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A Values-Guided Life with Dr. Tamara Beckford

Podcast, by Jen Barna MD, Physician Coaching, Work Life Balance

In today’s episode, Dr. Beckford a board-certified emergency physician, wellness expert, health equity champion, entrepreneur, and speaker shares her journey and tells how she pivoted from the track she was on and who influenced her to go into emergency medicine.

“I have to ensure I balance my opportunities to progress with the ability to ensure that I am fulfilling what my ultimate goal is.” – Dr. Tamara Beckford

In today’s episode, DocWorking Founder and CEO Dr. Jen Barna talks with Dr. Tamara Beckford. Dr. Beckford is a board-certified emergency physician, wellness expert, health equity champion, entrepreneur, and speaker. Dr. Beckford shares her journey and tells how she pivoted from the track she was on and who influenced her to go into emergency medicine. She also shares how she manages to balance it all. Not only is she a busy physician, she is also a mother and a CEO. One of the ways she creates balance is by being a nocturnist. She also tells us how she creates a calm start to her days with her morning routine. Tune in to hear how Dr. Beckford’s values guide her and what she is doing to make her mark in the world. 

Dr. Tamara Beckford is a board-certified emergency physician, wellness expert, health equity champion, and speaker. Dr. Beckford is the CEO of the UR Caring Society where she helps busy professional women put their health and wellness first without guilt. Dr. Beckford is the host of the Docs Who Care Podcast where she interviews doctors from all over the world and discusses common medical conditions in a fun way while skipping all the jargon. Most recently, Dr. Beckford has been on the front lines battling the surge of Covid-19 in the community. Dr. Beckford attended medical school at the University of Medicine and Dentistry (UMDNJ) and completed her residency at Thomas Jefferson in Philadelphia.

You can find Dr. Beckford at the following places: Twitter:https://twitter.com/URcaringdocs  IG:https://www.instagram.com/urcaringdocs/ 

Linkedin:https://www.linkedin.com/in/drtamarabeckford/  FB:https://www.facebook.com/URcaringdocs/   Podcast:www.urcaringdocs.com/docs-who-care

You may also like these episodes: Episode 39 A Work-Life Integration Subspecialty Solution, with Dr. Paula Marfia and Episode 14 Importance of Setting Boundaries

Books mentioned in the show: The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM) by Hal Elrod 

The Miracle Equation: The Two Decisions That Move Your Biggest Goals from Possible, to Probable, to Inevitable by Hal Elrod

Find full transcripts of DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast episodes on the DocWorking Blog 

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Show notes written by Amanda Taran

Episode edited by Albert Antomattei

Please enjoy the full transcript below

Dr. Tamara: I have to ensure I balance my opportunities to progress with the ability to ensure that I am fulfilling what my ultimate goal is. 

[DocWorking theme] 

Jen: Welcome to DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast. I’m Dr. Jen Barna and I’m thrilled today to have with me Dr. Tamara Beckford. Dr. Beckford is a board-certified emergency physician, wellness expert, health equity champion, and speaker. She is the CEO of the UR Caring Society, where she helps busy professional women put their health and wellness first without guilt. Dr. Beckford is the host of the Docs Who Care Podcast, where she interviews doctors from all over the world and discusses common medical conditions in a fun way while skipping all the jargon. Most recently, Dr. Beckford has been on the frontlines battling the surge of Covid-19 in the community. Welcome to DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast, Dr. Beckford and thank you for joining us despite your super busy schedule. I’m so grateful that you’re here. 

Dr. Tamara: Oh, thank you for having me. I’m very, very excited. [giggles]

Jen: Wonderful. I’m so interested in hearing about your life. You’re doing such interesting things and I’d love to know an overview of how you came to be where you are now, even going back to your journey as a pre-medical student?

Dr. Tamara: Wonderful question. It brings us back to memory lane, which is always a fascinating time. My journey into medicine really started with the journey in the love of science. I’ll go back a little bit further before even pre-med to my exposure to medicine. I actually thought I was going to be a pharmacist. I was there doing a summer program, trying to shadow a pharmacist and the pharmacist had no idea what to do with this high school student. They said, “You know what? Let me help you file some medical records in numerical order.” This was the paper chart era for those who remember. I was like, “I don’t know if this is what I want to do.” I think I want to interact with people.

