Shannon Winakur and Will Bachman discuss Shannon’s journey since graduating from Harvard. Shannon came to Harvard with the intention of going into politics and running for office in her hometown of Richmond, Virginia.
Pursuing a Career in Medicine
Shannon talks about her experience in politics when working for Doug Wilder influenced her decision to pursue medicine. She decided that medicine would be a better way to help people, thus, she decided to attend medical school, unfortunately, the decision to enter medical school was easier than the process; Shannon shares the many hoops she had to jump through to get there. She finally studied at Bryn Mawr College. Shannon is now a cardiologist. She worked at Hopkins for a year before following Richard Winakur to Maryland for medical school. She went to University of Pennsylvania for her cardiology fellowship. Shannon talks about the process of deciding what medical field to pursue, explaining that the major branch points are deciding to take care of adults or children and choosing internal medicine or surgery specialties.
Dealing with Multiple Sclerosis
Shannon shares her experience of being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), how it progressed, medication she took, how it influenced her career, and how the diagnostic criteria for MS has changed. Shannon started out in a more traditional medical role, but after several positions, jobs in different locations, and intense schedules, the toll on her health made her reconsider where she was spending the majority of her time especially after the birth of her daughters. She stepped back and found a better work-life balance as she pursued her medical career. Shannon is currently a practicing community cardiologist.
Becoming a Player on the Ice Hockey Team
Shannon’s talks about how her medical career and her discovery of women’s ice hockey are intertwined.
She discovered women’s ice hockey at Harvard and talks about how hockey has helped her throughout her career. In 2010, she quit playing hockey due to the foot drop caused by her Multiple Sclerosis which affected her ability to run. In 2019, she met a woman in Ireland who taught her how to skate and got her in touch with a women’s hockey league called the ‘Mother Puckers’. Despite her foot drop, she was able to play hockey again and she joined a women’s hockey league in Laurel, MD.
Dealing with Depression and the Stigma of Mental Health Issues
She also discusses the difficulties she faced in managing her depression while working part-time and dealing with multiple sclerosis (MS). She found it challenging to juggle the work schedule while also taking care of herself and being a good parent and wife. She talks about the benefits of Integrated Health and her experiences with different diets. She has since done a lot of therapy and has found methods that work for her in order to cope, such as getting enough sleep, diet, and taking care of herself. She also stresses the importance of medications, stating “I completely forgot to mention that I take an antidepressant. Given all the stigma and anti-medication sentiment out there, I think it’s important that we publicly discuss the use of these medications.”
Shannon talks about mental health in the workplace, and how she had hid her diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) from her professional colleagues because she was fearful of being judged or discriminated against. She explains how the Americans with Disabilities Act protects people in such situations, how mental health is now more openly talked about, and how it has made her a better doctor, as she has a better understanding of what her patients are going through. Shannon also talks about the discrimination and chauvinism she experienced in the healthcare system, and how standing up for herself was necessary to keep her job.
Influential Professors and Classes at Harvard
When asked which courses or professors resonated with Shannon, she mentions the History of Astronomy course, Shakespeare courses, Neil Gorsuch, the 113th justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and The Constitutional Law class with H.W. Perry, but more than professors and courses, Shannon reflects that it was her friends and the people she met that had the biggest impact.
05:41 How Shannon Winakur Found Her Path to Medical School
13:12 The Effects of Multiple Sclerosis on Career
18:24 Medical Therapy and Ice Hockey
25:42 Health Habits for Managing Multiple Sclerosis and Depression
31:12 Dealing with Depression
35:18 Mental Health Stigma and the Impact on Healthcare Professionals
38:36 Negotiating a Work Situation in the Face of Discrimination in Medicine
39:14 Pursuing a Career in Medicine
41:10 Harvard Coursework and Reflection on Paradigm Shift
44:33 Overcoming Adversity and Thriving
Shannon Winakur, Will Bachman
Will Bachman 00:01
Hello, and welcome to the 90 T report conversations with members of the Harvard and Radcliffe class of 1992. You can visit us online at where else nine to report.com. I’m your host will Bachman. And I’m here today with Shannon Winokur, who many of you may have known in college as Shannon Willie. Shannon, welcome to the show.
Shannon Winakur 00:23
Thanks for having me. Well, and thanks. Thanks again, I know we’ve all thanked you for doing this. But this is a real gift to our class as an oral history. And also getting to know our classmates better, you know, and what everybody’s been up to after we graduated.
