Episode 37 – Support Yourself by Finding Your Community with Dr. Ashley Bourgeois

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Click here for the full transcript, but please excuse any errors. It was transcribed automatically using Otter.ai

Stacey Cordivano 0:07
Hey there, it’s Dr. Stacey Cordivano. I want veterinarians to learn to be happier, healthier, wealthier and more grateful for the life that we’ve created. On this podcast I will speak with outside of the box thinkers to hear new ideas on ways to improve our day to day life. Welcome to The Whole Veterinarian.

Stacey Cordivano 0:35
Today you get to meet Dr. Ashley Bourgeois in the last of our August mom focused episodes. She is a shining example of how you can be an awesome mom and an amazing vet all at the same time, even if you do feel a little bit like a chaos coordinator while doing so. Her words not mine! Ashley is a board certified dermatologist who lives in Portland, Oregon, and has so many side projects that I’ll just let her explain it all in this episode. Make sure to check out the show notes to find links to all of the different places that you can find her including her upcoming speaking engagements, her podcast and her very cool online community called the Derm Nerds. I hope this episode helps someone out there to realize that it is possible to make motherhood and vet med work together. Please enjoy my chat with Dr. Ashley Bourgeois, aka the DermVet.

Stacey Cordivano 1:29
Hi, Ashley, thanks so much for taking the time to sit down and chat with me today.

Ashley Bourgeois 1:33
Oh, no problem. Thank you for having me.

Stacey Cordivano 1:35
I’m excited. I’ve had a ton of DVM moms as guests on the podcast, but I’ve never really dug deep into what it’s like to be a vet mom. So I kind of want to help people realize that it’s possible. I know, when I was younger, I didn’t even think I would be able to have kids as an equine vet. And that’s certainly not the case. So I kind of want to dig into that with you today. But first, can you tell listeners a little bit about yourself?

Ashley Bourgeois 2:03
Absolutely. My name is Ashley Bourgeois. I am a board certified veterinary dermatologist. And though that is a big portion of my life, the most important portion of my life and who I am, is I am a wife and a mother of two. So I have a four year old girl and a two year old son. And we have like a one year old dog, it’s chaos, like we are just, I when I am a chaos coordinator, for sure, living day to day, you know, trying to get it all done just like everyone else. But that’s like the most important portion of my life. And then, besides being a dermatologist, I also am really involved within our company. So the business side of things, the clinic, I’m associated with animal dermatology clinic has several clinics throughout the country and even internationally. So I’m fortunate enough to also get to be involved in some of that aspect of things, which I find extremely interesting and really important, just to stay afloat as a business is, you know, something we all have to do. And then, you know, a couple years ago, as I got into the public speaking circuit, I developed a passion for really teaching veterinarians who are in practice how to be better dermatologists themselves. And that is where the Derm vet came about. I always had a passion to help our industry. And you know, I love speaking I love going to conferences, but it became clear there were other opportunities, even pre COVID to do stuff online. And I think a lot of that stemmed from having my second child and just realizing that time is precious and busy. And though I had started traveling as part of my career, you know, it’s hard for everyone to go to all these conferences all the time, but a lot of people really yearn to be better at their practice as a as a veterinarian. So that’s where I started sharing tips in cases on social media, which then became a podcast. Really, the whole goal was to give tangible, quick, digestible information that you could implement in the clinic right away and juggling that the last two years, which I know we’re gonna jump into, I am not an expert. I am a trial by fire person, but I’m happy to talk about my experiences just to see if anyone can relate to it.

Stacey Cordivano 4:26
Yeah, the content is amazing. I pick up tips, that’s where we met was on Instagram and I pick up tips all the time, so people definitely need to check that out. I wanted to go back to one thing, I was struggling with this two weeks ago when I was trying to describe myself. So someone asks you like, Who are you do you start with? I’m a wife, a mom, because that’s what I’ve started doing. I’ve tried to stop defining myself as a veterinarian.

