What do you do for a living?
I am a physician(reproductive endocrinologist/gynecologist) and a musician. I primarily take care of women age 40 and over but since women are the ones that most often provide care for their families, I also help families stay well.
How would you describe what you do?
I help people stay well although sometimes I help people get well. I accomplish that by using my wisdom, knowledge, creativity and experience to provide people with the health information they need to make smart choices for their health.
What does your work entail?
In the beginning of my career, I saw patients and did research in major medical universities. I spent my first 19 years at Harvard Medical School. Today I see only patients part time and the rest of the time I create, perform, lecture, or write about health.
What’s a typical workweek like?
It varies, but in general I see patients now one day per week. I write for a number of blogs such as the Huffington Post, Care2, Vivid Life, Intent, Families Online Magazine and my own blog, www.DoctorSeibel.com/blog. I usually try to write at least one song every day. I read medical journals, give talks around the country, make videos and write books. Some weeks I record songs in a music studio and some weeks I do podcasts and interview other health experts.
How did you get started?
As a child I was very fat. VERY fat. I was the largest kid in Galveston County in Texas and ended up on the front page of the Galveston Daily News. I knew I wanted to be different than that and it took me some time to figure out how to do it. I got interested in how to learn about health. As I got older and was in High School I played in Rock bands. I knew I wanted to go to medical school pretty early on and so I made sure to get good grades and study hard. When I was in the graduate training years of my medical education I used music to teach medical students how to do operations and things like that using medical textbooks as slides and original songs as explanations. People loved it and I got to play my guitar because as a medical person, there isn’t a lot of time for being in a band.
Then years later I had an idea that I could use my music and medicine together and teach people how to stay well. There used to be a really popular cartoon program called Schoolhouse Rock that used music to teach about math and grammar and government. So I came up with HealthRock.
What do you like about what you do?
Lots of things. I get to be creative. It is very hard to do creative things in medicine if you see lots of patients (no time) and it’s very hard to see patients if you do lots of research (no patients). So now I combine seeing patients with creativity in other ways.
But there is more. When I see patients in my office, I make a big difference in their lives, but I can only see about 10 to 20 people a day. With HealthRock and my other website, www.DoctorSeibel.com, which is for women age 40 and over and their families, I can have the chance to have an impact on thousands of people every day.
What do you dislike?
Sometimes it gets very busy. Sometimes I travel a lot.
How do you make money/or how are you compensated?
I am paid for seeing patients, but that is now only part-time. I get paid for speaking and for consulting to companies about how to reach and teach patients. I sell downloads of my songs and books and other educational content. I license my songs, eCards (www.StayWellCards.com), videos and other content that I create.
How much money do you make as a physician and musician?
Doctors in my field can make around $250,000, and then if they branch out entrepreneurially the sky is the limit. I know of some Doctors making much less and some making much more. It’s really determined by where you work, how hard you work, and how good you are at business.
How much money do/did you make starting out as a physician?
I made enough money as a full time doctor to be willing to make less money, at least for a while, to change careers. When you change careers, even if you are one of the best doing one thing, you have to be willing to start over and that means salary and status. But that didn’t make me stop being successful, it just meant I was going to have to work hard to be successful in something new. I feel that if you have an idea and you like what you are doing, that’s another kind of success. I knew that if I worked hard and stayed focused, it would all work out; and it has.
What education, schooling, or skills are needed to do this?
After high school I went to 4 years of college, 4 years of medical school, 4 years of residency (post-graduate training) and 2 more years training to be a subspecialist. Notice none of this had anything to do with either business or music, which I also do now. That came on the side, so to speak.
What is most challenging about what you do?
Staying current in all the changes in medicine, keeping up with all the technology and how communication is always changing, and finding out how all this can help the most people and still make a living for me.
What is most rewarding?
It’s the same as the above, plus, I’m doing what I want and making it work.
What advice would you offer someone considering this career?
Pick what you love and get good at it. Remember, the careers of the future have not all been defined yet. And then stay focused.
It may be hard to think about it now, but you are not just you. You are a son or daughter, one day you will likely be a spouse and a parent, and part of a community and a global world. All of those have to fit with what you do and you have to fit with them to make your life balanced and happy. It’s part of how I think about any career or task I do.
Now for the fine print. If you really want to be successful at your chosen career, take care of your health now. Unless you are born with a genetic disease, have an accident, or get into bad situations with a bad group of friends, you have the chance to live a long healthy life. But good health isn’t a guarantee and you can’t cram for life. And sometimes it’s hard to get good health back once you lose it.
I work at my health every day. I eat healthy, exercise, try to get enough sleep, avoid substances that will poison my brain like drugs, cigarettes and too much alcohol, and pick good friends. I also think it’s important to give as well as receive.
OK. You wanted to know my advice so in the fine print I got to give you my message.
How much time off do you get/take?
My time is flexible as long as I plan ahead. If I don’t plan ahead there is no time off. It’s the good and the bad of doing your own thing.
What is a common misconception people have about what you do?
In the beginning, some people thought that making fun songs about health and other creative approaches was a bit fluffy. Some of the more serious medical people had difficulty seeing how important it was. But not any more and here’s why. Half the adults and the majority of kids in this country don’t have the basic health information they need to stay well and to make good medical choices. Three of ten students in high school won’t graduate. Up to 85% of today’s chronic illnesses are preventable and not enough good health information is costing the United States up to $1 trillion annually. So it is really important to make health information easy to understand so people can use it. If we don’t get people’s attention, it’s really hard to get their retention.
What are your goals/dreams for the future?
To help millions of people stay well. Maybe do a TV show on health using fun approaches to teach the masses. See more of my content and songs on TV, as public service announcements and to speak to larger and larger groups about the importance of staying well rather than getting well and to include some of my fun approaches. You may enjoy this interview of me that recently ran NPR/WBUR, that can help you understand what I do. http://radioboston.wbur.org/2012/02/07/medical-issues-song