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Do you feel like there is never enough time in the day?

Join today’s discussion with guest Dr. Jia to hear more about how you can prioritize time for clinical medicine, research, and family.

Then, if you are looking to finish charting faster so you can go home sooner for what matters most to you, please join me for a free masterclass 1/4 with 1 FREE CME credit available.

Find Dr. Jia on YouTube

During this episode you will learn about;

[0:00] Finish Charting Faster webinar 

[1:44] Dr. Jia’s journey to becoming a nephrologist and a researcher.

[5:17] Switching your mindset from reactive to proactive.

[8:52] Advice for those who want to be successful in research.

[12:55] Treating your research like a clinic appointment.

[19:01] Integrating interests and aptitudes into your writing.

[23:10] Finding time to do research

[26:28] Self-care tips

[30:43] Dr. Jia’s final advice

Above are the episode show notes and below is the transcript via Some episode transcripts have been edited more than others, but they are up in the meantime to help those who would rather read and for searchability on the web. Extensive editing has not been prioritized as I seek to both produce regular content and maintain my own wellness. See the website disclaimer if you have questions, since this is all for your education and entertainment only. Enjoy!


Ryan Stegink 0:00
Does charting weigh you down? Does it feel like it will never end that you’ll never be able to go home?

Do you want to finish charting faster. I want to invite you to join me January 4 for a free webinar designed to help you do just that. You can sign up today by going to the link in the show notes, or charting. Again, January 4, I look forward to seeing you there to help you finish charting faster. Welcome to the MedEdWell podcast. Empowering physicians to get work done at work, then be able to reflect and choose what is important for both their life and medical practice. I’m your host, Dr. Ryan Stegink, general pediatrician and life coach for physicians. Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of the MedEdWell podcast where physicians come to be encouraged and equipped to take the next step in their own wellness journey. Thank you so much for subscribing, for sharing these episodes and for engaging with these concepts. I’ve been so excited to just welcome a number of amazing guests. And today I’m honored to have as a guest, Dr. Jia. Dr. Jia is a board certified nephrologist, and an assistant professor at the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra Northwell. She is also the founder of published MD, where she coaches clinicians on how to build their authority and achieve their academic goals. Dr. Jia, welcome to the show.

Dr. Jia Ng 1:43
Thank you so much. It’s such a pleasure being on this podcast.

Ryan Stegink 1:47
So tell us a little bit more about yourself and your journey to becoming a nephrologist and a researcher.

Dr. Jia Ng 1:54
I, I started I joined residency in a community program. And through that, despite being a community program, they had multiple quality improvement projects from day one, we were paired up with first year, second year, third year, and the second year would always start project and the first and third year was held up with the project. And so at the end of the year, we had six, actually yes, six projects under our belt doesn’t mean that it’s a full paper. But we were at experience in terms of how to think about questions, how to think about a project, all the different elements in conducting a project. And so I felt like I needed more and I did a master’s and also went to pursue nephrology at the same time. So I did nephrology training, and also Master’s in clinical epidemiology. That’s how I went to both the clinical site and the research site. That was my initial journey. But what people don’t realize is, when I finished my master’s, I had zero publications. That means it’s almost like you finish your medical school and you can’t even see a patient, you don’t know how to diagnose a patient. So I felt like such a failure and could not really find a proper research job. I mean, they don’t give you protected time, you mainly have to see patients. And so I was very fortunate that our division chief, we had philanthropic funds,

people who wanted to support a young researcher, and they gave me three years of protected time 50% clinical 30% research and said, I’m going to invest in you one more time. And and that was how I really took that opportunity and said, I’m never going to waste this time. I’m like, I’m going to probably use this. And and that really jumpstart my journey published 15 papers within two years, and got a grant within the first three years actually, yeah, two and a half years, which was close to a million dollars of NIH funding. And so that made me realize that sometimes, first you need a second chance. And second, if you get the right mindset, you get the right strategy, and you plan your days, right. And finally, the right skills, you can jumpstart your your career really quickly. Doesn’t matter how badly you have been zero publication you can you can go very far if you get all the right strategies. So that’s kind of my journey in a nutshell. And thanks for sharing that. I heard in there. You mentioned mindset, just saying at the end of your masters, you had zero publications and what you were making that mean about potentially it being a failure or just some of those things and really, the number of publications was just a number and then I

Ryan Stegink 5:00
As they invested in you, like you were able to

transform your mindset, but I am interested to hear about some of those habits, and some of those intentional thoughts that you had to kind of transform your mindset to tell me a little bit more.

