Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

The 92 Report

Dec 4, 2023

Genève Allison, an attending physician in infectious diseases, shares her journey since graduating from Harvard. She took a leave of absence from work in 2023, which was not something she would have predicted but turned out to be one of the best things she's done. Her journey began with working in a research lab and meeting physicians, leading her to pursue medicine as a career. She went to the University of Massachusetts Medical School and completed a residency in infectious diseases before returning to Boston to pursue infectious diseases at Tufts.

Methods of Recovering from Burnout

During the pandemic, Genève experienced burnout and emotional exhaustion. She sought support from her primary care doctor, who helped her get a medical leave for three months. This allowed her to heal from the trauma and work on toxic habits that can lead to burnout. She believes that we don't talk enough about taking care of ourselves in society, and she wants to share her experience on the 92 Report to inspire others to reach out for help. 

Genève's leave of absence was a time for her to try everything, including therapy, journaling, and writing exposure therapy. She used specific therapy notebooks to process traumatic events and write about them in detail, which helped her dissipate the stress and improve her mental health. She also participated in a pottery class, which was enjoyable and allowed her to get out of her perfectionistic stressful mindset. Genève talks about the fundamental need to make things with our hands, such as building a shed, baking, knitting, gardening, and pottery. During the pandemic, baking became a major concern, and people talked about sourdough as a solution. The conversation also touches on the importance of taking time off from work to maintain a healthy lifestyle, such as playing the flute or attending therapy sessions.

A Physician’s Personal Experiences during the Pandemic

The conversation shifts to her personal experiences during the pandemic. She felt scared that she didn't care enough to be a doctor, which led her to take time off. However, she found that her caring barometer was off, and she realized that she had to care for patients and their well-being. She talks about experience as an infectious disease specialist during the pandemic. She describes the surreal and bizarre situation of being the only person on her train to go to work, especially in the pediatrics where the inpatient pediatrics floor was converted into an adult Intensive Care Unit due to the need for ventilators. Genève shares her experiences with fighting with elderly chaplains who would enter patients rooms with COVID, despite not having vaccines yet. The suffering experienced by patients dying of COVID was beyond what the physician was prepared for. Patients were not allowed to have families present at their bedside, and nurses were at their bedside when they were dying. This was unimaginably painful for both the patient and their family. The emotional labor that comes with being present at a loved one's death is also difficult to witness.

Factors Leading to Burnout

Genève explains that a mix of things led to her burnout, including perfectionism, type A behaviors, and restlessness. The pandemic magnified these issues, as the work was never going to be done, and recommendations were constantly changing. She realized that she needed to take care of herself and figure out fixed beliefs that she couldn't prioritize. This led to therapy and the realization that she needed to prioritize herself over her work. She discusses how her approach to work has changed over the years. She now takes secondary prevention, such as avoiding smoking, exercising, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. She now focuses on self-care and taking care of her mental health, which has helped her avoid burnout in the future. Genève uses an analogy of a heart attack, where people talk about secondary prevention because they don't want another heart attack.

Healing from Burnout

Genève talks about her skepticism about their energetic capacity and their decision to say no more often. She mentions that she has said no to various activities, such as being part of a research committee or helping a research group. She also mentions that being tired is not a character flaw but a human emotion. She talks about acupuncture and that some studies suggest it has no scientific impact, but the placebo effect may play a role. She acknowledges that there is a lot of literature on the meridians used in acupuncture and the physiological correlates of these effects. During her training in California, she became best friends with a physician who had trained in both allopathic medicine and acupuncture and herbs. They worked together on a residency and have since worked with a group where she does acupuncture for patients undergoing chemotherapy to alleviate side effects. Her motivation for doing acupuncture was due to physical symptoms of burnout, such as migraines, dizziness, and neck pain from stress. She experienced an immediate improvement in their well-being after receiving needles in their legs, which she continues to maintain.

The Field of Infectious Disease

Genève talks about why she was interested in the Infectious disease field. She mentions that it is a fascinating field that involves solving puzzles and figuring things out when others cannot. It's a satisfying field where doctors can make diagnoses, create treatment plans, and see people get better. 


Influential Harvard Professors and Courses

Genève shares her experiences with mentorship and support from Carl Liam, a professor of biology and an IQ theologist. His mentorship and belief in him made a huge difference during their sophomore year, helping her become better mentors and learn that stumbles are normal parts of life. She emphasizes the importance of seeking help for medical professionals, as many doctors commit suicide every day due to fear of losing their licenses.