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OB/GYN Career – “A Birthday Party Every Single Day” (Interview)

by Marc Luber

An OB/GYN career is incredibly rewarding and demanding. How to become an OB/GYN is discussed in today’s career videos.

Obstetricians are physicians who deliver babies. Gynecologists are physicians who specialize in treating diseases of the female reproductive organs. Obstetrics and gynecology are commonly combined medical specialties, creating the medical practice of obstetrician / gynecologist, often referred to as OB/GYN or OBGYN. Like today’s guest tells us, an OB/GYN gets to go to “a birthday party every single day”.

SHORT VERSION       (Full Episode below)

Internal Medicine Dr.
Holistic Health Careers
Medical Careers

Today’s Guest

Dr. Carmen Woods Hollowell: DoctorWoodsOnline
Medical School: Meharry Medical School in Nashville, TN
Medical Residency:Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Center in Chicago, IL
College Major: Biology
College: Spelman College in Atlanta, GA
High School: Highland Park High School in Highland Park, IL
First Job Ever: Retail at a stationery store
Worst Job Ever: Telemarketing for AARP selling insurance plans

Today’s guest is Chicago-area OB/GYN Dr. Carmen Woods Hollowell, who compares her OB/GYN career to being a detective and explains that there really is no typical day for an OB/GYN. She cautions that if you’re the type of person who likes a set and structured lifestyle, then being an obstetrician gynecologist is not for you – babies do not arrive at a set time! If you can handle all that, you’re in luck – Dr. Carmen says there are definitely OB/GYN jobs out there because there aren’t a lot of obstetrician gynecologists! You just have to find the right fit for your OB/GYN career.

Don’t miss our Medical Career Resources to find great books and websites on this topic. For info on the pregnancy calendar and all things pregnancy-related, be sure to check out Pregnancy.org. Click here to see Dr. Carmen talk about African American employment and the role that being an African American woman has played in her life and her career.

How To Become An OB/GYN

In the Full Episode below, Dr. Carmen walks us through the long road of how to become an OB/GYN, starting with the selection of your high school and college classes. She advises to get a well-rounded background and not just be a science robot. She discusses the importance of getting good grades, studying hard for the MCAT, selecting a medical school, applying to medical school, getting in to medical school, going to a 4-year med school (or a 6-year program that combines undergrad with med school), selecting a practice focus, the 4-5 year (or possibly 2-8 year) residency phase where you develop your confidence, plus the Board exams and continuing education, obstetrics and gynecology salaries, and finally finding employment so you can start your OBGYN career.


For our Audio Podcast: Careers Out There on iTunes


What Does an OB/GYN Do 1:11-5:11
Most Rewarding Part of OBGYN Jobs 5:11-6:11
How To Become An OBGYN 6:11-14:49
Income for OBGYN Jobs 14:49-17:50
Personality & Skills For OBGYN Career 17:50-20:04
Lifestyle for OBGYN Jobs 20:04-23:10
Challenges of OBGYN Career 23:10-25:37
Guest Dr. Woods’ Path into OB/GYN 25:37-28:27
Private Medical Practice vs Working For A Hospital 28:27-30:09
How To Find OBGYN Jobs 31:54-33:36
Keys To Success For OBGYN Career 33:36

Careers Out There Host Marc Luber: Hey – what’s up everyone – welcome to Careers Out There. I’m your host Marc Luber and we are helping you find a career that fits you! Today we’re going to talk to an obstetrician/gynecologist – an OB/GYN for short. OB/GYNs are doctors who specialize in caring for women and they also handle the exciting delivery of babies.

Our guest is Dr. Carmen Woods Hollowell of Park City, IL and Lindenhurt, IL. This one’s fun for me b/c Carmen and I have been friends forever – literally since sitting next to each other in the 1st grade! She gives a ton of great information about how to become an OB/GYN, what it’s like to be an OB/GYN, and all kinds of useful advice for anyone interested in this exciting and demanding field.

Be sure to leave us your feedback in the comments section so we can make sure we’re helping you! Enjoy meeting Carmen!

Dr. Carmen Woods Hollowell, thank you so much for joining us at Careers Out There.