Ashley Bourgeois 4:51
I think it kind of depends on how people ask, right because if you’re at a conference or you’re in a business setting or you’re with someone in the industry, I’m not going gonna lie and say every time I’m like, oh, first, I’m a mom and a wife. Like, of course, I naturally identify in our industry as a dermatologist. But depending on who I’m connecting with, or what we’re talking about, I do, I think, if we’ve learned anything over this last year, it’s that community and connection is so vital and important. So I think it’s really nice to know people, you know, beyond their jobs and for us to identify as people, but I think it looks different for us, right, like some people get really adamant about, you know, I don’t identify as a veterinarian, that’s not who I am. Well, I mean, I do identify as that I think it’s okay, that all of us have different emphasis on you know, what makes us up. I’m very comfortable saying there’s several things that make me up. I’m a mom, I’m a wife, I’m a weightlifter. I am a dermatologist. I’m a public speaker, I’m a podcaster. I’m an entrepreneur, I’m a business owner. And it just depends on where I’m at in that hour, that minute What conversation I’m in which one of those I’m currently identifying with, but that’s different for everybody. You know, I’m very vocal that I am not wired to be a stay at home mom, I am very comfortable saying that. But I have friends who do and they absolutely love it. And so I think that’s a really cool thing is, you know, I do feel like a chameleon. But that’s what I love. Like I like to be like that. And we’re all just very different on that.

Stacey Cordivano 6:27
Yeah. And I do think that our profession lends itself to you know, exploring all different avenues, right, you can be flexible. I know, you’ve talked about shifting your career in different ways. Like, let’s dig into that and sort of how, how motherhood has transformed your career over the last couple years.

Ashley Bourgeois 6:46
Yeah, so so I did my dermatology residency, I met my husband, the first year, my actual residency in California. And we moved out to Portland about a year and a half after I finished my residency. And I was pregnant with my first child, like, probably the middle the end of that first year. And so I was still, you know, pretty early in my actual career. But I had already started public speaking, I did some public speaking as a resident, it was part of our program. It’s something that I felt like helped me as a better dermatologist, because I had to stay more current. I had to educate myself more, I had to be able to answer questions, I’d get that, you know, I didn’t know. And so I’d have to go look it up. It’s, it’s just a really good way to keep me honest as a person, you know, current and my expertise, because it’s really easy to pass your boards and just kind of get in a rhythm and be stubborn in how you practice and not want to change. And I love changing, because I think that’s what keeps me passionate. So I already had started liking public speaking. And I knew I wanted to have that be a part of my career. And I’m really fortunate that I’m within a company that’s very supportive of that I have lots of mentors who are into public speaking, and textbook writing, and all these other things. So I had a lot of positive influence in that way. But then as I started having kids, it does get hard, because as you start speaking more, if you connect with people, you start getting asked more. And that’s wonderful. But I’m very much a mindset that I hate saying no to people, I kind of want to do, you know, every opportunity that’s asked, but as things progress, and you have different priorities, like your children and your spouse or your partner, or, you know, whatever that looks like for you, you have to start doing a lot of self reflection over you know, how much can I really do? How many times can I ask my husband to babysit the kids without me there on the weekend. So I actually think the pandemics been really eye opening for me, because I have been able to do a lot from home, there’s been a lot more online webinars, a lot of conferences have been virtual. But to be honest, this next season of life is going to be another kind of test for me, because the opportunities to travel are starting to pop up again. And we already had to sit down my husband and I and look at the calendar and kind of say, You know what’s realistic, you know, what keeps me sane as a mom but what also fulfills my career cup. So it’s it’s evolved, I feel like every two years like something else comes up, like I started the podcast. And now I started this dermer it’s online community. And now we’re gonna go back to hopefully some in person stop. So it’s the ability to stay flexible and also reevaluate what makes you happy.

Stacey Cordivano 9:37
It’s a bit like having a baby, right? Like once it comes with one stage that they like switch and they’re doing something totally new and you’re like, wait a minute. I thought I knew how to handle that. Yeah, no, that’s great. So you guys sort of attack it together as a family unit and sort of make plans.

Ashley Bourgeois 9:53
Yeah, but I’m not going to lie and say it’s perfect. You know, my husband I’m very lucky because he keeps me in check, because I Um, I mean, I, I’m very career oriented. I’m vocal about that, because I think some of us are, and that’s okay. Like, you can still be a great mom and love your career and need that portion of you fulfilled. But I can burn myself out for sure. Like I have people in my life that I trust, when they say, hey, that’s looking quite full, like your plates going to be too full this month, that then it’s a good time for me to say, Okay, I should say no to some stuff. So I think you can surround yourself with people who know your aspirations, but also know when you’re starting to do too much. And so, you know, for me, there’s a handful of people that I know more intimately that they know me, and that I can trust when that’s happening. And I think that’s important. Like you have to have that community who can keep you balanced. Because we all have different ways that that looks. Did you have to learn that the hard way?