Unfortunately, I was just placed in a little basement with these boxes and I said, “All right, that’s not going to be fun.” I reapplied and I got exposed to medicine, I got exposed to shadowing a doctor and I said, “Oh, this is awesome. I’m talking to people. I really like this.” Then as the years went by, I kept on trying to get exposed to medicine as much as possible and I applied to other programs. Now, as an undergrad, I applied to a program where I was able to shadow physicians, and I was able to shadow emergency medicine physicians. I thought this is fascinating, because first of all, she was a female, and she was pregnant, and she was still in charge, and doing all these wonderful things that you do in emergency medicine and it was a teaching hospital, so she had residents–

I thought that this was wonderful. I’m like, “How did she do this?” If she did all this– She was just a very normal person. She was just easy to approach, she loved what she did, she made it seem as if this is a possible life for you. This is not far-fetched. It’s not fantasy. From then on, I said I think I like emergency medicine. The pace is good, you get to do procedures. Also, of course, in the 20s at that point, very early 20s or teens, you’re like, “Oh, the up and down schedule. This is so cool. I can be off when everyone else is sleeping.” I got that exposure.

While in medical school, I was also exposed to another wonderful physician, Dr. Tiffany Murano. She’s got this wonderful position as either Chair or Assistant Chair at Columbia. But she was just another fascinating doc. She was just very cool. She’s fascinating, she’s funny, she laughs, and she’s just an excellent doctor. Those exposures in my early years really led me to say, “Okay, I think I want to do emergency medicine, because that’s what all the cool people do in medicine.” Also, it’s really led to my personality of being able to interact with people, being able to really help at a very, very quick pace, building that bond in order to really help someone. Because if you think about emergency medicine, 20 minutes ago, you didn’t know who I was. Then I step into the room, and you have to trust me that I’m going to really take excellent care of you, and really get you feeling comfortable or pass you on to the person that can get you there, but really stabilize you. That’s one of the fascinating aspects of emergency medicine that I love and that I work towards being excellent at. 

Jen: Wow, I love the story that your life was so influenced by just a coincidence of meeting a couple of people, who were so in line with what you value. I can imagine that you would be tremendous in any specialty, but it influenced you to go into emergency medicine, which I’m sure has been a phenomenal specialty to choose. How have you worked your schedule out since you’ve been practicing in order to do all the things you do in addition to that?

Dr. Tamara: Oh, that’s a wonderful question. The first few years, I’ve been practicing now for almost 13, 14 years. The first three years I just practiced on whatever schedule I got, I was just okay with it. After a while, as you progress on and you’re starting to develop additional interests, one of the aspects of emergency medicine is that our schedule is usually very erratic. It’s challenging to develop a hobby or a class that you want to go to. For example, if someone wants to do CrossFit, CrossFit is on Mondays and Wednesdays. Or you want to play a part of a league, this Wednesday I might be available, but I might not be available the Wednesday after. So, that posed a lot of challenges.

What I was able to negotiate, and this is after having my second child, is to work just nights only. I had a prior colleague who was doing that shift and she decided to move on from working that night shift. I just asked and I was able to do that. I work nights, so now, I am the nocturnist [giggles], so nocturnal emergency medicine has its challenges, because I work on the busiest nights in the ER. But what I’m able to do on my time off is things like this. Able to do the podcast, I’m able to venture into entrepreneurship to learn from others and to meet fascinating people, especially throughout these last few years. But that’s the tradeoff. I work nights in order to do these things in the daytime.

Jen: Wow, thank you even more for being here recording with me in the middle of the day. You have two kids, is that right?

Dr. Tamara: Correct. 

Jen: Terrific. So, you’re a doctor mom as well and we share that experience. I think a lot of our listeners are interested in hearing about balancing all of that. That’s really what we’re about at DocWorking, creating the best life for you based on what matters most to you personally, as a physician and as a healthcare worker. I would love to hear more about self-care. I want to know how in the world are you finding time for that with your schedule and with being a mom and the work, of course, in the hospital itself? 

