Conversations with members of the Harvard and Radcliffe Class of 1992.
Hosted by Will Bachman.

Episode: 10

Dr. Zarya Rubin, From Opera School to Med School to Wellness Coach

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Show notes

Dr. Zarya Rubin grew up practicing surgery on her dolls, so it was no surprise that she pursued medicine. She is a Harvard-educated physician who also believes in holistic health and wellness and is well-versed in the practices of yoga and meditation. She has trained at the world-renowned Institute For Integrative Nutrition, where she studied over 100 dietary theories and worked with mentors like Dr. Andrew Weil, Dr. Deepak Chopra. In today’s episode, she talks about her journey towards becoming a holistic health coach. 

You can learn more about  Zarya and her work through the following links: 



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Zarya Rubin


Will Bachman  00:01

Welcome back to the 92 report conversations with the Harvard and Radcliffe class of 1992. I’m your host will Bachman and I am here today with Zarya Rubin, MD. Zarya, welcome to the show.


Zarya Rubin  00:16

Thank you. Well, thanks for having me.


Will Bachman  00:18

Zarya, let’s start with the question of your Sim. You’re at a reunion catching up with someone you haven’t seen in 30 years. Tell us about your journey since graduation.


Zarya Rubin  00:33

Oh my goodness, where to start? I’ve had kind of a circuitous route. Through life and school. After leaving Harvard. I was, you know, dead set on a career in medicine. And I certainly started out that way. I was pre med, I was the typical biology major and all of those fun things. When I was in college, and then after graduation, I moved to New York City. I actually worked briefly in the world of advertising, then got a job at Memorial Sloan Kettering, doing cancer research, sort of preparing to enter Medical School. I graduated from Harvard extremely young, I had just turned 20. So I also felt that I had some growing up to do, which was probably pretty accurate. And I then took a detour and went to opera school for a while before eventually we


Will Bachman  01:33

wait, opera school, like singing opera kind of


Zarya Rubin  01:37

thing? Yeah. Yeah. You know, it’s kind of the typical path, premed opera school medical school. Right.


Will Bachman  01:43

Okay. I didn’t even know they had a school for opera school. I thought you


Zarya Rubin  01:47

Sure? Yeah, like music conservatory. So I ended up going to McGill at the the music, the faculty of music and performance there. And I had been singing my whole life as a hobby. I went to a performing arts school growing up in Montreal, Canada, and it was always in the back of my mind to pursue that. But it wasn’t, you know, it wasn’t serious enough. And it wasn’t my dream. It wasn’t medicine. But then I had this sort of nagging doubt in the back of my mind before I committed the rest of my life to a career in medicine. But what about this opera thing? What about this music thing? What if that’s really what I meant to be doing? So I did pursue that briefly on and off. And then I like to say I was an opera school drop out, because that, you know, that innate drive and desire to go to medical school was still there, and I wasn’t able to kind of quell that. So I did end up going to medical school, after all, and then then my God,


Will Bachman  02:52

we can’t just get by this opera school thing. So was there some transcendent moment where you maybe listen to the opera, or you went to the opera or you that you said, Oh, my gosh, I need to do this. Like, what was that decision? Like, when you?


Zarya Rubin  03:11

Well, that’s a that’s a great question. It actually segues back to Harvard because I, when I was younger, I despised opera. I thought it was just a bunch of, you know, women in horns screaming, and didn’t understand the appeal. So there was an arts and literature class that I ended up taking. That was the history of opera. And I thought, well, I guess I’m going to find out what this is all about, what what is the fuss about? And will I end up hating it or loving it? And presuming I was gonna still hate it? Well, I was wrong. And once I understood the ins and outs in the complexities of the stories and the libretti, and how the music mirrored what was going on with the characters and their motivations, and really dug deep and studied it and listen to some of the greatest performers in the world, not only did I realize I didn’t hate opera, but I became obsessed with it. And decided, well, gee, I, I have to do this. I’m a pretty dramatic person and love to perform. And I had been singing since I was about five years old. And people suggested it to me, and I said, Oh, come on. I couldn’t really do this. And they said, Yeah, you could want it you audition. So I did. And the rest is history, I guess.