Dr. Jia Ng 5:17
No, absolutely so important.

Maybe let me share my mistakes first, during my masters, then you can see why I have to change. So first is I took the work life balance a bit too far, I just had a baby two years, you know, and, and during masters, you suddenly go from 100% clinical time, when you get masters, you get 75% research, coursework, and 25% clinical time. So this major shift was so difficult for people who see patients all the time. And whenever I have free time, and I’m not seeing patient, I felt like I’m not doing anything. So I and in later I realized it was because clinical work is very reactive. And research is very proactive, you almost have to switch your mind to a different framework to be able to fit that in. So why I say clinical work is very reactive is because most of the time, you just need to show up to the hospitals, patient come to you, you get the pages, you get the calls, you write the notes, and you’re done, you go home, right, you don’t have to plan your days, okay, I need to plan to see five patients. So it’s patients come to you same as clinical work in clinic, you go there, you show up, you have a patient’s, then they come in no show fine, you know, but the patients that come in research, if you don’t do anything, the paper doesn’t get written, the data doesn’t get collected, and nobody holds you accountable. And, and if you don’t plan it, right, people don’t really have a good

timeline for you. So one project could take one year, one project could take five years, and nobody can know two projects at the same. And so nobody can say you are actually slow to only you know, and you can forget your time, you can not do anything, and nobody realized you’re not doing anything. So I took the work life balance came in at maybe 930. Left for an in between, I would check a few emails, I would check my topic inbox, which is the charting thing and realize, and I wasn’t doing my research, proper paper production activity. So so that was kind of my that was my mistake. And to answer your question, the big mindset was switching that I now need to take control of my own schedule. No longer wait for people to schedule me at a schedule it I have to create my own curriculum, I have to create my milestones, my key performance indicator, how do I get all the steps to achieve that paper and reverse engineering? That was the biggest changing habit that I have to make.

Ryan Stegink 8:00
So yeah, beginning with the end in mind, like Stephen Covey, and just, you said, working to give that structure, which I think in the clinical space, a lot of times that structure is given to us whether it’s going on rounds, or this is how things will work in terms of maybe an outpatient thing for me as a pediatrician. But, yeah, being proactive and having to look forward. It, it’s a very different skill set. So right, where, where do you see some of these milestones showing up in terms of how you ultimately made that switch?

Dr. Jia Ng 8:47
So first is to like a publication that that is the final product. Then I had to talk to multiple people, multiple mentors, and now stop and observe what they have been doing. So one thing when you talk to mentors, and you try to get advice is they will give you advice through their role, you know, Rose glasses, colored lenses. So they will say things like, you need to work hard. Don’t worry, you’ll be fine. You just have to follow your passion. But you can’t take that you actually have to ask them what they actually did during that stage. And when you Oh, during year one during your masters, tell me your schedule. Then you know what they actually did. So that was one of the big revelation. Oh, they were not doing the night before. They were not coasting. They were actively looking for people to collaborate. They were writing every single day, every day they have an activity to make sure my data is moving. My goal I’m collecting I am following up. I am recruiting, if so, everyday does a task, or multiple tasks that they would have designed by themselves, which create a structure. So that to reach to that goal, which is paper publication,

Ryan Stegink 10:15
so having certain outcome measures that you were going to have built that collaboration, collected more data, maybe put in a another grant proposal, some of those things,

Dr. Jia Ng 10:29
right, right. So the thing about people publication, it’s such a, it’s a goal that is so far away than most people, it’s not useful, because the paper can be published only two years later, or a grant can, you can probably get it three years later. So when when you are planning, it almost means you actually have to find activities that can lead to that, which means I need to collect data, I need to analyze, I need to create the table, I need to talk to the statistician. So it’s a lot of activities, that you don’t see the direct measure, but you have to check off all the activities, when you get to activities, then you can’t get the paper accomplish.

