[Dear Wendy] Lynn Helmer

Dear Wendy,

I wrote to you a few weeks ago about this project that I’m doing this summer with Wellesley alumnae that focuses on how they approached the daunting decision of what to do after graduating Wellesley. I recently spoke to Lynn Helmer, another alum in STEM, and I think that you’ll find her career path surprising! You’ve probably heard of consulting firms before and know what they do for businesses, but did you know that you could also consult for doctors?

Lynn Helmer graduated from Wellesley with a double major in chemistry and art history, but that degree has very little to do with what she’s been doing for the past couple of years. She is the president of DRD Consulting Inc., a firm that specializes in providing services for doctors that are transitioning from a clinical role to a more administrative one. She is also working in a law firm by providing continuing legal education and advising them on marketing.

You may wonder, as I did when I first spoke to her, how she came to be involved in such different industries. After graduating Wellesley, Lynn obtained her masters in chemistry and entered medical school. Following a residency in internal medicine, she worked in a private practice for about 10 years before changing to an academic practice. It was during that time that she started taking on more administrative responsibilities and she ultimately decided to get an MBA. Following that, she held various administrative positions at hospitals and even worked briefly at an insurance company before starting a consulting company that helps train doctors to become administrators. She makes use of her experience as an administrator and manager at the law firm when helping them with various operations and programs.

The roundabout way in which she has arrived at her current point is quite unexpected, Lynn herself even admits that her pathway through her various careers is “not your typical pathway”. However, she feels that the atypical pathway was natural for her. When asked about how she initially transitioned away from clinical care to administrative tasks, she responded that more responsibilities were given to her because she was an “operation-oriented person”. “People just noticed… and I liked it,” she said, adding that she could have “a larger impact that way” on patients, for she would be indirectly influencing the care of those on her team. Her research team even won a national award for their participation in a study because they had incredible retention and recruitment rates, which was “simply because we wrote them [the patients] birthday cards”.

But of course, that’s not why you’re reading this letter right now. The question that we’re struggling right now is: “How do you even know where to start?” When I asked her this, she replied “I don’t think you can ever be sure,” but continued to say that it’s not particularly important where you start, as long as you think it’s in the right direction— “You’ll either get it right or you won’t, and you’ll go from there.” Regardless of the result of your decision, it will show you something about yourself that you may not have known before. And with this new knowledge, you can just adjust your trajectory. Lynn demonstrates this approach perfectly through her work experience.

When talking about how she reached her decision to pursue medicine, she said that she “liked science and people, so it was a pretty logical choice.” She wasn’t particularly sure what she was going to do with an MD degree, but it seemed to be in the direction of her interests. Her experiences in rotations influenced her to do a residency in internal medicine, and she realized her knack for managing groups could be useful after more than a decade of working. Her decision to start a consulting firm arose from her experience as an administrator, as she realized that there weren’t many resources available to doctors who wanted to make the switch from bedside to management.

What I learned from my conversation with Lynn was perfectly summarized in her parting words to me:

“I wish I could give you magic certainty about career choices. There isn’t any that I know of. Be a lifelong learner and always look for things that interest you and make some sort of positive difference in the world.”

Sincerely,

Helena

PS- If you’d like to reach out to Lynn to hear more about her work, please contact her at lynn@drdnj.com

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