning, it really wasn't something that people talked about. So when I realized that direct patient care really wasn't something I wanted to spend the next 40 or 50 years doing, I felt like a huge failure and I didn't know what to do.

Michelle Mudge-Riley:  03:56                So I floundered around for a while and did a bunch of different jobs. I worked for a medical device company, I worked in health administration, I got another couple degrees, that I'm always asked about that too. Should I get another degree? Is that something that doctors do in order to move into health administration or to do something a little bit different? And we can talk about that today, but suffice to say that none of those degrees were really the panacea.

Michelle Mudge-Riley:  04:30                I did end up at a brokerage firm as their director of wellness and medical management, and that was a really cool job. But what that did was that helped me realize that I wasn't a failure just because I didn't want to do the thing that I had gone to school for and trained for, for so long that there are a lot of different ways that we can be a doctor in this world and add value and use our skills, use our education, use our wisdom, and just the fact that most of us as physicians are really intelligent. We can use all of those things in other ways, and still do so much for the world

Shane Tenny:                05:11                Back up to the beginning of your journey in medicine. Why did you choose to go into medicine? Was that a lifelong dream for you? Or what were you expecting, when you were 20, of your career?

Michelle Mudge-Riley:  05:23                Yeah, yeah. So lifelong dream of mine. As most physicians, I had wanted to be a doctor since I was in the fourth grade or something and never really looked at anything else. So throughout school I did well in school, like all of us, and that train continued to go. I continue to jump through the hoops and successfully make it through, and so I get to the next place and that's pretty common for us as physicians.

Michelle Mudge-Riley:  05:53                And one of the other things is we don't really learn about what our other options are, what else is out there because we have to be so focused on getting to med school and then getting through med school and then getting into a residency and then getting through residency and then our job. And it's just one thing after another, and we miss a lot of the key milestones that allow us to learn things that might really be helpful outside of the hospital or clinic or wherever it is that you might practice as a physician.

Shane Tenny:                06:25                And you started in practice working with patients. Can you help us feel a little bit of just what the emotional journey was that you went through during those years, as you kind of began to come to grips with the reality of this isn't the calling that I'm going to stay on for the rest of my career?

Michelle Mudge-Riley:  06:43                Yeah. Well, so I am a little bit different in that I left very early in my career and I knew as early as medical school that direct patient care wasn't the path that I wanted to be on. So I thought pathology would be a perfect fit for me because I would still get to use my interest in medicine and all of the things that come with medical training, but yet not have to do H and P's, which is something that I never liked even in med school. And I've heard that from other people too, that they never really enjoyed that, but then there are other physicians who love patient care and have always loved it, but at some point in their careers realized, this has been wonderful, but is there more or what else could I possibly do to maybe give the other side of my brain, a little bit of stimulation or something like that?

Michelle Mudge-Riley:  07:45                So, anyway, when I was young, early in my training, I realized, I think that I just want to explore something else. So I went to the two places that we all know as doctors, our options, the Dark Side Insurance and Medical Device and Pharma. And I started exploring my options there, ended up getting job offers in all three of those different areas. How? I have no idea, really, probably just, I asked enough people and it ended up being a numbers game. So someone had to say yes, but I did take the job in the Medical Device field, and from there just learned a lot about the world.

Michelle Mudge-Riley:  08:28                And I think that's pretty common too, as physicians, once we kind of get out of that clinical environment, whether you're in direct patient care or you're in a lab or some other setting, and you start to realize everything else that's out there and learn about it and start to gain some more skills. You see that there's more and more and more, and you build on that and that helps you grow both personally and professionally.

Shane Tenny:                08:56                I mean you're bringing up, I think a really interesting aspect of just what is required to get into medicine is an extraordinary level of focus. But the cost of that focus is what you're describing is not a lack of awareness around what the other alternatives are. And it sounds like in some ways that the fog didn't even lift for you until you were actually in that other environment and began to see what else is possible. Is that a fair statement?

