Growing up, we probably all had a variety of interests and hobbies. I excelled at math and science; I knew I had an analytical mind. But I also enjoyed music, art, and writing. I could be equally satisfied memorizing biochemistry cycles or completing calculus problems as I was writing, playing piano, or singing.
I was fortunate to have a support system and upbringing that encouraged development of "both sides" of my brain, so the two were able to coexist quite comfortably, and often fed and played off each other. I put this in quotes, as we know that individuals aren't truly "left" or "right" brained; this is somewhat of a myth. Perhaps we label people as "left-brained" or "right-brained" because it makes it easier for us to classify a person's interests and inclinations.
Physicians are often naturally (and appropriately) labeled as analytical, scientific, and logical. But some of the most creative and innovative minds I have come across are also those of physicians. Interestingly, I find that originality, creativity, and innovation aren't naturally attributed to physicians. Why is this so? Do analytical thinking and creativity have to be mutually exclusive?
Perhaps this relates to the uniqueness of the medical journey: long hours; sleepless nights; grit; dedication and determination; high intellectual and emotional demands. Unintentionally, this journey might force one to "neglect" or "hide" other interests.
The long years of perfecting our clinical and academic skills, understandably, can often leave no bandwidth or time for other pursuits. Yet even when there is time, it can seem as though spending time on those other interests feels like "cheating on medicine." Part of this may be due to how much "physician" and "doctor" become part of our identities. Part of this may also be fear of judgement. If we share all of ourselves (including other interests and hobbies), will other doctors and healthcare professionals think we are less committed clinicians? Are we less committed to medicine?
While COVID-19 caused tremendous hardship to the healthcare system as a whole, it did result in self-reflection and some dedicated thought to how we can live more balanced lives as physicians. For some, as social events and other activities were shut down, perhaps it was an opportunity to revisit those long-lost "right-sided" interests.
I have found that using my "right" brain has had some inadvertent positive consequences:
My clinical/medical job as a doctor and academic cardiologist provides great fulfillment for my analytic and scientific brain. It feeds my inner nerd.
My pursuits in writing, social media, etc., have provided a necessary lifestyle balance. It gives my analytical mind (which is often disproportionately overused) a much needed rest. And it allows me to exercise my creative mind.
The ability to rest my analytical mind, interestingly, allows me to return to clinical medicine repeatedly with a fresh mind and newfound energy, and arguably makes me a better doctor and clinician.
What I have also found is that it is often at the intersection of analytical/technical skills and creativity where magic happens.
Disclaimer: The above article is intended for informational purposes only. It is not professional medical advice. If you believe you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your physician or 911.
Dr Thachil's clinical interests including acute cardiovascular care, cardiac critical care, and health disparities. Her nonclinical interests include personal development, blogging, and writing (at thachilmd.com and YouTube).
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Any views expressed above are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of WebMD or Medscape.
Cite this: Rosy Thachil. How Expressing Creativity Will Make You a Better Doctor - Medscape - Sep 28, 2022.