Phil Yphantides, MD, or “Dr. Phil” as patients often call him, shows us just how potent self-discovery and change can be when we find ourselves in a challenging situation. Being in a challenging situation you’re not exactly prepared for is a scenario just about every physician can relate to. What Dr. Phil helps us see is that even in a demanding place like healthcare, there are positive changes we can make to ensure our priorities and our patients’ priorities aren’t compromised.
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
— Victor Frankl
Watch the story….
Question & Answer:
You share valuable lessons on the importance of always being in a learning posture. Is there a specific skill and/or capacity you’d like to get better at and why?
Dr. Phil: When I was young, I somehow developed or just had the underlying assumption that someday “I will arrive” as a medical professional. I thought that when I finished medical school, I would be a mature doctor. My first day of internship blew that presupposition out of the water. I then thought that surely when I finished residency I will be a more than competent physician. My first week in busy practice out of residency also did not support that premise. I then assumed when I was out in practice a good 10-15 years, surely then I would be at the peak of my career. Since then, now in my 16th year out of residency, I have come to realize I must continue to challenge myself and continue to be a student throughout my life to remain relevant and helpful to others. I never want to become complacent or satisfied with where I am in my profession or in my personal life. I look for opportunities to learn from patients, coworkers, nurses, and staff members.
As for areas I would like to get better at: I’m intrigued by the importance and power of words in influencing others. I want to continue to learn and improve how I speak with my patients to influence them towards healing, empowering them to make positive changes in lifestyle and behavior. I also want to be more intentional and uplifting in my communications with coworkers and staff, and those I am responsible for at work and outside of work. I’ve done some focused study in these areas and wish to continue learning more about the power of language.
In the film, you stated early in your career that you didn’t think you had the skills to do this job. In your view, what’s the most important skill you’ve learned in recent years? And how has this skill helped you become a more effective physician?
Dr. Phil: The most important skills I’ve learned have to do with the arena of “emotional intelligence.” As I was invited into leadership positions, I started reading more books on leadership and I came across this whole idea of emotional intelligence and how important it is for leaders. Emotional intelligence encompasses four areas: self-awareness, self-control, awareness of others, and relationship management. As I grew in all four of these areas (especially self-awareness), I became more grounded and able to deal with difficulties and frustrations which are always present. I learned how to identify my own feelings and not let my feelings have too much influence on my behavior. Feelings are feelings – nothing more, nothing less. When I realized how often my feelings affected my behavior (and how often others’ feeling affect their behavior), this challenged me to engage my will to develop more self-management skills and relational skills on the job and in my personal life. While the changes didn’t happen overnight, over the years I’ve worked on maturing in each of these four areas. I’ve become much more content in my work and effective in my relationships and leadership roles. I continue to work on all of these areas and continue to recognize my need for improvement throughout my life.
An increasing number of physicians are experiencing unhappiness and burnout. Yes, you seem fulfilled and connected to your work. Care to tell us how you do it?
Dr. Phil: I’ve found success in going back to the foundational questions of meaning and purpose. I’ve asked myself “What is my purpose in life?” Once I identified my own purpose, I was then able to move on to the next step of “what is my vision on how I can succeed at that purpose?” I took personal inventory to understand my strengths and weaknesses, my affinities and what I most enjoy about my chosen profession of medicine. These insights have helped me to realign my professional work to meet the vision I set for myself. This led to structuring my choice of work environment and has led to the place I am today where I can take advantage of opportunities that come along that hit my passion and skill set. My dad had so many pearls of wisdom that he shared with all of my brothers and sister over the years. One that I frequently recall in his thick Greek accent is “God directs moving objects. You can’t steer a parked car. You’ve got to get moving so God can steer you where He wants you to serve.” I am convinced I ended up in the right work environment which matches my skill sets and my passion to serve others.