Ashley Bourgeois 10:59
yeah. Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. like super the hard way. And I think having two kids is where it really catapulted because I started doing a lot after I had my first, a lot of traveling. And we don’t really live by most of our family. So our families in the Midwest, we’re in Oregon. So now, especially having my two kids who are at that age where they’re not trustworthy. They’re like, jumping off couches, they’re, you know, opening the front doors and running out, we’ve had like, put a whole nother lock on our front door, or for girls learn how to undo the bottom lock in the baby lock. So now we don’t have like a big lock, that’s like five feet up. You know, that’s a lot to ask my husband to just watch all the time. And so yeah, I’ve learned it the hard way. I’ve had months where all of a sudden, it’s clear that I’m doing too much. And we have to sit down and talk about it. It’s messy, for sure. But that’s, you know, that’s real life. And that’s kind of the entrepreneur life. And it has a lot of benefits, but there’s a ton of stress to it as well.

Stacey Cordivano 11:57
Yeah. How do you take care of yourself? Personally,

Ashley Bourgeois 12:01
I think it depends on the season I’m in and what I need, I think it can change. So we get up early, almost every morning to work out my husband and I we have a little setup in our garage where we have like weights, and we stream programs. And that’s really important as far as a sanity and health thing for me. But I’ve also been trying to be more intentional of putting the phone away. Since I do do stuff on social media, it’s really easy to constantly want to check it. But I do try to have days where I don’t have my phone attached to me that I leave it where it’s at. and spending time with friends. Clearly to me after this last year with I realized almost a weird form of self care is traveling like there is I am a person who’s meant to do some traveling that as part of my life like not monotony for me and being at home all the time has gotten hard. So I think just balancing traveling and getting out and experiences with my, my family, all of those things, being active, taking care of ourselves is important. But also traveling and getting out is a form of sanity for us. I will say something I am trying to prioritize more because I can be bad about sleep. So I’m also trying to get to bed earlier because we do get up earlier in prioritize that.

Stacey Cordivano 13:21
Yeah, I was gonna say do you go to bed early if you get at because I try but you know, early to work out. But I stay up, I stay up way too late.

Ashley Bourgeois 13:29
Yeah, we try. And we’ve been trying to get better at it. The hard thing is when we go through like sleep regressions with the toddlers, because you also want that time just to relax, then all of a sudden, if we can’t get one down to almost nine, you know, it’s easy to stay up trying to get stuff done or relax or read or watch TV, and then all of a sudden it’s like 1030. So we try but it’s not perfect.

Stacey Cordivano 13:50
Have you made changes at work? And like what does your clinical schedule look like now versus you know, in the past?

Ashley Bourgeois 13:57
Yeah, I’ve definitely made changes. And I think it’s important to realize, you know, as a parent, that there’s going to be times in your life or certain schedules just don’t work as well anymore. And it’s okay to change that. And really flex it based on what works for you. So when I originally finished my residency, I was nine to five, like the three were pretty much all nine to five. That’s the way that the clinics were kind of structured with an hour and a half lunch break in the middle. And a lot of times that would get eaten up by procedures. And then as I moved to Portland and started working with a dermatologist and with now and we have a super great clinic culture, we work fantastically together. I really started to want to start earlier because it was getting hard for me to balance you know, you stop at five quote unquote, but by the time you finish paperwork and catch up on things that maybe didn’t get done, I’d be rushing out the door as best they could to go get the kids from daycare and then I just felt like I was coming home. And it was just rush rush rush until bedtime and it was a cycle that was hard. For me, so then I actually switched my schedule to have a slightly shorter lunch, but in start at 730, so I would start at 730, I shortened my lunch by half an hour, which makes it super chaotic. But that’s what seemed to work. And then I would actually be done earlier. So I was still four days a week, I would do 730 to three. But then if I got out of there by 330, or four, I could come home, work on a few things for the term that and then you know, get my kids and felt like I could shut off more. So that worked for a while. And then last fall, it became clear that things with lecturing, and all the other stuff I wanted as part of my career was building up way too much to try to cram into my one week day off, during, like, I had Friday’s off. So I was spending every Friday trying to get as much as I could done. But that would leak into the weekends and every nap time, you know, I’d be if I had the kids down, I’d be running off to try to work on something a lot of people don’t realize how much work these things, take the post the lectures, you know, the writing content, the podcast, like it’s all just extra stuff that takes time. So my husband kind of approached me last fall and said, Something’s got to give like, now we’re home all the time, but you’re always trying to work every second we have like I wasn’t relaxing and taking time off. So that’s where I made the decision to go to three days a week in the clinic. But I extended my days a little bit. So now I go 730 to four. And they’re full on I mean, you can ask myself, like, We’re going like it is pretty much pedal to the metal the entire time. So we added an hour to each day and then went down to fewer days a week. But the nice thing is, even though it’s straight through, I have more time like today and other days where I can just dedicate to get this other stuff done. And I don’t know if that’ll be forever, you know, maybe I’ll hit a point where things slow down. Or maybe I won’t want to go to work so early when the kids are in school and they have bus pickup time. And so that’s why I think it’s really important to be okay with switching based on what you need. But for me at this point, having early days, because we get up early anyway. And the kids get up early anyway. And kind of making them longer, but having more focus time and the other stuff has allowed me to actually really enjoy my time with my family on the weekends.