Will Bachman  04:37

And how far did you get an opera school where you take like, taking, performing and some student performances or


Zarya Rubin  04:46

Yeah, yeah, I did some recitals and some performances and did a bunch of music theory and history and all those things. But it was interesting because I was in the undergraduate program, even though I already had an undergraduate degree. And that was challenging. I remember just, you know, feeling a little bit out of place and a fish out of water that had had all these experiences. And that was with all these, you know, super young kids fresh out of high school. And there it was, you know, one of the most interesting stories was when people, you know, found out that I had gone to Harvard, I became the kind of commodity in this freak show in the school because it was not a typical path. And so one of my friends was telling all of her friends from the freshmen dorm, oh, you have to meet my friend, sorry. Yeah. She went to Harvard. And I was like, Oh, God, is there a hole that can swallow me up in the ground, so I can just disappear? Because you know, that feeling when you’re very young, and don’t always tell people where you went to school? So I could for fear of the reaction. So I just sort of stood there. And this girl looked at me and she said, Oh, well, you must be really, really smart. And I wasn’t sure how to respond to that comment. So I kind of stammered and I said, Yeah, I guess Oh, yes, I am. And then her response, which was classic was, well, I’m not wait for it. I’m not. I’m just really, really talented.


Will Bachman  06:22

Good for her.


Zarya Rubin  06:24

And I think at that moment, I realized that I was probably in the wrong place. That I wasn’t going to be successful in opera school, because that wasn’t enough of a diva.


Will Bachman  06:33

Alright, so before we move past beyond opera school, did you did your short of love of opera continue to go to the opera from time to time? Absolutely,


Zarya Rubin  06:40

absolutely. I ended up living in New York City for a number of years, and was fortunate enough to have a close friend who was the press secretary for the Metropolitan Opera. So I got to go to all the hopper. And it was incredible, and just a really magical, you know, experience if folks have never been to an opera at the mat. It’s, it’s like nothing else, you


Will Bachman  07:05

know? Okay, so without your permission here, I’m just going to give listeners permission. If you need an opera mentor, you’ve been interested in the opera or kind of, or maybe you went to it once, but didn’t really click. Zarya can be your opera mentor, she’ll go with you to the opera and kind of explain what’s going on. Absolutely. And I may actually take you up on that because I’ve been a couple times, you know, three four times. I don’t really quite get it. Music is okay, but I don’t really quite get it. And so I felt you know, fall asleep and the last act or section.


Zarya Rubin  07:41

You got to start you got to start with a shorter one. Yeah, and it kind of punchier one and you got to have subtitles. You got to know what’s going on. Otherwise, it’s just kind of like, huh,


Will Bachman  07:51

I will share an opera story here though. Oh, yeah. This shows that this episode is not about me, but I will share love so so when I was 21 years old. I was doing one of the Surrey Eurail pass things traveling around Europe. And I was in Florence, Venice, right notice the Opera House in Florence. I was in I was in Florence. famous opera house right in Florence. In Milan, Milan. There we go. Oh, yeah. Yeah, it was it was a scar. So it was Yeah. And and I didn’t have you know, it’s like super poor right? I didn’t have enough money to least pay for a ticket I guess it wasn’t super poor but I wasn’t about to spend you know 50 or 100 euros or later at that point. So I was going around asking people extra bat extra bat and and and then I you know I was at 15 minutes is asking people you’re kind of giving up hope all these super well dressed people and I was in my shabby kind of traveling clothes. And then a ticket fluttered down from the third floor window. Yeah, and I grabbed it and hold on let me just get my wallet here. Let me see was it and so I grabbed it and I went in I’m thinking okay, this is this is going to be no no it was the community sit down they frenzy to throw commonality so it wasn’t the famous wasn’t a scholar and it wasn’t a scholar I’m looking at the ticket right now and yeah way and it was I was thinking I was just gonna be like a cheap seats ticket. It was the box seat. The closest one to the stage. And Vito Balko nata postal. See? Yeah. Yeah, it was. Yeah, yeah. So it was it was turned out was it was the main was like the main actor who just looked out the window of his dressing room and saw this guy and threw me the ticket. So I actually laminated this ticket and I keep him in my wallet as a reminder to to just ask you know, if you want something, just ask and the universe may provide so


Zarya Rubin  10:00

That is the best story and I was actually marveling at how quickly you’re able to produce that ticket. And no, I understood. I was like, really because we didn’t talk about what we were going to talk about beforehand. I thought, how on earth did he locate that? Yeah,


Will Bachman  10:15

I keep it in my wallet. I have a picture of myself and my wife and our wedding. I love that story. So beyond me, okay. So but not much experience the opposite. You’re going to be my opera mentor. Yeah, okay. Yeah. So okay, so you drop, you drop out of opera school,


