The Strong MD | Season 2 Episode 7

Intentional Optimism and Leadership with Andrea Johnson

Join Dr. Jaime Seeman on The Strong MD podcast as she welcomes Andrea Johnson, a transformative leader from the University of Virginia School of Medicine and the Johns Hopkins Medical Institute. With a rich background in healthcare management, Andrea champions authentic leadership and intentional optimism, guiding female leaders to navigate challenges confidently and drive positive change. In this episode, Andrea shares her journey of perseverance and professional innovation, offering inspiration for a new generation of effective leaders in complex environments. Discover the power of core values, the importance of effective communication, and the principles of intentional optimism that can transform your leadership style and personal life. This conversation is a must-listen for anyone in medicine or leadership seeking to make a meaningful impact.

Published on
July 09, 2024

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Leading with Intentional Optimism: Andrea Johnson’s Guide to Transformational Leadership

Strong MD podcast features Andrea Johnson, a transformative leader in healthcare management

Dr. Jaime Seeman: Welcome to The Strong MD podcast. I am your host, Doctor Jaime Seeman. On today’s episode, I’ll be sitting down with Andrea Johnson, a transformative leader from the University of Virginia School of Medicine and the John Hopkins Medical Institute. With extensive experience in healthcare management, Andrea advocates for authentic leadership. Through her philosophy of intentional optimism, she encourages female leaders to navigate challenges with confidence and affect positive change. Today, Andrea discusses her personal perseverance and professional innovation journey, inspiring a new generation to lead effectively in complex environments. Join us for a compelling look at leadership, resilience and impact. I hope you enjoy today’s episode. Andrea Johnson, welcome to The Strong MD podcast.

Andrea Johnson: Thank you, Jaime. I am excited to be here. It’s been a while since I’ve had a good medical discussion like this.

I am currently a transformational leadership coach, but I have almost 26 career history

Dr. Jaime Seeman: Fantastic. Okay, so for our listeners, and myself, tell us a little bit about kind of your background and your story.

Andrea Johnson: Sure. I am currently a transformational leadership coach, but I have almost 26 year career history in schools of medicine. I started off accidentally working at the Johns Hopkins Oncology center, the Sidney Kimmel Cancer center, and it was because my husband was a pastor in Baltimore, and I needed a job. And this friend said, I have an appointment. I have a situation where I need help. So I went in as an administrative assistant, and I started off in brain, cancer and worked my way into this is all in medical oncology, and went into head and neck cancer, where I learned how to do all the administrative stuff. And then I started getting into research administration, clinical trials, grants and contracts, training grants, all that kind of thing. And, we decided we wanted to move closer to my family. My mother at the time, we lost her in 2017 to breast cancer, but, wanted to move closer to family. So I ended up taking a job at the University of Virginia in their main office, the office of sponsored Programs. So if you’re at teaching institutions or university medical centers, you will probably understand what I mean when I say those kinds of things. But I decided after about a year and a half that I could not take paper pushing any longer. I needed to be back in touch with humans. I literally, at some point, had files falling off my desk, and I just said no. And I thought I didn’t want to go back into a school of medicine, but a business manager opportunity opened up in the department of medicine over in infectious diseases. And I said, you know what? I’m going to do this. So that started my career in, management and really kind of getting into working a little bit more intimately with how the clinical, I mean, in the cancer center I did that, but in the school of medicine here at the University of Virginia, I got much more involved with that and how it works together and working with the chief and doing all that kind of thing. ended up finishing my career there in nephrology. But I decided that I was tired of managing and keeping the status quo, and I wanted to help train and lead and teach people how to, become better, rather than just make sure everything runs, because I was on the administrative side, right? So I wasn’t on the medical side. And while I could see how the work that I was doing would make it easier for the clinicians to do their jobs and to meet the needs of the patients more quickly and more efficiently, I just needed to have the ability to impact people on a more regular basis. So I decided to hook up with the John Maxwell leadership team and got my certification for speaker, trainer, and coach. And then, I’ve been. I left the University of Virginia about two and a half years ago, so I’ve been on my own doing this and really actually came full circle last fall. Went back and taught a big kickoff seminar for the training program for our research administrators at the University of Virginia. So it’s, it’s been a little bit of a full circle. And then even having this conversation, I don’t, I don’t do a lot of talking about my experience in medicine, but, just because so many people that I now deal with aren’t in it. but it’s, it’s an exciting way to show how, how we can make an impact where we are, even if we don’t know how we’re making an impact.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: Well, you know, we’ve had people on this podcast from all walks of life, and I think that when you work with just, there’s a personality type, right, in medicine and, just those high achieving humans, we need coaches, too. And so I’m to dive into this, we know medicine, right? We know how to treat patients, but there’s so much more to it.

Andrea’s parents were missionaries, so she grew up overseas

before we dive into that, I was reading on your website you have a very interesting upbringing. Will you just kind of give us a little story? Because I think that


there’s always connections from our past and from our childhood that kind of bring us into these passions. And I can just tell there’s, like, this positive energy that just exudes through the tv, you guys. I can. I can just. Andrea. So we’re going to dive into all that good stuff, but, but I’m super interested to hear about your story. Before what you’ve told us.

