Doctorpreneurs: Dr Isobelle "Izzy" Smith

Doctorpreneurs of Doctology is pleased this week to showcase an interview with Dr Isobelle "Izzy" Smith.

Dr Izzy is a trail-running FRACP trainee who wants to bring a medical face to the wellness industry and call out pseudoscience, fad diets and crap “health” products along the way!

Izzy is also combining her love of exercise with medicine and is aiming to be the first Australian dual-trained as a FRACP physician and a member of Sports and Exercise College and one day hopes exercise becomes part of standard therapeutic guidelines!

What organisation / startup did you found?

I have two parts to this answer, one is that I am trying to bring a medical face to the “wellness industry” as well as combine my FRACP with sport and exercise medicine.

The wellness industry is a massive multi-billion dollar industry and some of it is great such as encouraging people to eat better and exercise more, but a lot is pseudoscience, fad diets and other non-evidenced based crap to make money rather than benefit people.

I am trying to bring a medical voice and evidence-based medicine to the wellness industry, something that I think is desperately missing and people have been so happy to receive.

I decided to try and break into health media as I was frustrated by how much garbage information there is online and how confusing and overwhelming navigating health and disease can be for non-medical people. I realised I have a gift for describing medial issues and busting some ridiculous pseudoscience in simple language and the feedback has been phenomenal.

I am also hoping to extend to the corporate health scene with a focus on running for various physical and mental health plus workplace productivity benefits, but this is a work in progress!

I am also aiming to be the first Australian who is dual-trained in Physician training (FRACP) and Sports and Exercise Medicine (ACSEP). Exercise is my passion and I am taking this long route as I was frustrated as a physician how little exercise is utilised as treatment despite its great evidence and low risk profile and numbers needed to treat.

I hope that during my career GPs and specialists will have clear therapeutic guidelines for prescribing exercise like we already have for medications to control conditions like hypertension or atrial fibrillation, and I want to help make those guidelines happen.

What's its noble purpose?

Sport and exercise:

(1) Long term financial benefits to health system.

(2) True preventative health (physical and mental) which has a ripple of effects to the wider community.

Media health:

(1) Empower people to learn and know more about their health and common conditions like stroke, heart attacks, diabetes, cancer etc (so often people are so scared of these conditions with almost no understanding of what they actually are).

(2) Teach and educate people on the risks and waste of money on non-evidence based treatments like high dose IV vitamin C, essential oils and fad diets etc.

There is so much rubbish and downright dangerous ideas on social media and us doctors and scientists need to up our game as keeping our knowledge to ourselves is no longer enough to do our best for our patients and the wider community.

Tell me about the first 10 years of your life?

On paper the first ten years of my life could sound pretty tragic but at the same time it was full of love, adventures and fun but definitely with some hardships thrown in that likely impacted my career choice to becoming a doctor.

I grew up in Tasmania where my parents were farmers but sadly my dad died of lymphoma when I was 2. After dad died my mum had to manage and sell the farm that was on the edge on bankruptcy, and deal with some of her own demons in the form of depression and mental illness issues.

Much of my up-bringing was done by my older siblings which although was unfair on them, has made my siblings and I incredibly close and I also had the best Grandfather any girl could ask for!

My Grandfather was my major role model and sculpted the values I hold dear and taught me to believe I could do anything I set my mind to. This came in handy as I inherited my dad's athletic abilities which meant from a young age I excelled at most sports, especially athletics and gymnastics.

Sport was (and still is) my safe happy place and taught me about hard work, setting goals, and that with the right support and mindset you can achieve a lot more than you're aware of. I also learnt that coming from financial disadvantage made it harder to excel to high levels due to cost of training, uniforms and interstate competitions. This last point has become a passion and something I want to help change during my career.

Because we sold the farm a few years after my dad died my family were dependent on Centrelink / single parent pension and I think seeing this made me realise I never wanted to be financially dependent and is what led my sister to become a lawyer and me a doctor.

Although we were bloody poor we had all the benefits of living in the country. Friendly neighbours, bush adventures, pets, and a lovely country community filled with salt of the earth people and honest hard working values and I am so grateful for my Tassie rural upbringing.

What age were you when you had your first paying job? What was it?

I was 13 and I started working where I did gymnastics coaching and also in their school holiday vacation programs.

Looking back I was only a couple of years older than some of the kids! My next job was at Target as a checkout chick for $8 an hour...God I hated that job!

What made you want to be a Doctor and what speciality did you choose?

I always wanted to be a sports physio but had toyed with medicine and sat the UMAT but never really thought I was smart enough.

I got post-strep glomerulonephritis just after turning 18 during my gap year and I think that confirmed I wanted to study medicine as it exposed me to the health system and got me interested in physiology.

I did physician training as I really enjoyed studying physiology. I loved orthopaedics and the gratification of fixing things but I was scared off by the boys club culture and lifestyle.

I realised after about two years of physician training that long ward rounds, chronic disease and pure clinical work wasn't for me. There felt like there was no room for creativity or individuality and my true passion was exercise and sport.

What made you want to be an Entrepreneur? When exactly did you decide?

I do not think of myself as entrepreneur but someone who wants to be able to be creative, make my own individual career and approach medicine and helping others in a different way to the standard medical pathway.

I realised this after completing my Basic Physician exams as I finally had time to reflect and think about my future. I had put down my frustration and dissatisfaction in my career as due to the stress of exams but once they were done I was able to confirm to myself that I needed to take another path.

Simply put I realised I could be a medical specialist that would be a "goodish" physician but no better than anyone else and easily replaceable, however my creativity, people skills and passion for exercise and public health meant I could achieve much more in other avenues.

Are you still practicing as a Doctor now? If yes do you intend to stop if your organisation takes off?

Yes as I need to pay bills and want to put in a couple more years so I can get those letters behind my name. I am not sure if I would ever completely stop clinical medicine entirely. My gut feeling is that it would not feel right but who knows.

Why do you think traditionally many Doctors struggle with entrepreneurship?

I think this is the case for various reasons. Firstly there is not much room for creativity or thinking outside the box in medicine. We get on a training program and we stay on the conveyor belt until we are a consultant and then we do a PhD etc.

I think people in my generation are very scared to jump off that conveyor belt due to a competitive job market and fear of not coming across completely dedicated to their chosen field.

I also think there is a culture that doctors should not care about or prioritise making money, especially in medical pathways. I feel like people, including other medical colleagues, expect due to the altruistic nature of medicine if we aim to also be financially successful we are somehow less moral, dedicated or virtuous as doctors.

What is your favourite quote?

"It's better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring". Marilyn Munroe.

What would you do in the event of a Zombie Apocalypse?

I would probably try and make friends with one of the more sensitive Zombies and teach him about the mental health benefits of yoga and trail running and hope one day we could all live in happy Zombie / human harmony.

Are you a Doctorpreneur? Do you know of one? If yes then get in touch us and you could appear on Doctorpreneurs of Doctology. Just email today.