Dr. Doris Day tells a powerful personal story that she carries with her, a story that has motivated her to get a degree in journalism before becoming a doctor. Together, we explore emotional intelligence, metacognition, and deliberate practice. We end up at self-compassion and the phrase, "but I still love you"! Dr. Doris Day, MD is a Clinical Associate Professor of Dermatology at New York University Langone Medical Center, is director of Day Dermatology and Aesthetics on the Upper East side of Manhattan, and also hosts Doctor Radio on SiriusXM radio. A Columbia University graduate in English Literature, she completed a master's in journalism and science reporting at New York University. After earning her MD at Downstate Medical School in New York, she became Chief Resident during her dermatology residency at Cornell University College of Medicine. Dr. Day is an author of four books and a clinical monograph on hyperpigmentation. As a wife and mother of two adult children and now new grandmother, she values family time, travel, educating herself and others and reading. You can find her on Instagram @drdorisday.
[00:00:00] Christine Ko: Welcome back to SEE HEAR FEEL. Today, I am happy to be with Dr. Doris Day. Dr. Doris Day is a Clinical Associate Professor of Dermatology at New York University Langone Medical Center, is Director of Day Dermatology and Aesthetics on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, and also hosts Doctor Radio on Sirius XM Radio. A Columbia University graduate in English Literature, she completed a Master's in Journalism in Science Reporting at New York University. After earning her MD at Downstate Medical School in New York, she became chief resident during her dermatology residency at Cornell University College of Medicine. Dr. Day is an author of four books and a clinical monograph on hyperpigmentation. As a wife and mother of two adult children and now new grandmother (congratulations!), she values family time, travel, educating herself and others, as well as reading. You can find her on Instagram @drdorisday, and I'll put a link to that in the show notes.
[00:00:58] Welcome to Dr. Day.
[00:01:00] Doris Day: Thank you for having me. Thank you for that sweet introduction. I appreciate it.
[00:01:04] Christine Ko: Would you first share a personal anecdote?
[00:01:06] Doris Day: Sure. I think everybody has a story about what drives them and what makes them want to be who they are as they grow up. One of the drivers of my life was losing my sister to cancer as a teenager. It's beyond horrific to lose somebody you love that you're so close with, and you feel even responsible for as an older sibling. In the process of going through that very complicated grief, trying to make sense of all of it, and survivor's guilt, when you hit that rock bottom of getting to the life or death situation of like why we're here and why we go on and why we do what we do, you realize you have a choice. And your choice is to live at that rock bottom, which is miserable and actually doesn't get you anywhere, or you can make a choice to be better and to make the world a better place and to honor the people that you love by trying to prevent other people suffering and to just be a better person all around.
[00:02:04] And so I carry her energy, I carry her story, her life, in my heart. I became a writer really to tell her story and to talk about quality of life over length of life, about the idea that a family is involved in healthcare, not just the person going through it, and that support of the entire family can make even the most horrific, miserable situation, which you have no control over, into something that doesn't have to be all that. Because we don't have a choice over some things that happen, but we do have a choice over what we do about it. Even as a dermatologist, so much of what I do is being my patients' cheerleader and helping them see the beauty in themselves, the quality of their life, the power that they have both over themselves and those around them. And when you do it visually, people really get it. And we do a lot of crying and hugging in my office. It's a really very interesting experience because I'm not aiming for that. I'm really trying to take care of them. But what comes out is very powerful and lasting.
[00:03:09] Christine Ko: That's very inspiring. It's really good to hear. Can you talk about what emotional intelligence means to you?
[00:03:16] Doris Day: Yeah, It's complicated and it's simple. You look up definitions. I even looked it up to see what am I thinking it is? And what is it really? I think of emotional intelligence as being able to get under the surface layer of what you see, partly at an emotional level. It's very real and important and has a great impact on what happens next. So if you have a high EQ, you can take a difficult situation that has the potential to explode into a problem and defuse it and even turn it around so that people who disagree completely can find common ground. EQ is being able to meet people where they're at and coming to a place where we can work from to get to a common goal.