Andrea Johnson: Well, if you insist. my parents were missionaries, so I grew up overseas. I grew up in Seoul, Korea. as a matter of fact, over lunch, I was watching a kdrama. So Korea is a love for me. But growing up internationally gave me the ability to go to school with kids from 65 different countries, and it gave me the ability to see life on a more global scale and to have a perspective, that is a little less. Cause I’m in Virginia, right? My family was from southeast Texas, so this gave me the ability to see things very differently. That upbringing has served me well in my career. It has served me well in working in research and administration, especially managing labs, especially working with, clinicians who have come, you know, to the United States in order to study well. And many times they have good. They have really good English. But I. Because I am used to hearing English spoken by someone who. It’s their second language, I understand them much more quickly. And so that has been a real asset to me. But, I got to tell you, I’m ready to get back traveling now that I’m not full time, at a university. But, yeah, growing up overseas, you don’t. You don’t appreciate it when you’re young, but you really appreciate it when you look back on it and see the education that comes from traveling like that.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: I can totally imagine that. do those childhood experiences tend to kind of frame how we perform as adults and as leaders and things like that? Do you find that in your coaching?

Andrea Johnson: Absolutely. As a matter of fact, I was looking to replicate an experience that I had growing up. if you know anything about Korea, it’s split into two countries still. And the missionaries have been there a really, really long time. And they leased from the korean government 90 for 95 years a strip of land down on the west coast called Daechon. And, at least a piece of that. And we would go down there every summer because this is. I’m dating myself. But back in the seventies and eighties, they just. There wasn’t a lot of air conditioning anywhere. They would shut down because Seoul is. It gets really hot there, y’all. It’s like. It’s like Colorado, but with humidity. So, yeah. so it’s mountainous, and it’s on that same latitude, but it’s super humid. And so we would go down to the beach, and it was this amazing community where we. It didn’t matter what mission you were from. There were business people that would hang out with us, but we hung out all summer, I became a lifeguard. I had this really unique, you know, experience where, we just. Our differences were really minimized. It was just the simple fact that we were all expatriates. We were all there to because we loved the korean people. And in my business, when I first started, I tried to recreate that kind of community. You can’t do that. It’s never going to happen. But that’s a good example of how we do take the things that we grew up with, and we do try to manufacture them in our grown up lives. Another way we see that we are impacted by those things is what I call my abcs, my assumptions, my beliefs, and my conditioning. And these are things that, we don’t realize we’ve just taken on as our own ideas, maybe, but those kinds of things that come from our community that we grew up in, which, like I said, mine was international. And from a spiritual standpoint, it was ecumenical. It was all the different denominations of missionaries. It was business people, and like I said, kids from 65 different countries. But it gave me a little bit more of an open mindset and a place to fit in where I wouldn’t normally have fit in. So I think we do take these things into our adulthood, and until we’re willing to look at them and say, are they what I want? Are they good? Are they serving me? Are they not serving me? Are they serving the people that I serve? Those kinds of questions are the things we need to ask when we start realizing, oh, I brought this from my childhood.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

So tell us about the coaching and the transformation. What? You had a great. You had a way better word for it than I just used.

Andrea Johnson: Transformation. Leadership coach.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: Yes.

Andrea Johnson: yeah. So my business consists of three main parts. The first piece is, you need to know yourself, and that’s your core values. When you know your core values, you can act and live in authority with your own. Who you are, how you’re wired. You can then act with, and do your job or interact with your family and friends in the areas that you have passion about and with conviction. And you can do all of that with confidence when you know who you are. So I start with core values, but I’m also a disc consultant, and disc is a behavioral analysis tool that shows us our patterns of communication. And so we next take that into the communication