Michelle Mudge-Riley:  09:25                It is, yeah. And also gain some of the skills that I needed. I think that's another thing that we miss out on our skills, like interviewing, writing a resume, being able to give our elevator pitch to someone about who we are and hopefully encouraging the other person to want to talk to us again, all of these little nuance skills that we just never even think about or much less have a chance to develop when we are going through school and training and then in practice. So, yeah, I think that once you realize what's out there, you then realize how much more is out there.

Shane Tenny:                10:06                Looking back since we're talking 15, 16 years ago, I guess you said as your older and wiser self now, what do you wish you'd known then that you now realize that might've been encouraging or supportive or whatever? If you could, I guess talk to your younger self now, what would you say?

Michelle Mudge-Riley:  10:24                Yeah, so there's two big things. One, that no, I was not a failure for wanting to do something a little bit different and two, how many options were really available to me. I think as doctors, because we aren't taught that it's okay to want more than just practicing as clinical physicians, we tend to feel like maybe that's not okay. And so then that inhibits us from seeing all of those different options. But I mean, the sky's the limit really. And I probably did not pursue enough back when I was young and had tons of energy and could stay up all night. Although I never have been someone who could stay up all night, I could put all of that into another job, and because I didn't know what all my options were. I feel like although the things worked out for me, it would have been even better had I known that.

Shane Tenny:                11:26                And you started down this path of non-clinical work using your training. And then talk a little bit about where the idea of starting your own organization, Physicians Helping Physicians came about.

Michelle Mudge-Riley:  11:42                That was a pure accident. I never thought I was an entrepreneur or interested or even good at business. In fact, I shied away from it, that's part of the reason I went to medical school because I didn't want to be in business. As a child and as a young adult, I saw a lot of negative things about business that I felt like I really didn't want to be involved in. So as I kind of figured out my path, I just started talking about my story, and the interesting thing is this, this is before there were other resources out there and it was talked about more. I realized that it was okay and people were interested in my story and other people started to find me.

Michelle Mudge-Riley:  12:29                So I would have my story published in various trade magazines, and then I would get invited to speak at conferences and because of those things, other doctors would reach out to me and say things like, "Wow, how did you do that? I would really like, like to try something other than clinical practice, but I'm not even sure where to start, or I didn't know that was okay. Or can you help me?" And so I just started helping them with the things that helped me. So things like writing a resume. I mean, I went to Barnes & Noble and saw like a hundred books on the bookshelf and I didn't even know what a good resume looked like. I just started copying just random resumes. I mean, it was a disaster.

Michelle Mudge-Riley:  13:13                So when after I figured it out and I figured out a little bit more out about things like that, I could help these doctors with doing those things in the right way and how to network and how to talk about yourself and how to approach people and how to follow up, and so when they followed my advice, they were getting jobs at Medical Device companies and CROs and pharma and in medical writing and all of these different things, it was really, really neat.

Michelle Mudge-Riley:  13:42                So at some point I was spending a lot of time doing that. And so I said, "Hey, I charge for this at one point." And the physician was like, "Okay, great." And I'm like, "Okay, great." And so, boom I had a business. That was like 2008, 2009, I just started doing a lot of coaching. I hated calling myself a coach because I felt like it's just a wild wild West industry and anyone can throw out their shingle and as a doctor we're so evidence-based, it just didn't feel good.

Michelle Mudge-Riley:  14:11                So I called myself a mentor, but the more doctors I helped to get these jobs, and then that would snowball into getting others jobs because those doctors would then give other doctors that came to me jobs. So it just became this business. And in 2019, I brought everyone together in a conference type setting, had my first conference, this was after actually we had that event you and I back in 2017, I think. We had a much bigger event in Austin. And all the doctors that came, talked about what they were doing that was non-clinical, and those who were interested in learning more came and heard them and it was kind of just a big party, really. It's again, snowballed into this conference, which is now virtual because of COVID.

Shane Tenny:                15:02                Right, right. Yeah, you're the accidental entrepreneur, I guess is the other byproduct.

Michelle Mudge-Riley:  15:07                Right, right.

