AMWA recently sat down to talk to talk with psychiatrist turned chocolatier, Kimberly Yang, MD. Following are her reflections about her journey so far…
Can you tell us about your career path?
I grew up hearing legends of my grandmother, who was a midwife in rural Taiwan, and went to medical school with the plan of becoming an OBGYN. However, the specialty that I was completely captivated by was psychiatry. Growing up, any talk of mental illness was extremely taboo in my culture, and I felt a particular empathy for minorities struggling with mental illness, especially those who didn’t have access to providers who understood their background. My parents were not supportive of this choice initially, because it seemed like I wasn’t going to be a “real doctor.” However, with time, they came around and began to understand how mental health is just as important as physical health. After a brief stint in college mental health, I worked at Kaiser for five years. I found the work incredibly fulfilling, and enjoyed my relationships with my colleagues, but began to burn out due to an ever-growing patient panel and limited support. In 2019, I left my job at Kaiser and began to look for other career opportunities. At the time, I had been making chocolate bonbons as a hobby for friends, and after more intensive training in Belgium, I felt inspired to try my hand at being a professional chocolatier. I applied for jobs at several local chocolate shops with no success, so I decided to start my own chocolate company. I named it Formosa Chocolates, as a tribute to my Taiwanese heritage. These days, I do not have time to see patients, but am hopeful that once I am able to hire some more help, I will be able to start seeing patients again.
Are there particular events or individuals that influenced your choices?
Dr. Leigh White was my first boss, and incredibly inspirational to me. I think my time working at Michigan State, Olin Student Health was one of the happiest and most fulfilling periods in my career.
What challenges have you faced in your medical career?
The biggest challenge has been facing burnout. I realize with hindsight that the practice model at my last place of employment was not sustainable. I feel sad knowing this is probably true for many physicians.
Given your lived experiences, do you have any advice for women in medicine?
My advice is probably not “quit your job and become a chocolatier,” but I know that for me, continuing to live like a resident even when making an attending’s salary, and aggressively paying off my student loans gave me the peace of mind and freedom to pursue another passion. I hope that when I return to practicing medicine, it will be on my own terms. I would strongly encourage other women in medicine to learn as much as they can about personal finances (White Coat Investor is great) and negotiating (check out the book “Never Split the Difference”).