Will Bachman 00:38
Well, that’s very kind of you to say, Shannon. So if you listen before, then, you know, my first question. Tell me about your journey since graduating from Harvard.
Shannon Winakur 00:46
Okay, well, I think I’ll just start while we were still at Harvard, because that sort of lays the groundwork. So I came into Harvard as a government major and thinking I was going to go into politics and maybe run for office from my hometown of Richmond, Virginia. And by my junior year, I got sort of jaded by that thought and and thought that that was really not the path. For me. I think the main thing that got me thinking along that those lines was, I was working for Doug Wilder, he was the governor of Virginia at the time, interestingly enough, the first elected black governor, in a state that had a term limit for governors that started during reconstruction to prevent any black governors from being in office for very long. So I thought that was very interesting. But that’s beside the point. So Doug Wilder was the first elected black governor. And my job the summer between junior and senior year was to write letters back to constituents and many of them wrote in saying, don’t run for president don’t run for president, we need you in Virginia. And I wrote all these letters back to them saying, I will not run for president. I’ve, you know, here for the Commonwealth of Virginia. And lo and behold, I start my senior year, and he runs for president. And that was sort of a culmination of, of just thinking that maybe politics was not for me. And so, over that summer, I started thinking, well, what would I like to do with my life and all my friends, were taking the Stanley Kaplan courses for either the LSAT, the GMAT, or the MCAT. And I’m thinking, Well, do I want to go to law school, and I thought about that for a while. And then I thought, maybe medicine and I was like, Well, why did I want to go into politics in the first place? And it sounds kind of trite, but I wanted to help people, I wanted to help the constituents. And I thought, well, maybe medicine would be a better way to do that. And I, I liked science well enough. You know, I liked science in high school, I hadn’t really taken much in college. And then I just said, Well, maybe I’ll go to med school. And so I didn’t know what to do. You know, there’s no internet, you can’t google what you want to you know how to do that when you’re a government major. And you don’t even know what the requirements are for medical schools. So, you know, it’s the summer. So I got in touch with our pre med tutor for winter pass where I lived. His name was Bruce seolads. And I’m happy to report that he is a radiologist and doesn’t actually talk to patients, which I’m very pleased to tell you about. Because I’ll tell you why. Okay. I know this is not nice, but I’m not the only person who had a bad experience with him. I called him. I called him and I said, you know, I want to go to med school. I don’t know how to do it. And he yelled at me. He said, Why are you calling me it’s the summer? Why are you bugging me with this? I don’t even know what to tell you. Just like you can go to the Extension School and get your pre med requirements and you practically hung up on me. So that was that was experience number one with the Harvard, the Harvard advising system. All right. Round number two, I come back in the fall. I go to my senior tutor, very nice guy, Greg Mobley, very nice. I walked in, I have a meeting with him. I’m like, I want to you know, I’m a gov major. I have all my requirements from my gov. degree, but I want to go to med school. What do I do? Well, you know, I don’t know, like, geez, I guess you could just go to the Extension School, I guess you could just finish out and then just go to the Extension School. And I’m thinking, is that really the best way to do this, I go off to like, find a place to live and find a job and pay for Extension School, and how am I going to do that? And so I walk out and I’m like, literally had my head in my hands. And the Secretary to the senior tutor as a woman named corvina. Williams. And corvina sees that I’m in distress and says, you know, well, you know, what were you meeting with Greg about? And I was like, you know, I want to go to med school and I don’t even know what to do Nash because, you know, there are these Postback programs. One of my friends did one. And she went to Bryn Mawr College, why don’t you call them and see what they have to say. Well, thank God for corvina Williams, the secretary to the senior tutor because I I did that I called Bryn Mawr and they had a wonderful Postback program, one of the first two original ones, I think the other one was Columbia. And I and I applied to Bryn Mawr and so I did a postback here there. But I actually after telling that story so many times, I figured I need to find corvina Williams and thank her because like I, you know, oh, the fact that I’m now a doctor to corvina rather than anybody else. And she’s now the senior tutor for Dudley house. So she’s still at Harvard. And she is the senior tutor for Dudley and she was very, she was lovely. I emailed her and she was very kind and actually remembered me and my husband rich, because he was in winter house too. So
Will Bachman 05:41
that Yeah, so I just want to celebrate that for just a second. I mean, yeah, the fact that you went and figured did the research and followed up with her is awesome. And maybe for all of us listening to you. If there was a tutor or someone at Harvard who helped you out, you know, check out if they’re still around and at Harvard and reach out and tell them thank them. And yeah, I bet they would love. Love to hear from us. So that story.
