I had the pleasure of spending a Saturday morning with Dr. Piontek, (who goes by Libby) a friend of mine in Kansas City to talk to her about her career, how she developed a personal brand, and what she has learned about the business side of medicine. While her experience is focused on practicing medicine, her recommendations are applicable to young professionals across industries and professions. You can listen to our entire conversation here, Apple Podcasts, Google Play, or Spotify under “The Savvy Young Professional” podcast. Also, check out five takeaways from our conversation below.
On finding your career path. During high school, Libby initially wanted to go into veterinary medicine and spent time shadowing and working with a vet. Through this experience, along with a foreign study in marine biology, she realized that being a veterinarian was not the path for her, and she decided to go to medical school instead after completing a similar shadowing experience with a few physicians. During her residency, one of her mentors, who was a urologist, encouraged her to pursue this path instead of infectious disease, citing her natural talent. By spending time shadowing different career paths and taking advice from mentors, she found a career that she loves and that gives her purpose.
On discipline. Completing fourteen years of school and residency sets an extreme bar for discipline and delayed gratification. Her trick to getting through it? Focusing on the next goal or milestone only rather than thinking years down the line. This helped her compartmentalize semesters of school and rounds of residency into manageable efforts.
On promoting yourself. As a physician in private practice, Libby has had to find ways to build relationships with general practitioners for referrals and build a reputation in the community. She cites her success at spending time building relationships with other physicians in person to invest in trust and credibility, and taking opportunities to be promoted as an expert in her field. While she does not advocate the use of social media in medicine, she has found personal ways to build relationships which have helped her establish a reputation and a customer base. For non-physician young professionals, this is comparable to in-person networking.
On always learning. While medical residents put in some of the longest work weeks of any profession, taking the extra time to learn during this time is critical. The “80 hour rule” was already in place when Libby started residency (which states that residents cannot work more than 80 hours in a week for safety reasons), she, like many doctors, resist following this protocol when there is so much to learn and observe. For Libby, it was about equipping herself with the most experience and knowledge possible so that she would excel when she was operating on her down. While most other professionals are not in a life or death situation, it is still valuable to observe, learn, and train as much as possible early in your career so that you can pull these tools out of your toolbox and lead on your own when the time comes. Taking these opportunities, even if they require extra time at the office, more work, or travel can be both personally rewarding and professionally valuable in the future.
On balancing work and family. As a mom with a young son, Libby experiences the challenges of balancing her busy workload and spending time with her husband and son, as well as taking care of herself. To maximize the amount of time she has to spend with family, she asks others for help and delegates and outsources work to her nanny. Libby also emphasized the importance of having a supportive spouse who can step in to help, especially on days where she has limited flexibility.
About Dr. Piontek
Dr. Piontek was born and raised in a suburb of Kansas City and still lives in the area today. After attending Furman University where she studied biology and graduated with honors, she earned her MD from the University of Missouri. She interned and completed her residency in Urology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, NE. Dr. Piontek is Board Certified by the American Board of Urology and is a member of the American Urological Association. Along with being in private practice she serves on the Editorial Board of the Missouri State Medical Association. You can read her most recent paper in the January/February issue. Her schedule covering three clinics, two hospitals, and two surgery centers keeps her busy, along with being a wife and mom to a 18 month old boy.