As the new year approaches, I’ve been thinking a lot about transformation. What does it mean to “transform?” The definition of transformation is: “thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance.” This makes transformation sound like a complete and total metamorphosis, and maybe that’s part of it. But in my experience, this kind of transformation isn’t the best kind of transformation. It’s just too abrupt, too sudden, too…magical. When people change overnight, it doesn’t usually work. You know those New Year’s resolutions that never last—the ones that start like, “I’ll never ever do X again,” or “From now on, every single day I will always do Y.” It’s just not realistic.
What I do believe in is that kind of transformation that is more like an evolution—a gradual, steady movement towards becoming better…a shift in direction, rather than a swift and severe about-face. I believe in transformations that involve doing something different from what you were doing before, when what you were doing before is no longer working for you. It could be just one small thing, but it’s something that makes a difference.
I’ve experienced many transitions in my life. When I started this blog series, I originally focused on the transformation that is menopause—that natural, biological, physiologic change that happens within women. As my blogs evolved, I started reflecting on the active process of becoming who it is we want to be, and how we can actively create transformation rather than having it imposed upon us. Today, I feel like this blog has become a platform for me to demonstrate in specific ways how transformation is a true choice within our control. In my own life, I believe my greatest transformation has been to learn how to “live from the heart.” It’s something I often preach, but it has not always come easily to me.
My personal transformations have been going on since long before I started writing this blog. When I first began my career, I had an ambitious goal. I wanted to transform how the healthcare establishment perceived women. I also wanted to educate women about how to advocate for and empower themselves to receive the care they deserve. I wanted to show everybody that women get heart disease too, and that they need treatment for it rather than dismissal. I was working in the unpopular world of prevention, treading water in a sea of cardiologists focused on treatment. I also ventured into the world of communication and media, utilizing writing, speaking, television, and social media as a means to deliver a message that I believe is so critical for all women to hear. While working in the confines of a medical institution, I tried to think outside of the box, push the envelope, create new systems—but I assure you, being a creative doctor in an uncreative system is challenging, frustrating, and often leads to the opposite of transformation, which is stagnation. Transformation is never easy.
I finished my fellowship in 2002 and have been working hard to do all that I believe is necessary for women of all socio-economic classes and geographical regions ever since. My commitment to transformation is stronger than ever. I have spoken in every borough of New York City, to many different groups and types of people. What I always emphasize is that evolution is possible. I’ve seen it firsthand.
I have seen hope and change throughout my career. I’ve seen patients thrive, get empowered to live the healthiest lives they can, lose weight, exercise more, decrease their medication, and even meditate to help combat their stress. I’ve been a part of the health care journey of so many, whether in my office or through the outreach that I have done. I’ve witnessed profound transformations time and time again. Yet I still struggle with transformation. I still feel that my personal mission has often been held back, deterred, and even sometimes derailed. But this coming year, I have a good feeling. To me, 2020 feels transformative. It is an arbitrary number on a calendar, but it feels significant—the start of a new decade, pushing us all to ask ourselves, How badly do you want transformation?
As of 2020, and after spending 20 years in the bureaucracy of the hospital system, I have chosen to make a radical transformation in my own life. I have chosen to reach for my dreams, embrace my passions, and take more control over the nature of my mission. To do that, I am embarking on a new journey. I’m going into private practice in New York City, focusing on the prevention of heart disease in women using functional, metabolic, physiologic, anatomic, and genetic data to drive personalized lifestyle programs that use diet, exercise, and stress management for transformation. I want the way I treat each women patient in front of me to be unique to her needs. I want to help all the women out there who are ready for their own transformations. For the first time in many years, I am at peace. I am excited and ready to make the impact that I have always dreamed of making, but which has been so difficult in a conventional medicine setting.
As I write, I am on the plane home from a small county in Northern California where I have been working on effecting even more transformation. Lake County is the poorest and most unhealthy county in California. When I was there, I talked to people about transformation, especially for women in that population. I explained how, in rural America, with all the hardships and difficulties associated with a lack of education, unemployment, drug use, poverty, transportation, and access to healthy food, that transformation is still possible. It may not be an immediate, overnight, abrupt metamorphosis. More likely, it will be a slow process involving shifts in infrastructure that allow for a transition in mindsets, and behaviors. But I will never stop believing that we can make health and wellness the norm, and that we can educate women to become masters of their own health.
What it all comes down to is that transformation is about change…and change is scary. As I go in this new direction, as a more direct and unencumbered advocate for women, and as I continue to create platforms that can help them achieve optimal heart health, I am sympathetic to how they must feel. They are scared, confused, frustrated, concerned, out of their comfort zone, anxious, worried—yet, ultimately, empowered. I know how they feel because I am one of them.
Change may be scary, but it can also be the most exciting part of life. Come 2020, I hope you will take a leap with me. I’m ready to live from the heart in a way I’ve never fully embraced before. Are you ready to change it up, shake up your life, and transform? Are you ready to live more fully and completely from your heart? Who do you want to be? What do you want to achieve? How badly do you want it? Let’s do it together. Support makes any transformation easier, and when women support women, that is how we will transform the whole world. Let’s do this!
Click here to buy Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum’s book, Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum’s Heart Book: Every Woman’s Guide to a Heart-Healthy Life