Physician Wellness – Dr. Plastic Picker

Category: Physician Wellness


May 19, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

It’s 454 AM and my body is coming along. I was in this daze of binge-watching some really good Kdramas and not getting enough sleep. The broca wernike area of my brain is so enjoying the Korean-language dump, and also the heart-wrenching story lines – that it was getting kind of ridiculous. If you know me in real life, any of my clinic friends will tell you – it was kind of getting obsessive. But I’m an adult and generally healed, so I turned it off to get some good sleep yesterday.


Bags 669 and 679!

May 3, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

I’ve never understood regret. The Korean word for regret is 후회. Honestly, I don’t think I even know the word in Vietnamese despite being fluent. Just googled it. I do know the word. It’s tiếc. I guess I don’t hear my parents regretting that much growing up, unless it was a some food that was actually spilled. I remember once going to Costco (Price Club back in the day) and an entire large tray of eggs flipped and was summarily all broken and unedible. My father, young back then, had been joyriding on the shopping cart which caused the tray of eggs to be broken. My mother probably did regret it, and likely said ” tiếc” in Vietnamese. But I don’t think my father would have regretted that moment, because I remember him laughing and joyful and handsome in a young father way.

So here I am, older than my father when he was joy riding in the Costco (formerly Price Club) parking lot on the shopping cart. The tray of eggs, since they were mostly biodegradable, have been cycled back into the earth somehow (hopefully). And I’m thinking of regrets.

I’m thinking of regrets because I talk to more people now. No, that’s not true. I’m listening to more people now. I’m trying to share the burden of more of my friends, especially climate friends. And what I’m hearing is regrets. I’m hearing reflections. I’m hearing them processing professional and personal experiences and wondering, was it worth that time? Was it worth all those sessions preparing, when the session did not go as planned? After the comments, after the rejections, was it worth it?

I listenend and shared and tried to reflect some of their emotions back. Friends are dealing with it. Job rejections. Grant rejections. Feedback that may be intended to be constructive but feels like professional rejection or dismissal of your efforts.

I don’t have regrets. That’s all I can tell the readership. It’s your journey and it’s often circuitous, and that wandering in life is what makes it yours. Maybe that’s the commonality among those I love personally and professionally and their difficulty in processing things. They’ve never been rejected that much, and they live with too much regret when it rarely happens.


The two attendings here. My new best friends!

April 21, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

Wow. My body is tired. I now realize my binge-watching Kdramas (and I’ve been a bad middle-aged mommy and binge-watching a lot) has been kind of excessive. I now realize that some of this is not unlike people who drink alcohol (which I do not but I am not judging) to numb themselves. I now realize that ending my traditional middle management career at five years of Assistant Chief was an emotionally hard and wrenching decision. I was numbing myself from the emotional fallout. The fallout, ended up being the emails and calls from some upper management that never materialized. I know that they too are just cogs in the HMO machinery, but to say that I am slightly disappointed would be true. I think all of us deep down all want to be recognized. Since I’m a metric oriented person, I know objectively I did so much in the five years that I was Assistant Boss. But now that I’m at that age of being a middle aged palindrome, where my age is the same read forwards and backwards, I realize that it was meant to be. I’m meant to decide where my path goes. Read forward or backwards, I’m still me and actually more fundamentally me that I could ever be.

So with those convulated thoughts, something amazing happened yesterday at our HMO. I was one instructor at one of the breakout sessions, but my climate HMO Friend Dr. RA organized one of hte first of it’s kind San Diego wide climate symposiums with cross institutional participation on the instructor and resident side from all the major Family Practice and Emergency Medicine departments. It was very epic and she has her own narrative that she will share soon in an academic piece.


Rewarded with this little friend, the Black Turnstone.

March 28, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

I thought this little friend I met this weekend was a Surfbird, but she’s actually a Black Turnstone. I’ll remember this past weekend for many reasons including a rare Black Turnstone that I don’t often see on the stretch of Marine Protected Area that I clean frequently. I’m at bag 655 abouts and I think I’ve made a dent. I think the world has made a dent. @drplasticpicker is above 1800 followers now and this blog continues to average between 400-1000 views a day. Who, I’m not really sure? But I have to believe that those that are following the adventures of Dr. Plastic Picker are also bending the arc of history toward a sustainable world.


