- Assistant Professor, Wake Forest School of Medicine
Tell Us about Your Career Path
I was a late bloomer in choosing a specialty. I enjoyed all rotations in medical school until my body developed an allergy to waterless scrub soap. Surgical specialties were out. I had a very difficult time deciding between internal medicine vs family medicine but ultimately chose a field where I can hear my patients' rich stories/past histories. I was lucky to train in an IM residency that also exposed me to geriatrics (my PD and APD at the time of training were both geriatricians). I fell in love with geriatrics really through doing home-based primary care as a PGY2. I thought that I would become a clinician educator by the end of my geriatrics fellowship until I got to my current job and realized that I enjoy clinical research more than clinical education.
My career path has been ever evolving because I am still evolving as a person. After getting a master degree in clinical & translational research as well as working through many clinical trials as a researcher, I have been trying and unsuccessfully writing a NIA career development award for the past 3 years. Now I am shifting some of my energy toward a different way of having impact. I launched my own podcast to bring geriatric expertise to the wider public, called “Ask Dr. Mia: Conversations on Aging Well” (www.miayangmd.com or on Spotify). I am interested in public speaking, consulting, policy advocacy that could all create complementary ways of impact besides clinical care and research.
Can you cite any particular instance (s) or individuals that influenced your choices?
My former residency program director Colleen Christmas and associate program director Jennifer Hayashi, current geriatric fellowship director Jessica Colburn at Johns Hopkins all showed me how awesome geriatricians could be. My current mentor Jeff Williamson at Wake Forest tells me to do more of what brings me joy and have supported all of my evolving interests since I joined faculty in 2016.
Are you active in any AMWA initiatives? and/or Do you hold a leadership role in AMWA. How has this shaped your view of medicine?
I am a new member to AMWA.
What challenges have you faced in your medical career?
I have learned to hold space for my patients without taking on their emotional distress. Earlier on in my training I was getting emotionally overwhelmed as I often worried about my patients long after I saw them in clinic or in the hospital. Once I learned to separate my life from my patients’ lives, I became a much more effective physician and listener.
Given your lived experiences, do you have any advice for women in medicine?
I would tell my fellow women in medicine the same advice I give to my family caregivers of patients living with dementia: you cannot pour from an empty cup. Refill your own cups without guilt as it is the strategy for sustainable impact. As one of my clerkship directors told us in medical school at UNC-Chapel Hill: don’t become a Hershey’s kiss. Medicine can easily make your life one-sided and the rest of your life (family, health, friends, etc.) become the thin little tip at the top of the Hershey’s chocolate kiss.
Have you had an Ah-Ha moment?
I had an Ah-Ha moment recently when I was preparing my promotions package for Associate Professor. I was not sure if my social media/Twitter, news interviews would count toward my academic portfolio. I did them because I wanted to, not because they would sound great on my CV. But turns out, they contribute to my “reputation”, a key domain of promotions criteria. It made me feel even braver to launch the podcast as it did not have to compete with other domains of academia: teaching, clinical care, and research.