Ryan Stegink 11:14
So now being on the other side, having been very productive, your first couple years in this new position? How would you give advice to someone coming to you as a mentor? To say, all right, how should I structure my time, say I’m a new attending with an some academic research protected time, or I’m going into fellowship and have some research time, what would be the best ways to start putting that structure together.

Dr. Jia Ng 11:46
In fact, most people don’t have protected time. So that actually is the biggest barrier, I don’t have time, because it’s not written into the contract, or it’s not written into my daily schedule. So again, if you want to be successful in research, you have to despite not getting any tight protected time, you have to switch and say I need to create a block of time, squeeze out some clinical time squeezed into a smaller section and carve out your own little 1% 2% 5%. Even you’re talking about 10%, we are talking about two hours of the week. So you have to first commit and figure out later commit, say I am spending two hours in this week to do scholarly activity, put in a calendar first, that is the first advice because if you don’t put it in a calendar, your patients and activities, forms you have to fill will always fill into that spot. So first, make sure it is in the schedule. Second thing I would always say is treated like a clinic appointment. That means if you treat it like a clinic appointment, you take it seriously, you’ll never not show up to clinic. And if you can’t show up, you have to reschedule it, and you can’t just Oh, too bad. The patients will complain, right? So you treat that session really, really important. And people will give me pushback when I say Oh, I I can’t do that because my patients need means I cannot see my patient, I can’t give the patient I kid. If somebody wants to fit a patient in that session, I can’t do that. Then I’ve always said, No, you are helping a patient in that two hours because your paper is going to help hundreds of patients 100 future patients, if you can move that little needle, you trace it back all the way you are actually helping a lot more patients and a bigger impact. And even if it’s a medical education, research does not directly patient care. If I help better medical education, I’m training better medical students, they become better doctors, and it scales. So I it’s a shift in mindset, like I am helping patients, I am moving signs, I am helping people. So be committed with that two hour block, all the chipping away of work will really pay off.

Ryan Stegink 14:14
That’s huge. Just putting it on the calendar, treating it like a clinic appointment. I think that really gives a visual and a metaphor that physicians listening and others will be able to connect with because no you have to treat it like the really important thing that it is because I think each of us wants to move things forward, whether it’s just in patient care or with these scholarly activities, because by advancing the science and the medicine, and all these things together. That’s how we really continue to progress.

Dr. Jia Ng 14:50
Right, right.

Ryan Stegink 14:54
So as you’ve carved this out and gotten these publications, through how how have you figured out the your new balance of clinical time research work now into entrepreneurship and being a parent.

Dr. Jia Ng 15:12
Right. So there’s always a time where we are out of balance. Actually, let’s even come back to the word balance I, I want to nerdy activity I like to do is J look up the definition of quartz. And when you look at the mythology and the word of balance, it actually means you’re never static balance actually means you are always in movement. So which means sometimes, by definition, balance is never steady, and you’re always moving things around. So so just even have that mind. Thinking in mind that that means that sometimes we have such level of it, sometimes we can shift around a little bit. But as long as we are always moving, bringing energy back and forth, we can maintain a good alignment. And so my key to so called work life balance is alignment in all areas of my life. So when I started with research, I love acute kidney injury. So that’s my research goal. And as soon as I think, Okay, now, how do I balance my clinical work and research, let me make sure I am seeing more acute kidney injury patients. So I want to do more clinical work that is related to acute kidney injury, so that my research and my clinical work are more aligned. So that’s the first thing. And second is my business entrepreneurship. I could do things like real estate, and there’s so many side gigs, right, but it’s not aligned with my own skill set and what I’m passionate about. So I thought, you know, I had my own skill, I had my pain before now I’ve grown in I wish I had certain advice when I was starting out. And so I thought, this is a good business opportunity where I can serve, I can help. And all the things I learned through my journey as an entrepreneur has been helping me, because every time I had to create a course, or to take a YouTube video, I have to do additional research. Because what if what I’m saying is not right, so I had to do more research. I looked things up to make sure it’s accurate and be more concise. So the business side is helping feeding energy and it helping my personal growth as a researcher, and in my research is also helping me in terms of my business, because I need to think a little bit more research, how to look at things, how to look at the numbers, how to look at the data behind the scenes, so they have been in alignment. So that’s the business in the medicine side. And finally, the family piece. So when whenever I start a new adventure, there’s always a quick imbalance, but importantly, is to have communication between the family and the children. So we actually just did our family meeting today, which we do mission vision, things we want to fix. We do that every quarter. And so I told them what my goals are and how they are, how they are helping me help patients. Because if they let me do an interview with you without interruption, I’m helping more doctors, I’m helping more people. And one of our family mission is to make an impact in other people’s lives. So so they feel like they are part of this when they are letting me do a proper interview without interruption. They are also helping patients there will be people so so it is in alignment is not always perfect. It seems beautiful like that. But they still complain, you know, that’s fitting in that time. But we always have to go back to our goal. Okay, what is our mission? What can we do now? Let’s do some meeting. So so it is to work in progress.