Dr. Tamara: Absolutely. Fantastic question. How do you find that time? I get asked this question a lot. It’s to the point that I started thinking like, “Wow, I guess I am doing a lot of things.” [laughs] I get help and that’s the biggest aspect. I did have my parents in March of last year, yeah, they retired and it was like, “Whoo-whoo. Oh, yeah.” Retirement really is for them. They get to really enjoy being with my family. They moved from New Jersey. All of my formative years, I grew up in New Jersey, and I’ve been in Houston for almost 14 years. During that time, my parents would get to come and see the kids every once in a while. But after retirement, they said that they wanted to move down here and be a part of the children’s lives. They help me on the weekends. One day a week, they will pick the kids up from school, and they get to spend time, and they get to spoil the kids, and then the rest of the week, I have to unspoil them. For those who have grandparents [laughs] and the kids who are with their grandparents, we all understand. But it’s wonderful from my perspective. 

The other thing that I do as I mentioned is that schedule really allows me the time to do some of these activities in the daytime. Now, when it comes to my self-care routine, I have a little bit of a daily routine that I do and it’s really a morning routine that helps me to enter into the day versus having the day enter into me. When I wake up, I read. I’ve been reading the Bible now. I read a chapter every morning, and then I meditate on it, and then I’ll read probably maybe for 10 minutes into a book. After that, I will start my day. I might look at my phone to see whatever else is happening. But by the time I enter my day, I’m just so mellow that not a lot of things are going to really faze me throughout the day, which is the total opposite of the Tamara from yesteryears. Oh, I’d get anxious, a lot going on. 

Sleep is something that’s important, but as a nocturnist and a person that has to switch from night to day, sleep is a challenge. During the time when I have to flip back over, I do try to get as much rest as I can. To do so, I have to listen to music. Well, actually, it’s not music, it’s audiobooks. Audiobooks of people with soothing voices that help to ease me back and to sleep. Other things that I do, it’s really spending time and trying to dedicate some time with my kids. My whole purpose of entrepreneurship was to have time. Whenever I look at any activities or any pathways for opportunities, I have to look and ensure that it’s going to align with my initial goal to spend quality time with my family and make great memories. So, that’s my goal. I have to ensure that I balance my opportunities to progress with the ability to ensure that I am fulfilling what my ultimate goal is. Those are some of the ways that I take care of myself. 

Jen: Terrific insights and a really brilliant answer. That makes me think about a couple of things. First of all, it reminds me of an episode that we recorded way back, Episode 39 with Dr. Paula Marfia, who is also a hospitalist, doctor mom, and she works night shifts as well. She also had figured that out as a way to balance her work, and her family, and it’s worked out really, really well for her, too. It’s really interesting to hear another person who has chosen that as a way to balance it all. Then hearing you describe your morning routine also makes me think about a book. I’m curious if you’ve read Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. 

Dr. Tamara: Yes, so, actually, I read The Miracle Equation, which was his book after Miracle Morning. He talks about it. I got just a small insight into Miracle Morning, but that is correct, it is one of the reasons why I’ve patterned that off of the Miracle Morning

Jen: Oh, I love that. I’m going to have to check out the next book. 

Dr. Tamara: The Miracle Equation, oh, it is awesome. 

Jen: Fantastic. I’m going to check that out and we’ll include that in the show notes. The other thing that listening to you really made me think about is, what a fabulous job you’ve done creating boundaries for yourself, and around the things that you value the most, and picking and choosing things according to a bigger plan, and focusing on your vision for yourself. I think you’re a tremendous example. I love to hear about that. Now, you have started urcaringdocs.com, you have the Docs Who Care Podcast, and then the UR Caring Society. 

Dr. Tamara: Correct. 

Jen: Can you tell me about the vision behind those? What made you decide to start those? 

Dr. Tamara: Absolutely. With my venture into entrepreneurship, I initially thought I was going to do telemedicine. Actually, I wouldn’t even say that initially. That is actually what I did. I started UR Caring Docs as part of a telemedicine platform, where I said, “Okay, during the days that I was not working in the emergency department, I’ll venture and I’ll take care of patients in telemedicine.” The premise behind it is that there were just so many aspects in medicine and also, there were a lot of patients, who were paying an excessive amount of money for things. I’m like, “Oh, this is very simple.” You’re coming into the emergency department, and I’m like, “Oh, my gosh, his bill is going to be extraordinary for something that’s very, very simple to treat.” I said, “Well, why don’t I make this platform and be able to take care of those patients?” 