Stacey Cordivano 17:30
Yeah, that’s great. I think that being flexible is so important. And again, like we’re pretty lucky that the profession, if you’re creative about it, it does allow for that. I mean, I think it’s pretty clear, but if someone asked you you love being a veterinarian,

Ashley Bourgeois 17:45
I do I get asked sometimes because my daughter’s four. And you know, she will say she wants to be a veterinarian. And people are like, Well, do you want her to be a veterinarian? And I’m like, of course, like I do. I do think it’s a wonderful profession. It has it stresses, like any profession. But I think there’s so many different ways that you can be successful in this industry, whether it’s clinical work, or industry or government, or there’s just so many things that you can do. And I think because mental health is getting put more and more in the forefront, we are seeing these clinics that are completely supportive, you know, of their doctors have their staff, you know, being flexible with things like changing schedules or, you know, providing better pay, or any of those things like there’s so many clinics now that are embracing that realizing how important it is that I’m really hoping it’s a big shift for us in the clinical world. I know it has been with my company. It’s been great. So I really yeah, I absolutely adore it. I really do. I’m passionate about it for a reason. I truly love doing it.

Stacey Cordivano 18:48
I think also it shows in the fact that you’re branching out into these other things, but they’re also vet med related. So you have like you said, the Derm vet and the Derm vet podcast and then tell us about the new Derm Nerds community that you started.

Ashley Bourgeois 19:03
through all of this when I really kind of had this vision a couple years ago. And I didn’t exactly know how it was going to happen. But I knew that I wanted something more than just working as a clinical dermatologist. I loved connecting with veterinarians, I loved helping them. I loved teaching those who were exposed to clinical work, who kind of had a foundational knowledge but just wanted to be better. So the Derm nerds has always been my hope to create kind of this community even more in depth. So I always tell people, it’s kind of like the podcast on steroids. It’s like a focus study group to make it smaller, people who are more invested and that really want to learn that really want to learn from each other that want to post up cases that want to ask questions. And so it’s the close community and every week I you know, I make a presentation of a case and how I worked through it. We have zoom charts where we just Hop on and either talk about a journal that I’ll put up in the community like a journal article, or we’ll have a topic we talk about, there’s other dermatologists in that group. It’s kind of like if you want to take a Derm elective, and that’s cool. But all of a sudden, you actually are living and breathing it, because you’re in the clinic where we know dermatology is a huge portion of your life. So it’s been fun, and it’s gonna be really cool to see, you know that that group, I’m sure will evolve and have cool things that come out of it and different things that we’ll do. So it’s kind of like taking all the people who are super nerdy about Derm, and like putting them in this vacuum and seeing what comes of it.

Stacey Cordivano 20:37
That’s awesome. That sounds really fun. It’s just a rolling, you can join sort of whenever?

Ashley Bourgeois 20:41
Yep! You know, it’s a small fee per month, because again, it’s meant to be people who really want to learn I, you know, I wanted it to be people who are going to collaborate with each other. I was trying to avoid it have just be like, throw up a case get an answer. Like I really wanted to meet people who truly want to throw out ideas have no judgment, learn together. And so it’s a rolling group month, month, and it’s come and go as whatever you see fit for yourself.

Stacey Cordivano 21:06
Very cool. Well, thanks for sharing some time with me today. It was fun chatting about all things mom life, do you have any hacks that you think need to be shared? Do you guys do anything that like, makes your life much easier?

Ashley Bourgeois 21:19
Oh, that’s a good question. I feel like I need people to share hacks with me!

Stacey Cordivano 21:23
That’s why I’m asking!!!