Ryan Stegink 19:01
Yeah, I really resonate with that alignment. For me, it’s, I’d often characterize it as intentionality. But I think being able to bring those different interests and aptitudes those skills and your example for what your clinical time having a priority for patients that have had acute kidney injury allows you to then kind of merge those together. And I think that’s really where you’re able to develop that expertise and to really connect with patients in a way that says it’s like I’m really invested in you doing well and growing and this is not a static thing. This is continuing to move forward and you’re trying to be leading that charge to advance the knowledge because we have to learn and grow. Yeah, on the business side, I found a really Cool parallel between? Yeah, what you said about the need for creating that structure and putting things on the calendar, in the research realm with entrepreneurship and business, because you can do any number of things with your time. But it’s about saying, What do I need to do to move things forward? Is posting on social media going to be more helpful for me? Maybe, but ultimately, I need to connect with my people and send my weekly email so that they know about what’s going on what I’m thinking the latest episode, or prioritizing communication with guests like you to be able to be able to cultivate these connections to help other physicians. And so I just really appreciated that. And so whether someone wants to do a side gig or not these skills of living in alignment, and having that proactivity can help you wherever you’re at.

Dr. Jia Ng 21:04
Oh, absolutely. I, I felt like when I went to entrepreneurship, the skills had learned in research, because of project management, like, Okay, I need to plant create a structure was so helpful. But a lot of things in business was was about storytelling. How do you get the attention off from the YouTube channel, you have to cut, you have to compress all information in a two or three minute video. And I learn copy, I learned West hook with a story into my my writing, I realized I wrote a lot better because of that before I just wrote whatever I want and doesn’t have a story structure. Because academic writing the standard is so low that that we don’t we are not held accountable. People can read, they don’t have read, nobody cares. But YouTube videos are really unique. You need the numbers,

Ryan Stegink 22:02
has that then fed back into your academic writing? Or is there? How Absolutely, how would you relate the just kind of drawing people in? And how has that changed? Or this constrains the structure that’s desired or asked for by the publications? How can you merge those together?

Dr. Jia Ng 22:27
So first is understanding storytelling, I realized that academic writing is about telling one compelling story, one argument, which is same as YouTube video, one, one main message used to go everywhere. And there’s one key message in one research paper, everything else in the rest of the research paper is to support this key argument, how you support based on your methods, based on your results, based on other people’s results based on other people’s paper. But the key message is only one key message, everything else is to support. And so that is the key thing about a research paper. Second thing is about the hook the introduction, people always write it like a background. But you need to really walk the audience through what’s the problem, what has been done. And this is how I’m here to solve your problem through my research, what we do in storytelling, and I really transformed that thought now more intentionally, in my research paper ever since I started doing the business side of things.