Dr. Carmen Woods Hollowell: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Luber: Let’s dive right in, let’s get to the stuff that people at home that are watching right now are wondering. There’s so many different careers out there. You’ve chosen to be an obstetrician gynecologist. Tell us, I think a lot of us know the main thing that you do – you help bring life into the world. That’s an incredible responsibility.

Dr. Carmen Woods Hollowell: It is.

Luber: And an amazing one. Talk about that and the role that that plays for you in your career.

Dr. Carmen Woods Hollowell: It is an amazing career. I’m one of the few people who can say that I go to a birthday party every single day. I’m at a party every day all day, which is a wonderful thing but it bears with it a lot of responsibilities as well. My job entails taking care of women and only women throughout their entire reproductive spans, from when they’re young women and adolescents, child bearing age, then when they’re older, middle aged, pre-menapausal, until they’re elderly. So I take care of people the entire spectrum.

Luber: What is that care? Other than delivering babies, which is the big thing everyone thinks about, what are the other responsibilities you have?

Dr. Carmen Woods Hollowell: Anything that a woman would have that’s unique to her, be it hormonal, be it physical, physiological, it pretty much is the entire spectrum.

Luber: OK, walk us through a typical day. What is a normal day for someone who does what you do?

Dr. Carmen Woods Hollowell: That’s a great question b/c there is no such thing as a normal day, which is why I like it. Because my day could start off in surgery, operating on a patient with a cyst or an abnormal mass or a problem, I could then go into a delivery, we then have office responsibilities, and see patients…So it varies day to day, so it’s the kind of job that there isn’t the same thing every day and I like it for that reason.

If you work for a hospital and you’re a hospital-based practice, they will set the tone for you and they will dictate how much time you’re in the office, how much time you’re in the hospital, physically working, and how much time you have off.

When you’re in a private setting, such as myself, which means that I am self-employed, I dictate that schedule.

And the obstetrics portion, or delivering babies, as you can well imagine, you have no control over. So everything else is kind of geared towards that. There’ll be certain days that I’ll operate, certain times that I’ll operate, that’s what we call block time, and then there are times that I’m in the office seeing patients, and that’s a certain amount that is allocated out daily, a certain number of hours daily.

There are some days that it’s all office. And there are some days that it’s all hospital. And there are some days that it’s a combination of the 2. And weekends, for most people, are either no office hours or very short and limited office hours and lots of hospital work.

Luber: What about this? What about the role that intimacy plays in how you view your career? I was thinking recently, because when I talk to doctors I talk about this – I was a recruiter – an executive recruiter for attorneys. And when you’re talking to people about their careers and moving them from one place to another, they’re sharing intimate details about their lives with you, and they’re telling you what work means to them and what they want out of life.

That’s one of the things I liked about what I did. This level of intimacy. What role does it play for you? People are getting naked for you and sharing the most private aspects of their sex lives.

Dr. Carmen Woods Hollowell: Absolutely. And I will tell you that there is nothing more sacred. The people that come to me are telling me their most personal things that they don’t even tell their families, or their spouses, or their loved ones.

So there has to be a level of compassion, there’s a high level of respect, and there’s also a lot of – you have to be able to be very non-judgemental because you’re going to hear lots of things from lots of different people that may not be what you do or the way you were raised or the way you practice things, but it’s not about you – it’s about the patient.

In order to be a good physician, you’ve gotta listen to what they’re telling you and be very private. I’ve seen two sisters in the same day and didn’t tell either one of them that I was seeing their sister.

Luber: That’s important.

Dr. Carmen Woods Hollowell: Yeah.

Luber: What’s your favorite part? What’s the most fun thing? If you were telling someone that’s watching right now that’s not really sure, what’s the most fun and rewarding part about what you do?

Dr. Carmen Woods Hollowell: I think it’s multifactorial. Definitely bringing a new life, and bringing a new member to a family that wanted this child very badly and tried for many years to conceive it – or didn’t – and it was a surprise and a shock to them – and yet, watching that. That’s a wonderful part.

But taking care of families through generations, the day to day, the kind of mundane, seeing somebody every year, hearing about their children – that to me is just as special as the big glow points of delivery and introducing someone to their families. So it’s all special, just in a different way. Some a little more low key.

Luber: We’re going to get into more details about your specific path soon. First I want to talk about in general, OB/GYN. What would you tell people watching right now whether they’re in high school, college or even med school already, what are the things that they could start doing today to kind of prepare themselves for a path like yours?