Zarya Rubin  10:32

drop an opera, I go back to medicine, my life takes the traditional path. Tom, for a couple of years I do. I complete my training, I actually become a neurologist, and do a fellowship at Columbia in epilepsy, which was really fascinating. But a lot of things transpired at that point. Sort of a tragedy in my best friend’s life. And it really impacted me, and caused me to realize that I didn’t want to be in medicine. So I actually walked away from my career. After all of that, all of the training all the education all of the time, and dollars and everything. It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made in my life, but it was the right decision. And then I took on a number of other career paths, I worked at a healthcare technology startup in New York. And then I ended up transitioning to the pharmaceutical industry for a number of years. And then, you know, tick tock biological clock, I realized I had to really kind of get on the marriage and children thing because I was 40. And so I did, I was lucky enough to meet my husband and to have my beautiful daughter, and then actually became a stay at home mom for a number of years, which probably would have definitely shocked my college self. Because I was so driven. But that was actually one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever had in my life. And one of the most important so. And then I transitioned into working for myself. So I started a couple of businesses. And currently, I own my own private functional medicine health coaching practice, called wildlife wellness, here in Portland, Oregon. And that’s the short version well,


Will Bachman  12:22

okay, so I’ve lost track of the number of career transitions.


Zarya Rubin  12:27

Yeah, there’s a lot.


Will Bachman  12:30

So that must have been so difficult to make that decision after that, you know, that investment in your thing, but you know, Seth Godin talks about sunk costs and, and how something like a medical degree is a gift from your past self to your current self, and you can decide not to accept that gift. So, that’s, yeah, that’s pretty bold of you to kind of be willing to walk away from that sunk cost.


Zarya Rubin  12:58

Yeah, I mean, yeah, it was, it was sort of like jumping off a cliff, and not knowing if you had a parachute or not, and just sort of hoping that maybe you did. And, yeah, I have read some stuff, Golden’s work, and I love his book, The dip, which talks about sort of trying to ascertain the differences between like, when is something just a dip that you have to get through, you know, there’s the initial excitement, and then it kind of dips down, and you have to push through that versus something that is like a cul de sac or a cliff, like, there’s either a dead end job, or for me, it was, it was definitely a kind of a more of a cliff situation where I was going up, up, up, up up on the trajectory. And I was, quote, unquote, very, very successful. And yet, I was extremely unhappy on it on a deep personal level, and it was just a very bad fit for me personality wise, career in medicine. And so leaving it behind was, I mean, yeah, challenging is not really the word it’s, it’s because medicine is often more than a career, it becomes sort of your entire identity, and sense of self and self worth. And you know, so to walk away from it was excruciating at times. But I, this proverb crossed my path, and it was, no matter how far you’ve gone down the wrong road, turn back. Can you that gave me permission to


Will Bachman  14:29

walk away? Yeah. I mean, there’s no sense in throwing good money after bad or keep going down the wrong road. It’s


Zarya Rubin  14:36

never gonna get you where you want to go. And you can keep driving and driving and driving and running a gas and your car will break down and you’ll never get there. So I had to make that very difficult decision to turn around after you’ve gone, you know, 18 hours out of your way in the wrong direction.


Will Bachman  14:50

Yeah. Can you tell us a little bit about what was different in medicine than you expected or or why it was not a fit for you?


Zarya Rubin  14:59

Hmm, Yeah, I think I think the the misconception of I want to go into medicine because I want to help people. That that is a motivation that that certain of us have. And it’s, it’s noble, and it’s maybe the right motivation on some level. But what it doesn’t factor into is that you have to really, you know, love, the nitty gritty of it, and the, the science and the blood and gore and the, you know, loss and death and all of those things, you have to be okay with all of that. And I wasn’t, I was extremely highly sensitive person, very empathic, and it just, it took a toll on me, I wasn’t able to separate and, you know, it’s I think it’s kind of like some people are very successful in the military, and some are not, and some develop PTSD, and some are fine. And I just was one of those people who was kind of like a canary in the coal mine, and couldn’t cope with the emotional toll that, that medicine can can have on you.


Will Bachman  16:15

Tell us about your, your current practice as a, can I call it a wellness coach? Or tell it tell us a little medicine? Tell us about that?


Zarya Rubin  16:25

Yeah, sure. So. So functional medicine is, is an area of medicine that was just coming into existence in popularity when I was in medical school. And I sort of think, well, if it had been more of a known entity, maybe I would have pursued that. And maybe, you know, who knows where I would be today, it would have been a very different path. But what I love about functional medicine is that it is a much more holistic approach than conventional medicine, which kind of is like a symptom based diagnosis approach, whereas functional medicine is more, let’s look at the human being as an interconnected organism. So all the body systems are connected. So if you have a problem in one area of the body, it may be caused by something in a completely different area. And, you know, the way medicine has been so parsed out these days into specialists, and subspecialists. And, you know, well, I only deal with this one organ. So I don’t deal with anything else, has really, I think, done a disservice to patients and physicians in terms of lacking that holistic knowledge of how everything is interconnected. Because the body is all connected. I mean, it’s connected through, you know, the blood and the tissues, and the organs and the hormones and all the things that flow through us. And also all the additional knowledge that we’ve gained regarding, you know, the, the GI tract and the gut microbiome and how what’s going on in your gut is influencing what’s going on in your brain. And as a neurologist, or former neurologist, I find that in and of itself, fascinating. So functional medicine seeks to connect all of those dots and those disparate pieces. And it also seeks to look, rather than just at the symptoms, look at the root causes and think take steps keep going backwards and backwards to say, Well, why is that happening? And what’s causing that until you get to often either a biochemical or cellular level, genetic level, and environmental factors. So looking at all of the toxins in our environment, whether they’re from our, you know, our home, or food or environment, and also looking at stress as, as a huge factor and a determinant of health and wellness. And so, yeah, so I, I practice functional medicine coaching, I see all my clients virtually, we work together, you know, over the phone or video chat, and we tried to solve problems and make deep, long lasting changes in terms of lifestyle and health and functionality and mindset. And all of those things really work on the mind body connection, too. So I love it. It’s a it’s a way of practicing medicine, in offense, but it is very different from the way I was originally trained.


