This time of the year is truly magical, yet it also threatens to overwhelm many of us, as we try to enjoy every second of the holiday season while continuing to carry out our professional responsibilities. Before you succumb to “holiday burn out,” we wanted to share with you our past interview with accomplished doctor, Amaryllis Sánchez Wohlever, MD, who has first-hand experience with the crushing weight of fatigue.
4word: Tell us about your medical background and what led you to where you are today.
Amaryllis: As a little girl, some of my favorite gifts were play medical kits. You remember them, with the plastic syringe, pretend Band-Aids, and stethoscope. Everyone in my family was a patient at some point (dogs included!). Sometime in middle school, I learned about Mother Teresa. Her selflessness, compassion, and deep prayer life inspired me to become a doctor. Yet, it was my mother’s belief in me that led me to medical school. I graduated from Penn State College of Medicine, served as chief resident, and have been blessed with many leadership opportunities to serve and grow.
Early in my career, I went through a very difficult time coping with family illness and a challenging job in the military. During that desperate time, I asked God to reveal Himself to me. He answered my prayer, and life has never been the same again. I’m so thankful for that heartfelt prayer on my knees. Through it, I gave God my heart and my entire life, and He transformed my work as a doctor into a ministry. I now strive to care for the soul and minister to the spirit while treating the body.
I’ve been blessed to work with many special doctors over the years. Their example and friendship helped me stand firm as I learned to incorporate my faith into my practice—respecting others’ beliefs while serving them as an authentic Christian physician. What a privilege!
4word: Mentoring is a huge passion of yours, both with your medical colleagues and as part of the 4word: Mentor Program. What kind of interactions and experiences have both of those mentoring avenues allowed you to have?
Amaryllis: Serving as a 4word Mentor has been very meaningful. I was amazed to be paired with my mentee, since our life experiences (though unknown to those who paired us) made our mentor-mentee relationship a remarkable fit. While mentoring her, I recalled the women who have impacted my life; every one of them is a treasure. Giving back as a mentor reminds me of Proverbs 11:25, “Whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” That’s how I feel when I mentor, coach, and disciple others. It’s life-giving, and I sense God’s smile.
I am also very passionate about helping healthcare professionals. Most doctors are trying to do the impossible within a very broken healthcare system in constant flux. As healthcare becomes, increasingly, even more complex and regulated, physicians find themselves in an uphill battle against insurance companies, employers concerned about the ‘bottom line’ above patient care, and the need to do more in less time. At any given time, one-third to one-half of doctors meet criteria for burnout, as they continue to neglect—day in and day out—their health and personal relationships. I talk more about this and “compassion fatigue” in the video below.
Having come close to burnout while in full-time practice, I have become an advocate for physician wellness and enjoy coaching my colleagues to greater wholeness and contentment. Burnout drains people of energy, creativity, and joy. I walk alongside them to help them go back to basics, tend to what’s most important, and rediscover their passions.
I enjoy those ‘Aha’ moments that come when I help someone dig up neglected dreams or forgotten talents like painting or playing the flute. It’s rewarding to help someone discover greater meaning and purpose in their work and in life. My goal is to inspire healthcare professionals to see their work as vocation and reignite a sense of hope, vitality, and joy in serving others from the heart.
The bottom line is simple: We can’t give what we don’t have. As we become healthier and more whole as people, we become more effective helpers. We experience more joy, too, and a sense of fulfillment. This has been my experience, and I find it rewarding to care for the caregiver. I especially enjoy coaching professional women to help them attain greater life balance between motherhood, career, and the many hats we wear.
4word: In addition to practicing medicine, you are an accomplished author. Can you tell us about the books you’ve written?
Amaryllis: Yes! My first book is titled Walking with Jesus in Healthcare. Based on the Gospel according to Luke (the physician), it’s a devotional to help healthcare professionals stay close to God while caring for people. The response has been amazing; it changed my life, really. I’ve spent the last three years speaking to groups of healthcare professionals, leading retreats, and giving webinars on topics like cultivating a servant heart and incorporating faith into medicine.
Although I wrote it for healthcare professionals and caregivers, it turns out that patients benefit from the book, too! Recently, a friend’s father read it during a two-week hospital stay for heart surgery and said it helped him sense God’s presence when it mattered most. Another special story involves a remarkable woman of God who’s battling cancer. Early in her treatment, she gave a copy to each of her doctors. Her oncology team then started reading the book together, and her doctors now pray with her at every visit. Beautiful!
My other book is The Ultimate Girls’ Body Book, a Zondervan title I coauthored. It’s a fun and informative book to help tween girls as they walk through the joys and challenges of puberty. I enjoyed writing chapters about modesty, true friendship, social media, and much more. It is written from a Christian perspective to help girls see themselves as God sees them—beautiful, special, and loved—while helping equip them with truth to navigate the challenges our society presents. The world defines beauty in strange ways, but God says, My love makes you beautiful. I want girls to know that deep down as a shield against the world’s lies. God’s Truth is powerful.
4word: Do you have any stories you can share with us about girls who were ministered to through “The Ultimate Girls’ Body Book”?