Andrea Johnson: patterns and see, well, how do I communicate who I am, and how do I recognize how other people communicate so that I can make sure I’m speaking their language? I like to use that example of me growing up, where I heard so many different languages walking down the hallways of my school gave me the ability to say, all right, I need to make sure that I’m communicating with them how they need to hear me. And then the last piece of that is how we do what we do, which I call my six tenets of intentional optimism. And it’s these principles that I live by that are like the attitudes and mindsets that give me the ability to live all of that out, if it’s my goals, if it’s my values, all, ah, with grace and ease. But when I say transformational leadership, I mean, I like to take people from what I would call, like, the disempowered state. You know, they’re, they’re frustrated. people in my line of work that I used to work with a lot felt like they had, like, responsibility with no authority. They had, inconsistent boundaries. They had, they didn’t have any support where they were a lot of times. And I know that physicians and residents especially, I know they feel this a lot of times because they have a lot of responsibility and they may not have authority. I started my college career in nursing school and realized I didn’t want to do that, for various and sundry reasons. And one of them was, I would never be in charge. And that was just kind of who I am. And I knew that that was an environment that wouldn’t work for me. But I like to take people from that disempowered state and by helping them do those things that I just described, move them into what I call impactful or magnetic leadership, where we move from imitating other people’s principles, priorities, guidelines or standards to defining their own for sustainable, impactful leadership. And this is important. No matter what kind of work you do, it’s important in your family. it gives you the, like I said, the authority to act your convictions, but it also means that you can enjoy and be empowered by your work. And that is a huge piece. And I know that in medical circles, especially the clinical, the highly intense clinical areas that many of our clinicians work in, they need a good why, right. They need to have a really good reason for doing what they do and working 80 hours a week or showing up on the weekends when everybody else has gone home. So that’s what I mean by transformational leadership. I wanna make sure that you get where you need to be. It may be that you change jobs, it may be that you don’t, but either way, you’re then empowered to do it the way that you can show up and do it.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: Absolutely. You know, in my journey through being a medical student and a resident in kind of medicine, there seems to be kind of this hierarchy, right? As you come in, you know, just like the lowly medical student, you wear the short white coat. You know, people treat you like you’re a medical student. and I have come across some really great teachers and really great mentors, but just, the system as a whole, this is, I think, something that will resonate, you know, with people listening who have gone through medical training, and then same thing as a resident, you know, you’re a doctor like you are a medical doctor, but you still are in this, you know, even though you are making some day to day decisions, like, you still don’t feel like you have the autonomy, you know, that you would as a. As an attending or, you know, finally out and out into practice on your own.

Do you work just with women or do you work with both men and women

and women in particular, I know you work. Do you work just with women, or do you work with. With both men and women in your training?

Andrea Johnson: In my private work, my personal private work, I specifically work with women because it is my passion to help women grow in this area. Because I come from. I just told you, I was a missionary kid. I come from an evangelical background where women were not leaders, where women were not, allowed to do it. My mother was a really strong woman, and she was able to, become the, head of red cross volunteers for all of Asia and the Pacific. And she was at GS 13 level, which is about a kernel, but she couldn’t get paid. And because of our mission rules, and I watched her become the project manager, she had no project management experience for building 16 townhomes in Korea in the korean language with korean contractors. And then when they came home to the states, when they left the mission field, she took a job as an administrative assistant. And I’m like, this is not right. This is not how it’s supposed to work. And so I seek to empower. Cause I’m 57, right? I just. I’m willing to just tell people that I’m.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: Don’t look 57. I’ll tell you.

Andrea Johnson: Thank you. I’m 57, and I lost my mother at 51. Of the things that she was really good at. And if you’ve worked in oncology at all, or if you worked in palliative care at all, you know that there are people who die well and people who just struggle. She died well. She was strong to the end. The Sunday before she died on Thursday, she was on the floor with my eight year old adopted son playing. But she got knee to knee with me for about six months to make sure that she had said everything she needed to say, cleared up everything, dotted all the I’s,


Andrea Johnson: crossed all the t’s, tied all elbows. And one of the things that impressed upon me was, I don’t want to wait till then. I don’t want to wait till I know that I’m going to be going. You know, I don’t want to wait till I’m in hospice because you never know. You could go in hospice for three days, or we had a friend who was taken off hospice because they were in for a year. And so, that was when I said, I need to do something different. But being willing to take, what I’ve learned and then share with others, I think is the most important piece of all that.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: Yeah, I love that.

Women only make up about 37% of medical doctors in the country

We’ve had people on this podcast that have talked about the gender gap and the gender pay gap and things like that, that we experience in medicine. But in. I think the last data I could even find was 2021. Women only make up about 37% of medical doctors in the country. So it’s still depending on your subspecialty, a, very dominated world. And I think it’s hard for women to find their place in a. In a system that has been very patriarchal for a really long time.

Andrea Johnson: Well, and then when you go into the MD PhD or just the PhDs, I mean, just even looking at that gap, it is disturbing. It was very disturbing for me. And I cannot tell you, the women that I’ve watched get railroaded and sit in my office and just cry. Some of them scream, you know, it’s like, I don’t have control. I can put the budget together, but I don’t have control over your salary, or I don’t have control over who gets what bonus and who doesn’t. and I, you know, when I would make budgets, I would look down. This is just amazing. You know, there’s this three, four, five, and this is university medicine, right? So it’s not private. So it’s the. These are lower, actual lower numbers, but, you know, a two or 300 for a man, and then you go down to a woman and she’s like, at 150, and I’m like, she can’t be that far, junior. You know, I mean, I get how you need to catch up, but that’s. And the NIH has specifically, guidelines for how you pay people. And so they’re staying within the guidelines for the women, but the men are just so much higher. so, for me, being able to work with women individually in my private practice is important in my teamwork. I think it’s because women aren’t the only ones who suffer from patriarchy, and they aren’t the only ones who suffer from the gender gap. They aren’t the only ones who suffer from the systems that we’ve put in place. Communication matters to everyone, and it is important to make sure that when I go into work with an organization or a team, that everyone feels welcomed, heard, seen. Because, you know, even my boss came and sat in my office one day and was upset because he and I both were looking, and I probably shouldn’t say that on a podcast like this. He’s now gone from University of Virginia, too. But, he and I were both looking for jobs at the time. I actually was just looking to leave, and he was upset that a woman had gotten a job that he had applied for, and I’m like, you’re going to sit in my office and tell me that? And then he just kind of. He like, oh, right. Because he was also just kind of in that system. It didn’t occur to him. And so it is important to me as the mother of an only son. Like, I only have one child, and he’s a boy, and I want to make sure that everyone understands how we can live well, how we can lead well, and that includes being really, really respectful and understanding the value of each and every person.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: I love that.

