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Conversations With Dr Barankin: Doris Day, MD

In the second installment of this podcast series, Benjamin Barankin, MD, interviews Doris Day, MD, about her life outside dermatology and how she balances her career with her other interests and hobbies in journalism, traveling, and hosting a radio show. 

Dr Day is a clinical associate professor of dermatology at the New York University Medical Center.

Dr Barankin is a dermatologist in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He is author-editor of 7 books in dermatology and is widely published in the dermatology and humanities literature.

Transcript

Dr Benjamin Barankin: Hello, and welcome to the podcast “Conversations with Dr Barankin.” I’m Dr Benjamin Barankin, a dermatologist in Toronto, Canada. These succinct interviews with dermatology colleagues will ask these bright and talented minds their thoughts, experiences, and pearls of wisdom that are fun, interesting, and actionable. Now, let’s get started.

I’m very honored to have Dr Doris Day, a board‑certified dermatologist who specializes in laser, cosmetic, and medical dermatology in the Upper East Side in New York City with me today.

She’s a clinical associate professor of dermatology at the New York University Medical Center, where she was presented with the award for dedication and excellence in the teaching of Dermatology. She’s won awards for her work in laser research and continues to actively participate in FDA clinical research trials.

Dr Day regularly lectures nationally and internationally to her peers and the public and is an active member of many organizations, including the American Society of Dermatologic surgery, the American Academy of Dermatology, and the Women’s Dermatologic Society. She also actively participates on boards and dermatology advocacy groups.

Dr Day also has a master’s degree in medical journalism is author of three books—100 Questions & Answers About Acne, Forget the Facelift, and her newest book is Beyond Beautiful.

She’s also a host of the dermatology show on Doctor Radio on SiriusXM 81 and has frequent appearances on many national media outlets.

Thank you, Dr Day, for joining me today.

Dr Doris Day: Thank you for having me. I’m excited, after that intro, I don’t know how I’m going to...I’ll try to live up to all those nice things you said.

Dr Barankin: No doubt. I’d like to ask you some fun and interesting questions. We’ll keep things easy‑going and lively. We’ll start off with something simple such as what’s your favorite book and why or what are you reading?

Dr Day: My favorite book is The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann, he’s my favorite writer. It is an experience reading this book. You should only read five pages at a time. What I love about this book is that you could read it today, which I read it again not that long ago with my daughter, we read it together, it’s he could have written it today, it goes into all different aspects of life. He’s such a powerful visual writer. It’s a beautiful experience to read the book.

It’s about this guy who’s suffering from tuberculosis, who ends up in the mountains. Honestly, nothing happens to him in the book, like nothing happens, because he’s just sitting up there in this facility in the open air.

Meanwhile, there’s so many incredible conversations and so many experiences and it’s 900 pages of pure, joyful reading, and you come out of it a smarter, better person and more thoughtful.

He’s an incredible writer, my favorite type of writing, and it’s a great book that I hope everyone takes the time to read, but it’s a journey to read it. It’s not a fast book.

Dr Barankin: 900 pages, that’s certainly something to...

Dr Day: They’re dense. I was an English major, so I’m a little bit of a snob when it comes to books.

[laughter]

Dr Barankin: I will definitely add that to the bucket list and reading list. For sure, that sounds quite interesting. Do you have any favorite songs, any types of music that you’re into? What stuff do you like to groove to?

Dr Day: I have an eclectic mix of song likes. I like everything from current, pop, rock, R&B. I’m a country music girl, so I love country music. I love Johnny Cash. I go to Nashville every year and it’s one of my favorite places to go visit because I love the music. I love old country, new country. I really love the oldies. I’m a ‘70s and ‘80s music girl. I love David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith are some of my favorites, Grateful Dead. There’s so many amazing songs to listen to.

But, I also love classical and, in my mind, when I listen to classical, I just choreograph ballets and dances and the music takes you on such great adventures.

I think music is one of the most powerful healing elements that we have. There was a time when I was going through a difficult time with my dad when he was hit by a car, he was very sick. I just stopped listening to music because I didn’t want any music to be associated with that time. Music can take you places, and it can be very powerful and healing. I’m big on music.

Dr Barankin: That’s quite an eclectic mix of music. It’s amazing that we can have so many different styles and interests within the musical realm, isn’t it?

Dr Day: Yeah. They’re all incredibly special and moving in. I think it’s good to be exposed to a broad variety of music and instruments because they will touch different parts of you, and they can help you feel things you need to feel and work through emotions if they’re difficult. If they’re good emotions, they can help you experience it them on an even greater level.

