Workshop co-leader uses humor, stories to boost physician wellness
Lynette Charity, MD, is a dynamic speaker who uses storytelling and humor to help other physicians recognize symptoms of depression, redirect negativity and use laughter to deal today’s “health care soap opera.” At this year’s pre-convention Physician Wellness Workshop, she’ll present “A Prescription for Success in Your Medical Career.” Next month, we’ll hear from workshop co-presenter C. Nicole Swiner, MD. Register for the Wellness Workshop at
Why did you decide to pursue a second career in public speaking and stand-up comedy? In 2012, my “calling” became a day job. I was 60 years old and after “adapting” to the new health care model over and over again, I got fed up. I assessed my abilities other than my 33-year career in anesthesiology. I decided that my next career would be in stand-up comedy!

So that’s what I pursued, while working part-time in an ambulatory surgery center. In addition, I attended a conference put on by SEAK, which helps physicians evaluate possible nonclinical careers. I spoke with career coach Heather Fork, MD, who suggested that I perfect my “people skills” through acting classes, comedy classes and speaking classes. After all, I am an anesthesiologist – trained to put people to sleep!

How did you get involved in Toastmasters? Dr. Fork suggested that I join Toastmasters International. After doing some research on the organization, I joined two clubs in my area. I honed my speaking skills by competing in speech contests and won quite a few trophies. In 2014, at the Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking held in Kuala Lumpur, I won a third-place trophy. This was a defining moment for me.

I began speaking professionally, first for free and then for a fee, while perfecting my comedy skills through doing “open mics” and improvisation.

Why is it important to incorporate humor into your speaking engagements? My primary presentation is titled “Medicine is Your Calling, But Don’t Let it Kill You!” Speaking on physician suicide is DEpressing. I learned from my comedy coach that any subject can have humor. No matter how “dark” or boring the subject, there needs to be comic relief!

Why is physician wellness in such jeopardy these days? Physician wellness has been in jeopardy for quite some time. If you Google “physician wellness,” you’ll find numerous articles on the subject, but no clear-cut solutions. Many of us chose medicine to help people, to make a difference, heck, to promote WORLD PEACE! But that has been taken away from us. We have been lumped into a category called “providers.” We are the scapegoats for all that’s wrong with health care. Administrators demean us; patients demean us; WE demean one another. We were never trained in the art of negotiating. Where is that satisfaction we used to have in what we do? Without that satisfaction, and with the stress and anxiety of our litigious society, depression rears its head. If untreated, depression can lead to suicidal ideations and the ultimate sacrifice, loss of life.

We are all trained to do our jobs but now need a committee to do so. There is no trust anymore in our ability to take care of our patients. We are being worn down by the lack of support. When did we stop taking care of our patients – developing a relationship through face-to-face communication – and become data-entry clerks?

What do you hope physicians will gain from your presentation?
This is a workshop for those in attendance to reconnect, recommit and recharge. We will learn from each other and most important, we will have some F U N! For two hours, attendees will be able to shed some of their physician personas, find humor in their lives and learn some immediate action steps to begin taking care of themselves before taking care of others. Without self-care, nothing will improve. We can’t change what’s going on in medicine, but we can change how we react to it. We have hard decisions to make as physicians in this new health care soap opera. I hope that we will find a few answers in our time together.

Why is self-awareness so important to personal and professional success?
In my career, I initially wanted to go the academic track. However, I came to realize that my joy came from DOING, not teaching. For a while, I felt that I had let some people down by choosing to leave academics. I realized that I was a better physician doing what I wanted to do than doing what I was expected to do. Maya Angelou describes success as “liking yourself, liking what you do and liking how you do it.” That’s good enough for me!

“Work-life” balance is a misnomer. It’s just LIFE, and you need to make the hard decisions as to what works for you and “just do it!” No regrets. Taking care of one’s self is not selfish. It’s necessary in order to take care of others. Adapting, reinventing and just saying “NO” are all a part of being self-aware. For some, this will not be easy, but you will thrive rather than just survive if you turn your focus inward and see what YOU need in order to stay true to yourself.