Dr. Carmen Woods Hollowell: The first thing I would say is you have to be very strong academically and that you have to do well in all of your course work. It isn’t enough to do well in English and not math, or math and not science, or science and not social studies. You have to have a very strong, solid GPA in order to even begin the process. That’s not saying that every course came easily to me – quite the contrary. Some took a lot more hard work than others and some, quite frankly, I just didn’t like. But I knew that was part of the process.

I think that it always benefits you to have a very strong English and literary background, teaching you how to interpret and read things quickly, ingest information, and be able to hold information, being able to write and speak effectively. Communication classes work well because you have to be able to communicate with patients and feel comfortable with people.

I think that most people think of the math and the science and yes, that’s a given, you’re going to get that. But I think sometimes the best doctors are people who are also very good listeners who can express themselves eloquently and who can digest lots of information from lots of different sources and ferret out what’s true and accurate and what is just window dressing.

Luber: So as far as education goes, to be a physician, you have to go to college, to med school, you have to go through a residency program, and at some point you have to choose to be an OB/GYN. Walk us through that process and tell us about each of those steps.

Dr. Carmen Woods Hollowell: You must graduate from high school and do well and go to a 4-year accredited college because you can not get into a medical school without some sort of 4-year degree. But I guess in theory, you could take just the MCAT alone, but they’re going to need to see a college degree and you’re going to have to do well in that.

You’re going to have to take the medical school application test, or aptitude test, the MCAT. It’s fairly rigorous, you study and prepare for that for months. Then once you get an appropriate score you can then apply to medical school with your transcripts.

And the schools like to know what makes you different – they don’t want someone who is a robot. So if you have other interests that make you a more dynamic person – if you’re a photographer, a musician, a writer, a painter, you have to think back on the day, you know, our doctors and physicians were renaissance people. And they were not only people who were scientists, but they were great thinkers. And I think those things make you a stronger person as a whole.

So you bring those things with you when you’re applying to medical school. And then once you get in, medical school is typically 4 or 5 years depending on the type of program. You can go straight through and do medical school and college combined into a 6-year program. I didn’t do that. I did college in 4 years and I did medical school after that, which is an additional 4 y ears. For some people it’s 5 if they do a year of research.

And during that time it’s incumbent upon you to experience as many things as possible to decide what you like. And that’s a difficult process. It’s good to get started on that now.

There are people who are very solitary and quiet and like being by themselves. They are best suited for pathology or radiology where there’s lots of introspection and reflection and not a lot of interaction. And there are people like me who like to talk a whole bunch and so you’re with patients all day long and you’re like a cheerleader and you’re getting people going and you’re a rabble rouser and it’s very wonderful. So I’m a person who likes to meet and see.

There are people who like to deal with important issues at hand and then move on to the next one. And that may be someone who is better suited for surgery. They don’t necessarily need to make and maintain long-term relationships. They’ll come in and fix the problem at hand and then will send you back to your internist or physician who takes care of you and your entire family and then deals with immediate problems as they arise.

So because there’s such a large spectrum, there’s something that’s suited for everyone who has an aptitude for science, and/or math and problem solving. I kind of equate what I do to being a detective. As a matter of fact, that’s one of the things I love about it. It’s like solving a mystery every day.

As a child, I loved Nancy Drew, I loved the Hardy Boys, I loved mysteries. And that’s part of it. I get to solve a different mystery every day. People aren’t the same, they don’t express themselves the same way, and they don’t feel the same thing, like experiencing pain or anything in the same way. We’re all unique. And because of that, I get to really solve something. So I love that. I don’t think I would have done as well as a detective so I turned part of that into medicine and this is what I do.

RESIDENCY – After medical school and you’ve declared what type of doctor you want to do or practice, you are a physician, you have to go through a process called residency. A residency can last anywhere from 2 years to 8 years. An obstetrician gynecologist residency program is traditionally 4 years without sub-specializing. And in that 4 years it teaches you the meat and potatoes, the What you need to know about doing what you do.