The goal of understanding your core values is bigger than people think

Well, let’s go way back to, the beginning of this conversation about the transformational things that you do with people. When you talked about understanding core values, let’s just say, because it sounds like that is the basics for somebody listening, that’s like, gosh, I’ve never even thought about that. What are my core values? How does somebody go on this self discovery pathway of defining them?

Andrea Johnson: Well, of course, I’m going to tell you, I have ways you can work with me, but at the same time, I also have a free download that is an exercise that you can walk through that many people find that’s enough. The goal of understanding your core values is, to me, bigger than people think. But it’s not a scary process. It’s actually discovering who you are. And most. Well, no. Every single client that I’ve ever worked with thought they knew their core values, and turned out they did not. because what we’re taught in our society is that everything is outside of us and everything is choosable, and they’re not. My definition of core values are the internal principles and the guidelines by which we act on a daily basis. They affect our choices. They affect our reactions. They are what bring us joy. They are what make us angry when they’re dishonored and they’re not outside of us. So there are things that are software.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: Program that’s just like running.

Andrea Johnson: Well, yes, but that’s almost, That almost suppresses your core values. It’s really. I guess maybe. I guess if you say it’s like your dos or your iOS or whatever, maybe. But it’s the particular flavor of it, right? So, for me, my top core values, if I said them to someone, I might say, are,


Andrea Johnson: freedom, authenticity, and belonging. But when I say freedom, it’s going to mean something very different than what you might mean by freedom. So to sit down and define those, there’s a process that I walk you through. It’s like a brain dump. And then you kind of look at what other people might say about you, and then they’re your non negotiable. So you walk through each week and kind of see, where did this show up, or why did this particular situation, or what is it about this person or this circumstance or that particular emergency that I might have in a sit? You know, what is it about these situations that really kind of affects me? And is it positive or negative? And then you can actually start whittling it down. It takes some people, you know, six months or two years. Mine have been further refined. I started many years ago with my, my governing values from Franklin Covey system.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: I know my dad used to have a Franklin Covey. I think they still have stores.

Andrea Johnson: And, you know, if you’ve read Stephen Covey’s, seven habits, it’s a fabulous book. They actually were teaching in my son’s school district, and when he was in elementary school for kids. But that’s when I started this work. And the more I learned about myself and the more I refined it, the more I realized for me, it’s freedom of thought and autonomy. And so for me, being in a big institution, that’s a pretty big deal, right? It’s like, for me, to be able to align with a big institution every single time is going to be a challenge. And it was, and they saw it as a challenge for me as well. And. But I didn’t really know at the time, you know, each, each and every time I was having a conflict with just being in a big institution, what that was, you know, coming from. But the ability of, to, lead authentically and with authority, and then follow your conviction and do that with confidence. It gives you, Excuse me. Those things come from understanding why you think, how you think. And this is not a personality test. This is something that only, you know. And, so I tell people that they are. They are not outside of you. Like, they’re not family, they’re not friends. I mean, I value family. Family is an important principle in my life, but my desire for belonging and my desire for authenticity is played out in my family. And that’s one of the reasons why family is important to me, because I want to belong, and I want them to belong. So core values are reciprocal. Core values are, intangible, but there’s always some kind of measurable effect.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: these core values play out in your relationships, and, you know, I think we can.

I would love to work with some medical providers on their core values

We’ve said the word leadership multiple times, and we think about, you know, the institutions that doctors and residents work in, but I’m sure it plays out in the patient physician relationship as well.

Andrea Johnson: Oh, yeah.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: The bedside manner and the way that we, you know, interact in a clinic visit and those types of things. Have you seen that working with. With medical providers?