[00:04:05] And I'm not trying to convince anyone of anything. I'm not trying to sell anything to anybody with EQ. What I'm trying to do is get us to common ground of understanding, empathy, kindness, compassion. And from there, work towards a goal that will make everybody feel comfortable that we all did our best, and we all have a similar plan or goal. With patients, the EQ comes in handy because patients often come in wanting things that I'm not going to do for them, and I don't want them to do anywhere else. So I have to get them to that place where they understand what I think is best. Why? I call it a little bit of flip-nosis, where I'm trying to help them get to a place where they're not going to have too much work done or something that's not natural, but at the same time, not have them be disappointed that they didn't get something done. EQ is subtle, but it's incredibly powerful.
[00:05:02] Christine Ko: Yes. It sounds like it's a lot of work, to come to that common ground. In really tense situations, it can be doubly hard, or triply hard, to try to find that common ground. Have you figured out ways or tips to be better with emotional intelligence throughout your career?
[00:05:20] Doris Day: Part of it comes from really making people feel heard and being a good listener. And that doesn't always come easy to a doctor, really. The more I do it, the easier it gets. Now, I'm lucky in that, as a physician, people want to tell me their stories. Everybody knows that their privacy is respected here so they can say things here that they may not want to say someplace else. And I find that gives me a certain amount of authority and power to hear their stories. The EQ for me comes as being a mirror for them. So what somebody chooses to tell me, they're also choosing not to tell me other things.
[00:06:03] So when I go with what they choose to tell me, like somebody getting a divorce, sometimes I can hear that it's a good thing for them, even if they seem sad about it. And I help them see how what they're choosing to tell me is letting me know that they're actually going to be okay. And I can even congratulate them on this. Other people I can tell mediation is better for them, and they're going to work it out because I can hear what they choose to tell me.
[00:06:28] It's walking those lines, and it's my EQ of being able to hear their stories. And I think it's something that I have innately been able to hone as a physician and as a reporter, listening to people's stories and telling it back. By telling them back their story, they're hearing it now from me, and they're identifying with it, and now they're able to better analyze it.
[00:06:50] In my book before this last one, it's called Beyond Beautiful. A lot of that book, the beyond part, was looking beyond the skin to say, what is the connection? I tell the story about a patient who came in. She has a rash around her eyes, and she wasn't making eye contact, and she didn't look very happy. She said, I've never had a rash like this before. I said, this is interesting because you're a grown woman. It could be irritant dermatitis. I could easily just give her a cream and send her on her way. But I said, When I see a rash like this, that's this intense around the eyes, I often find that there's something that you don't want to see. In that you're rubbing your eyes more, almost like you're in disbelief, or you just don't want to know, or something that you're not proud of. She didn't seem happy with that. She took the medicine, she left. She comes back a year later and she says, I really didn't like what you said. It didn't feel good. But what you said did resonate, and I knew that my boyfriend was probably seeing somebody behind my back. I didn't want to face it. But after that, I did have a conversation with him and talk it through, and I was right. And since then, that relationship is over, but I've met somebody else who's really great. And she was so happy. And you know what? That rash never came back around her eyes. It never happened again. She needed the cream to fix it, but it never came back. So that was, for me, very encouraging. It's a lot of that. It's experience. Some things are very clear. We don't need EQ there. But with a lot of people, whether it's hair loss or a breakout or a flare or something that's chronic, there's always more to the story. And unless you get to the story, you're not going to give someone the best results, and they won't be happy in the long run. So I don't want you to just look better. I want you to be better.
[00:08:35] Christine Ko: Yes. I like that you said to a certain degree for yourself, you've honed emotional intelligence over time. Thank you for sharing that anecdote that you started with. That probably did give you a lot of empathy from a young age, relatively. And then your comment that you've honed it, I think gets to the concept of deliberate practice. Can you talk about what deliberate practice means to you?