Will Bachman  19:16

Can you illustrate your practice maybe with a couple sanitized examples of patients or or synthesized examples of patients not sharing any names, obviously, but what would sort of a typical patient of yours be and what sort of, you know, things are you prescribing or having like, what sorts of change are they looking for? And is it prescribing certain diets or exercise or meditation or massage or yeah, what? What is it?


Zarya Rubin  19:53

So often the typical client that I that I work with and then I tend to attract which is which was my goal? to work, I mostly work with women. I mostly work with women in midlife, although the age ranges I’ve had clients in their 20s, and clients in their 60s. But most tend to be around midlife and just having gone through a lot of changes, so life changes, maybe have had children, maybe those children are older, going through hormonal shifts, in midlife going through probably other transitions either, you know, marriage transitions, career transitions, and all of those things can take a toll on their health. So women often come to me for one simple reason, which is weight loss. And I don’t advertise myself as a weight loss coach, because it’s not something that I choose to focus on, it may be a result of our work together. And I’m really clear about that, that what we work on is overall lifestyle shifts and habit change and mindset shifts. And that as a result of all of that, changing your relationship with food, changing your relationship to the kitchen, and cooking, and all of those things, rather than grabbing something fast food, or just a frozen dinner, this and that, I’m going to teach you how to, you know, choose food more carefully. Find things that you love to eat that are also healthy, we work on crowding out choices. So adding healthier choices in and kind of pushing out the unhealthier ones, rather than restricting and saying, Oh, you can eat this, you can eat this, you can eat this because that doesn’t work. Any kind of restrictive diets, I find, don’t really work in terms of long term sustainability. So we work a lot on on shifting, you know, attitudes about food and diet and weight. And then the other really big one that I tend to focus on is energy. So a lot of women come to me and they say I don’t have any energy, I’m really tired. And the causes of that are so myriad, it could be anything from well, actually, you’re getting five and a half hours of sleep a night. So let’s focus on that and dig into why that’s happening. And that can be that can lead down so many other rabbit holes. Let’s look at your thyroid function. Let’s look at your adrenal function. So all of these different elements, let’s look at your iron stores and make sure you’re not anemic and sort of taking the time to really dig deep into those things. Now, I will say that a lot of folks, you know, they’ve seen physicians, and they’ve had blood work done and whatnot. And oftentimes, they’ll be told, Oh, everything looks okay, it looks fine, it looks normal. So the difference in functional medicine is that we often have slightly different parameters for looking at bloodwork than the traditional standard therapeutic ranges. Because those are based on just norms, you know, they’re based on normative data in the population. And as a whole, our population is not very healthy. So we may take a different lens, when we look at bloodwork and say, oh, you know what? It’s quote unquote, normal, but is it optimal for you, given your circumstances and your symptoms and what’s going on in your life and your metabolic needs? And so we take a kind of a different, a different approach. Hope that answers your question.


Will Bachman  23:25

It does like to explore it more. So what? So in terms of the kind of what you the work that you would do, it sounds like there’s some talk part of the therapy, of helping, you know, discuss with people to get to different perspective in relationship with food, what sorts of exercises or assignments or things would you prescribe for people to go do for your patients after, you know, between your sessions? Yeah,


Zarya Rubin  23:57

yeah, great question. So yeah, there is a lot of homework between the sessions, and that can range anywhere from written exercises to food diary, I find food diaries are really helpful, both before and after different interventions to really kind of get a handle on what’s really going on what are people really choosing and putting in their bodies on a daily basis and then trying to connect the dots for for patients of, well, you ate this and then you felt really crummy afterwards. So do you think there could be a relationship between those things and just getting people to become their own detectives and become their own scientists of their own body and just learn to pick up on those subtle cues? So that’s something we definitely do. There’s a really fun interactive exercise that I do with folks the Circle of Life exercise to ascertain different levels of satisfaction with different zones of our lives will often work on on meditation exercises, affirmations, things like that. And then of course, you know, the hard science things like actual blood tests and blood work and certain functional medicine tests that can give us additional information to help guide us on the path towards getting these folks back to where they want to be, or restoring their health or wellness or discovering health and wellness for the first time maybe.