Ashley Bourgeois 21:24
Right? I don’t know if I have anything magical. Honestly. I mean, I just think community is huge. I mean, I can’t say it enough. I know we’ve already talked about it, but really having your either mom friends or parent friends or you know, dog mom, friends, cat mom, friends, like whatever it looks like for you having people that you can relate to, that you can cry to that you can be frustrated to because it’s hard. I mean, I, I never want to paint a picture that all this is easy. I don’t feel like I know what I’m doing half the time. I just think that I’m so passionate, I’m kind of willing to try. And I would say give yourself grace, like allow yourself to change, allow yourself to be okay, you know, maybe you need to be part time when your kids are younger. But then maybe you don’t identify with that as they get older and you want to go back to full time. Or maybe you need to take a year off. I mean, I just think there’s so many ways that it can work within your life, and that we always feel a way to say, Well, this is what I am, I’m a full time veterinarian, I can’t change or I’m part time now I can’t go back to full time. Like it’s really, you’re allowed to fluctuate because kids change and your desires change as as we all get older and more mature and kind of figure out what we want to do. I guess like I don’t think it’s like a hack, but I lost my pride as far as outsourcing things. So I think people say it, but then it’s scary to do it because it makes you look lazy. But like we outsource deep cleaning the house, like I got to a point where I just couldn’t spend every Saturday like cleaning. So you know, right now just once a month, though, I’m thinking about upping it soon. We have someone just come in cleaner house and we support them and their career. And they support us by giving us more time with their family. You know, as I grew some of my social media stuff, I outsource people making graphics because I’m terrible at that. So you kind of got to learn that it’s okay to ask for help. And I think sometimes it’s a hard thing for me because I’m a pretty independent person. But I think as you get crazier and for me having a second kid and having them both be mobile, my pride is gone.

Stacey Cordivano 23:28
Yeah, the standards are lowered.

Ashley Bourgeois 23:32
Or, you know, I always want my house spotless and I’ve just had to learn that’s not gonna happen. Like even the day they like, the our cleaner comes and she’s amazing and wonderful. And I just adore her. Within an hour of the kids being back. It’s like, all messed up again. And it’s just like, well, that’s just gonna have to be the way it is. Yep.

Stacey Cordivano 23:51
Yep. I asked all my guests. What is one small thing that has brought you joy this past week?

Ashley Bourgeois 23:57
Ooh, that is such a good question. Okay, it’s silly. It’s really silly. Both my kids got their first haircuts two days ago. Oh, and it sounds really silly that that would bring me joy. But it was just, you know, one of those things where it’s, it’s, you know, I got to be a mom, I got to focus on it. We went to a little kids salon, they actually behaved well. So that was like, amazing. Yeah, you didn’t know how it’s gonna go because neither one of them had their hair cut, but especially my son because he was getting to that winged out crazy, muddy look, and it was hard to kind of let go of that little toddler baby version. But then as soon as he had his hair like cut, I still have like, the last few days when he’s at home, stared at him and just be like, Oh my gosh, you’re like this little boy now. And I know it’s just like one of those things that just kind of game you start to realize they’re going up really fast. So that has been just kind of a really fun thing to see him transform into.

Stacey Cordivano 24:58
Perfect, perfect. That’s a great right moment. Where can people find more about you?

Ashley Bourgeois 25:03
I’m most active on Instagram, and that’s @theDermVet. And I’m also on Facebook as the DermVet, and then I do have the podcast, I keep it super simple for everyone. It’s just the Derm Vet podcast. And then thedermvet.com is just where all my content is centralized. And that’s where people can sign up for the Derm Nerds if they’re interested. And just dive in. There’s a whole cytology race approved lecture in there. And there’s a Cytlology guide. And then you can kind of try out the group for a month and just see you know, how you like it. And then hopefully you find the community that you jive with and your fellow Derm Nerd you decide to stay and just continue to improve yourself.

Stacey Cordivano 25:45
Awesome. Perfect. I’ll make sure to link all of that in the show notes. Thanks again for your time.

Ashley Bourgeois 25:49
No problem. Thank you for having me.

Stacey Cordivano 25:50
It was fun!

Ashley Bourgeois 25:51

Stacey Cordivano 25:52
Thanks so much for tuning in today. I hope you’re enjoying the August series highlighting moms in veterinary medicine who are kicking butt and making waves along the way. If you enjoyed this episode, please share with a friend hit subscribe or follow on your favorite podcast player. And if you have time, please leave me a review on Apple podcasts. Also, if you want to make sure that you don’t miss any news from me, sign up for the monthly recap newsletter at thewholeveterinarian.com/subscribe. Thanks again for spending your precious time with me and I will talk to you again soon.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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I’m Stacey

I want veterinarians to become happier, healthier, wealthier and more grateful for this life that we’ve created.

I understand the struggles of a stretched-too-thin veterinarian. I have also learned that with some individual work, there is a brighter side to veterinary medicine. Personal and financial development strategies have helped me find a happier place in my life and in my work. I hope to share resources that will resonate with my fellow veterinarian to allow you to become a more whole person.

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