[00:08:58] Doris Day: Yeah, it means recognizing mindfulness, the power of being deliberate in trying to improve your listening skills, your compassion skills, your mindfulness skills. I did my Peloton this morning, and the woman that I do follow most is Allie Love. She's always so inspirational. When she pushes you to the next level, she goes, all right, we're going to do this, what your choices are: yes or yes. You go with the yes. She said something today. She said, you know what, do the now. Do now, and I think part of that deliberate practice is doing now, now. Seeing what's in front of me. I'm here with you. My mind is here. I know what's coming next, what's next in my day. I will get to that. I've planned for it. That gives me not just the luxury, but the ability, to live in the now and to appreciate it. Nietzsche had a great line. He said, try to live the life that you would want to live the same way over and over again. And that's always been my goal. And that's my deliberate practice. My deliberate practice is always trying to think, is this what I need to be doing now? And if I'm going to do it, let me do it all the way.
[00:10:13] Christine Ko: I like it. And I like how, so that segues nicely into metacognition. Cause you said you're really thinking about how you're thinking and being mindful. Can you talk about how you use or think about metacognition in your practice and life?
[00:10:27] Doris Day: Yeah, these are words that are so difficult. I think of metacognition as putting together your cognitive skills and your knowledge, and thinking about it in a deliberate way. So EQ, metacognition, and deliberate practice to me are all connected. You need EQ to hone those skills, to be compassionate, and to be able to relate in the world in a way that is going to have an impact. And metacognition is honing those skills and analyzing them and saying what works and what doesn't work. And deliberate practice is saying, okay, now I'm going to focus on the steps of that, and saying, I'm going to do more of this because I learned from metacognition that this works, and that doesn't work.
[00:11:17] And I try this. I say things to patients. The stories that people come in with, and what I say can either elevate or degrade, and if you degrade, it affects what they will say to you next. So you never want to put someone in that position to feel like they need to censor themselves or not be true to who they are or say what they really believe because then I won't be able to help them. So that's been my learning experience that goes to both metacognition and deliberate practice and how they relate to each other in the way I practice medicine.
[00:11:51] Christine Ko: That's really great. I like it. Do you have any final thoughts?
[00:11:55] Doris Day: Life is a continuum and the idea, I think, is to try to connect with people and understand that we have to be kind to ourselves. So like now when I do something that I get annoyed at, like, Oh, I shouldn't have said that, or I wish I said this, I started adding at the end, but I still love me. It's such a silly thing to say, but if you end with a, but I still love me, actually, it does feel good. And if you look in the mirror, and you look with kind eyes. Before you go that line, that wrinkle, the sagging, say something nice before you go to criticize. Our instinct is to criticize and to find flaws because we're hardwired to do that. If there were storm clouds coming where we should have seen danger, but we only saw that patch of blue, we'd all die in a hurricane or something. But we live in a time of abundance where we're not really in that kind of danger. So we take it to a level where we become self critical instead of showing self love. My hope is that we can show more self love, still want to grow and improve. And for me, learning is my joy. I study every day. I always continue to push out of my comfort zone, and I will continue to do that. But it also comes from a place of recognizing that we have to be kind to ourselves and to those around us.
[00:13:20] Christine Ko: Yeah, I love it. I actually spoke to a couple different researchers who study self compassion. And one of the things they said is that they've found through research that when you are self compassionate, you're actually working the same muscle, that same sort of empathy or whatever in the brain, that you use for other compassion. So if you have very low self compassion, you actually are not going to really be able to be as generous towards others as if you are self compassionate and give yourself self love.
[00:13:55] Doris Day: You have to remember that you are also part of that other and you need to show it to yourself as well.
[00:14:01] Christine Ko: Yes.
[00:14:01] Doris Day: And I don't think that success is a straight line. I think there's many ups and downs on that road. A lot of what we talk about when we talk about EQ and purposefulness and mindfulness is really powerful.
[00:14:14] Christine Ko: Thank you so much for spending time with me today.
[00:14:17] Doris Day: Thanks for having me.