Will Bachman  25:24

Sounds like a lot of this is around changing habits and changing behaviors. And which is an area that I’m, I’m personally quite interested in. And there’s like James, clear atomic habits, and a lot of books around this, what have you found, works particularly well, that in terms of actually helping patients change their habits, maybe incorporating more exercise or changing their changing their diet?


Zarya Rubin  25:51

Yeah, so yeah, I love this question. And I love atomic habits is one of my favorite books. And it’s funny because I read the book, after I had been working with clients for a while, and realized that a lot of the things that I was doing with them were in that book, and I thought, Oh, good. I’m on the right track here. You know, and it’s just sort of a combination of things that you learn in coaching methods and different methodology and philosophies of behavioral change. And also just intuitively, but it was great to see all of that validated in the book. So I would say, you know, when folks are trying to make change, and a significant change in their lifestyle, one mistake that I see all the time is to start really big, you know, it’s like eating an elephant in one bite, right? You can’t do that. So folks decide they want to exercise, so they sign up to run a marathon, or folks decide you want to lose weight. So they go on a ketogenic diet, or, or intermittent fasting, right off the bat. And then, you know, these things will fail quite quickly. Or maybe they succeed for a time. And then it’s just the person is so overwhelmed are so burned out after that, that they just think, Oh, my God, I’m gonna revert back to all the old ways and habits. And I find that that rarely works like making a massive shift all at once. You know, everyone’s different. They’re they’re exceptions, of course. But So my approach with folks is pretty much low and slow. And he is making these incremental shifts that over time can be scaffolded, and add up to larger changes. And also, I think James clear talks about this, but attaching those changes to existing habits, or existing practices that are, you know, already part of your life or things that you enjoy doing, or things that are easy to do, like, sometimes I will help people learn a walking form of meditation that they can do while they’re walking their dog. And that way, they’re getting their dog out there getting some exercise, and they’re starting to incorporate some mindfulness work into their lives, as opposed to, well, you’re gonna go sit in this room and sit on a cushion and meditate for 40 minutes, that’s not gonna, it’s not gonna happen.


Will Bachman  28:16

You talked a bit about energy, and diet and so forth. What are some examples that you’ve seen of where people are not necessarily eating? necessarily less, but there was, you know, discovering some foods would be kind of bad for their energy level, and replacing them with, you know, I don’t know, maybe more higher protein foods or something. We’ll talk about some changes of diet, you know, that lead to better energy levels?


Zarya Rubin  28:43

Sure, sure. So I think there’s the most common trap that I think people fall into is the the sort of refined carbohydrate, simple sugars trap, that, you know, maybe people skip breakfast, because they think that’s healthy, you know, I’m not going to eat breakfast, I’m going to lose weight. That idea, and then, of course, they get really hungry, maybe mid morning, and then they think, well, I need to grab something that’s gonna give me a boost, because I’m really lagging. And so I’m going to grab a doughnut or grab a Danish. And those tend to be extremely high in sugar and carbohydrates, so that you’re going to get a quick surge of glucose, and then you’re going to get a surge of insulin, and then that’s going to then crash shortly thereafter. So it sets up this pattern of peak and trough surge and crash where you’re on this little bit of a roller coaster. And then that leads to kind of more binging and more snacking, and energy surges and energy crashes rather than a more steady state, even kind of energy and like you said, adding protein or adding fat unhealthy fats like things like nuts, or nut butter, or hard boiled egg or, you know, different things that people can incorporate into either their meals or their snacks that create much more of an even pattern is going to over time in the long run, have much better results in terms of energy levels in terms of insulin levels in terms of weight loss. And the other trap that I see people fall into frequently, is the caffeine trap. So people are not getting enough sleep, they’re exhausted, they’re stressed out, so they drink more and more and more coffee, because they think that’s going to help them with their energy levels. Well, what that’s actually doing is it’s kind of sabotaging your body’s natural response, and needs in terms of energy. So if you’re constantly drinking coffee, you can’t really gauge just how tired or burnt out you are. And so you’re kind of running on fumes, and then you feel more tired, so you drink more coffee. And that’s, you know, that’s so common in our in our sort of gogogo very productive society, that I tried to get people to break the coffee habit and really cut down or cut back, maybe switch to a gentler form of caffeine like matcha, or green tea, which still has some caffeine, but it is a much Steady, steady state release. That doesn’t result in all of those caffeine highs and lows.