Ryan Stegink 23:37
So tell me a little bit more about how you walk. Young attending researcher through those first steps. And just thinking about this now, how would they really go and apply this

Dr. Jia Ng 23:56
in terms of finding time to do research, or the actual skills,

Ryan Stegink 24:02
more the like the finding the time,

Dr. Jia Ng 24:05
right, finding the time is always the most difficult, which is the first step because if you don’t have time, that’s just all infamy, it’s just all noise. Right? So first, in terms of finding time, it is I think, sometimes more important to know how you’re wasting time. I think that’s the first step what you shouldn’t be doing. And I recently learned this and I thought it was so helpful. I think it’s it’s one of the Lean Six Sigma, project management skills that you learn from from manufacturing. So, the most important thing about time is thinking about the things we are wasting, which is scheduled time. Think through it, maybe even longer time. We always think we don’t have time, but really, there are pockets of time where we are wasting Second thing, a trick I did was I started to compress time, I never have blocks in between. So my clinic is always packed. And as soon as there is a space, I would have already have tests ready. So I finished my clinic notes as soon as the visit ends. And if the patient is late, I would prep for the next one, or I will be sending up the notes the actual note to the primary care physician. So there’s always a bunch of tasks that I do during a session, and I Don’t multitask. So, clinic session is clinic session, everything must be completed by then writing session is writing session. Literature review session means looking things up time is only looking things up, I don’t write can look things up. So I have very structured paths where 15 minutes, I’m doing only this, then I move on to the next class. And then final one trick is I like to make my meetings much shorter, which is I will always lean back to back so that you will never run, I wouldn’t have let people go longer than it should. So I was like, Okay, I really got to go to the my next meeting, I have no time and go to the next meeting. So these are a few tricks I do.

Ryan Stegink 26:27
Those are really helpful. And just, I think sometimes it’s easy to take a big project, such as writing a paper, and then think about, oh, I don’t know how I get it all done, or I think I’m making progress. But by you breaking it down into the kind of little sub tasks that allow you to move forward, whether it’s doing the lit review or writing this particular section, it allows you to break it down in a way that I think is a little bit more manageable for our brains.

Dr. Jia Ng 27:00
Yeah, yeah. So

Ryan Stegink 27:03
as you think about balancing time, and we talked about how to create and carve out the time, what have been some helpful self care tips that you’ve implemented in your own life and career or that you advise other trainees on? Oh, I

Dr. Jia Ng 27:21
have so much to talk about this. I think to me, I, what I’ve learned from my personal experience is physical health. You start with a physical health verse, which is enough sleep and physical activity. So my daily habit now is to make sure I have enough sleep, it may not be perfect six, seven hours. But if I will always have to catch up. If I don’t get enough sleep before I need to catch up. Prioritize that first. Because during my second year of fellowship, I just had a six month old baby, it’s my second child was nursing. It was a long travel. And at that time I, I did not prioritize sleep and would have three or four hours a day just because newborn babies, they take me with you at multiple times. And so I would be inefficient. And I thought the way to compensate is to wake up even earlier, and go round earlier so that I can finish my notes so that I can finish rounds. And then I can read longer. So I don’t know what’s the way to compensate. And until one day I apparently I was falling asleep in the middle of a conversation with my attending. And so he they call for intervention. And I saw my program director saying you know what, I want you to not come in or two weeks is your elective block Anyway, don’t come in for any lecture. Rain was nothing. Just go home and do your sleep, do your laundry do all the day to day activity and rest. And two weeks later, when I came back, I was surprised that how efficient I was, I think I could finish my notes fast I could browse. So it was really the brain fog of tiredness that was slowing me down. And ever since then, because it was such a big shift. I could see that. I could feel that before after I now understand I need to prioritize my sleep because the lack of sleep was just slowing him down and and there’s no points. You might as well Yes. Then the second point is of physical activity. The I used to go gym maybe once a week, once every two weeks and then you fall off the wagon right? Then I realized you if you do it every day is easier than when you’re doing it 99% of the time. 100% is always Indian and 99% of the time. And so now I always it doesn’t even matter whether it’s a good thing that they are We’ll always try to do some form of activity. Usually I go to the gym. But if I’m ill, let’s have a call, I can’t be spreading the germs to other people, I have a backup plan, there’s always a backup plan that’s important. That is, I’ll do stretching. So you decide that on good days, this is what I’m gonna do on bad days. This is my minimal test. So so then you don’t have an excuse, oh, I need to think, Oh, I can’t go. So now, I don’t want to do you have already created my plan that good days, I’ll do this bad day, this minimum, I’m just going to do stretching, exercise Ben 10 times, and I’ve done. So that helps with 100% physical activity for me?

