Dr. Janelle White had no idea what she wanted to do when she grew up until she watched a care team save her brother’s life.
“Watching his recovery is what really motivated me,” she says. “That was a life-changing experience for me, to see how those physicians … [and] the entire care team — honestly saved my brother's life, and revived him. So that spurred my interest in medicine.”
Dr. White accomplished her goal of becoming one such “miracle worker.” Still, it wasn’t until several years into her career that she realized her impact isn’t defined by the number of patients she sees or accurate diagnoses she gives.
In this episode of the Prosperous Doc ®, our host Shane Tenny, CFP®, welcomes Dr. White, the Specialty Medical Director of Community Health at Atrium Health. They discuss how she became a leader outside the exam room, what to do about the health inequities exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and why she went back to school to earn her master’s in Healthcare Management from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Dr. White finds her center by reminding herself of why she went into healthcare in the first place. “And that's to care for patients and improve their health and well-being,” she says, adding that maintaining perspective about the various ways she can impact the health of patients “is one of my guiding principles.”
Name: Dr. Janelle White, MHCM, FAAP
What she does: Dr. White is the Specialty Medical Director of Community Health at Atrium Health and the Pediatric Regional Medical Director at Atrium Health Levine Children’s University Pediatrics in Charlotte, North Carolina. In addition, Dr. White serves on the board of managers for Carolinas Physician Alliance.
Company: Atrium Health
Words of wisdom: “I just had to learn for myself and accept the fact that I can impact patient care without actually touching the patient.”
Top takeaways from this episode
★ Physicians can help patients — not only in the exam room. Dr. White once believed the only way to help people was through direct patient care. But, as she developed an interest in quality improvement and other initiatives, she gained leadership roles on boards and committees that have taught her there are several ways to be a leader in a healthcare setting.
★ Healthcare disparities have never been more apparent, and physicians can do something about it. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the ugly truth about health inequity to the forefront. Even though it was already on her radar, Dr. White says it’s become apparent that she and her colleagues need to focus on wraparound services, aka addressing social determinants such as food insecurity as underlying factors for patients.
★ When the going gets tough, remember why you went into healthcare. Like all of us, healthcare workers face obstacles while reaching for their goals. But Dr. White has learned to push past these by reminding herself why she became a pediatrician in the first place. As a new graduate suddenly grieving the loss of her husband, for example, Dr. White used her passion to make an impact in her patients’ lives as her “north star” guiding her through her grief.
[01:38] How it all started: Dr. White shares the story of how, after his car accident, watching her brother’s care team put him on a path to recovery inspired her to go into healthcare — and how a church member helped her choose a specialty.
[05:05] Pushing herself to do more: Dr. White explains how providing the best possible care was her main and perhaps only focus the first few years she was practicing. The longer she was in the field, the more interest she gained in areas such as quality improvement and community health.
[07:13] Don’t let your expectations limit you: Dr. White shares why she had to overcome some mental hurdles to realize she can improve patient lives through initiatives other than just direct care.
[10:35] Your experience is your strength as a leader: As a physician with more than 15 years of direct patient care experience, Dr. White says she knows what she’s talking about when she steps into a board meeting.
[14:54] Communication is key: Diving into the administrative side of healthcare might seem like selling out, Dr. White says, but it’s essential to think of it as just another way to help people via communicating physician needs to non-physicians.
[19:41] There’s no shying away from inequity now: The COVID-19 pandemic was a blatant example of the often dire results of health disparities, Dr. White explains, adding that it’s never been more urgent to address them.
[24:47] Good healthcare utilizes wraparound services: Dr. White explains why there needs to be a “warm handoff” between a clinical team and nonprofits and other service providers that help patients get the non-medical help they need to better themselves.
[30:28] Patients, like all humans, are complex: Dr. White explains why it sometimes gets lost in translation between board members and physicians why certain initiatives won’t work.
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Disclaimer: Prosperous Doc podcast by Spaugh Dameron Tenny highlights real-life stories from doctors and dentists to encourage and inspire listeners through discussions of professional successes and failures in addition to personal stories and financial wellness advice. Spaugh Dameron Tenny is a comprehensive financial planning firm serving doctors and dentists in Charlotte, NC. To find out more about Spaugh Dameron Tenny, visit our website at www.sdtplanning.com. You can also connect with our host, Shane Tenny, CFP at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter.
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