Gastroenterology and a Mic Drop from Maya – Madelin on Work/Life/Passion Balance

Meet Madelin, who’s bringing clear information to the world of gastroenterology… and LOVES it. No seriously, read on to learn more about her work/life/passion balance journey…

Hi! Who are you?! What do you do?

I’m the Senior Manager of Clinical Guideline Development at the American Gastroenterological Association Institute (yikes, what a mouthful!) Basically, in my day-to-day job, I coordinate the development and publication of guidelines for doctors in the gastrointestinal field. These guidelines are based on very rigorous reviews of the scientific evidence about how to diagnose, evaluate and treat all sorts of digestive disorders, from colon cancer to acid reflux. Our goal is to make sure doctors across the country are all up-to-date on the latest scientific evidence so that they can provide the best care possible to their patients.

As part of this job, I also write patient summaries for each guideline. These summaries take our guidelines and put them into plain, everyday language so that doctors and patients can better understand one another – the doctor can explain a diagnosis and how they intend to treat a condition, and the patient is more likely to know what questions they need to ask their doctor as well as how to care for themselves when they get home.

We’ve all had experiences when we walked out of the doctor’s office after a diagnosis or treatment decision with our head spinning with so much information, and wondering, “okay, so… what did we just talk about in there?” I hope that with my patient-oriented summaries, we can ensure that patients get all the information they need to manage their conditions effectively from the start and avoid problems down the line.

Work/Life/Passion Balance, what’s your method?
One of the first real magazines I ever read was my father’s monthly subscription to Skeptic magazine. One of my yearly Christmas gifts was a World Almanac, and every Christmas morning into my adolescence was spent cozied up on the couch with my nose in the new edition, soaking up all the information that excited me. I have an insatiable appetite for new information, especially when it comes to things related to health and science.

Over the past year, it’s dawned on me that my career interests, my hobbies and my overall lifestyle all have two shared threads running through them: the theme of soaking up information, and the theme of applying that information to practice. Evidence-based medicine is a huge interest of mine and guides just about everything I do in my “day job” developing clinical guidelines. But it also plays a large role in my time outside of work – for instance, I love to participate in online skeptic and science advocacy forums and listen to podcasts about evidence-based fitness and nutrition. When I’m not plugged in, I’m either in the gym using science and evidence-based methods to prepare for my first bodybuilding competition, or in the kitchen experimenting with different ways to create healthful meals that satisfy my raging sweet tooth – which is almost as insatiable as my zest for knowledge!

So as you can see, my passion for seeking out evidence and applying it to my life – and also communicating science-based information to others – pops up just about everywhere throughout my day, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. I find that because my interests and hobbies complement my 9-to-5 job, it helps me make sure that I don’t get too bogged down in working. I have so many outlets through which to express my love of health and science, and my job is only one of them! I feel lucky to be starting on a career that is fed by my biggest passions in life. There’s so much rampant misinformation around health these days, and I want to be part of improving the conversation and improving lives through the spread of information that’s based in facts, not emotions like fear.

When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
My interests ranged from oceanographer to movie producer! Somewhere around the age of 12, I saw my first episode of “The West Wing” and instantly decided I wanted to be in politics. I loved trying to figure out what makes people “tick” – why they vote for a certain candidate and how they form their beliefs. It took me 10 years to figure out that the extreme lack of work/life balance that’s inherent in politics was not a good fit for me – I value self-care too much to go down that road. I had an epiphany while I was working 80-hour weeks and living off of pizza one summer during college that what I really wanted to do was change lives through health communication, and keep my own health and sanity while doing it. Not to mention, if what you really care about is getting the straight, scientific facts to your audience, politics is probably not the best field to go into.

Now that you’re pretty much a grown-up, what do you think you’re going to be when you grow up?
I want to be the person behind the scenes of a highly impactful public health campaign  – hopefully, several! – that will get people to change their behaviors around health. As Mad Men’s Peggy Olsen said, “I want to create something of value.” In fact, advertising and health communication are very similar – I just want to sell better health to Americans, not panty hose.

Thanks for chatting! Where can folks find more info about you? – but be forewarned that you will regularly encounter gym selfies and food pics – the two most hated of all digital photography subjects.

Anything else you want to share?

I came across a quote from Maya Angelou the other day that I felt describes my life philosophy perfectly: “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive: and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” Leave it to Maya for that mic drop.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: