By Michael Joyner with contributions from FlexMedStaff

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As a General surgical resident and Hand Surgery Fellow, I was surrounded by some of the most prestigious surgeons in the country. Although being trained by the best is exciting, getting to know some of these great surgeons is even better. Many of them had authored articles, written textbooks, developed new surgical techniques, and were well-known speakers. It became evident that my attendings were not in it for the money; they appeared to have plenty. Those days were known as the “Golden Years of Medicine,” when surgeons were fully reimbursed for their services. These great surgeons hung around residents because they genuinely enjoyed medicine and teaching. I found that they were driven by much of their work outside of clinical medicine. They would be more excited to tell me about what they were working on outside their day job. I had mentors designing patents, developing surgical robots, becoming real estate gurus, and building small businesses. I still had an immense amount to grow as a surgeon, but I knew I would follow in their footsteps.

Once I graduated from my Hand and Microsurgery fellowship, I started my private practice. I was swamped but not completely happy. I slowly supplemented my time in private practice with locums work for an improved work-life balance. When I started doing locums, my mind began to wander about my future. I had more time off to think about my mentors and how I would be able to create my own career outside of medicine.

Five years ago, I started the journey to create my career beyond medicine. During the day, I focused on my duties as a surgeon. Outside of my clinical and surgical responsibilities, these projects provide me with a healthy distraction from clinical medicine.

  1. My first endeavor was to become a published author. I wrote my first book about my divorce and how physicians can better position themselves to go through such devastating events. Fast forward five years, I am now days away from publishing the third book in my Forever My Daddy Book Series.
  2. After a dinner date with my girlfriend, I was inspired to develop a new type of flatware. Combining my knowledge as a hand surgeon, I have worked to design a line of ergonomic flatware. I have enjoyed going through the design process, including prototyping, engineering, testing, and obtaining patents. We now sell stainless steel Touchless Flatware, reusable Touchless plastic forks, knives, spoons, and Chopsticks.
  3. After networking with professionals in the horse racing industry, we put together a group of individuals to form an ownership group who are horse advocates. We purchase horses and prep them for races. Maybe you will find one of my horses at the next Kentucky Derby.
  4. Using the knowledge I have learned from my MBA and background in medicine and sports, I started a sports management service. Our goal is to coach and prepare young athletes for the unexpected obstacles they will encounter in life and how to develop a career beyond sports.

Developing a career outside of medicine is not easy. It would be easier to doctor every day without having these distractions. Many don’t understand that these distractions have brought me peace of mind. By developing careers outside medicine, I have gradually built an alternative revenue stream to prepare for the unexpected and when medicine ends. If I lost two fingers and could not operate or had to end my clinical job, I would not feel the financial pressures of being out of clinical medicine. I share with you some of the things I have learned on my adventures to develop carriers that will take me beyond medicine.

  1. Find time off from clinical medicine. Create a working arrangement with your employer to have the time to pursue other projects. Locums and direct contracting are a great way to create a schedule where you can have time off to work on your careers outside of medicine.
  2. Look at life differently. Continually analyze how you might be able to help others by developing a product or improving a process.
  3. Expand upon what you know. Use your medical knowledge and experiences to help build a career outside medicine.
  4. Build a team. Many will say to build a network, but I think the goal should be to build a team. Lots of people are just talk. Find the ones that are authentic and can help you grow.
  5. Know your target audience. Determine who you are looking to help and who you are trying to affect.
  6. Goals per quarter. It is easy to get overwhelmed with the volume of work it takes to develop another career. Instead of just making daily or weekly goals, also make quarterly ones.
  7. The workweek is 7 days per week. Do something every day toward your accomplishing your goals. Even if it is minimal work, don’t take a day off from advancing your next career.

Schedule time off. Although it is essential to do a little every day toward your goals, schedule time off to completely decompress so that you do not get burned out from the hours you have invested into your clinical practice and other careers.

My mentor in residency would always say, “good things will always end, and careers will always end.” I still love operating, but at some point, my clinical career will come to an end. The careers I have built outside of medicine will provide the necessary distractions that will be needed to phase out of medicine.

Ultimately, I feel there is no ceiling on how far my career outside of medicine can take me. Like my mentors, I enjoy my day job taking care of patients while pursuing my life beyond medicine.

-Dr. Michael Joyner is a hand surgeon, innovator, and entrepreneur. You can learn more about him on his website. You can email him at

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