About Jessica

Upbringing

I am a Texas native, born in a suburb outside of Houston. I grew up in what many would consider a typical middle class household with two younger brothers.

Dysfunctional family dynamics trained me to dissociate myself from stressful and emotional situations, to compartmentalize life, and to put my own well-being last.

It not only primed me to become a physician, but also set the stage for my research in authenticity. 

Credentials

Professionally, I attended Baylor University and received a degree in Psychology and Chemistry, where I graduated as valedictorian and was honored as the Most Outstanding Graduating Senior. On scholarship, I attended medical school at the University of Texas Medical Branch, graduating as a member of the AOA academic honor society, Gold Humanistic Honor Society for outstanding patient care, and matched into a residency position in Plastic Surgery.

I met and married my husband while in medical school; he was, of course, also in medical school. We graduated together and moved east to Tampa, Florida, for residency at the University of South Florida. After completing six years of Plastic Surgery training, I pressed on to a competitive Fellowship in Pediatric Craniofacial Surgery at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.

After fellowship, I landed a coveted position practicing my specialty at the University of Florida. I was promoted to Program Director for the Plastic Surgery residencies in 2019. By the time 2020 rolled around, I had witnessed multiple colleagues suffer with depression and sadly, a physician friend commit suicide. This rocked me to my core. As doctors and medical professionals, there seems to be a missing piece. How can we treat, train and educate the world on such complex issues when our own coworkers are in such distress?

As I started to investigate what was going on, I learned the physician suicide rate is 1.4 times the general population. How? Why? What is underneath this staggering statistic? And why is no one doing anything about it? Yes, we are often overworked, over stressed and yes, part of that is our own personalities, but the scientist in me knew those data points were not enough to present such long standing challenges.

Here's what I found. Burnout is one of the leading causes.

The stress medical professionals are under is incredible. And nowhere in our education or training are tools to adequately address managing the burnout and stress we face every day. Further, there are stigmas associated with reporting or sharing mental health challenges with colleagues, supervisors or even from utilizing your benefits. Add a global pandemic to the mix and we’re fully ill equipped to handle all that the past few years have thrown at us.

I realized that my residents, all residents, need more effective wellness initiatives; training that goes beyond medicine – that teaches life skills, wellness, integrity and authentic living. These fundamentals cause us to value our own lives at the same rate that we value the lives of our patients. This is what I wish I had in medical school and beyond.

This simple realization put me on a personal growth journey that turned out to be the greatest journey of my life. I came to realize the central role of authenticity and its power to help align the values of medical professionals such that we honor ourselves like we do our patients and our students. Knowing this has changed every aspect of my work. It has enlightened my home life, but most importantly it has changed me as a human being.

The Burnout Crisis Is Real.

It is not going away any time soon. If medical professionals are to survive the times we live in, we must find a better way and that is the journey forward. Today, I seek to better understand the struggle of authenticity of those in the medical field, so we can find solutions that are effective.

Getting real about this is the only way to reduce the pain and suffering of our colleagues and ourselves. Ultimately, it is the path forward for organizations, academic institutions, and the system in which we practice. 

I hope you’ll join me on this journey.

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