It was a great intention, but as with everything, I went back to my “why.” As I continued working, doing my telemedicine, I found myself not being able to be there for my kids. I’m shutting the door. I’m pushing them away instead of pulling them towards me. That mom guilt started to increase. This is the opposite of what I want. I want to be able to spend more time with them. Then in addition to that, I realized that I was getting closer to being more burnt out, because I had an increase in the patient population, because of the fact that we’re in a pandemic, so the patient population increased exponentially. I’m extremely fatigued from working, and then I get home, and then I’m really tired. As I sat and thought about it, I said, “This is not the best way that I will be able to really help others.” I had to start to pivot.

While doing that I started providing a lot of information about medical health and wellness tips. But initially, it’s really a lot of information about “What is a particular medical issue?” What is congestive heart failure? What happens when you have a heart attack?” Every week, I did a video and I would broadcast it live on Facebook and I had hand drawings. This is the ear and this is what an ear infection is, this is the eye this is what conjunctivitis is. As I continued doing that, I said, “Wow, I’m really providing a lot of info for patients.” But wouldn’t it be great if I can talk to some of my colleagues and really have them also provide information. That’s when the Docs Who Care Podcast came about. I invited colleagues like, “Hey, would you like to talk about your specialty?” Then from there, actually, really just started getting to know them and having them talk about more than just their specialty. A lot of additional interest in helping, and coaching, and depression, and we just went really, really further than what I thought. Being a person who just goes all in on this, I sent out and I was interviewing a lot of colleagues daily. By the time I looked, I had amassed over a hundred interviews. I posted something like, “Hey, I just finished my 100th interview. This is so fantastic.”

From there, I was granted the opportunity to do some LinkedIn live. Then afterwards, I started getting more of my colleagues to come in and say, “I want to be interviewed.” From then on, I just kept it directly moving from me with my hand-drawn figures or my PowerPoint presentation, to just really highlighting our colleagues out there and doing it on live interviews, which has been really, really fun. Then I put those on the podcast, which is called our Docs Who Care, because it highlights: we’re human and we care. What I’ve been told from those who are not in the medical profession, who watch and listen to this, they said, “Oh, I love the way that we get to find out about these doctors and their personalities.” They find out that there are more aspects to us than just the person coming in and taking your medical information. So, it’s really been a fascinating journey.

Jen: Oh, absolutely and it’s fantastic to listen to your podcast and to see these guests. I completely agree. Where can people find you if they’re interested in learning more?

Dr. Tamara: Oh, they can find me at my website, which is urcaringdocs.com. That’s U-R-C-A-R-I-N-G-D-O-C-S dot com. I think that you’d asked me about the society and that society is something that I built recently. We just kicked off. We’re here to help our busy professional women really put their health and wellness first. That’s one of the other aspects I started to notice. The pandemic hit and ooh, a lot of us really went down into a funk. Life started to just hit us really hard. Balancing between life, your career, and then your personal life. We end up putting off things for ourselves in order to do things for our family, such as if our child is ill, we will make their appointments, if we’re ill, we’re like, “Oh, it’s okay.” If our spouse, or significant other, or grandparents, or parents are ill, we’ll handle things for them. If we’re ill, we put it off. The point is to really put ourselves first, because we know that we are part of the glue that holds everyone else together. So, if we are at our best then we can definitely continue to give our best to everyone, that’s part of the UR Caring Society.

Jen: That is such an important concept of put the mask on yourself first, because if you’re in good health yourself, you’re taking care of yourself from an emotional standpoint as well and you know that you’re doing what you’re doing with purpose, then you can take better care of all the people around you, which is typically what we’re trying to do when we’re neglecting ourselves.

Dr. Tamara: Exactly. [laughs]

Jen: Yes, for some reason, a tough nut to crack for a lot of physicians to pause and realize that it’s okay to prioritize ourselves. If you need to do it in the name of everyone you care about, then that’s okay too, but it’s a very important thing to do.

Dr. Tamara: Absolutely.

Jen: So, I love what you’re doing and it’s such a pleasure to speak with you. Thank you so much.

Dr. Tamara: Thank you all for having me. Thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure.

Jen: If you’re interested in learning more about DocWorking and DocWorking Thrive, which sponsors this podcast, please check us out at docworking.com and that’s D-O-C-W-O-R-K-I-N-G dot com. Thank you so much. This is Jen Barna with Dr. Tamara Beckford. We appreciate you being here with us today on DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast.

Dr. Tamara: Thank you.

[music]

Amanda: I’m Amanda Taran, producer of DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast. Thank you so much for listening. Please don’t forget to like and subscribe and head over to docworking.com to see all we have to offer.

 

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