Shane Tenny:                15:07                Now I want to take a break in just a minute but let me ask you one more question in here. When you talk with someone or you get a call from someone and they say, "Heard about you, I'm kind of frustrated, wondering if I should do something else." And there's kind of the fork in the road presented, which on the one hand is you should find, explore and kick the tires on non-clinical alternatives to use your training. You need to go somewhere else and look around and open your horizons, or why don't you look at changing some of the circumstances that are causing stress? Let me coach you up and coach you into creating a better environment for yourself. What are the symptoms or the factors or how do you kind of parse out those two kind of scenarios or is it by the time they come to you that you pretty much need to leave?

Michelle Mudge-Riley:  15:58                Yeah, that's a great question because I do work with physicians on both ends of the spectrum and both of those populations also attend the conference that I put on and it's really an individual thing. So when someone comes to me, really the most important thing is for me to hear their story and to talk with them and to provide a safe place for them to kind of talk some things out, because ultimately at the end of the day, each person sort of knows which path they need to take.

Michelle Mudge-Riley:  16:27                They just need some help walking down that path, and it's not up to me to tell them what that path is. It's up to me to hold out my hand and help guide them down the path that they need to go down, whether it's changing their environment, going part-time, going to a different practice, changing some stressors, things like that versus really exploring a non-clinical career side hustle.

Shane Tenny:                16:51                Yeah, as you're describing that I'm thinking of the business book called Who Moved My Cheese. I'm not sure if you're familiar with it, but often you kind of know in your gut what you need to do. I just need somebody to give me the courage to do it, and I think that's really a lot of the relationship that you form with people.

Michelle Mudge-Riley:  17:07                Yes.

Shane Tenny:                17:08                Yep. All right. I've got a couple more questions, because I want to know what's going on recently with you. We'll be back right after this break.

Will Koster:                   17:19                I'm Will Koster bringing you this episode's Financial Wellness Tip. Have you taken care of your financial foundation? When's the last time you made sure the basics of your financial house were in order? One of the most important aspects of a solid financial foundation is insurance, home, auto and umbrella liability insurance, as well as life and disability insurance are extremely important for physicians and dentists.

Will Koster:                   17:49                Applying for life and disability insurance is common towards the beginning of your career to make sure you have these policies in place before your health changes or you become older, and the cost of the policies increase substantially. Many times the importance of these policies is underrated and unfortunately, if you wait until you have health issues, it may be too late to apply. Insurance carriers can be very particular when it comes to issuing policies and the risks they will cover. Remember to review your insurance policies frequently, to make sure they remain adequate based on the changes in your life. For example, the $1 million umbrella liability policy you applied for when graduating from training may not be enough to protect your growing assets now that you've been in practice for a few years.

Will Koster:                   18:42                Take this as a reminder to reevaluate the foundation of your financial plan, and make sure that it's in order and meets the needs of your changing life circumstances. For this episode's financial wellness tip I'm Will Koster.

Shane Tenny:                19:02                All right, so we're here with Dr. Michelle Mudge-Riley talking about her work in Physicians Helping Physicians. Michelle, you mentioned right before the break, the conference that you started in 2019. I know you've been ramping up your social media over the last couple of years. Just putting a lot more, I guess, just energy into reaching out. For folks that are active in social media or trying to promote their own brand, can you talk a little bit about what that strategy has been like and how it's helped you kind of grow your business?

Michelle Mudge-Riley:  19:35                Sure. Although I'm not really sure what strategy you're talking about because I am not good at social media.

Shane Tenny:                19:42                The strategy of we seem to keep seeing you everywhere.

Michelle Mudge-Riley:  19:44                I don't know how that's happening, I think people are just talking about the conference and talking about the safe place where they can get some help figuring out what it is they want to do, and then doing that thing. So social media is a great thing and it's a horrible thing at the same time. It's a great thing in that it helps us to connect with people that we might not otherwise have met or heard about. And it can also be a tough place because there can be some intimidation and frankly, bullying and some negative stuff too, where people might feel like failures or not good enough because they see other people doing a lot of the things that they feel like they should be doing.