Will Bachman  31:33

I’m curious, as a trained physician scientist. And now in an area that is I mean, you didn’t use the term alternative health but kind of wellness thinking more holistically. Are there are there’s, you know, I guess one point of view could be that, look, if something works, whether it’s a placebo or not, it works, it works. It’s Go ahead. But are there some areas where you are, you know, some sorts of treatments, I don’t know if that would be, you know, right key or, you know, or massage or, you know, other sorts of treatments that might be considered, like holistic type treatments that you are maybe in favor of and say, Hey, that, yeah, that that works? Maybe it’s not like a scientific basis, but people get results. Are there some that you’d say? No, there’s, there’s really nothing to that at all.


Zarya Rubin  32:25

Yeah, you know, this is a, this is a really tough area, because I feel like, on the positive side, I straddled both worlds. So I am in the worlds of medicine and hard science and conventional data and treatment. And then I’m also in the worlds of alternative methodology and holistic health and natural options. And sometimes I feel out of place in both worlds. Sometimes I feel like I bring the best of both worlds together. And certainly for my clients, I try to do that and and offer them whatever is going to be best for them. I think that on a personal level, I have tried a lot of different modalities and treatments and therapies and alternative things and researched a lot of them as well and definitely have found benefit to things like you know, massage in terms of musculoskeletal issues, myofascial release, body alignment, all of those things, I think it’s it can be so helpful. Acupuncture is another area that I have found to be really therapeutic and beneficial for different things. And, you know, do I fully understand the physiology of it, not completely, but I have to give some respect to all of these ancient practices that have been around for, you know, 1000s of years and have some, some longevity to them. And I have tried Reiki actually, and this this energy practice, and I was I was skeptical that. And I was amazed at just the process and how and how impactful it was. And I think, you know, there is a lot of placebo effect in a lot of things. So you have to go in kind of with a positive attitude. If you go in with a very negative attitude. And I think that’s even true of really conventional medical treatments too. If you’re very against it and believe it’s not going to help and it’s not going to work, you’ll probably have a poor outcome than someone who really believes that this is going to be beneficial and help them and we should actually be harnessing that placebo effect rather than seeing it kind of as a detrimental thing. That’s a whole other conversation. But yeah, I do try to straddle both worlds. I believe in you know, conventional medicine and you know, obviously surgery and medication where it’s needed. I also believe in vitamins and supplements where those are needed and Often there’s a scientific, biochemical basis for all of that, which is, the really cool thing about functional medicine is that digging deep into these biochemical reactions that I’m having to go back to my, you know, notes from Harvard and biochem, one on one and whatnot to just remember that, yeah, there is a reason for this. It does make sense biochemically. It’s not just Whoo. And oh, take these vitamins, I’ll help you. There’s a reason for it. But I also, you know, I believe in that food is powerful. And food is medicine. But you know, I also believe in vaccines. So that, that makes me controversial in some circles, but I stand by that.


Will Bachman  35:40

I mean, after all, a placebo effect is still an effect.


Zarya Rubin  35:45

Correct? Correct. Yeah. Yeah. And we should harness that for sure.


Will Bachman  35:48

No, you also have some experience. And for a while, you know, on LinkedIn, I saw that you had this role of latched on MD, where you did some work with breastfeeding mothers. Talk to me about?


Zarya Rubin  36:01

Yeah, so I actually, oh, that’s Well, yeah. So that was another lifetime ago, when I became very passionate about that field, after struggling myself, with my daughter, and just having all kinds of difficulties and realizing that the, the medical profession really is lacking in terms of training in breastfeeding. And in medical school, I mean, we got we got virtually no training. And so other than just being told, Oh, well, it’s healthy, and breast is fast. And yeah, your patient should do it. And it’s literally all we got. And just as a as an expectant mother just being like, oh, yeah, well, I’m gonna breastfeed, that’s Sure, no problem. And then not realizing just how many challenges and difficulties you can encounter. And luckily, I did end up getting great help from lactation consultants, and ended up having to go see an ENT surgeon, and my daughter had to have some procedures on her mouth, because she had a tongue tie and a lip tie. And all of that was really impactful. And it’s so challenging as a new mother to be faced with all those difficulties, and to be confused, and to not know what’s going on and your baby’s not eating, they’re not gaining weight, you feel like a failure, you feel overwhelmed, and to have physicians just be like, well just keep doing what you’re doing. And not address those issues, I felt really called to, to build that bridge, and to fill that gap between, you know, conventional doctors not knowing much about breastfeeding, and then lactation consultants, maybe milling, about the some of the fundamentals, but not having that nuanced, deep medical knowledge. And I wanted to really provide that and help women. And so I did that for a number of years, and, you know, provided support, either through lactation counseling, and also through my private clinic, and it was wonderful, I am still still definitely an advocate for breastfeeding. And to think that there should be a lot more support for women. And then, of course, you know, the whole notion of paid maternity leave in this country. I think it’s just something that’s long, long overdue, and something that I champion,


Will Bachman  38:22

you mentioned that your knowledge of breastfeeding is not well taught in medical school.