Ryan Stegink 30:43
Well, that’s really helpful, because our brains are sneaky. And they want to think, oh, it’s like, well, I won’t do it this day. But having having your your own back to say, this is what I’m going to do in this situation. So that you don’t just make excuses and then do something else.

Dr. Jia Ng 31:02
Yeah, and slow bar is not even really high. It’s a very low bar interface, just 10 stretches that that’s it?

Ryan Stegink 31:11
Well, going back to your sleep advice, that is such a gift that your program gave to say, Go care for yourself. And I think that’s so important to say, you are an individual with value and like your whole person. And you bring that as a as a researcher, and clinician, but also as a human. And so it’s like we bring all of ourselves to each of these areas. And so being able to see the value in that is such a gift. So I’m glad they

Dr. Jia Ng 31:47
were able i Yes, I was so fortunate, of course, at that time, I felt like a punch in my gut. Because Oh, I got found out, they finally knew I didn’t deserve to be that program. And I’m so fortunate that they gave me that opportunity to progress. And recognize that I’m here for you to take care of you. And they were looking out for me. So that was really important for me and I till this day, I still appreciate that so much.

Ryan Stegink 32:15
And especially when I think a lot of medical training, undergrad, med school, residency and fellowship, it’s all about the doing and doing more. And yet, it’s doing more because you’re doing it more efficiently because you’re getting that extra rest.

Dr. Jia Ng 32:34
Yes, yes. Yeah, absolutely.

Ryan Stegink 32:38
So as we wrap up, if there’s one final thing you want to leave with our listeners, as I think about, we’ve talked about research in clinical medicine, self care, time management, productivity, what would be the thing that you wish you had known? When you were first coming out of training?

Dr. Jia Ng 32:58
I would say invest in yourself. So that is that’s the first thing I would say. And we like to as we went from residency to attending or fellowship, I remember the conversation was all about, oh, are you going to buy a new house? I have no, these for the call, are you going to start getting a 401 K, that sort of investment topics. And now looking back and that time was in my mind to? It was only when I was in pain where I could not get a good job that I started thinking, what am I doing for myself? We tend to think that investment in house brings you safety and actually investment in ourselves, to bring the skills, investing in ourselves, to break to be able to get a good job to be able to earn money. That brings me security, not that house, not that 401k First start by investing myself. I think if I knew that earlier, I would have started my whole self development journey a lot sooner, I could have progressed a lot faster. So if you want to think about investment in in one advice is start with yourself first, that everything else will follow.

Ryan Stegink 34:20
Thank you so much, Dr. Jia for joining me today and research sharing such amazing insights.

Dr. Jia Ng 34:27
Thank you so much for having me. It’s a pleasure talking to you.

Ryan Stegink 34:30
Thanks, Ian. Now for all of you listening, I really want you to consider how you can apply what you’ve learned from Dr. G in today’s discussion. And then please share this podcast with another doctor in your life and subscribe to it yourself. You can help change the culture of medicine and promote wellness for your patients, your colleagues and yourself. Thank you so much for all that you do and to have a great day. And now for our important disclaimer. Dr. Ryan’s Stegink is a practicing general pediatrician. But the MedEdWell podcast does not reflect the views, opinions or beliefs of his employer nor his affiliated University. Additionally, the MedEdWell podcast is for educational and entertainment purposes only, and should not be considered advice regarding financial, legal student loan, medical or any other specific topic. In such a case, you should seek consultation with a certified professional in that particular area. Again, thanks for joining us on the MedEdWell podcast. Have a great day.