Michelle Mudge-Riley:  20:28                So my goal is really just to get the message out to other physicians and other professionals, frankly, who are looking at a career transition and feeling like maybe something is wrong with them because they don't want to practice clinically as a doctor or a dentist, same thing or an attorney, same thing, PhD, same thing. That there are a lot of different populations of people that go through a lot of school and training and then may realize at some point, this is not what I thought it was.

Shane Tenny:                21:00                And the event you started last year, you labeled the NEXT Conference. Tell us a little bit about the name and what you put into it?

Michelle Mudge-Riley:  21:10                Yeah, so this event is for physicians who are exploring or currently looking at a nonclinical career. So NEXT stands for Non-clinical EXit Transition and it is just really a safe place to find out more about all aspects of non-clinical stuff, whether it's options for those people who are looking at a full-time or a part-time job, whether it's side gigs or side hustles or whatever you call it, it's a place where people can meet other physicians who have done these things already and then get some help on their path.

Michelle Mudge-Riley:  21:51                Part of what I found was a limitation, and a lot of the coaching that I was doing was that I'm just one person in one perspective. And when you're getting multiple perspectives from multiple people who have already done the thing that you want to do, or have maybe tried to do the thing that you want to do, it helps you to better figure out what your path is going to be towards that either goal or helps you change your goal, because you realize maybe there's something different, something better that I could do instead.

Shane Tenny:                22:25                And your conference, I guess, conference is the right word that you hosted last year in Austin, I think it was?

Michelle Mudge-Riley:  22:33                Yep.

Shane Tenny:                22:33                Was a live in-person event. Clearly the environment's changed now and you're still hosting it this year, but of course, all virtual. Tell us a little bit about how you've pivoted and what the 2020 offering is?

Michelle Mudge-Riley:  22:46                So in 2019, we had one event and it was in-person. There were 81 physicians there, all of them said that they would come back and bring a friend. So after that in person conference, I was exhausted and I wasn't sure I would do it again, but others convinced me to indeed plan another conference and then COVID hit, and I thought, you know what? This is going to be better virtual anyway, because one of the limitations of an in-person conference is that you have to be there in person.

Michelle Mudge-Riley:  23:18                You have to travel and all the headaches that come with that, there's lot more fees involved because the conference has to be more expensive and you have to pay to get there. So I completely changed the way that we were going to deliver it and found a cool new technology that would enable networking and presentations, because networking is such an important part of just looking at non-clinical stuff. You have to talk to people and hear their stories and have them meet you

Michelle Mudge-Riley:  23:45                So I found a way to do that, and we decided to break the conference into three different sections. So people could come to the one that they felt more drawn to, or they could come to multiple events. We just finished the July event, which is what to consider next, and that's really for physicians who are thinking about a non-clinical transition, but not really sure what that means or really what to do. And that was a six day long event, all virtual with replays included because who can sit through a six day type of an event. Now it wasn't 24 hours back to back to back to back. We only had it a couple hours each day, but nonetheless, I mean, there's work, you got to do stuff, you got to take care of your family.

Michelle Mudge-Riley:  24:30                So that was a huge success, and we have an even bigger one planned for September. I think we'll have even more than a hundred physicians there, and that is really in depth information about your options. So different physicians who have transitioned to something non-clinical, whether it's part-time or full-time, or just a side thing, we'll talk about what they did, how they did it, how you can do it, what resources are to really explore it and give support and advice to those who are thinking about something else.

Michelle Mudge-Riley:  25:02                The last portion is in November where I've pulled together a bunch of really great coaches that are out there, physician coaches who will meet with all the attendees in small group settings and talk about things like resume negotiation, elevator pitch, the emotional aspects of transition, all these different things that people will hire a coach and pay them thousands of dollars for they can get for hundreds of dollars and they can get multiple perspectives. So we're really excited about it.

Shane Tenny:                25:31                And since the sessions this year are virtual and replay is available. For somebody listening now who missed the July session, can they register and be able to listen and participate in the, what happens next?