Zarya Rubin  38:28

No, yeah, not at all. What?


Will Bachman  38:32

What other areas, from your point of view as a, you know, functional and wellness coach, as well as having gone to medical school? What are other areas that you’ve learned since medical school that, you know, should be taught in medical school? So things, you know, your, from your perspective, as a wellness coach, functional models? What are some things you know, now that you weren’t taught, then?


Zarya Rubin  38:59

Yeah, so I think, you know, obviously, I went to medical school a long time ago, but I don’t think a whole lot has changed in the interim, because I do have some friends and colleagues who’ve gone through recently. And we don’t learn nearly enough about food, and diet, and the impact of diet on lifestyle and chronic illness. So we learn the very basics of, you know, macronutrients, and that’s about it. And, you know, maybe one lecture on nutrition. And I think that’s a gross oversight. And that, as physicians, we really need to know more about food and diet and the impact that food can have on so many medical conditions, as well as the development of so many chronic illnesses that are plaguing our society right now and resulting in the greatest burden of disease and health care costs, things like heart disease and diabetes and whatnot and I think that the tendency is, well, you need to be on this statin and you need to be on this, you know, diabetic drug and whatnot and just these prescription solutions for these issues rather than focusing on prevention. And I think that that is also a gaping hole in medical education is the lack of focus on really trying to prevent illness before it happens, rather than treat it after it’s happened. And I think that there’s, it’s changing somewhat, there are now sub specialties and you know, things like lifestyle medicine, and functional medicine that are that are paving the way but I think all medical students and practitioners need to have that education across the boards for So for whatever they end up doing whatever specialty, they can counsel their patients, or they can send them in the right direction to, to really address these lifestyle things that can have such a significant impact on health.


Will Bachman  41:03

Let’s turn to the next section where I ask you about, and I suppose some of these would probably be directly obvious, but what are some of the courses that you had in college that have continued to affect your life and had a big impact? And one of them you mentioned was the class on opera, right?


Zarya Rubin  41:24

I did. Yeah. That just came to mind. And then, of course, the other one was pride. I think it’s probably the most popular course, full stop at Harvard. And I was so lucky to have been able to take it. And that was justice with Professor Michael Sandel. And it was just the most incredible course. And probably, you know, I should have gone to law school. That’s what my mom believes. And that’s what most people who know me and know how argumentative I can do and how passionate I can be. Why did you go to law school? I love that course. I love the way it was taught. It was taught in Sanders Theater, which is this massive, you know, auditorium at Harvard, I think there were 1000 people in the class, which sounds awful, right? I mean, how could you enjoy that class, but he made it. So dynamic and interactive? I mean, he would take questions from the third balcony, he would run around like a talk show host. And just there were microphones. And it was, it was it was a show really, what’s the


Will Bachman  42:33

what’s the insight in or what changed your thinking in that course.


Zarya Rubin  42:40

Um, I think there were so you know, I think when you’re really young, and you’re in your teens and early 20s, you can you can have have this sort of very black and white grasp on morality and wrong and right. And I was, I was very moralistic, and I think just learning so much about different theories and philosophies and, you know, utilitarianism and socialism and all of these things, and realizing, oh, my gosh, these are, you know, the, the, the train switch problem and all of these, these things that are just bring up these moral and ethical dilemmas that, that face us in our world today. And so much of what is going on in society, just just shedding that light on these huge problems and how to approach them and how to think about them and conceive about them. And that sometimes there’s no easy answer. And I think that, you know, someone coming from a science background and being pre med, and, you know, I loved math, and I love science, because you know what, there’s answers. And there’s it’s right, or it’s wrong, and that’s it. And it’s concrete. And that feels really good. But of course, like justice taught me that, you know, it’s in the gray area that we find a lot of truth as well. And that we can’t, we can’t ignore that. And we can’t just assume that there’s a black and white yes or no solution to everything.


Will Bachman  44:14

What would surprise your 22 year old self about your journey?


