A Superhero’s Task: Normalizing Work-Life Balance for Physicians

Mar 4, 2021 | Culture, Gender, Humanizing Medicine | 0 comments

A month or so ago, I came across a social media post about a new children’s book. My children are young adults, not yet parents—so why did I immediately order the book and eagerly await its arrival? And when I had the slim paperback in my hands, why I place it on the bookshelf behind my desk chair, prominently displayed for all to see on Zoom calls? Why?

The title says it all: Is Mommy a Doctor or Superhero?

Having recently researched the current challenges facing women physicians, I was intrigued by the book and the author that brought it into being. As my interview with Amy Faith Ho, MD attests, the colorful, kid-friendly pages offer valuable messages for readers of all ages.

Photo courtesy of Amy Faith Ho, MD

Shannon: Let’s start with your background. What’s your specialty and where do you practice?

Ho: I’m an emergency physician working in several hospitals in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area.

S: What inspired you to write Is Mommy a Doctor or Superhero?

H: The book was actually a passion project that I’ve wanted to do for the past 10 years. I had a mentor during training—a female surgeon—who told me, “Don’t enter this field unless being in the hospital is your only love. Otherwise, you’ll be unhappy, because you can’t have it all.” It made me wonder—what does it mean to have it all? Can we, as women, be both career women and have a personal life?

S: Is Mommy a Doctor or Superhero? is about a woman physician seen at home and at work through the eyes of her daughter. Is the story autobiographical?

H: Yes and no. I don’t have children yet, but every scene in the book reflects real events I encountered in my training, like crying in the parking lot after an emotionally taxing shift. And I took special care to make sure the details in the illustrations are medically accurate—like the little soda cans and bags of saltines on the counter and the Netter’s textbook on the shelf in the office.

S: What is the book’s message for young readers?

H: The last page reads, “Maybe I’m a superhero too!” I wanted to inspire kids, to let them know that they can do anything. That they already are superheroes and growing up is just about learning new superpowers.

S: Does Is Mommy a Doctor or Superhero? Also have a message for adults?

H: Yes. By depicting the physician mom through the child’s eyes, I wanted to remind physicians that what we do is amazing, and it matters—the impact, the way we touch human lives. With the pandemic, we go into survival mode and work harder; it’s so easy to forget the impact we’re making. I want physicians to know that we appreciate them, and we know their story.

S: What sort of response have you received about the book?

H: The feedback, especially from children and women (whether in medicine and not), has been hugely positive, both in the US and around the world. In fact, we just came out with a Spanish translation and a hardcover version. Raising awareness of what’s possible helps us change culture—for me, the most gratifying aspect of writing Is Mommy a Doctor or Superhero? is the chance to move us all forward and begin to normalize work-life balance.

[ ABOUT THE AUTHOR ]

Diane W. Shannon

MD, MPH, ACC

Diane Shannon is an award-winning writer, author, and coach. Since leaving practice as a primary care physician due to burnout, she has worked to support physicians in achieving their personal and professional goals and to highlight the changes needed to reduce burnout, improve career satisfaction, and protect the bidirectional healing power of the patient-physician relationship.

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