There is now a mandatory 80 hour work week that we didn’t have before, which means no one can work more than 80 hours a week. But in that, they break it down over the 4 years in terms of obstetrics and gynecology, high-risk obstetrics, reproductive endocrinology and infertility, gynecologic oncology or cancer surgery, urogynecology, disorders of the female pelvic floor…So there’s a wide range of things that you will get to and be exposed to and learn how to do and treat 7 days a week, 365 days a year for 4 years.

And that part of your life you pretty much have to resolve and resign yourself to just kind of let that go. So the 4 years that you’re a medical student and the 4 or 5 years that you’re a resident, that is all you do and that is what you do in order to get to where you want to be. There really isn’t a lot of time for anything else. So you are pretty much focused on that.

BOARD CERTIFICATION – Once you finish, you then must take a series of examinations called Board Examinations. The board process starts in medical school in order to get your licensure, there’s a Step 1 and Step 2. And then Step 3, once you’re out for a year you take that in order to get your final licensure and DEA number.

And then there are board certifications that you must do that pertain to your specialty. So for an obstetrician gynecologist, or an OB-GYN, we have to take a written examination that happens in our final year of residency.

So after your 4 years of training, that’s all you do day and night, you take a written exam. You have to maintain a minimum score, that’s a very high-marking score, in order to even be allowed the privilege of preparing cases for an oral examination.

Then you prepare cases for 2 years, you submit your case list, it is reviewed by a board of governors so to speak, and if they deem that you have enough varied cases, they will allow you to sit for an oral examination, which is in essence a day long exam where you are grilled by the best in their field on anything and everything that comes to their mind on how you would handle certain situations.

Once you pass that, you are considered board certified.

So the process doesn’t just begin and end after residency. It continues – even now, there’s a thing called maintenance of certification. So every year, you have to maintain that certification. You must do a certain number, outside of hospital-based continuing medical education credits, and American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology based case list and presentation and then there’s more written exams and oral work and the like.

So it really doesn’t end. So on top of your other responsibilities, in order to keep your certification current, you have to do these things to maintain.

Luber: Let’s talk about money. Tell us what kind of money there is today in being an OB/GYN.

Dr. Carmen Woods Hollowell: That’s a great question because when you get to the bottom of it, this is a career and it’s a job and you love what you do, but you have to be remunerated for what you do. And for most people, you’re going to incur a significant amount of loan and debt that you’ll have to pay back. So you’re going to have to find something that can help and encourage you to pay that debt back. Depending on the type of work that you do, sub-specialists as a whole, tend to make more money than primary care.

So let me give you an example. Someone who is a family practitioner won’t make as much money as a neurosurgeon. Part of that is, I don’t want to say expertise and training, because they are all experts in what they do. A lot of it is also the value judgment on how we are remunerated. But people who tend to have more sub-specialty work, tend to make more money. And that varies by region, where you live, some regions are paid more.

Some hospital people are hospital based physicians, so the hospital will pay you a flat salary whether you see 1 person or 1,000 people. It can be anywhere from $80,000 a year to $1 million a year. The scope is that vast.

You’re seeing a lot less $1 million a year though, than you are $80,000 a year in the current climate. So you have to factor that in – the time that it takes, the commitment and the sacrifice that you make, because you are accessible to people 24 hours a day.

That sounds fine in theory, but on holiday when everyone else is done at 5 and you’re still working until midnight and you’re fielding calls and you’re tired and you haven’t seen your family, it makes it hard.

Luber: What are the pay steps along the way, starting with the early days, working kind of towards where you are.

Dr. Carmen Woods Hollowell: I’ve been out now 10 years. So when you start out, traditionally, if you’re going to be in an office-based or a hospital-based practice, those people tend to make a little bit less because they don’t have to assume the same responsibilities as billing or things like that, those remunerations go back to the hospital.

If you’re on your own, you tend to make a little bit more because you’re the one that’s in charge of everything. You will start out anywhere from $80,000 a year to probably about $150,000 a year your first year out. It can go up incrementally from there. The costs are going down, in keeping with the economy and our insurance rates, malpractice rates, so years ago people made more money coming out and maintained that. Now they’ll come out and make $150,000 a year and they’ll maintain that for a good portion of their career.

I think most people will assume that doctors make a lot more than they do. So if people are going into this job to make lots of money, to make the millions, to retire at 35 or 40, it won’t happen. The money starts out fairly humbling – although it will be very well for most Americans – you’ll have a very comfortable life, a very good life, but you certainly won’t be rich by any standard.

