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Finding your mojo

Before her on-campus talk, Dr. Lissa Rankin shares some of her thoughts on true wellness, the medical field and how to live a more balanced life in this Q-and-A.

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Doctor, writer, life coach, mother, entrepreneur, force of inspiration — it’s hard to know where to begin when describing wellness maverick Lissa Rankin. After practicing as an OB/GYN physician for ten years, Dr. Rankin changed course and tacked for uncharted waters, determined to finally follow her creative passions and pursue a more holistic, authentic life. In 2009, she started the blog OwningPink.com to document her quest and the Web site quickly snowballed into a thriving virtual community focused on the many aspects of women’s wellness. On Feb. 24, Rankin will speak on campus about young women’s health issues, in a talk hosted by the Women’s Programming Alliance and the Gender and Sexuality Center. Here Rankin shares some of her thoughts about true wellness, the medical field and how to live a more balanced life.

As someone with a decade of experience as an OB/GYN, how have your ideas about what wellness is and how we should approach it changed as you transitioned to your more holistic practice?
In medical school, I was trained to think that wellness equals physical health. And holistic wellness meant that you were not only following doctor’s orders, but also getting your exercise, eating a whole foods diet and sleeping well.

Now, I think about wellness completely different. To me, it’s about what my Web site OwningPink.com is all about — owning all the facets of what makes you whole, not just your physical health, but your relationships, your career, your creativity, your spirituality, your sexuality, and why you’re here on this earth. It’s all connected. You can’t fragment yourself and still attain a state of true wellness. You gotta go with the whole package if you really want to live a vital life.

How would you compare your experience working within the more clinical realm of women’s health to your work now advocating women’s wellness more broadly?
They’re such completely different beasts. In my former life, I worked in a busy managed care practice and was expected to see 40 patients per day, which often left me with only 7 and a half minutes per patient. Now, I spend an hour with my clients, and when I’m speaking publicly, leading teleseminars, writing books and blog posts, or teaching workshops, I’m able to be so much more fully present for those I’m helping. Although I miss delivering babies and doing surgery, I don’t miss the hurried, disconnected nature of the current health care system. It just never resonated with the authentic essence of who I am.

The title of your next book is “Broken: One Doctor’s Search for the Lost Heart of Medicine.” We’ve all encountered our own frustrations with the medical system, but I’m curious about your perspective on its problems as someone who’s been in the trenches. Is the heart of medicine really lost? And, if so, how can it be recaptured?
No, I don’t think the heart of medicine is truly lost.  Doctors go to medical school for the right reasons. We are called to serve. We long to be healers. But I think the heart of medicine gets buried beneath managed care contracts, technology, overbooked schedules, financial issues and chronic stress.

How do we reclaim it? The heart of healing lies in the doctor-patient relationship. We need time with our patients. Doctors need to listen. Patients need to speak up. We need to touch, not just in a clinical ways, but in bedside hugs and a hand to hold. I tell people I practice love, not medicine. That’s where the true healing lies.

What has surprised you most in your research for the book so far?
“What’s Up Down There” is comprised of questions I invited people in my online tribe to ask — on OwningPink.com and via Twitter and Facebook. I had no idea how to answer many of the questions that came in. I had to do my homework, and seek guidance from other experts. Like why do we have pubic hair? I had no clue.

I guess what surprised me most was realizing that most peoples’ hang ups and questions about girly parts are not medically related. More than half of the questions people asked were variations on the question “Am I normal?” And 90 percent of the answers were a resounding “yes!” I wish I could just hug every woman in the world and reassure her that chances are good that whatever she’s experiencing has been experienced by millions of other women, and that she’s not alone.

From your own experience with seeking to be more in tune with your whole self, what advice do you have for others who would like to lead a more balanced, authentic life?

Let your freak flag fly, baby. It’s all about tapping into the true essence of who you are and integrating all the seemingly fragmented pieces of your life. For example, I’m a doctor, but I’m also a professional artist, a workshop leader, a public speaker, a mother,and an author. And I once felt like I had cut myself into pieces. But the secret to being successful in business, love, creativity, spirituality and living a healthy life lies in integration. I can be all those things and still be all me, all the time. Because I am more than what I do. And so are you. When we bring our authentic self, the part I call the Inner Pilot Life, into all aspects of our personal and professional lives, we are more healthy, more whole.

Rankin will speak Thursday, Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. in the Student Services Building, Glenn Maloney Room. For more information, contact Ixchel Rosal, 512-232-1831, or e-mail rosal@austin.utexas.edu.