Shannon Winakur 06:11
Yeah. Well, thank you. Thank you. So thanks to corvina I went to Bryn Mawr College. So I graduated with a government degree, I took calculus as a senior just to get that out of the way because that was one of the pre med requirements. So that was kind of funny to be in calculus with a bunch of freshmen who are sweating it out. And I was doing my problem sets like, you know, at midnight on my bed, like not worrying about it. And then, yeah, so I was at Bryn Mawr for a year, and then took a year off to apply to medical school. And in the meantime, I had started dating our classmate Richard Winokur, also with our pals, which I know you’re not supposed to do, but it worked out for us. And we, yeah, so he is from he’s from Baltimore. And so I followed him back to Baltimore after I did my post back here. And after he went skiing for at Todd skied for a year in Colorado, he started med school at Maryland, I worked for a year at Hopkins, and then followed him to Maryland for med school. And then I did my internal medicine residency at Hopkins. And then I did my cardiology fellowship at University of Pennsylvania. So the whole process of deciding sort of what you want to go into, and you know, all those decisions, that’s a fascinating thing. And I could probably take up the rest of the time talking about that, but, but suffice it to say that you decide if you want to take care of adults or children, and you decide if you want to do the internal medicine specialties versus surgery specialties. And that sort of is the major, one of the major Bret, branch points. And then once you’re in internal medicine, which is what I chose, then you can choose one of the specialties after that. And I figured after being a in being in the resident clinic and being a primary care doctor to a bunch of folks, and learning that I don’t think I was going to be able to sleep at night, if I was a primary care provider just because of all the things you have to take care of for everybody. I figured I’d better specialize. And so cardiology was the best fit for me along the way. And so it when I thought about how to tell this story, as I do I tell sort of the shiny, happy version of just like, This is what I did. And this is what worked out, or do I tell the whole story. And I’ve found that, listen to the other podcasts. I mean, I appreciate that some of you know, some of our classmates had been really vulnerable and telling sort of what didn’t work or what, you know what they had to do that they didn’t predict, or, you know, that kind of thing. So along the way, so rich and I got married when I was between my first and second year of medical school. So that was 1995, December of 95. When we were 25. And about six months before that, I had my first symptoms of what ended up being Ms. Multiple Sclerosis. So I was diagnosed with that I got an official diagnosis a year after that. So that was in the spring of 96. So this is in the middle of med school and trying to make a decision about my career, and how’s that going to go. And while I’d like to say, Oh, I was fine, and it didn’t bother me. And I you know, I had my first flare, and then I recovered and I was fine. It did sort of weigh on me in terms of what I was going to do with my career. And so I really did. Even though I I thought maybe one of the surgical specialties might be fun and might be suited to my interests and talents. I figured I’d better not pick anything that depends on manual dexterity since I don’t know how that’s going to work out. So in the end, it’s worked out fine. And I do think it’s better if I’m better suited to what I ended up doing but it definitely played a role in what I chose. So yeah, so then we basically Rich and I I got married in 95. He’s an orthopedic surgeon. So he did his residency. I did my residency and fellowship. We lived in Philadelphia for a few years, although we had some interesting moves. So basically, he started, he started his residency before I finished up my medical school, and then I started my residency, and then we were in Baltimore. And then my fellowship started before he was finished with his residency. So we lived in Elkton, Maryland, and commuted, so I commuted to Philly. And then he made it back to Baltimore. And then we lived in Philadelphia for a year while he did his fellowship, and then we moved back to Ogden, so he could start his job. And then we moved back to Baltimore. So we moved four times in four years. So that was a little chaotic, but well worth it. I’m glad that we commuted and lived together rather than living apart. And we’re fortunate enough to have two awesome daughters, our daughter Mo was born right at the tail end of my cardiology fellowship in 2004. And then Megan came 22 months later, the end of 2005. And then I’ve been a practicing community cardiologist since August of 2004. I’ve had three different jobs, all with with community practices, but it was interesting, because rich, and I thought we, you know, we joined big groups when we finished our training in Baltimore, and we figured, okay, we’re done, we’re gonna be with these groups forever, and that’ll be great. And that’s not quite how it worked out. My group. I was with a large group called Mid Atlantic cardiovascular, which was the biggest cardiology group in town had 60, plus doctors, cardiologists, and cardiac surgeons. And I worked for them in one location in Towson, which is sort of a northern suburb of Baltimore. And the group fell apart after I’d been in practice for about seven years. And I didn’t, where I wasn’t going to be feasible to stay where I was practicing. And then I ended up in another office in the south west part of Baltimore, at a hospital called St. Agnes with a bunch of guys who had been in that group, but not in the office I’ve been working in. And then about five years ago, actually, six years ago, I realized that my job of seeing patients and taking call and trying to balance all of it was not working out for my mental health, or my physical health or seeing my family. And I really needed a better balance. And I tried to work that out at St. Agnes. And that didn’t go well. And then I found the job I’m in now, which is I only work in the office, I don’t work in the hospital. And I see patients three days a week, which is worked out to be a nice balance, I really didn’t want to, you know, turn around and have my daughter’s go to college, and I realized I missed everything. So yeah.
