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Behind the Scenes of The Medical System with Dr. John Lawrence

Behind the Scenes of The Medical System with Dr. John Lawrence

Today we have Dr. John Lawrence on the blog for a little q&a.

If you have yet to meet Dr. Lawrence who was on The HIM & HER Show, he is the author of the series Playing Doctor and is in fact a doctor. In the episode he talks about surviving medical school and residency training, his best and scariest moments from practicing for 20 years and his transition to becoming a writer. He also covers issues with today’s medical system, when to take your kids to the ER and what it’s like teaching.

Lauryn is such a fan of all 3 of the Playing Doctor books that she just had to have Dr. Lawrence on the show AND the blog.

In his first post he wrote about the 10 craziest things he experienced in medical school and it is not for the faint of heart! In this post you’ll learn about his tips for writing a book and avoiding writer’s block, how he got into med school, and the best and worst part of being in the medical field.

Without further ado, let’s welcome Dr. John Lawrence back to the blog.

Behind the Scenes of The Medical System with Dr. John Lawrence

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Introduce yourself to The Skinny Confidential audience.

John Lawrence: Hey there TSC! 

So, I published a very tongue-in-cheek book series, Playing Doctor, sharing a candid peek behind the scrubs into medical school and residency training from my slightly skewed experience. Those books, fortunately for me, led to meeting Lauryn, Michael and the amazing team at The Skinny Confidential and Dear Media. 

My medical training started with several mountain bike crashes which left me without a working memory. I kept trying to leave the hospital to go study for exams while the medical resident, who was diligently picking rocks out of my body, kept reminding me that medical school didn’t start for a few more weeks. 

After practicing traditional western medicine for years, I opened my own clinic for whole body wellness. We didn’t use prescription medications and saw great results mostly due to nutritional changes, mindset and regenerative medicine (stem cells and exosomes). 

I’ve enjoyed a variety of fun jobs, ski coach, whitewater rafting guide, bagel baker, environmental entrepreneur, indie film and theater producer and director, medical director at a tech company, and team doctor on Mt. Kilimanjaro. We have three kids, four dogs (often many more as my wife can’t resist fostering litters of rescued puppies), love traveling, cooking…ok, that’s enough about me. 

We know from your episode on The HIM & HER Show that the only thing you didn’t want to become was a doctor. Why? And what happened?!

JL: OK, just to be clear, don’t use that answer if you’re trying to get into medical school! But yes, I had no plan to go to medical school and told my college career advisor that being a doctor was the one thing I did not want to be. Why? Possibly due to an aversion of being trapped in hospital walls physically and metaphorically—the idea that medicine required following a set path for many years seemed confining at that age.  

So, what happened? Blame the next wobbly career steps on a drunken blood pact that landed me in Chamonix where I gained a misguided notion that working for Doctors without Borders would involve romance under African rainstorms. And at that point decided to go be a doctor, despite not having gone to medical school or taking a single pre-med class. Bit of a vivid imagination I suppose.

At the same time, going deeper, I will admit I lacked the courage to pursue a life in writing and film, which I really loved, and instead, chose that more “responsible” path with the justification that it would allow me the time to pursue those ventures on the side – which it did. I didn’t lack courage in high-risk outdoor activities, but to take a chance on something I really wanted, namely the film and writing, I balked. Very Brenè Brown, fear of not good enough, etc..

What was the best part about working in the healthcare space?

JL: When you’re out to dinner and friends text you photos of a rash they’re worried about. Oh wait, you asked about the best part? 

For everything you hear these days about doctors burning out from long hours, endless paperwork, bureaucracy, insurance, unappreciative patients, well, it goes the other way too – you have some incredibly intense moments when you’re focused on one thing, helping a fellow human being. And it’s pretty special to look back, (you don’t have time in the moment), and realize you’ve made someone’s day better. Maybe it was calming a scared child, or reassuring a terrified parent, or literally saving a life. But that’s why you go into medicine, to help people and you have that opportunity every day. 

And selfishly, you can work almost anywhere in the world, set your hours, work in a variety of areas, from expedition medicine, to working the medical tent at music festivals, and working with (mostly) great people.

Behind the Scenes of The Medical System with Dr. John Lawrence

What was the most difficult part about working in the healthcare space?

JL: I’ll answer in terms of the three obstacles we aim to address in a screenplay:

On the external side, there was a lot of time spent not taking care of patients; paperwork, notes and charts, dictations, billing codes, insurance issues – and fortunately times are changing, and doctors can now practice more medicine with either personnel or even AI platforms helping with those repetitive tedious tasks.  

Internally, there was an underlying level of self-induced stress I was not even aware of. You want to heal everyone, make everyone feel safe and cared for – and it doesn’t always work out that way, no matter how much you work or do the right thing, sometimes things just don’t go well. I don’t think I even recognized how much it affected me until years later. You just smiled and did the work. 

And philosophically there was the bureaucracy of being told how to care for patients by an insurance company or clinic/hospital administrator. When somebody with no medical training told me to order more breathing treatments or to prescribe more medical supplies – not for the betterment of the patient, but to make money, I was never shy about sharing my opinion. I got into some testy arguments on those fronts and saw some bad patient outcomes from mid-level providers who followed those greed-based instructions without thinking through their patient cases properly.  