Andrea Johnson: Yeah. And I would really love to get in and actually work with some medical providers on their core values, because I can look back over my career and see how. What I think their core value might be and how it was affected, or how it affected the way they worked with people. one gentleman I worked with was, He was really, really, really good with the patients. He was like, my husband, I said, is a. I don’t know if I did say that. My husband is a pastor, and, so. So he actually visits patients in the hospital and came across this physician and said, wow, that’s. He was amazing. He was really good with the patient, but he also met him at an organizational function that we were at. And when we left, he goes, who’s that guy? You know, it’s like, I don’t want to meet that person. You know, like, totally two different people. And, you know, from a coach’s standpoint and authenticity standpoint, I would like you to be. I would love to empower you to be the same everywhere. Right. But, what was, I think, playing out was there was a need for control in certain instances, and in the clinical setting, this particular physician was in complete control, whereas in the administrative setting or in a social setting, there was a lot of insecurity, and they were not in control. And I think that was maybe a little bit of a, And control is not really a core value. You actually had somebody try to tell me, this is my. I’m m. Control is my core value mic. I don’t think so. I think that’s playing something out, but there’s something underneath that that really just kind of. It just kind of stepped on it. You know, it’s like stepping on a nerve or something. It was just like. Or a pain point for him. It was a pressure point. I had another fellow who. He was a fellow, and then came on, came, on staff as a young attending, and he really struggled. And, because he was in a type of cancer that’s rare and very aggressive. And, you know, part of me was like, why’d you choose that one? But from what I understand, you don’t just necessarily. Cause I’m not a clinician, you don’t necessarily choose. It kind of chooses you. and as a clinician, you might be able to tell me if that’s right or not.


Andrea Johnson: but we, as his assistant and as working, you know, as a business manager working with him, we were able to help him with, like, a sign above his desk, remember? And he would put patient pictures, and he would say, remember why you’re here? You know, I mentioned earlier a why? And remembering why he was there really mattered and helped him to navigate all the administrative stuff because it was the red tape that he just couldn’t do and all that, you know, stuff that goes with academic medicine.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: I keep every card that a patient’s ever sent to me. and I have, like, a little basket on my desk, and if I’m having a bad day, a lot of times I’ll get them out and just start, like, thumbing through them and kind of reading some of the messages again, because I feel like it just, like, brings me back into that idea of, like, why am I doing this? And in medicine, we have an incredibly high burnout rate, incredibly, high suicide rate. and we’ve talked about this on the podcast so many times. and I think some of it is maybe a misalignment with core values. I think so many people go into medicine because they want to help patients and they want to make this positive impact, and then they get into it, and they get really drugged down by the administrative burden. And, I think I heard somebody one time call it moral injury. You know, that’s what they feel like. It’s like, it’s like a moral injury. and we could apply this to a lot of different, professions. my husband was a police officer and went through like a period of, like, moral injury with, with his job.

Most relationships fail, most business businesses fail because of basic communication

so let’s talk about, let’s say somebody has kind of defined these core values. You had brought up communication earlier, and I think that most relationships fail, most business businesses fail because of something so basic like communication. Can you give us some advice of, like, what you have, really kind of. How can we be better communicators?

Andrea Johnson: well, for starters, you don’t stop learning when you leave medical school. You don’t because you’re constantly learning. You have to go get extra training on a regular basis. That is just part of your job as a clinician. And I would say the very, one of the very first things you need to make sure that you are consistently learning in is the areas of leadership and communication, and if you’re at a good institution where that offers those kinds of things. I’ve been at two different, huge, wonderful institutions, and they both offered very different types of training. But having the ability and the wisdom and the desire to actually grow in that area and to realize there are things you don’t know, and to realize there are things that will help you with the things that you already know is the first step. And, you know, it’s just what any coach is going to call awareness. Just be aware of your shortfalls. Be aware that you don’t always speak the same language. Like I said, I grew up hearing literal syllabi, and figuratively, I mean, just walking down the hall, I could hear French and Spanish and German and, you know, you name it. but when I walk into a room and, and my husband, for instance, like I said, I’m a disc consultant, which is behavior analysis and communication. And if I walk into a room and I know that there are people who are like me that would speak English, perhaps as their first language, I can just speak and, and I can just say what I need to say. But if I walk in and I assume, and I can, I can look around and I see faces that perhaps might tell me they are from Korea or China or Japan, I’m, might test the waters a little bit to make sure that they understand what I’m saying. It’s the same with the way we communicate. There are four main categories for how we do that, and we all need to hear things differently, and we need to say things differently. the dis and c are a really great way. It’s the dominant driver, the influencer, the steady, and the compliant or creative. And I’m an influencer. Won’t be surprised to anybody. You know, it’s like, really optimistic. But my boss was a dominant driver, and they just want. They just want the bottom line. And so when I walk. When I would give him information, as the operations manager, I would do this research for a project, and I would send him an email and say, here’s what I think. Here’s what the research tells me that we should do. If you want the definitions or if you want all the. What I got, it’s all below. And he would never read. I could put, like, the sky is pink at the bottom and see if he noticed it. And he wouldn’t, because he never read past that first, because he never. When he trusted me. But, But understanding how other people communicate is imperative, especially, you know, I cannot even imagine what it’s like in a clinical situation when you walk in and, you have to tell a patient’s family something terribly difficult. Reading some of their. You can read body language. This is emotional intelligence. You can read those kind of things. But if you can even read a few of their behavior patterns by asking them a few questions, boy, you can communicate with them really fast and really well with the kind of information they need. It may be that they’re a c that needs all the information, and they’re going to ask you question after question after question after question.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: Oh, I can picture this patient


Dr. Jaime Seeman: right now. Yeah.