Will Bachman 13:12
Thank you for being vulnerable and and sharing about your diagnosis of MS. Was that a just a one time flare up? Or has that? How was that diagnosis and disease affected your career? You can certainly skip this question if you want. But if you want to go into it to help educate us about what the effect has been on you,
Shannon Winakur 13:34
oh, no, I’m happy to do that. Thanks for asking. So initially, I was very fortunate. I had one flare where I had double vision when I look to the left usually your initial symptoms with MS or for many people. It’s a visual symptom, either optic neuritis which I did not have or I had a six nerve palsy where I saw double when I looked to the left. Somehow fortunately, I didn’t go on any medicine at that point. A lot of times you’ll go on a course of steroids and then you’ll treat it but basically my neurologist just waited it out and went away. And then I was very fortunate that I didn’t really have any big flares. And I started on medicine about a year after that. So when I was diagnosed, I had my first symptoms and 95 You couldn’t make the diagnosis until you had a separation of lesions in space and time. So you had to have another MRI or another flare. Nowadays, they treat they basically diagnose and treat you right away based on imaging. They changed the diagnostic criteria. But anyway, there weren’t many medicines to give anyway at that time in 1995, which doesn’t seem to be that long ago, but it’s sort of the Dark Ages of MS because now there’s a ton of medicines to be on but the one that I’ve been on is one called Copaxone, which came on the market in 1997. So I was just about to start my fourth year of medical school. And fortunately I’ve done very well on that and also Fortunately, it’s not a very immunosuppressive drug, which comes into play where recently with a pandemic, people I know who have MS and then are on the more powerful drugs that people generally get started on nowadays they’re very immunosuppressive. So those folks were, there had to be much more cautious than I had to be during COVID, especially before vaccines and everything. So I’ve been fortunate that way. In terms of the symptoms, I was lucky not to really have any big flares. And really what I’ve had is sort of a slow progression of my left leg is weaker than my right leg, and I get foot drop when I get more tired. And initially it was when I exercise. So it was like when I would go wanting, I would, my leg would get weaker and more tired, and I get foot drop, and I’d trip and fall. So I wasn’t a big runner to begin with. But I did. I did a couple of half marathons like not long after my daughters were born just to get back in shape and to get motivated. And I had to stop wanting just because I kept falling. And so that was pretty much the first time that I had to stop doing something because of Ms. I think it’s always been in the back of my mind, like I said before about not, you know not being a surgeon because I didn’t want to wake up one day and have my hand not work and not be able to do my job. Unfortunately, it hasn’t kept me from doing my job. But over time, I just found that my leg would get more tired and more weak. And I’d trip a little bit more even with walking. So that was sort of the progression there. And then my decision to sort of take a step back with work five years or six years ago really was because I didn’t know where it was going. It turned out a year after that a year and a half after that. I had sort of an upgrade or a downgrade depending on how you want to look at it. Ms. The kind that people are generally are most commonly diagnosed with when they’re first diagnosed is called relapsing remitting MS. And that’s when you have a flare, and then the symptoms go away and you’re generally back to where you were. And then you go along and you have another flare and and then you get better. So that’s relapsing and remitting, but then there’s another many people then progressed to something called secondary progressive MS. And I got that diagnosis in in June of 90 in 2019. That my my clinical symptoms were progressing, but I didn’t have inflammation on an MRI. And really then I started to fall into into a different category in terms of medical therapy and sort of what to do. And I’m really glad that I stepped back from the call and the more strenuous hospital work because I just had a feeling that that was going to really take a toll on my physical health. And so yeah, it’s been a better balance. It’s so you know, it still has its ups and downs. But But yeah, if I were still taking call and doing hospital work and up all night and everything, I really feel like I probably would have had a more aggressive course at this point. So at this point, you know, fortunately, I don’t need like a walking aid, I can walk fine. I can exercise. I can’t I don’t run just because I don’t want to risk it. But another part of my story I do want to tell is about ice hockey.