Luber: So what is the best personality type for someone who wants to be an OB/GYN.

Dr. Carmen Woods Hollowell: The person that’s best suited for what I do is someone who likes working with people. You have to have a personality. It doesn’t mean you have to be an over-the-top personality, but an obstetrician gynecologist is a very personality-driven practice. Some people like someone who is more low-key and some people like folks who are more gregarious and talkative; but you have to be able to display that personality, whether it’s soft-spoken or fairly fun-loving, to your patients because it is a word of mouth business.

It’s meant for people who can survive on not a lot of sleep. I joke that my husband would make a very poor OB/GYN because he loves to sleep. You have to be able to get up and move and do things at the drop of a dime. You have to be able to handle stressful situations very well. Mind you, that comes with time, how you feel handling stressful situations under the gun. But I live in an area, and practice in a world, where you don’t get do-overs.

So you have to be on all the time and there’s a certain level of pressure that is just unspoken where you are expected to be right all the time, make clear decisions all the time and be able to move on a dime and multitask, have multiple irons in the fire all at the same time. So you have to be a person who can do many things at once, sort of a perfectionist, very task-oriented. I think those are the big things.

Luber: What are the good skills that someone should have if they want to do what you do?

Dr. Carmen Woods Hollowell: Skill sets that can be developed are being orderly in your decision making process, your thought making process, being able to do many things at once, being able to think about many things at once, being able to compartmentalize your thoughts and what you do. As well as have a fairly high energy level and definitely be a hard worker – someone who doesn’t shy away from both mental work and physical work. It’s not for the faint of heart.

Luber: What’s the lifestyle like? Are we talking long days, high stress?

Dr. Carmen Woods Hollowell: Definitely long days, unpredictable days, a very high level of stress, but very rewarding nonetheless. So you have to be a person who likes vast extremes. It can be as frenetic as you can possibly imagine because babies don’t come in a timed frame and, more often at not, at least it seems to me, that they don’t keep banker’s hours. They like to come between 11 at night and 3 in the morning.

And once that comes and the day’s starting then, you don’t go home and just go to bed. You roll right into the next day and you’re gonna be operating all day. And then you’re gonna see patients at night. And you’re gonna come home and you’re gonna do those family things that we do as family: homework, and or school things, which is the phase that I’m in right now.

So you have to be able to kind of just keep going and keep going and keep going because there is no set, structured time. So if you’re a person who likes very set, structured time like, “I need to be here at 9 in the morning and I’m finished by 5 and at 5PM I put my things away and I’m done”, then this is definitely not for you because we don’t get much down time.

You do get it and you make the most of it, but more often than not, it is living near a phone or something where you’re instantly accessible all the time, being ready to be on the go at any given moment.

Luber: Is there a work-life balance?

Dr. Carmen Woods Hollowell: I am married and a mother of 2 small children, and they are 8 and 5. So in order to do that, in all reality, something has to be able to give. You can’t do all things at all times. So I find that I’m someone who very much works very hard and I play very hard. So when it’s work, it’s all work. And when it’s off work, it’s all family. You have to be able to know that you can’t do all things all the time.

Luber: Tell us about the workplace environment. Do people wear whatever they want? Do they have to wear suits? Is it a dressy kind of situation?

Dr. Carmen Woods Hollowell: The hospital and office-based environment should be professional. You should look like a professional because you’re going to people who are entrusting you with their bodies, and there’s nothing more precious than that – and their children. So you need to act and dress accordingly. I mean it is completely appropriate for gentlemen to wear a shirt and slacks, or a button-down and slacks or a shirt and a tie. We traditionally always wear a lab coat, as a matter of tradition, over our clothing.

But as a woman, I’ll wear a dress or slacks or a skirt. I find it inappropriate to wear blue jeans or jogging suits or things of that nature, because it just doesn’t lend to respectability and it doesn’t set the tone for the seriousness of things that you may be discussing.

Luber: Alright, so that we don’t paint too rosy a picture for everybody, what are the biggest challenges of what you do? Let’s weed out some of the people right now who are thinking about doing what you do and let them know what’s the hardest part. If you can’t handle this, you can’t do this.

