Gloria Oyeniyi, MD Leads Beautifully

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I invest a lot of my time, energy and resources to uplifting those coming up behind me, and it’s also the best feeling when they share with me how influential I was in their lives.

Tell us a about your current professional role(s) and what brought you to this line of work? 

I am a medical doctor specializing in Psychiatry. I work in a private hospital affiliated with a large academic center in Houston and I treat people with severe mental illness. I became a psychiatrist because I believe mental illness affects many communities and I am interested in improving the lives of people affected. Growing up partially in Nigeria and even in the United States, mental health topics used to be taboo and highly stigmatized. It still is to a degree today. I am happy that better awareness and education has been shed on mental illness.

I treat a variety of conditions including depression, anxiety, substance use disorders, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, OCD and more. I am fascinated by the intersection of biology, psychology, neurology and the social sciences. My passion in life is to promote and improve the quality of life of all of my patients, whether it be via medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of both. I also enjoy teaching and mentoring medical students and physician trainees, hoping to encourage their interests in the field of Psychiatry.

As a woman and leader in your industry, how do you prioritize your many roles? 

It can be difficult balancing work with my personal life. I enjoy my work and as a medical doctor, it's quite easy to find myself working well over 60 hours a week providing patient care, plus all the administrative tasks, teaching, mentoring, and doctoring. There were times earlier in my career where I wasn't taking the time to rest, rejuvenate and recharge. I prioritized my work ahead of my personal life, which worked for me at some times because I am ambitious and several opportunities came by way. However, with the fast pace, and not balancing my work life with my personal life, this led to several moments of burnout and I experienced problems with sleeping adequately and high levels of stress.

Presently, I cherish having a great work-life balance, and I now make it a priority to invest in my health, both physical and mental. I see my therapist regularly, and I schedule massages and exercise at the gym frequently. I also overhauled my previously unhealthy diet in favor of eating healthier foods. I regularly spend time with my family and friends, and I block my schedule to rest and relax, catch up on my favorite TV shows or a good read. This balance has afforded me an overall healthier outlook in my life.

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What is your proudest professional achievement and why? 

I have several achievements in my professional life that I'm proud of. The most important moments to me are when patients tell me that my clinical care saved their life or impacted them in meaningful ways. There's nothing more rewarding to me than knowing that I made a positive difference in the lives of my patients. The next of my proudest moments are when students and medical residents that I mentor succeed in their endeavors. I invest a lot of my time, energy and resources to uplifting those coming up behind me, and it's also the best feeling when they share with me how influential I was in their lives. I know the power of mentorship because I have been blessed to have great mentors in my life, both personal and professional.

Have you ever felt like an "impostor" during your career? If so, tell us about the experience. 

Impostor syndrome is extremely common, and the more I learn about it, the more I am reassured that many people experience this. As a young Nigerian American doctor, I sometimes second guess my roles, achievements and successes in my career as I see others around me, other doctors and specialists who appear smarter, more polished, more articulate, and more successful. I question if people think I got to where I am today solely because of Affirmative Action policies. I sometimes feel like I have to work twice, if not three times as hard to prove myself and validate my worth. Of course, I then think about how much blood, sweat and tears as well as the sacrifice it has taken on my career path, and I am reassured that I'm exactly where I need to be. I also have colleagues and mentors who share with me their experiences of impostor syndrome, and I realize I'm not the only one.

Tell us about a time when you felt that your career had stalled. How did you get unstuck? 

One difficult decision I made in my career was to leave a job I loved but at the time I was living in a city that was not giving me the opportunities to balance my work and my personal life to my satisfaction. I was completely shattered because I devoted a lot of time and energy to that job and I loved working there. Unfortunately, because I enjoyed that job, I found myself working more and more and having less and less time for myself. After reflecting on what I wanted for my self in regards to living a well-rounded life, I decided to relocate to a new city and start a new job. It was a difficult decision for me because this new job was unknown and I had no clue if I would like it, or feel fulfilled. I had to trust my "gut" instinct in making the decision to relocate, trusting that more opportunities awaited me if I forged ahead. It was a risky move, but thankfully, my new job has been fulfilling, and I have wonderful colleagues and coworkers who have been extremely supportive, and inspire and encourage me to be a better doctor.

What habits have you followed that led to the overall growth of your career? 

I have a habit of being pleasant to everyone, and keeping an optimistic mindset. I also keep a habit of being diligent and a woman of integrity. These habits have helped me significantly in my career, especially during times of high stress. I also believe my networking relationships with mentors, colleagues, coworkers, students and residents have overall led to growth and fulfillment in my career.

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How do you embrace femininity in your professional and leadership roles? 

I embrace my femininity as much as I can as a young, Black and female physician. I make it a point to look and act as professional and feminine as possible, to radiate an encouraging and positive vibe to my patients, and also to those that I mentor. I know that others are looking at me and to me as a source of inspiration, and I don't take this responsibility lightly. Feminine to me doesn't mean I have to wear heels and pencil skirts daily, although I do love wearing those things when I can. At times, especially due to the nature of my work, it's best for me to dress as practical as possible. I try my best to ensure that I appear neat, professional, and "put-together".

In addition to my appearance, it's important to me that I appear confident, calm, optimistic and encouraging. I like to smile and greet others because it's contagious and pleasant. I lead with grace and integrity in all of my interactions. But in being true to myself, I recognize that I will not always be happy, strong, or calm, and that's okay. Sometimes, the days are hard and long, and I may have had difficult and challenging patient cases. Part of being strong to me is being vulnerable and admitting when I'm not having the best day. These moments can also be a source of strength and inspiration to others.

What is one interesting fact about yourself that you can share? 

I collect postcards, and have done so since middle school. I love for friends and family who have visited interesting places to send me postcards from their travels. I also love to travel and explore different cultures and foods. I have traveled to almost 30 countries, and hope I can travel to more in the future.

What is one piece of advice you would share to a woman who has fallen into complacency at work, but knows she could be doing so much more with her career? 

I would encourage women who have fallen into complacency at work to network with mentors, sponsors or colleagues who might be advocates in providing opportunities for growth and fulfillment in their careers.

This article has been edited and/or condensed for clarity.

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