Zarya Rubin  44:24

Oh, my goodness. I mean, so many things. I think that I would be surprised that I didn’t. I didn’t stay in medicine. I mean, some would say, well, but you are you’re doing medicine now. Yeah, I’m doing it my own way. Which is which is awesome and powerful. And I think that, that maybe she wouldn’t be so surprised that I have always I don’t know if struggled is the right word, word or been blessed with the sort of multi potential light personality. There’s a phenomenal TED talk on video. In a multi potential light that I think probably a lot of Harvard kids should watch, in just having so many passions and so many interests and not necessarily being able to dedicate myself to just one single solitary thing. The fact that I’ve had so many careers is maybe not a surprise to myself if I really, if I really dug deep and opened my eyes as as a youngster, but I think she’d be, I think she’d be pleased, and happy to see the way things turned out for us that it maybe took a really long time, it definitely took a long time for me to find a partner and start a family and all those things that I really had hoped would happen much younger. But they eventually happened. And I’m a bit of a late bloomer, in certain respects, was very early bloomer, and others, you know, academically and all that, but sometimes you just can’t, you can’t predict things or control things. And I think that’s, that’s maybe what 22 year old me needed to learn is that you can’t always control every aspect of your life, you have to life, life happens, and you have to roll with it and experience that.


Will Bachman  46:15

Next turn to Department of Culture, where we ask, are there any books or films or operas or anything else that you particularly recommend that maybe you books that you’ve gifted or that you’ve most often recommended to others?


Zarya Rubin  46:35

Yeah, goodness, gracious, I love reading books. And I, I read a lot, I do have a sort of a true confession, little embarrassing. Since the pandemic, I have focused mainly on contemporary romance novels. Just because it’s been really tough out there. And I just needed a distraction. But I have read a lot of Series books, too, I would say definitely, one of the books that had the greatest impact on my life was Eat, Pray, Love, which I know sounds a little cliche, but I read that book right after I left medicine. And it was so it was the perfect book for me to read at that point. Because she, the author, Elizabeth Gilbert describes leaving her long term marriage, and just how excruciatingly painful that was, and how life altering and how she had to make that choice to leave. But it was very, very difficult. And that how she then had to kind of rebuild her life in these different areas and rediscover who she truly was in the absence of that marriage. And I sort of liken that the parallel to my medical career, which at times felt like a bad marriage, and that I wanted it to work so badly, and that there was a lot of love there. But ultimately, it was very painful, and it didn’t work out and I had to end it. And then I had to then rebuild my life and discover who I really was outside of those confines and that definition. So love that book. I love the book Shantaram by I think Gregory David Roberts and it’s, it’s about 1000 Some page book, and I don’t typically read super long books, but wow, is it was that book life changing? I mean, it’s just and it’s based on a true story. And every bead you just you’re reading in disbelief as it chronicles this, this man’s journey. As an as an escaped convict, and he ends up in India, in Mumbai, and has all of these different incarnations. He becomes a slum doctor, he ends up working for a crime lord, and you just, it’s unbelievable. And it’s just your jaws on the floor reading and it’s so compelling and the relationships he forms and the experiences he has. And it’s it was so different from my own life. That wasn’t it was a nice escape. But it was also just, it was very riveting. Like it’s a it’s a kind of a page turner. So those are some of my favorites. In terms of music, like we’ve talked about opera and classical music, and how much of an influence that’s had on my life, from a very young age, growing up singing in children’s choirs, and I still think currently with the Portland symphony, so that’s a nice, that’s a nice cherry on top. I actually got to sing with Andrea Bocelli a few months ago, two months ago here in Portland, and that was definitely a highlight, you know, really special event. And then of course, then that one Miranda who doesn’t love him, I’m obsessed with all things Hamilton and all things that he’s written and created and we just watched in Kanto the film that Disney film, which I recommend to everyone, not just for those of us with little kids, it is a magical, magical film that I feel also really represents sort of the gifted child experience and maybe a lot of experiences that those of us who went to Harvard had of all pressure of all of these gifts and achievements and trying to differentiate like who we really are separate from our abilities. And it’s a great film.


Will Bachman  50:33

Zarya, if anyone wants to follow up with you, or find your practice, where would you point them online?


Zarya Rubin  50:42

Yeah, so you can check out my website, which is just www dot wild lilac And you can follow me on social media, also at Wildlife wellness, on Instagram or Facebook. And I would love to connect with people. You know, drop me a note, send me an email, come follow me on Instagram. Check out my newsletter, I do send out a newsletter that’s got health tips and advice and cool things that are happening. I also have a private women’s Facebook group that is called Clean Living with wildlife like wellness, where I focus on health and wellness and specifically, clean beauty, which is another passion of mine.


Will Bachman  51:35

We will include those links in the show notes. Zarya, thank you so much for joining me today.


Zarya Rubin  51:41

Thank you so much for having me. Well, it was a real pleasure. I really enjoyed chatting with you. All right. I hope to see you at the reunion. We will


Will Bachman  51:48

see you at the reunion. We’ll see you at the opera as well.


Zarya Rubin  51:51

Sounds good.