Making the Case for Physician Creativity

by Coach Jill Farmer and Coach Gabriella Dennery MD | Physician Coaching, Podcast, Work Life Balance

Making the case for physician creativity.


“Really it’s beyond just artistic expression, everybody is a creative in their own unique way.” -Coach Gabriella Dennery MD

In today’s podcast, Coach Gabriella Dennery MD and Master Certified Coach Jill Farmer make the case for creativity for physicians. Maybe you think you aren’t creative because you don’t think you are artistic in any of the usual ways. The Coaches tell us it’s time to rethink what being creative means. Coach Gabriella Dennery MD tells us that we are all creative! She points out that creativity originates from making free time. Time to let our minds wander and to relax. Master Coach Jill Farmer explains why doing this is so important in our efforts to THRIVE in our lives. Join us, and set aside the critical time to let yourself be creative today! 

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Podcast produced by: Amanda Taran

Please enjoy the full transcript below

Gabriella: Really, it’s beyond just artistic expression. Everybody is creative in their own unique way.

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Jill: Hi, and welcome to DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast. I’m Jill Farmer, life coach at DocWorking joined by Gabriella Dennery, MD, life coach extraordinaire as well. And we are going to be talking now about the case for creativity. So, Gabriella, tell us why creativity matters and why it matters specifically for physicians.

Gabriella: Oh, my goodness. Well, where do I begin, the case for creativity? Well, let’s look at what that is. It’s the ability to give yourself space and time to rest. Because that’s really what creativity is. It’s not necessarily a new invention or okay, I have to come up with something now. That’s not creativity. Creativity really is a place to rest. It’s a place of mindfulness, it’s a place of joy, it’s a place of making something that has absolutely no sense. 

I bumped into an article recently on entrepreneur about calm, and they were talking about how Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs were the masters of what they call, no time. So, Steven Kotler, I think the author of The Art of the Impossible talks about that. About how it was important to literally do nothing to have those stretches of time when it’s okay to daydream. And Einstein always said that his best ideas came in those moments of no time. When it was isolated time, time for himself. Of course, it’s easy when you have other people taking care of certain things for you. It’s not always practical if the load is on you, but even for a few minutes to be able to say, “Hey, you know what? In my no time space, I don’t have to do anything in particular, think anything in particular, try to figure anything out in particular,” and physicians, we are DIY type of people, we’re fixed type of people, or people who are creative at the outset, because we’re decision makers, and we’re people who can come up with solutions very, very quickly. 

Jill, and our listeners, imagine being those times where you remembered where you did absolutely nothing, that’s when you got your best ideas. Because that’s what no time allows. It allows for breathing space, it allows for peace, no thought whatsoever, no judgment, no crazy emotions going awry, but simply being in that space where you’re allowed the craziest ideas coming to your head. And that is really, I think, essential for physicians’ life to create those pockets of mindfulness, and essential for replenishing and for finding other sources of inspiration. 

So, especially, when the work can become a little rote sometimes, just going from patient-to-patient and going from room-to-room or telehealth-to-telehealth appointment, whatever that may be making sure the paperwork is up to date and getting all of those things done. Sometimes, in that space of no time, when you’re allowing yourself to just not think of anything, you’ll find the best ideas possible. So, that would be the case for creativity, a space for new ideas, a space for rest, a space for mindfulness. What do you think, Jill?

Jill: I love all of that because you’ve reminded us that creativity is necessary and I’ll even enhance it. The brain needs that space for creativity. It’s just good for the way that the brain works, and it works well is to allow some space to think not just in that purely logical sense way that we’re used to thinking, but to think outside of the box, and to let some new neural pathways form and things to connect to each other on those brain maps that we have imprinted on our brain. 

I was somebody for a long time that would have said to you, oh, I’m not creative, right? Because, I had miss associated for a long time, and it was my fault. It’s what culture told us to do, but miss associate creativity with somebody who’s an artist, or artistic visual arts, or decorating, or things like that. It’s like, “Oh, no, I’m not good at that,” and I tend to be a little bit more left brain and the way that I would think and create, and it was other much wiser than the people who pointed out to me that we all have a need for creativity and that for some people, creative expression is art. But for a lot of other people, it’s all kinds of different things. 

So, for me, conversation can spark creativity, because I’m learning new things and thinking new things, and then I need some time and space as you said, some no time to take inputs and insights from conversations, and my brain is creatively looking at ways to filter that information to share or to increase my wisdom. So, creativity just comes in a lot of different forms. If art is a creative expression for you, that’s amazing, if music is a creative expression for you, that’s incredible, and there are a million other ways that your creativity can be expressed as well. What do you have to say about that?

