Editor-in-Chief’s Note: Career Chats are short and informal conversations I have with inspiring females about their career, style, anecdotes on the job, and anything else that pops into the conversation. Our first in this series is with Amy Faith Ho: a doctor, writer, and former fitness model. I had the chance to sit down with Amy while we both happened to be in Los Angeles. I was there shooting photos for an upcoming major Stylish Sophisticate project (see @StylishSophisticate for a hint) and Amy was there shooting for the silver screen (TBA). Hope you enjoy this new series as much as I do! –Diya
Stylish Sophisticate: How did you arrive to becoming an ER doctor?
I was really interested in health care policy and debated between medicine and law for a long time. I went to medical school somewhat on a reconnaissance mission to get the inside scoop of the method to the madness when it comes to health care. Then during clinicals, I found that I really loved patient care.
“I chose emergency because it is both the doorway and the toilet for healthcare, and so when systems are broken, you see them first in the ER.” [Tweet this!]
Clinically, it’s a broad, fast-paced life, which was really my style.
SS: What is a typical work day like for you?
There is no typical work day — life in the emergency room is definitionally chaos. Sometimes you walk into a heart attack that just rolled in, an ICU patient who is actively trying to die, and a psychotic patient that needs four security guards to hold them down. The rest of your shift is just taking whatever comes into your bay. You’re running around seeing patients, doing procedures, talking with other physicians to get a patient the right care, and sometimes responding to codes in the hospital (when a patient suddenly becomes near death) or jumping on a helicopter for a patient transport.
SS: Describe the fashion style of your work environment…
The emergency room is inherently egalitarian when it comes to fashion. Patients are all stripped down and put in gowns. Nurses wear a certain type of scrubs. Doctors wear a different type of scrubs. It’s hard certainly to be fashion – forward, but it’s also hard to complain — I literally get to wear glorified pajamas to work every single day.
SS: What are some of the fashion challenges of your field?
No girl looks good in scrubs and at a certain point you start to feel like you live life in drawstring waistbands. We wear scrubs every day, so tailoring is essential to make them more female-friendly . Until you realize that, however, you collect many embarrassing stories of how your pants fell down while performing CPR doing chest compressions.
We also do some flight medicine where we do helicopter transports. You wear a flight suit that is flame retardant (non-negotiable for safety reasons), but your underwear choice is also somewhat non-negotiable. Polyester and synthetics apparently melt into your skin in case of high heat fires or crashes so it’s cotton-only. Obviously there is no enforcement mechanism, but do you really want to risk it?
SS: How do you give a “uniform” some personality or make it your own?
The usual hair and accessories options don’t apply to us. You only need to get blood or vomit in your hair once to learn to always pull it back. You get creative with braids, buns and ponytails. Any jewelry that dangles is just itching for a pediatric or psychotic patient to rip it out, so I don’t do necklaces and also wear a lot of cheap studs that I don’t grieve over if they get lost during the chaos of a shift. Also, a good watch with a second hand is a must — for both style and also to be able to time critical procedures. Shoes are ALL comfortable and variations in sneakers and athletic wear, so you get to play around with colors and style.
SS: When do you get your fashion outlet?
Rarely in emergency medicine do I do business casual (although you can if you so choose). For presentations and formal meetings, we can put on suit-wear like any other office environment, but those are pretty rare. Even at conferences there’s usually a variation of just casual. Because I usually live in drawstring pants, when I’m not in scrubs, I usually wear feminine ‘date wear’ and just look for longer hemlines to make it more work-appropriate.
SS: How did you get into fitness and catalog modeling? Did that impact your personal style?
It was a funny story of happenstance. I used to study at the gym nonstop in medical school (I have no attention span while sitting, so I could really only focus while moving around on a treadmill/elliptical), and someone recruited me for a fitness DVD. After a few days of filming, I met some other people in the “industry” who wanted me for other small projects, and it evolved from there. It was a nice way to pay for things during medical school, and it definitely got me more into noticing fashion. I only did it for about a year, but it was a world I started out very uncomfortable in and came out really embracing being a girl and being cognizant of how you present yourself through clothes. This was especially important in a field that isn’t traditionally “girly.”
SS: Any tips for traveling?
Pack light and be resourceful. Until recently I didn’t believe in checking luggage because it just slows & weighs you down! During the last year of medical school I traveled to over 17 residency programs to interview and even now I travel at least every month for either fun or conferences. We also do international transports where your main carry-on is full of medical supplies so your “personal item” is the only source of your own toiletries/clothing. I always choose either all warm or cool tones for a trip and stick with it so all my items can mix and match for different events.
SS: Any tips for someone considering to become a doctor?
Talk to a lot of people in different specialties. An interventional cardiologist is very different from a rural family practitioner — in training, personality, clinical work, and lifestyle. Each specialty has a certain personality that it attracts, and it’s hard to put it into words — you really have to experience it. Meet a lot of people, and see what you do and don’t relate to. Using that, you will get a better sense of if this is something you could really do for life.
SS: What are your career goals for 5 years from now?
I really love teaching and mentoring, and I like to do that by making medicine relatable, for both patients and those hoping to go into medicine. For me, that means expressing medicine as a narrative — I do a lot of writing (see amyfaithho.com) and also other projects (that are unfortunately still under non-disclosure right now).
“So in short, I imagine myself teaching the next generation of medicine, working as a clinician and telling the story by writing.” [Tweet this!]
SS: What do you wish you would have known 5 years ago?
That you really have no idea for the future. Most amazing opportunities I feel like were born from saying “why not” and seeing what came from it. I live a pretty great and crazy life. I’m still not terribly certain how I got here, but I feel plenty blessed.