Andrea Johnson: And it’s not. It’s not that they don’t trust you. They want to get the answer right. They want to make sure they do it right. you know, you’ve got somebody like me who might be like, so it’s really not that bad, is it? You know, and. And I want you to tell me a story about somebody who survived whatever it is I’ve done and. Or whatever it is I’ve got. And so you’ve got these different types of ways that people communicate, and if you’re willing to look, you can actually see them in action, just understanding these kinds of things. I have a local establishment that I like to. It’s like a little store that I like to go to. And I walked in one day, and the manager was just like, something’s wrong. And she said, oh, they’re all fighting. I said, well, what do you mean? And she said, well, it’s this, that and the other. And I said, I got something for you the next time I went back, because I have the, Maxwell disc report is a 30 page report based on leadership and communication. So it includes a personal growth plan for you, like, get you started. But in there is a cheat sheet, and it’s, like a crosswalk. Right. And, like, in medicine, we use that for different things. If you see this, you need. You might want that. Or if you see this, you’re looking at these kinds of things. She put that up in their lunchroom, and within the next time I came back, she said it took 30 minutes, and we had identified everybody, and literally, we get along so much better. And so this works not just with your patients, but also with your team. I read somewhere that an average surgeon has a team of about 20 people that they work with, and it’s really. And my big client, when I, My first big client when I left the University of Virginia was a veterinary hospital, which is very similar. I was shocked at how similar it was, was to human medicine. But being able to see where the teams interacted and how the communication was breaking down in certain areas, because in certain professions, you’re going to have people who are more likely to be one type or another. And if you don’t have anybody there to translate, then you don’t have good communication. So I think being willing to learn about it and be willing to grow and be willing to see other people and make sure that you’re the one who is responsible for communicating the message, that’s the best way to.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: I love that.

The six tenants of intentional optimism come from losing your mother in 2017

so intentional optimism.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: What does that mean?

Andrea Johnson: Well, I m shared earlier that I lost my mother in 2017, and I didn’t want to wait until the last minute to live the way I wanted to live. And so I. Grief can be a crucible, and I sat down for a good six months and brain dumped all the things that I wanted to live. I’m not the same personality my mother was. She was norm from cheers. I mean, she’d walk in a room and everybody would go, Judy, you know, it’s like popping a bottle of champagne. It was fun. but I’m not that person. I’m much more analytical. I’m much more practical, but I can be very optimistic and outgoing. And so for me to just say, well, I want to be more like, my mom wouldn’t have done it. And so what I did was I sat down and I said all these things that I say. I want to be purposefully for the rest of my life. However many years I bought left, I put them all down. And then I started seeing where. Where they come together and how they look the same and maybe what fell under another one. And I ended up with. With. I ended up with seven and decided I needed to go with six because seven was just weird. But these are just the principles, the attitudes and the mindsets that I personally employ and embody to live out my goals. And I started sharing them with my clients, and I had one who said, I kept it in my binder. And I went to this meeting and it was really bad. And I came back and I’m like, that’s right, I want to do this. I was like, that’s great. but it became the impetus for me starting my business. It became the why for how I live, even teaching my son what I teach my son. and so I’m happy to share them with you, but I also have.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: A challenge through the six tenants.

Andrea Johnson: It can be a lot. but we’ll share it. Yeah. So a high level views. It’s bookend. It’s got bookends of optimistic and intentionality. So I’m just going to throw those two out there from the very beginning because they hold it all together. but optimistic includes things like hope, being understanding that there is something in the future. And I think that we all could use a little bit of hope, especially in the medical profession. I was in the division of nephrology during COVID so I understand what that can be like in a really tough situation. But optimistic includes hope. It includes being confident about things, knowing that you have enough information to at least take the next step. It includes being proactive, actually moving forward. The second one is present, and this is more than. Than just, you know, we say, well, I want to be present. So we usually think of that as being in the moment or being, you know, having, as Bob Goff says, being where my feet are, you know. but I like to say it includes things like wonder, grown up wonder, knowing why the stars twinkle. And yet, you know, being even more amazed than a child looking at the stars, being generous, kind and open. And I think that will serve us


Andrea Johnson: well wherever we are. But it means that I answer yes to sharing, you know, and in medical situations, you said there was a hierarchy. You’ve got to be willing to teach, you’ve got to be willing to share and let other people learn.

Courageous includes leadership, adventure, being willing to get lost

The third one is energetic. And this is kind of an attitude of industry. It’s thinking outside the box, always knowing that there’s a way to do something better. But it also includes joy and excitement. And I think that’s a piece that in the medical field, in medical institutions, a lot of times we lose because so many things that we. They’re not there. If they’re healthy. Patients don’t come to you because they’re healthy.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: The vast majority of medicine. Now, I’m an obstetrics, which is a piece of medicine that is so exciting and so joyful.

Andrea Johnson: Yes.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: and that’s honestly why I went into obstetrics and gynecology. I needed that beautiful, happy, amazing connection, balance, all the other stuff.

