HealthEd: Exceptional Women in Medicine: Dr. Shari Weisenfeld

Exceptional Women in Medicine: Dr. Shari Weisenfeld

Osmosis Team
Published on Sep 19, 2023. Updated on Sep 21, 2023.

September is Women in Medicine Month, and we’re celebrating some exceptional physicians who write, review, and edit content on today’s Osmosis blog. Let’s sit down with Osmosis Clinical Content Editor, Shari Weisenfeld, MD!

What inspired you to want to work in medicine?

As an undergraduate, I could never quite figure out what I wanted to do for a career. My college roommate suggested that I might enjoy working at the university’s student health clinic, and I did! I loved connecting with the students, hearing their stories, and helping where I could. I’d always had a broad set of interests and loved learning. I enjoyed the basic sciences, social sciences, and English language and literature. I feel very fortunate that I get to combine writing and editing with science in my work at Osmosis.

What are the most and least satisfying aspects of your work?

The most satisfying aspect of my work is educating patients, medical students, and residents. I enjoy the challenge of figuring out where someone is in their education, getting a clear understanding of what type of learner they are, and then guiding them through their education journey.

Medical record keeping is my least favorite aspect because it’s no longer focused on tracking and facilitating patient care but on reimbursement and insurance-related needs. I wish it still focused on tracking patient progress and supporting quality care rather than billing.

What does work/life balance look like for you as a medical professional? 

My career is always evolving and changing. I’ve had to reprioritize and establish a new balance in every stage of my life. Because of that, my number one job requirement has been flexibility. I realized that I needed to work somewhere that allowed me to spend time with my family, be a parent, and pursue interests outside of work.

For example, I initially specialized in rheumatology. The hours were supposed to be better; I found it intellectually stimulating, and I respected the fellows in the classes ahead of me. But, I discovered that working with patients with chronic pain and chronic disease was emotionally challenging for me. So, I moved over to the urgent care setting, which has turned out to be a much better fit for me and my family. Then, because I had always been interested in medical education when I found that I needed a more predictable schedule to support my family, I pursued that route. I also keep my skills up-to-date and stay on top of new knowledge by picking up urgent care shifts on the weekends here and there.

What experiences have contributed to your success? What would you have done differently?

In medicine, there’s a strong desire never to be wrong because the stakes are so high (a mistake could mean a patient’s life). But there’s also a culture among physicians of not wanting to be seen as someone who doesn’t know the answers. That was tough because it made me not want to ask a lot of questions and fear being wrong, which I now understand is how we learn. Once I got out of that environment and realized that I was never in as much control as I thought, it helped open me up to the idea that it’s okay to fail in order to learn. The more risks you take, the more you will probably fail, but the more you will learn and grow. 

The thing I’d do differently is wait to take more time and consideration in choosing my medical specialty, maybe waiting until I’d practiced internal medicine for a few years. There was a big push to specialize at my medical school. However, I didn’t understand what day-to-day practice was like in the different fields. If I’d had a little bit more time to consider my options, shadow some people, and determine what it was like to work in different areas, I think that would’ve been helpful. But it’s hard to get that time when you’re in the middle of residency.

What advice would you give to your past self to prepare for working in medicine?

Stay in contact with your colleagues and friends in the medical profession! Not just for networking (which is important) but because there’s a medical community out there ready and waiting to help. The more people in your network and the more colleagues you stay connected with, the more opportunities you have to discuss your ideas and grow professionally. And the more people you have to get advice from or to help you with referrals for challenging patient cases. Community and connection are so much more important than I ever thought.

Also, remember that the practice of medicine is what you make of it. You can pursue different aspects of the field if you’re open to learning new things and working hard. I’ve found that staying flexible with my career has been a guiding force for keeping me engaged and feeling emotionally balanced.

About Shari Weisenfeld

Shari Weisenfeld is the Clinical Content Editor for Assessments at Osmosis. She is an NYU-trained internist and rheumatologist. She has been caring for patients in urgent care for the past nine years. She served as a career advisor for medical students at the Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University. She has an extensive background in clinical practice, teaching medical students and residents, and developing and editing medical education content. She lives in Connecticut with her husband and two children. In her free time, she enjoys yoga and being outside.

Big thanks to Shari for sharing her story with us! Follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitter, and LinkedIn today to read about more exceptional women in medicine this month!