#2 upcypcled reburbished planter stand from a chair I found in the alley

February 23, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

Life is meandering. RG, our premed advocacy intern working on leaded aviation pollution, and I were supposed to make verbal comments at the EPA meeting last night. We both submitted written comments. It was nothing that was asked of us, just somewhere we thought we should be. But RG had to work last minute (all this environmental health work is volunteer) and I logged in once on my phone, and afterwards when I tried to log in again on my computer – the link did not work. Mr. Plastic Picker is a witness that I tried to log into the EPA “EPA’s Draft Strategy to Reduce Lead Exposure and Disparities in US Communities” and the it was unsuccessful. I really really tried. But since RG wasn’t there and part of advocacy is fun for me, if I get to do it with the premed interns, I didn’t really mind that much. Instead of being attached to the EPA meeting until 9pm, I ceased by Zoom logging in efforts at 710PM. And then I watched Kdramas! Well, the current show I just finished is more artsy so not really a drama. But I learned something that was very profound from the close-captioning translations. I love the Kdramas because I actually do have a decent grasp of Korean, and it’s this weird world where I’m learning all this Korean but I get to read too. Anyway, the translation was the best part of this show about a family of three women and the percussions of domestic violence.


A beautiful card from a beautiful family with a heartfelt sentiment I will treasure.

February 19, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

It’s 442AM and I am back to a semi-normal rhythm. I did watch Hulu “Descendents of the Son” K-drama, but I did not binge-watch it last night. It’s really good and I’m trying to savor it. Yesterday was a very full Friday at work, and I have almost 30 charts to finish this morning. It used to make me upset to work on my “inbox” on my “off time” but its a wonderful thing perspective. I’ll blog this morning, do climate work, drink my matcha green tea and finish my charts in the next 2-3 hours. I sit at the kitchen table and doing work that is meaningful and I am happy in my quiet world.

I received the above card with a beautiful tulip and package of tea from a family I’ve been taking care of for years. I had done a small thing for them, lend them a book I have to help them on the path to healing, and they returned the book so happy and on the path to being better with a gift for our family.

Beautiful tulip I then handed to my mother-in-law, who is going to plant it.

The gift itself is meaningful but the sentiment is something I’ll never forget. And indeed yesterday with all the busyness of an overbooked Friday and the leftover charts, was filled with real interactions for me and true joy. I’ve had friends and foes ask me what my next career step is. World domination? Further in leadership? Office politics never ends. But the odd thing that for me it has. Office politics is over. I don’t know what the next step in my career path is. I know I will go where the earth needs me, and that I fundamentally love being a pediatrician more than I have ever have in the past. So no matter where my leadership journey takes me, I want to see my patients and take care of those families entrusted to me. And that includes a super adorable 4 month old that I added on yesterday that looked at me with the bluest eyes. She had rolled off the sofa onto the ground, and scared the beejeebers out of her parents. She was okay, and I didn’t mind adding her to my already overful panel of 2500+ weighted families – because she is adorable and her parents are kind.


Thank you to Family B.

January 8, 2022

by drplasticpicker

One of my families gifted me with this beautiful orchid yesterday. The clinical circumstances around the gifting and the family identities are obviously personal and protected, but let’s just say it was what is supposed to happen. In our HMO and our country, we should expect to meet at the first visit when you have a newborn baby to meet the pediatrician you will have for most of your child’s childhood. We should expect to respect eachother, and listen to eachother and care about eachother. We should expect you to be concerned and have worries, and bring your own identities to your journey as a parent. We should expect that I am not always in, and that other pediatricians are caring as well. You should expect that in those rare times when you are very worried about this child we share together, that we together will worry together and keep that child safe. And I should expect myself to look at a child, and know them well enough to know that when they have that look on their face that I’ve never seen before and their smile is gone and your smile is gone, that in my gut I know something is wrong. I should expect that I need to know you and your family and your child over years, and that knowing over the years and making sure we formed a relationship helps in those times when someone is really sick. And then we should expect that we make the right decision when that sickness occurs.


We have multiple bunkers spread throughout the country. Our Virginia bunker. At least there is water.