Dr. Carmen Woods Hollowell: One thing that’s very important to know, if this is a career for you: there are no guarantees. And so there is an expectation, because people have been doing this for thousands and thousands of years, that all births come out smoothly and that all babies are OK.

And the reality of that is it’s not true. And so there is nothing more devastating when, out of life’s normal course of events, despite your best efforts, you can’t save everyone, or when bad things just happen to good people – and sometimes they do, and sometimes you can’t avoid that. And so, especially with what I do, because it’s a new life, there is a huge, wide range: when things are good, they are fantastic. When it is a wonderful delivery and families are happy, there is nothing better. It is amazing. And when there is a loss or something that is devastating, there is absolutely nothing worse.

So you can conceivably, in the same day and time, have the best of all worlds and the worst of all worlds, collide for you at the same time. And being able to manage that emotionally can be quite challenging.

I’d like to give you an example of a story – I have a very dear friend who is on the national network news. When was in Chicago, she was telling me of a bad day that she had. Her bad day consisted of them not putting on her makeup correctly for being on air, for someone giving her some incorrect copy and her dogwalker didn’t show up on time.

And all these things combined just made for her a terrible day because it portrayed her image terribly, she had stumbled and she’s a perfectionist….and I was very quiet….because on that very same day, my very same bad day was vastly different in that I had taken care of someone’s mother who had recently passed away of cervical cancer and I had just seen the patient and did a test and I had to tell her that she had that same affliction – that she had cervical cancer as well. You have to be able to deal with life and death situations.

Luber: Tell us about your personal background.

Dr. Carmen Woods Hollowell: I knew that very early on I wanted something that was not routine, that was personality-driven where I could talk a lot and I could solve something every day. I could be faced with something and figure it out. I like puzzles and I like figuring it out. And I think that’s best suited.

Luber: And when did you make a decision to be an OB-GYN?

Dr. Carmen Woods Hollowell: That was in medical school. I did my residency at Rush Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center in Chicago, IL. And it was at that time that I, prior to coming to Rush, I knew I wanted to be an OB-GYN, but there were many options that I could have taken.

And it was during that time of being exposed to everything that I really had to make my decision. And initially upon starting this, I thought I would do reproductive endocrinology, where most people think of it as infertility work. But I realized in that process that I really liked not only helping people conceive but I liked being there for the delivery. And I liked taking care of their grandmothers, and that was something that I did not want to give up solely by doing that.

So I chose my residency program based on the fact that they had a fellowship in reproductive endocrinology. And going in, that was my path. I was going to go in and finish my residency and then start a fellowship, which is advanced training for 2 years, in infertility.

But I changed my mind mid-course, saying you know what, I think being an OB-GYN, and taking care of everybody, is exactly what I want to do. And that’s how I became where I am. I’m in practice with my father. It’s a father-daughter practice; there are 2 of us. And that was very instrumental in choosing what I do: seeing his self-satisfaction was very important to me, and how he felt about his job.

Luber: You’ve explained that you’re a part of a family practice, working with your family. Tell us about that dynamic and how that plays into your career.

Dr. Carmen Woods Hollowell: So in essence I joined a family business, which has its own special dynamic because when you work with family, no one knows you like family but no one can quite push your buttons like your family can.

It’s a very wonderful and comforting thing knowing that your family has your back at all times, but there’s also a very tight rope you have to walk. You know, when you are in a family business, because you can’t come in and take things over or run them the way that you necessarily would have in your own inception had you started the business on your own. There are certain precedents that are there and you love these people and you’re gonna see them at Thanksgiving and you’re gonna see them at Christmas and at New Years and they’re not going anywhere, nor do you want them to.

So you have to be fairly adept and skilled at knowing your place and being assertive at the same time and exerting your personality. And I’ve found that there’s been nothing more wonderful to me than being a part of a family business.

Luber: Because you have your own practice, that means you’re also an entrepreneur. So in addition to being a doctor, you’re an entrepreneur. How does that impact your whole career?

Dr. Carmen Woods Hollowell: Absolutely. Excellent question. Most people don’t think of that when they’re choosing to go into medicine. They think of just taking care of patients and not the other things that come with it if you so choose.