Music is important in my life and in my children’s in my family’s life as well. I love Persian music. I’ve grown up listening, I’m American, but I’m first generation American, and we used to have 45s of all the great Persian songs. In Persian music, songs are very poetic. They’re all poems that are put to music, and they tell beautiful stories of love, loss, and obsession and despair. They’re fun and the sounds are beautiful.

Dr Barankin: OK. All right, we have to check out some Persian music.

Dr Day: Yeah. [laughs]

Dr Barankin: I love it, Doris. Tell me any favorite movies that you’ve seen in the past year or your favorite movies of all time?

Dr Day: I don’t go to a lot of movies. Can’t remember the last time I went to a movie theatre, but I watch movies sometimes when on airplanes. I’d rather read a book or listen to music than watch a movie.

I tend to like the older movies. I love the Doris Day movies. I wonder why but I do love those movies. I do like the older movies better.

I did see Parasite, I think got an airplane last year. I didn’t love it when I saw it, but it stayed with me. It makes me realize how much of that there is in life. That movie I thought was incredibly well done, very disturbing.

One of my favorite movies of all times is My Cousin Vinny, just because it comes up. Also I just love Blazing Saddles. Pretty much anything Mel Brooks is good with me I can sit down and watch Mel Brooks, Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, History of the World, so many old movies where they make references to other things as well.

You see movies like that or you read writers like Chaucer, and you realize that the more you know and the more you understand history and books and life, the more you get the inside jokes of these movies and these stories, and the more fun it is to watch them.

You have to have a sense of humor. I do like comedies and romantic comedies more than action movies and, definitely, I’m not a thrillers type of a girl. I don’t like that roller coaster. I don’t like people in the dark coming out and like stabbing and shooting people. I just don’t like that.

Dr Barankin: I’m a big Mel Brooks fan myself, and unfortunately his good friend Carl Reiner recently passed.

Dr Day: I know.

Dr Barankin: I’m sure Mel’s devastated, but he’s a legend and I love his work.

Dr Day: He’s awesome.

Dr Barankin: Tell me what would your ideal day look like, Doris?

Dr Day: My ideal day, the weather’s perfect. I love going to work. So, I would get up early, have my coffee, stretch, walk to my office with my husband and see patients all day long. Everybody would be happy, love their outcome. My staff would all show up, everyone would be on time, I would be on time.

When I got out, the day would still be light, and I would have dinner with my family. I’m a big family girl and I also love to travel.

My ideal day involves lots of different activities. One of my favorite things to do is, be in the office and see patients. The more I do it, the more I love it.

Being home during COVID was difficult. When I got back, I realized how much I really love it and missed it. I also love consulting. I love traveling and lecturing and having time with my peers. I love hiking and spending time outdoors.

My ideal day would incorporate all my favorite elements. It will be one super, super long day that I would get to do all those things I love and have great food thrown in with that as well.

Dr Barankin: Wow…

Dr Day: It’d be a busy day.

Dr Barankin: [laughs] That’s a very busy day. To that point, how do you find balance between your medical career, your family, your personal interests, of which there are clearly many?

Dr Day: I find that there isn’t such a thing as balance exactly, that it’s just all in your head. This work‑life balance that people talk about, to me, it’s all just life.

I had my first child, my daughter, when I was in medical school, and now she goes to a medical school. That’s very cool.

It’s having good support and having people around you who understand what you’re about, who support you in your goals, and who can help you with the things you need help with. My parents were home, they cooked for us every day. They helped take care of the children, I believe in extended family and everybody pulling for everybody. That made it possible for me to get to medical school and two residencies and do research and have two children at the same time and not feel overextended.

My husband had already been established as a dentist. He was able to have more flexible hours and do a lot more.

I was kind of the guest in my own house in many ways, and was able to enjoy my family life but also build my career, and also still write and do other things that I wanted to do, and not feel like I was compromising. You incorporate everybody into it.

My daughter used to look at my dermatology books as a kid growing up. One day, when her brother fell on the playground, she called me and said, “Andrew fell and he hurt his hand, but don’t worry, it’s not bleeding. It didn’t go through the epidermis.” She understood at a young age, a lot about what I was doing. They benefit from it. They had so much respect for me growing up and they loved their time with me and never took me for granted.

To this day, we’re all very close because our time together is special, and no one takes each other for granted. You incorporate all the elements you love into each other. We would study together and spend time together doing work. It was special.

I don’t think that one comes at the expense of the other. I think there are ways to engage everybody in all your activities and make people feel included so that we can all help each other grow.

Dr Barankin: That’s terrific. What would you tell your children about going into medicine today? Obviously, it sounds like your daughter is in medical school. What was your advice to her?