Tell us the most life-changing wisdom you’ve acquired from working with people who are ill or unwell. Is there someone or something that made you realize what’s actually important in this life we have?

JL: There’s a line in the Richard Curtis film, Love Actually, “When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love.”

That same message is what you see, hear and feel over and over when people are seriously ill or injured. In those moments, people don’t waste breath on the nitpicky and stupid crap that might upset us day to day. People hold their loved ones; parents hug their kids as though they’ll never let go, sick and elderly squeeze the hands of those around them. You hear “I love you,” a lot.

We can all probably do a better job caring for each other, picking up the phone to call a friend, giving out hugs to those you love, telling them how much you appreciate and love them– you’ll only regret if you don’t do that enough. And live your life. Take care of yourself, and don’t look back and regret not doing something you wanted to because you were afraid. It’s just life—and it’s really precious and all too short.

Do you believe that people need to be their own advocate and health guru when it comes to the medical industry, having issues be taken seriously and the correct treatment that works for them?

JL: Yes, absolutely. You can separate personal health and wellness from medical care in this instance – and they both require people to be their own advocate for different reasons.  

The medical industry (traditional western medicine) is primarily focused on treating medical problems. And they’re really good at it. The system is changing slightly, but the emphasis remains treating medical problems, i.e. treating your illness or injury, not optimizing your wellness.

When it comes to your overall wellness, you need to own it. If you listen to The HIM & HER Show, you have an interest in doing exactly that. In terms of all the aspects that make us feel great and productive (eating well, exercising, mindfulness, etc)—that’s where you must be accountable, even if it requires hiring a coach or advocate. The medical industry will not do much more than remind you at an annual exam to get several hours of exercise a week. But The HIM & HER Show, Peter Attia, Rich Roll, Huberman are some of the many great resources sharing studies and information on how to live well.  

I think it is really important to state that people in the medical industry work really hard to do what they believe is best for your health. And their knowledge and experience is often critical for medical situations. But that does not mean they should dictate what is best for you. In an ideal situation, you should discuss what is best/realistic for your health. At the end of the day you need to be responsible for your health. I would tell patients all the time, “All I can do is make recommendations, you need to choose and do what’s best for you.” 

You know your body better than anyone, you know your kid better.

If you are not sure about a treatment, or don’t agree, or don’t like the doctor/healthcare provider – ask questions, change providers. And you should absolutely feel heard. I think the most important rule I was taught was to listen to your patients. It’s easy for doctors who have been trained a certain way, to make jumps in thoughts, or assumptions, of what you want and what’s best for you. So speak up, medical practitioners need feedback to help guide them too and they really do want what is best for you.

Dr. John Lawrence's 10 Craziest Moments From Med School

You’ve written 3 incredible books, tell us what inspired you to start writing?

JL: Aw, thank you! I’m so happy you read them.

During medical training, I sent out group email blasts describing the crazy events that had plagued patients, the nutty hospital stories, and mostly my own blunders and fears as I practiced becoming a doctor and the flailing social life that went hand-in-hand. 

When a friend asked if she could publish those stories, I decided I would just write out the whole experience. I hoped they were stories people could relate to, as most everyone has visited a doctor or walked into a hospital. And hospital life could often be just bonkers and hilarious, like an episode of MASH, so I wanted to share those moments. 

For anyone out there struggling to start or finish writing their book, what are some tips for sticking to a timeline, avoiding writer’s block and getting it done?

JL: Great case of do what I say, not what I do! A few things I’ve learned from writing books and screenplays over the years:

1. Put your phone away. Turn off the internet and set a timer.

2. Commit. Have an accountability partner or set a deadline. Then break down the book or script into achievable sections you need to accomplish to reach that deadline each day. It’s much easier to look at daily chunks to accomplish than a mountainous goal such as: “Finish the book.” 

3. Just write. Even if you think what you’re working on sucks, it is much easier to write when you have something on the page to return to, than to stare at a blank screen. What you’re writing is usually better than you think–and will need re-writing regardless—so, just write!

4. One of the best things I heard lately about writer’s block, and this was specific to screenplays, but I imagine all writing, is that you are trying to do too much in one draft or pass. Work on one aspect of what you’re writing. Don’t try to solve everything at once. 

5. Another piece of advice that helps me if blocked is to write out the ten worst ideas you can come up with. From those “worst” ideas, I typically find material to work through whatever was causing problems.

What’s a book, podcast or resource you recommend to anyone and everyone? 

JL: The Skinny Confidential of course!

This is one podcast episode I love to share with people:

Peter Crone had an episode called:  How to redesign the subconscious mind from limitation to freedom on a podcast that I think was since renamed, but here’s the link.

Where can everyone find you? Pimp yourself out! 

JL: Here are my 3 books: Part 1, part 2, part 3. And my audiobook is on the way!

Follow me on IG @johnlawrencewriter and stay tuned; my goal this year is to improve my social media.

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We hope you loved this post, and if you liked Dr. Lawrence’s blog posts, you’re going to love his podcast episode on The HIM & HER Show. Like we said, Lauryn LOVED his books so if you’re looking for some a fun summer series check them out.

x, The Skinny Confidential team

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