Being a doctor is a business. People don’t like to think of it as that. You’d like to think of your doctor as just taking care of you, but we have staffs that we have to make sure can feed their families and do things as well, so there is a huge business component. And unfortunately for many physicians, they don’t make very wise business decisions, because it’s only patient care. And maybe that’s what you want, you’re not only thinking about you, but you have to keep the doors open and pay the bills so you have to be able to do many things and wear many hats.

When you’re negotiating with health care plans, trying to negotiate rates, some things you can do and some things you’re kind of held accountable to because of compete clauses or because of restrictive covenants or a whole host of things that you really, coming out of medical school, were not prepared for, didn’t know anything about, and yet are totally binding. There are things with fixed costs that you have no control over, and balancing budgets and budget sheets and making payroll. Do you own your business? Do you own your equipment? Do you lease your equipment?

So these are things that have to take up an enormous part of your day that are completely separate from practicing medicine, they are completely separate from making life and death decisions and they are completely separate from interpersonal and family skills. It’s completely business and task oriented.

That is the route that I chose in owning my own business. Certainly, it has its perks in that you are your business owner and you don’t have to answer to anyone. But there are certain people who may love what they do just for the sake of doing what they do and don’t want to deal with those other pressures of business, because it is a lot. And people who like working a certain way, like taking care of patients, but don’t like the other portion of it, can be a part of a hospital-based practice or a very large group that is managed completely different.

And if you’re a part of a hospital-based practice, the hospital takes care of everything. They do all the billing and receiving and accounts payable and accounts receivable and paying the staff, and you can just do what you do. But you do then have a boss who is going to oversee your productivity and demand certain things of you that you have no control over.

So it’s something you should think very long and hard about: not only what type of medicine you want to do, but what type of setting you want to practice in. More than just am I rural or urban, it’s do I want to be my own boss or do I want to work for someone else.

Luber: So you’ve been practicing for a while now. What’s the next step for you – where do you want to take this?

Dr. Carmen Woods Hollowell: I think that I’d like to do good work. Good quality work. I’d like to do more research. I’d like to continue to help people. I’d like to continue to do more public outreach. And I want to, probably most importantly, raise 2 good human beings. I think that that’s probably the most important thing that I do and the best thing that I do.

Luber: Let’s say I’m watching the video right now and I’ve decided I’m sold. I want to be an OB-GYN.

Dr. Carmen Woods Hollowell: Hooray, I’ve done my job. I’ve brought you to the dark side!

Luber: I want to work for you or I want to work for someone like you. What can I be doing? What should I do if I’m watching this now and I’m sold. I want to do this – maybe I’m already in a residency or I’m in med school – and this is what I want to do. How do I go about doing this?

Dr. Carmen Woods Hollowell: Have strong academics, get your resume as solid as possible, very varied with lots of different things: community service, public service, research, as well as academic involvement. There are recruiters who can guide you to certain practices as well as the director of your residency program. People contact them all the time.

Because of what we do, there’s a very limited number of people coming out who can do what I do. So there’s always somebody looking to find you for a job.

You will definitely find a job. It’s just finding the right fit for you – it’s like a marriage. You’ve got to find the right place for you, but the job is out there because – just sheer numbers – there are not a lot of us if you look at the nation as a whole.

And you can’t become a doctor in a year or 2 years and that’s it. It is a process and it is a culture and I think that’s what makes it very special and unique but also very misunderstood. So what you do when you come out, there will be a job waiting for you, it’s just finding the people to put it together.

Luber: What about the people who are watching that have decided they are sold – they’re gonna go for it – share some keys to success – what are some keys to success that they should keep in mind – just guideposts?

Dr. Carmen Woods Hollowell: Don’t ever give up, be tenacious, know what you want and go after what you want. You can do it. You made it this far. You’re in charge of what you want to do. Decide what kind of place that you want to practice. What kind of setting do you want? Do you want to be in your own business? Do you want to join a big group or a small group? Do you want to be hospital-based or private practice-based?

And once you do that, if you contact hospitals in the area that you know you like, they can guide you to groups who are looking very simply and easily.

Luber: Excellent. That’s good advice for everybody. Dr. Carmen Woods Hollowell, thank you so much for joining us at Careers Out There. As always everybody, real advice from real people. They don’t get any more real than Carmen Woods Hollowell. So thank you again, keep watching Careers Out There and we’ll see you soon.

© 2010 Careers Out There


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