Andrea Johnson: Well, like I said, my son is adopted. And so when we went to court to finalize it, the judge said, I’m an adoptive mother. So when you come back here, it would be my pleasure, court to do your adoption finalization. And that was exactly what she said. She said, I do family court, not just for the hard things, for family court, but because I get to do these things. So, I can completely identify with that. but understanding that joy, we can actually manufacture that little things can bring us joy. And when we find them, it’s important to capitalize on any little bit of joy that there is, because it can bubble up and share it with other people, but it also helps us be part of energetic is life focus. Just like you said, it’s this. It brings life into the world. And as we’re being life focused, we’re capitalizing on and kind of tapping into everybody else’s energy. So that’s the first three. Courageous includes leadership, adventure, being willing to get lost, being willing to fail because I’m trying something new. Being resilient. When I fall down and get back up, you know, it’s like. It’s the getting back up, but the more we do it, especially, the more times we fail, the better we do getting up. You know, it’s like every single time. And I know that that is a piece that can be very difficult in, especially the clinical setting, is that resiliency? and I have a couple of. I have a couple of ideas to share on that. the fifth one is one that I’ve really. I struggled to put this down as a principle that I wanted to pursue, because it’s not something that we usually say about ourselves, but it’s wise. It’s wisdom. I want to live in a wise way. people would come to my office, shut the door, and just talk to me, because they would say, you have so much wisdom. Wait, who? You sure you know, who are you talking to here? But it was because of the experiences that I had had, and I was willing to share. It was because I was willing to listen. It was because I was willing to understand and see what was below the surface, see that maybe there was something bothering this particular physician that didn’t have anything to do with what was going on in the clinic, you know? but also understanding that our words matter and that our respect matters, and all of those things are wrapped up in wisdom. So now, you know, at 57, I’m, getting closer to the age that I’d say it’s okay to say I’m wise, but, you know, we don’t want to do that. We don’t want to say I’m wise. But then again, the final one is intentional, which includes purpose. If I don’t have a purpose, if I can’t find purpose in what I’m doing, I don’t want to do it. Like, I can’t sit and watch tv all day long unless it’s the purpose. Unless the purpose is for me to wind down, right. It’s like, I can say that and say, okay, two shows, that’s enough. That’s all I can do. But I also think that it’s important to have a plan. There’s the old adage of, you fail to plan, you plan to fail. And if you’re prepared for certain things, then you do better. And then being growth minded, that’s all part of being intentional. I used to come walking down the hall, and I’m, I’m one of those women that would wear heels in the, in the, in the office. And, you could hear me coming, and I’m only five foot one and a half. And literally, in every institution I’ve worked in, every office that I worked in is like, here she comes. You know, if I’m going someplace, I have some place to go. I am purposeful, and I have a plan to be there. I’m not wandering, you know, so that’s the, the six tenets of intentional optimism. And it sounds like a lot, but when you start, if you overlay them to where? Onto your life and onto your. With your core values and how you want to live them out, it’s amazingly freeing. And I actually had an interviewer point out to me, she said, this is very loving. I said, yes. It shows the love that I have for other people in being willing to live out my life this way.

There are things that you have access to that you may not realize

Dr. Jaime Seeman: Okay, let’s go back to this idea of resiliency. This is something that we need in medicine so badly.

Andrea Johnson: Well, I was thinking about this because this


Andrea Johnson: is a specific type of interview with a specific type of audience that I cared about for so many years and that I worked so closely with. And I had a couple of things. I thought if I. If I. If at the end, she says, what would you tell us before you leave? It would be those things, but I would love to share that there are things that you have access to that you may not realize you have access to. Things like your administrators, things like people like me who’ve been in the institution for a long time and actually work in that institution as a non clinician for a reason. Right. It was hard some days when I was paper pushing, and it was hard when I had to make you follow all the regulations and get your expense reported on time and all that stupid stuff that seems to not matter. But the people who are there do it because they also care about the patients. And when you team up with somebody like that, not every administrator is perfect. Not every person on your team that’s non clinical is going to be that person. But if you can find somebody where you can sit in their office and it’s a safe space and just breathe a minute, that’s going to give you the space that you need to, like, take a deep breath. Right. so that’s one piece of advice I would give. Another piece is you’ve. I never was a clinician, so. And I didn’t go through residency, but it is extremely important for all of us to make sure that we do things that bring us joy outside of work. Just so important. I have a beagle, and every time I look at her and she turns her head at me and those ears become gigantic, I smile. Right? It’s just little things bring us joy, and we have to. That goes back to the joy piece. these. I call them tenants, and I say they bookend, but the reality is they’re almost like a big, giant Venn diagram, and they overlap. And if you have places in your life where you have wise people you can talk to and people that are willing to help you be courageous in certain areas, and people and areas that are going to or people or situations or circumstances that will bring you joy, those are the kinds of things that are going to fuel you. It’s like recharging your battery every night. I put my. You know, my son has it now. He’s a freshman in high school, so he’s got a phone, and. And it’s like, did you put your phone on the charger? You know, if you didn’t, you’re not gonna be able to use it today. And it. That sounds so cliche, but we, those of us who have been to graduate school, I’ve been to theology. Graduate school. I didn’t finish but, same with lawyers, same with MBA, same doctors. School doesn’t prepare you for life.

