Thursday, April 6, 2023
As a senior resident during one of my (dare I say it) quieter shifts at the community hospital in Silver Spring, Maryland, I happened upon a newsletter for Doximity. They were looking for authors to participate in their ‘Op-Med’ program, which was basically a spin on “op-eds” but with a medical perspective. At this point in my healthcare career, I was planning to pursue a fellowship and thought to myself nothing other than, “maybe I should do this so that I can add it to my CV even though no one will read what I have to say.” So I applied and I was accepted. It was the first of many non-clinical side gigs.
Why I recommend Side Gigs
Overall, I personally recommend ‘side gigs’ to any other physician that I meet (even medical students and trainees) for several reasons (some of which I have touched on already):
Building a brand
Mentorship and networking
Increased exposure to topics outside of area of expertise
Learning new skillsets
Growing referrals and organically building a patient base
Long-lasting relationships with peers
Fast forward to 2019 when I received an award for my writing in the program – recognition that I never could have imagined. I chose this point as the beginning of my story because it served as the launch pad for a road that I never pictured myself traveling but loved exploring, nevertheless. It was a journey through a land of ‘side gigs’ that I never knew existed. I started searching for other places that I could submit my writing to and happened upon KevinMD.com (after several rejections from larger outlets like The New York Times and The Washington Post). I was thrilled to see that online users were actually reading what I wrote. I was sometimes surprised at what drew the most controversial comments and reactions like the amount of debt I was in and my response to an in-flight emergency.
Slowly, I started to explore other opportunities outside of writing that still leveraged my medical background. I was a guest lecturer for Doctors in Training and contributed cases to Figure 1 and Human Diagnosis Project (HumanDx). I found myself loving what I was doing outside of the hospital just as much if not more than sitting at a computer and typing endless amounts of notes in the hospital (because direct patient care barely existed for me given the high volume and high acuity setting that I was in). I was also a big fan of the fact that I could earn supplemental income from a lot of these arrangements considering I was earning a residency-level salary at the time.
Building Your Brand
I started ‘building a brand’ without even knowing that I was doing so by creating content on social media that was geared toward fellow trainees, parents and caregivers. I began networking with other professionals online and those conversations at times led to in-person meetups and meaningful, long-lasting relationships. Over time, I started to narrow down my focus on ‘side gigs’ that I really enjoyed. For me now, they involve writing. I love serving as a trusted source for users online when it comes to medical information, especially considering the amount of inaccurate information that exists in the digital world.
Many Non-Clinical Opportunities Exist
The most important thing that I learned throughout this process is that opportunities outside of clinical medicine are abundant. There are so many ways that physicians can leverage their background and provide additional value to patients and peers outside of just practicing medicine. These types of endeavors also can help practicing doctors build a solid network for referrals or attract patients to see them because they’ve created a persona and following online.
Since completing residency training, I have continued to partner with brands and companies that benefit from a clinician’s perspective or experience. My partnership with Andwise is another example of an opportunity that resulted from networking and pursuing these ‘side gigs.’
Remember, too, that not all ‘side gigs’ are the same. There are a lot of other paths that I haven’t mentioned here that other peers have explored. A website like “Drop Out Club” or “DOC Jobs,” is a good place to start if you’re thinking about changing your focus. Other platforms like “Beyond Physician” allow you to search postings and list yourself for hire depending on your unique skillset. Your personal network is another great place to tap into if you aren’t sure about where to begin. I continue to be surprised at the new opportunities that regularly pop up and I encourage you to explore the ones that interest you the most to cultivate creativity outside of your day-to-day as a doctor.
Cherilyn Cecchini, M.D., is a board-certified pediatrician and medical writer who authors diverse content for GoodRx. As a medical expert, she has provided commentary for Parents (also here), Romper, PureWow, Parentology, UpJourney, What to Expect, Eat This Not That, Business Insider, Babygaga, Good Housekeeping, Celebrity Parents Magazine, the Strategist, AAMC News and other outlets. She earned her medical degree from Sidney Kimmel Medical College and completed her residency training at a top 10 children’s hospital, Children’s National Medical Center. Her past writing includes widely-read opinion pieces for KevinMD and Doximity. She is a former board member of the American Medical Women’s Association, having held multiple leadership roles at the local and national level. Find her on Instagram.