Dr Day: You have to do what makes you happy and my son was pre‑med in college and now he’s in global security and intelligence. He went the other way. My daughter was in finance, and was working at Goldman Sachs, and realized that she still wanted to do medicine and be a doctor. It’s really truly a calling.

She tried not being a doctor and that didn’t work for her. She wanted to be a doctor. She quit and went back and did a post-bacc, and now she’s a third-year medical student.

My dad was a doctor, my husband’s family were all either dentists or doctors and a whole range of doctors. It’s in our blood in many ways. My dad raised my children to a large extent. They had exposure to old‑school medicine, where you see that when you go home, you don’t stop being a doctor. It’s really part of your overall being. You learn a lot almost through osmosis of what it means to be a physician what it means to care for other people.

My daughter is naturally that way. My son is scientifically inclined but didn’t want the medical school path, didn’t have the calling in the same way, so he’ll find his own way. We support him in that as well. You just have to do what makes you happy and what your passion is. I would never tell them to be a doctor and I would never tell them not to be a doctor.

Dr Barankin: Mhmm, yeah.

Dr Day: I would just say whatever you do, give it your all.

Dr Barankin: Sure. Absolutely. I know you love medicine and part of your ideal day is going to work and seeing patients, but, if you weren’t a physician, what do you think you’d love or be good at doing instead?

Dr Day: I do love being a writer and a storyteller. I love doing my radio show. I was doing that for 12 years. We’ve been on hold a little bit because of COVID. That’s been difficult for me. I love interviewing and hearing other people’s stories. I love talking with people on the phone about what they’re going through, helping them navigate their own skincare, healthcare life.

Being a dermatologist is part of what I do, but it’s being a physician, I think is being a healer and, no matter what your specialty is, you take care of a whole being a whole human. Your goal is to help them live their healthiest and best life.

My organ of choice is the skin and I find that by looking at someone and talking to them, I can help them understand themselves better. I can help them make changes in their life. If I wasn’t a dermatologist, I could still do that through journalism, or through my radio show, interviewing people and experts and helping make those connections. In one way or another, it would be to try to be a healer.

Dr Barankin: Sure. Any favorite hobbies, any favorite forms of exercise for you?

Dr Day: I love being outdoors. I love hiking. That’s one of my favorite things to do. Any excuse to be outdoors with nature. Just being outdoors and getting your heart rate going is exciting.

I’d love to bike ride. I don’t get to do enough of any of those things because I live in the city, but I try to find my way out into the country to spend time in nature.

My other fantasy is to live on a farm with a lot of farm hands. My friend calls it country chic, or farm chic, where I would have a lot of help managing the farm and the land. I would be outdoors with nature, get up with a sunrise go to sleep with a sunset and sit by the fire and write and read and tell stories and just live a simple life.

Dr Barankin: It sounds lovely. What’s been your greatest travel experience? Where do you hope to travel next?

Dr Day: I wanted to go into international affairs, because I’ve always loved to travel. My parents instilled that in us. They took us as children all over. Whenever they traveled, they would take us everywhere with them. My dad especially loved going to Europe and Paris and made it seem so magical.

I love Paris. I lived there for a year. I’m shocked that, as a dermatologist, I’ve traveled as much as I have. I’ve been to pretty much every continent. I’ve traveled so much as a doctor it’s been a thrill. I haven’t gotten enough of it yet.

I look forward to going to Africa more and spending some time there. I’d love to do that. Haven’t had that opportunity yet. I’d love to spend more time in Australia, one of my favorite places. I was recently in Thailand, in Bangkok, and Chiang Mai. That was incredible. There’s just so much to see in the world and so many people to meet.

When we think about all the skincare that we have, that comes from different countries like Korea, and Japan, and different areas, nature, just understanding where these products and ingredients are sourced from going there and learning about that culture that develops these ingredients I think helps us create better products.

I’ve worked in a research lab. I’m interested in ingredients and product lines. I think connecting what we see in nature and how we find ingredients, putting that together will help us make better skincare products. Learning from the history of those cultures and their ancient healing methods I think can have a big impact on what we do in our in our specialty.

Dr Barankin: Well Dr Doris Day, it’s been wonderful chatting with you getting to know you your insights, your incredible experiences, your interest in journalism, and your passion for medicine. Thank you very much for your time for sharing a piece of yourself today.

Dr Day: Thanks for having me. You’re so kind. Thanks for all of your kind words.

Dr Barankin: I hope you enjoyed a peek into the mind of a medical colleague, and picked up some useful and actionable ideas from this podcast. If you enjoyed it, please subscribe and share it or tell a friend about it. Thank you for listening, until next time.

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