Andrea Johnson: School prepares you to learn life, college.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: Yeah.

Andrea Johnson: It proves to everyone that you know how to learn. And then we get out of school and we think we don’t need to do that anymore. And it’s important that we invest in ourselves because you’re the only one that’s going to be with you forever. Right. So no school is going to prepare you to do this. And while you might be exhausted at the end of medical school, I hate to have to be the one to tell you, but you got to keep learning and you got to be willing to do it. but I think that there are people out there, especially on your team, that are going to be willing to be a safe space for you because they’re there for similar reasons with different skill sets. And when you let them meet your needs, then, you can meet theirs as well. And you’d be surprised, I think, at the way your battery can be charged.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: And I see in medicine, that a lot of the frustration and burnout in clinical medicine, some of it is fed by the fact that we feel like our administrators have no idea what we do. You know, like, they have no idea what it’s like to be in front of the patient. They don’t actually know how this flows. They don’t, you know? and so I think that’s actually such great advice because it’s figuring out, okay, how can we come together from both sides. Sides and understand how to do this even better, you know? Well, because they don’t understand our side.

Andrea Johnson: But you don’t understand theirs either.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: Yeah, yeah.

Andrea Johnson: And let me tell you, I considered myself a translator for years. I said, I am a translator. I translate from physician to administrative assistant, from physician, sometimes physician to patient or to researcher, or from research administrator or NIH, officer to a researcher or a PI. And it is important to realize that just because you and I are looking at in a room, you know, we’ve on opposite sides of the room looking in two windows, and we’re looking at the same table, I can see what’s under your window, and you can see what’s under mine, but I can’t see what’s there. We don’t have a full perspective. And it, like I said, going through Covid was very helpful for the administrative staff to see how. How quote unquote normal the clinical staff was because in nephrology. Nephrology got blasted just everywhere during COVID And, because it was just so heavy. The workload


Andrea Johnson: was so heavy. And to see physicians who also didn’t have childcare, physicians who also didn’t have anyone to make sure that their groceries got put away, I mean, all of those things. Things helped. I think our work become a little bit more open and understanding because we could see that, but you don’t know. We don’t know what y’all do, but y’all don’t know what we do either. And so just being willing to see something from a different perspective can make a real difference.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: Yeah, I love that.

Andrea Johnson: Red tape is there to protect you and the patient

Well, is there anything, Andrea, that we’ve missed that, you would want people to hear about, know about thinking about in medicine with all the wisdom that you have gained working with people like us?

Andrea Johnson: You know, I think as much as you don’t like the red tape, just remember, it’s there to protect you.

Andrea Johnson: It really. It’s there to protect you and the patient. we don’t like the red tape either. but I think it’s important to remember that we are we things that are plenty of things that are broken in our medical system. And that’s not the topic for the day. But overall, the desire to protect patients, the desire to heal patients, the desire to, let everybody go home at the end of their day or their shift to a place that is safe and comfortable, I think that’s universal. And as long as we’re willing to see it from that perspective, I think it will make a difference. But just remember, you’re not a alone, even though you feel like it. And there’s always somebody on your team somewhere that you can reach out to. And if not, reach out to me, because I’ve been there as well. So, I, Andrea, tell people how.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: They can find your courses, how they can work with you, or maybe their institution wants to. Do, you know, some sort of training as well?

Andrea Johnson: Absolutely. I am the intentional optimist. You can find me on Google and you can. I respond very well through LinkedIn. I am Andrea Johnson. Or the intentional options. And, on Instagram, if you’re an IG person, I respond to instant messages there. But the work that I do within teams is I come in and I actually, do some assessments, do executive coaching. We promote. That’s the other thing we do, is we promote a lot of people because they’re good at their job, but they may not be good at administrative work, they may not be good at leadership. Clinicians in administrative positions over their division while they’re still a clinician. Is usually a recipe for disaster, and it happens every day, every, everywhere. but I do executive leadership coaching and, I love it. Really does bring me joy to help people know how to connect and know how to make that better. So you can even email me at andrea at the or check out, my podcast, stand tall and own it if you’re, interested in that as well.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: I love that. Ah, well, Andrea, thank you for being a ray of sunshine today day. I know that people are going to get so many things out of this. I really appreciate the work that you do and, making a positive impact on so many people, not just doctors and med students in residents.

Andrea Johnson: Thank you. It has been my pleasure. And I, you know, when you leave a particular type of work, you think, well, I guess that’s over with, but evidently it’s not. And I still have so much more to offer and would love to. So please, contact me if you have questions. And, it has been my pleasure to be here.

Thank you.

Dr. Jaime Seeman: Thank you guys so much for listening to today’s episode on The Strong MD podcast. I hope you got some great nuggets from Andrea, from intentionality, optimism, being present, energetic, courageous, and showing wisdom. If you loved this episode, please like it, subscribe, leave your comments, share it with all your friends and family. We appreciate you so much and we’ll catch you on the next episode.