January 5, 2022

by drplasticpicker

It has a huge climate day yesterday. I didn’t expect it to be a huge climate day, but it was. I’ve been doing this long enough to realize that serendipity is so much about climate work. And you have to spark something in someone who has some sphere of influence, and then you can change the world. And that is what happened yesterday in all honestly. I had just shot off a bunch of emails introducing some medical students who are interesting in single-use plastic reduction to our HMO higher-ups. And their California Medical Association resolution draft and their presence and their identities was enough to inspire some more senior doctors. And now the ball is rolling and single-use plastic reduction efforts are happening now in earnest in our organization. I honestly just shot off a few emails and cc’ed some people, and then just prodded to make sure we had at least one student there. Prepared a few power point slides and was there excited about waste audits and actual plastic reduction, and then the power brokers talked and the influencers influenced and the pieces of the plastic reduction puzzle are coming together.


First script reading for tvN drama series “Revolutionary ...
First script reading of the series “Revolutionary Love.” OMG it’s so good. Top right is my make-believe boyfriend.

December 12, 2021

by drplasticpicker

I had this big revelation as I fell asleep watching my current favorite K-drama. It’s “Revolutionary Love” on Netflix and I highly recommend it. I also really loved “Hometown Cha Cha Cha.” I have to admit, for the first time since middle school, I spent an entire night binge-watching a series which was “Revolutionary Love” and did not sleep. It’s taken 10 episodes for the two protagonists I love to actually hug, and the innocently sweet character build-up and emotional scaffolding has been completely worth it. It takes me a while to fall in love with characters and I fell in love with Jun’s (the young woman) feisty spirit and Je Hun’s (the young man) beautiful hurt soul. It is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO good.

It’s not really an excuse, but this K-drama is part of the reason I decided to pass on an upper management position that I’m uniquely qualified for. But I realized that, it didn’t inspire passion and creativity in me. And if I’d rather watch a K-drama than work on an application – than it probably means it’s not the right position.

During my happiness while I was watching this particular K-drama and practicing my Korean, I was a bit freaking out Mr. Plastic Picker with my Korean mimicking while I’m watching the dramas. I speak conversational Korean and had studied it in college, so it’s wonderful to watch as between the subtitles and my own langauge skills and realizing I have two of my own K-drama-like teenagers in my house (I think my two half korean kids are really good looking) – I’m having so much fun. Too much fun! LOL.

And what is there more to life than joy and good fun? These K-dramas (at least the ones I watch) are very innocent and beautiful storytelling with actors I can identify with, and a language I am quickly improving. I had always regretted not being able to take the 2nd year of college Korean due to a packed premed schedule. But honestly these K-dramas are better! Especially my colloquial Korean is getting much better.

Realizing that that upper management position I was going to apply for but didn’t? I realized during binge-watching that I am in my early 40s. I have a long time in my career still. And there is no rush. I have lots of interesting projects I want to work on that are specifically climate related. And my own kids are still young, and I need time to be happy and to enjoy them and life. Rewild Mission Bay “Love Your Wetlands Day,” helping my daughter and her best friend with their Silver Award project on the Rewild Mission Bay project, leading the first AAP California SGA Committee on Environmental Health and Climate Change, The Youth Arts Exhibition this spring, and continuing to mentor all our premed students. My cup overfloweth is a beautiful way. I’m already the head of two big committees at our HMO even without being Assistant Boss, so I don’t need any more leadership jobs.

So thank you “Revolutionary Love” K-drama series, for reminding me that there are more important things in life than chasing titles that are attached to responsibilities that don’t inspire. You inspired me to continue to improve my Korean! And the earth inspires me to mentor and organize! Sending you much love from our K-drama filled house to yours! LOL LOL LOL LOL The storyline in “Revolutionary Love” is the same. Dare to change the world, and let true love guide you.

Cow’s Creek Physician Rescue (CPR)

November 26, 2021

by drplasticpicker

It’s the day after Thanksgiving and we are home home. In our Southern California home. I have to work today normal clinic and Saturday 830-5pm. It’s extra duty on Saturday and my obligation of being part of our physician group. I get paid overtime. I don’t give away my shifts anymore. I don’t even know why we judge others for giving away their extra duties when others want to work it, but it’s still a thing in our department. The judging. But it’s getting better and I’ve decided that there are few times that it’s productive to render judgement on things like that. There’s Mr. Plastic Picker who is standing in the middle of the tree parcel of our Oregon farm. Over a hundred acres of douglas fir on that side of the parcel, and a healthy stream that flows through it. Both of us, and all doctors, we’ve been judged our entire careers. And sometimes the judging and punishing is inflicted by eachother. It’s an institutional and professional history that dates back centuries really. It’s no use blaming any one person or institution, but it’s important to understand how deeply rooted it is in our professional culture.