Amaryllis: My favorite story comes from my daughter’s 9th birthday. She invited five friends for a sleepover party (I have such great memories of mine!). Of course, we had a blast. After painting toenails and a bit of karaoke, one of the girls spotted the book on my desk. They all came over, one at a time, and started flipping through the pages and giggling with the fun sketches of girls their age. So we all sat down together while I read from the chapter on friendship, and they just ate it up!
We spent the next half hour chatting easily about what makes a good friend and the importance of surrounding yourself with godly girls and boys. We shared stories and laughed a lot. And then I got to pray over each of them on my sweet daughter’s birthday. It was precious. When we give God our gifts, He surprises us in so many beautiful ways. What a tremendous blessing!
4word: Tell us about the nonprofit clinic for the uninsured that you helped start in Central Florida. How have you been able to use that clinic as a ministry opportunity?
Amaryllis: Five or six years ago, I was asked to join a small group of physicians, nurses, and community leaders to start Grace Medical Home. With the support of two major hospital systems as well as many individuals, churches, and businesses, we started a beautiful state-of-the-art clinic to serve the uninsured. Our inspiration came from Hebrews 12:15, See to it that no one misses the grace of God.
Through the work, financial support, and prayers of many people, a beautiful place now exists to serve those who may otherwise be forgotten in central Florida. At Grace, they experience a medical home, a place where people know and care about them. They receive excellent medical care, counseling services, social services, and care for the spirit through prayer. The best part is that it is all offered with love and compassion in the name of Christ.
4word: You are an advocate for physical wellness and burnout prevention. What are some tips you can share with our readers who may be wanting 2017 to be the year of getting healthy and staying positive?
Amaryllis: A new year presents endless possibilities for a fresh start in every area of life. We all have goals; that’s usually not a problem. Perhaps it’s time to lose weight (again!) or we need a new direction in our career. Maybe we’ve stopped exercising and lack energy, or need to make healthier eating choices more consistently. We all have needs and goals. What many people with goals don’t have is a plan of action.
When I coach people who want to get healthier—whether physically, spiritually, professionally or in their relationships—there are several keys to success: (1) An action plan, (2) A commitment to being intentional every day, (3) Grace and patience to deal with setbacks, and (4) Accountability (from a friend, spouse or a coach like me). Another important key to success is to have a plan for maintenance of positive changes once goals are reached. This is where accountability and a ‘change buddy’ can prove invaluable.
Mentoring others through your successes can be a terrific way to maintain your own victories. It’s an example of what’s been called ‘God’s economy of mutual blessing.’ We are blessed to bless others, and helping others blesses us. It’s God’s wisdom in action!
4word: Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Amaryllis: I’d like to share what I think is the key to a full life: an abiding, growing, and central relationship with God. I titled my book Walking with Jesus in Healthcare because walking with Jesus will ALWAYS lead us to God’s best for our lives. He will never lead us astray. As we stay close to our Shepherd we discover safe pastures and living waters. Walking with Jesus is not merely a good New Year’s resolution. It is the best decision we can ever make, for the dividends of this relationship are eternal.
I love helping people grow closer to God and to their God-given purpose. Like Peter said in Acts 3:6, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you.” What I have is the love of Christ, and that’s the best thing I can share with anyone … in the New Year and every day.
“We can’t give what we don’t have.” As Amaryllis warned, we must ensure that we are taking the time to care for our bodies and minds before we expect them to perform the way we want and need them to. If you’re feeling burnt out, take a step back and reflect on what the source of your stress might be. Make a goal this year to not neglect quality “you time”!
Have you ever been burnt out at work? How did you remedy that?
Amaryllis has been an impactful mentor in the 4word: Mentor Program, and has touched the lives of professional Christian women across the country. If you think you could benefit from having a mentorship with someone like Amaryllis, click this link to submit your application for the upcoming session of the 4word: Mentor Program. Applications are due by January 6, 2017.
Amaryllis is married to a pilot-turned-preacher and is the happy mom of three terrific children. Her life was transformed years ago through a heartfelt prayer. Since then, her work as a family doctor turned into a ministry as she learned to care for people from the heart. She strives to care for the soul and minister to the spirit while treating the body.
A physician entrepreneur, Amaryllis continues to care for patients while managing a writing and coaching business. She is the author of Walking with Jesus in Healthcare and coauthor of The Ultimate Girls’ Body Book. She is also the medical editor for FACTS and copy editor, translator, and writer for Hope Matters. Since 2001, she’s written Bible commentary and devotions for Bible Reading Fellowship. She enjoys helping people learn to feed their soul, renew their mind, and strengthen their spirit with God’s Word and to apply its timeless principles in daily living.
As a doctor, Amaryllis feels particularly called to caring for the poor and underserved. She is a volunteer adjunct faculty member at University of Central Florida’s College of Medicine and serves on the Board of Directors of the Florida Academy of Family Physicians.
Whether home with her family, working on a writing project, at a speaking engagement, or caring for people’s medical needs, Amaryllis seeks to glorify God in all she does and to help others grow in their relationship with God.