Voices: SGO 2021 Annual Meeting Co-chairs Describe Balancing Act
How does one balance their professional and personal lives while being mindful of their wellness? What happens when extra responsibilities are added to an already busy workload? The Wellness Committee asked Heidi Gray, MD, and Angeles Alvarez Secord, MD, co-chairs of the SGO 2021 Annual Meeting on Women’s Cancer Program Committee, to provide their fellow SGO members with a little insight into how they balance their busy lives while managing to stay well.
1. Does being a committee chair have an impact on your current workload? If yes, how so?
Dr. Gray (HG): Yes, but in a totally expected and reasonable way. I have been so grateful to have an amazing team to work with – my co-chair Dr. Alvarez Secord and President David E. Cohn, MD, MBA–A.K.A. The Dream Team! When I accepted, I purposely stepped away from a few local and national responsibilities to be able to free up some time for the work of the program co-chair. Despite these crazy unprecedented times, it anchors me to continue to care for women with gynecologic cancers and to push science and education forward with putting on the best meeting we can.
Dr. Alvarez Secord (AAS): Yes, absolutely. Being a Program Committee Co-chair definitely increases your workload. Planning the SGO 2021 Annual Meeting is incredibly challenging, but also quite fun and exciting. Challenging because in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic we don’t know what is going to happen. We are planning for two meetings: (1) a hybrid meeting with both in-person and virtual content; and (2) a virtual meeting only. It’s time to “lean in” and get it done; meaning a lot of teleconference discussion and energy creating new ways to engage our members, network, disseminate research findings, and share ideas. Most importantly, this is fun. Yes, “FUN”. Fun to work with Drs. David Cohn and Heidi Gray as well as the rest of our outstanding 2021 Program Committee to think of innovative ideas, evaluate advanced educational virtual platforms, and expand globally to ensure the 2021 Annual Meeting is fantastic and meets our members’ needs.
2. With the additional responsibilities of Annual Meeting Program Co-chair, what do you do to keep wellness/social activities included in your schedule?
HG: First of all, this year has been like no other in terms of need for wellness and self-care with the loss and grief we all are experiencing. I am a morning person and so like to get my exercise in early. I am usually up hours before the rest of my family, which, honestly, I enjoy as it is my alone time. My family brings me much joy so evenings and weekends I prioritize time with them. Social activities–you are kidding, right? Like most, I have been keeping in close contact with friends via Zoom parties or FaceTime which has been important in staying connected. However, it is getting old I am looking forward to being able to travel and see people face to face unmasked and unwary again.
AAS: To maintain wellness and balance I love to spend time with my family and physical activity. Anything outside is great. I love tennis and really enjoy being on the court, friendly competition, and playing at the net. I also find joy in the smallest things; like heart-shapes on the side of the road. North Carolina’s sunny blue skies and gorgeous sunsets are a constant reminder that life is beautiful.
3. Do you have a favorite wellness activity?
HG: Prior to COVID, my favorite wellness activities were traveling with my family and watching my kids compete in sports. With both those curtailed, I have been enjoying hiking, biking and being outdoors with my family and rescue dog almost every weekend. I also enjoy binge watching “The Office,” baking and puzzles.
4. What wellness advice do you have for members?
HG: First, do something for yourself every day. Period. Second, incorporate joy into your daily life both inside and outside work. I come from a generation where wellness was not a thing that was taught or discussed. I have learned that, yes, an important part of wellness is time away mentally and physically from our high-pressure careers. But I have also found I can do my job better and can handle the stresses when I allow for moments in my work day to feel joy. It can be as small as a long-term patient reminiscing when I was eight months pregnant (how did I reach the operating table?) when I operated on her the first time ten years ago, or our inpatient team group watching and critiquing “The Bachelor” in order to decompress after several deaths on service.
AAS: My wellness advice to members is to remember to set time aside for yourself and provide self-support. We are all so passionate about our work and patients, overloaded by administrative duties, and pushed to be more productive that sometimes we forget to take care of ourselves. Remember to prioritize your health and cultivate wellness. Do something special for ”you” every day; and recognize the good you do.
Angeles Alvarez Secord, MD, is a Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Duke University Medical Center oin Durham, NC. Heidi Gray, MD, is a Professor in the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle, WA.