Michelle Mudge-Riley:  25:44                Absolutely.

Shane Tenny:                25:45                Okay.

Michelle Mudge-Riley:  25:46                Yep, replays are available. There's all sorts of ways to get them the information. So I never want someone to be limited by the fact that maybe they missed a session or they couldn't attend. There are always ways to get this information.

Shane Tenny:                25:59                That's awesome, and so let's go ahead and make a shameless plug for people that want to learn more about the next conference, whether the July, the September and the November one, where do they go to get the information or sign up?

Michelle Mudge-Riley:  26:10                Yeah. So my website and I'm sure that'll be posted in the show notes is www.phphysicians.com or you can just Google Physicians Helping Physicians, all the information is there under the virtual events tab, you can see where the July schedule is and was and purchase replays there. You can look at the September schedule, you can look at the November schedule. So all of that is currently posted online.

Shane Tenny:                26:39                Yep, absolutely. And as you said, we'll definitely have the link in the show notes but again, you can just Google Physicians Helping Physicians find Michelle's website and register through there. Michelle, before we wrap up, you've got the event that can help a large group and give people a chance to network together. Talk a little bit about though the work that you do, just one on one with people. What's that like? And how does that work?

Michelle Mudge-Riley:  27:00                Yeah, so it's a really powerful experience for people. And actually I don't do as much of it as I like to do anymore because I have gotten so busy with the conference, but I still do a limited number of sessions with various people, coaching them on their unique situation and how to reach their goals. Currently I'm working with a woman who is at an academic medical center and she's kind of mid-career looking for something somewhat bigger, more of a leadership position, but also on her terms.

Michelle Mudge-Riley:  27:39                So we're looking at kind of a dual role for her partially non-clinical and partially clinical. I'm also working with someone who was in practice for 20 years in internal medicine and just was totally burned out and ready for a change in something different. He worked in all different settings, so he tried it all and he found me, and so now we're looking at a number of different non-clinical things for him. There's always a plan A, plan B, plan C, plan D so what he ends up doing, I don't know. What this other woman ends up doing, maybe you can have me back in six to eight months and I can tell you. But I will tell you that there's never a, well, I guess you can't be helped or I guess we've gotten to the end of this and there's nothing else. No, there's always something else, another option, another thing to pursue, if the first few ideas aren't working out to help someone reach their goals.

Shane Tenny:                28:42                That's excellent. And as we wrap up, what's your suggestion to someone listening today that is feeling this is totally where I am. I'm frustrated, exhausted, burned out, and I can feel that I got to change course completely. What's your good word to them?

Michelle Mudge-Riley:  29:00                I would say the worst thing you can do is to lose confidence in yourself and to settle. I was there and I really had a hard time because I didn't have anyone mentoring me or helping me. So there's no shame in sort of looking at what's out there, what the options are. You don't have to make any commitments, but the biggest and most important thing is don't lose confidence in yourself, and you're not a failure. We aren't taught this stuff in med school or training or practice and there are a lot of people who aren't going to be willing to talk about it with you, but come see our space, Google Physicians Helping Physicians and then lurk a while, look around and see if maybe there's something else that can give you some hope again.

Shane Tenny:                29:49                Excellent. Thanks so much for being with us today.

Michelle Mudge-Riley:  29:51                Thanks for having me.

Shane Tenny:                29:53                Thank you for joining us for another episode of the Prosperous Doc Podcast. Appreciate you being here, we've got more episodes queued up in the coming weeks. If you'll look in the show notes, you'll see the direct link to Physicians Helping Physicians. You'll also see in there a link to our newsletter each week, we send out a newsletter, a little preview for you, the upcoming guests we have, topics we've covered any supporting collateral or material that you can download. If you'd like to sign up for that, it's in the show notes. And as always, we welcome your reviews through iTunes or Google Play and if you have any suggestions for guests or questions or feedback, you can email me directly. It doesn't even have to go through our podcast producing team. My email is shane@whitecoatwell.com. Thanks for listening, we'll see you back here next time.

Outro:                          30:43                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.