Gabriella: I think, that’s a great point. Creativity is unique to you [laughs] as individual. It’s really new ideas, new thoughts, new ways of putting things of pieces together. That’s what creativity is. Whether it’s mathematics, engineering, or whether it’s a day at the beach, or whether new activities you can think of really, it’s beyond just artistic expression. Everybody is a creative in their own unique way, and allowing space for that, as they call Steve Jobs, a famous bum for that reason, because he did that. He didn’t know time, but then, it’s in those time periods that he came up with such amazing concepts. 

Now the key, of course, for a good leader is once you have those concepts, putting them into action. But allowing space for them to actually happen, whatever that may be for you, I think, that is probably the most important one of the+ key resting place for any busy professional, any busy doctor, when you’re able to shift from that left brain to engage your right brain in total illogical ways, and that’s how the right brain works. It makes no rhyme or reason sense, but it’s a vital important to be able to not think in, as you said, linear logical ways.

Jill: So, to wrap it up for you guys, creativity is rest, which means, it is a chance for your brain to change channels and recharge itself. It requires space no time as Gabriella said, thanks to the brilliant Steve Jobs gives us that concept. I love that. And creativity is also play. It’s letting yourself play in whatever form is unique to you. That’s where creativity gets to be enhanced and expressed. 

And the more time you make for creativity, the more enhanced often your work will be. Because it really does play in to giving you the skills to problem solve, to think outside of the box in a variety of different situations. So, it’s not just something that you squeeze into your spare time. I think, when we prioritize it and elevate its importance to where it needs to be, it really does enhance our lives and help us to thrive. And with that, we hope that you go out and be creative, my friends, because it is our deepest intention that all of you thrive. On behalf of Gabriella Dennery, MD, I’m Jill Farmer, and you have been listening to DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast.

Jen: We physicians are lonely. There’s nobody at work or at home that we can talk to about how we feel and the experiences that we’ve had. What if there was a community of like-minded physicians, coaches, and mentors who you could just be yourself around. Having this kind of support will be your secret weapon to having a balanced life that you can enjoy again. If that sounds appealing to you, our program DocWorking THRIVE maybe just for you. Please check us out It’s D-O-C-W-O-R-K-I-N-G dotcom or email me, [email protected] 

[DocWorking theme]

Amanda: This is Amanda Taran. I’m the producer of DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast. Please don’t forget to like, and subscribe, and thank you for listening. [DocWorking theme]


Jill Farmer is an experienced physician coach who has been helping doctors live their best lives, increase their success, and move through burnout for well over a decade.

She has delivered keynotes, programs, and training everywhere from Harvard Medical School to the American College of Cardiology.

She has personally coached hundreds of physicians, surgeons, and other busy professionals to help them be at their best—without burning themselves out. Her coaching has supported professionals at places like Mass General Brigham in Boston, Washington University in St. Louis, Northwestern University in Chicago and too many others to list.

Jill wrote the book on time management for busy people. Literally. It’s called “There’s Not Enough Time…and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves” which debuted as a bestseller on Amazon. Her work has been featured everywhere from Inc. to Fitness Magazine to The Washington Post.

Nationally recognized as a “brilliant time optimizer and life maximizer,” Jill will cut straight to the heart of your stress to liberate you from its shackles. She has two young adult daughters. She lives with her husband and their poorly behaved dachshund in St. Louis, MO.

Life Coach Gabriella Dennery, MD OMD is passionate about helping busy physicians rediscover the joy of their calling. She draws on her training as a physician, a musician, and an ordained non-denominational minister in addition to health & wellness and life coaching to offer professionals from all walks of life the benefit of her broad experience and deep insights.

You can find Gabriella as one of the co-creators of STAT: Quick Wins To Get Your Life Back.

The daughter of a psychiatrist mother and a neurosurgeon father, both from Haiti, Gabriella and her five siblings were expected to choose from five noble callings: Medicine, Dentistry, Engineering, Law, or Agronomy (caring for the delicate soil of Haiti).

Gabriella, an innately gifted healer and teacher, chose Medicine and graduated with honors from Howard University College of Medicine, “The Mecca.” Following her residency in internal medicine at Duke University Medical Center, Gabriella moved to New York City to serve as an attending physician and clinical instructor in Harlem and later as medical director and attending physician at SUNY Downstate Bedford-Stuyvesant satellite clinic in Brooklyn.

Her greatest joy as a primary care physician was supporting her patients, shepherding them to Aha moments, and nurturing positive shifts in perspective that measurably improved their health and wellbeing–a strength that makes Gabriella so effective as a coach.

After more than ten years of practicing internal medicine, Gabriella chose to explore the integration of medicine, music, and ministry to promote better health of her fellow physicians by becoming a physician coach. She successfully coaches physicians to prevent and/or navigate through physician burnout, reach career and personal goals, clarify and take actionable steps to achieve their own personal vision, and is well known for helping doctors at all stages of their careers, from students to residents/fellows to practicing physicians. She maintains her work-life balance by playing percussion and violin, composing music, and enjoying a very fun and fulfilling marriage.

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