Will Bachman 18:24
Okay, turning the table from that to ice hockey. Let’s get in. Yeah, I was. I was not expecting ice hockey.
Shannon Winakur 18:36
I figured that I figured that.
Will Bachman 18:40
Yes. Okay. Let’s go. All right. Let’s get into ice hockey.
Shannon Winakur 18:44
And it is it does tie in, I promise. So it doesn’t need to it doesn’t need to. Right. Okay, so let me step back. So this is something definitely from Harvard. Right. So I grew up I knew very little about ice hockey in general. And then I didn’t know that girls and women played ice hockey until I got to Harvard. And then I was like, wow, you mean I could have done this, like, this is amazing. And so, we I played intramural, you know, like, you could play intramural and mess around and like so so, you know, enrich played on the weather team too. So that was super fun. And we just borrow, you know, gear from the locker room and get out on the same, you know, ice as the varsity teams. And so that was fun, but I figured, okay, that was fun. I’ll never get to do that again. And then when I quit when I had to stop running and in the foot drop was getting to be a bigger problem. My friend, Bev Stickles, who I played JV soccer with at Harvard. And then she saw she was on the varsity ice hockey team and she had a friend who had foot dropped for some other reason and was devastated about giving up running but then got into pickup hockey, and then she’s like, why don’t you look into hockey again, like I know you, you thought it’d be a fun thing to do. I’m like, Oh, you’re totally right. So This was about I think it was sort of 2010 and the end of 2010. And I found an adult pickup league here in Baltimore. And I barely knew how to skate. But they’ll, they would take beginners. And so I started skating. But unfortunately, I twisted my knees skiing. And for a lot of other reasons, I just never got back to it. And I figured, well, that was that I’m not going to be able to play you know, I just that was my field or my ice hockey career and forget that. So fast forward to 2019. I’m in my basement tacking for a trip to Ireland that I went on with some friends, which turned out to be amazing. And one of the women I met on the trip, teaches learn to skate like for kids, mainly, at some local ice rinks. And also knew of a pickup women’s game that had been in existence for about 20 years. And the women call themselves the mother puckers, which I think is hilarious. And so she and I thought I had given away all my hockey gear, you know, nine years prior when I hurt myself skiing. So anyway, I, you know, the gear was there. When I was packing for the trip, I thought, oh, maybe I’ll look into that again. And then I’ve met this met my friend Kathy. And then she taught me how to skate, gave me some basic pointers, and then got me in touch with people that were in the hockey world. And there’s this whole, like, women’s hockey world here. And, you know, the, you know, the Mid Atlantic, which is really cool. And women who have started for various reasons, a lot of women play when, after they’ve, like, taken their kids to hockey games and hockey tournaments and think why don’t I do this. But I was one of the rare ones that just like always thought hockey was cool that I wanted to play hockey. And so the great things are, despite having on us and having foot drop and having trouble even walking, sometimes, if you’re in a skate, you don’t have to worry about foot drop, because your foots you know, stuck in the right position. And it’s cold, cold weather is a little better for Ms. symptoms tend to act up more in hot weather. And it was something I wanted to do anyway. So in 2019, I started playing with the mother puckers and I started getting lessons. And then I found a Women’s Hockey League in Laurel, which is about 35 minutes south of here. It’s between us and DC. So it draws from, you know, Maryland, DC and Virginia. And it’s just become a wonderful part of my life. Like it’s just been super fun. I’ve met great women. I mean, it’s so rare to be able to find a sport or an athletic endeavor to play as an adult. It’s just been it’s been fantastic. It just it brings me true joy. And I mean, I, I might have come across it if I hadn’t gone to Harvard, but certainly it started at Harvard.
Will Bachman 22:51
That is such an amazing story. Wow. Oh, thank you. Yeah, and I hear you, it’s, you know, as an adult, it’d be fun to play a sport, but it’s not the most convenient thing. And, you know, some people do and, you know, maybe they’re in a soccer league or something, but a lot of sports. So that’s very cool. Yeah, tell us like, what’s your what’s your routine? Is this a year round thing? Is this once a week you go or is this you know, every morning so I’ve in the morning? What’s What’s the routine?
Shannon Winakur 23:19
Okay, the routine. So it’s I mean, a lot of it’s sort of what you what do you have time to do now I will say that right? This second I have an injury. This was a this was a dream. So I was in a tournament I played in a tournament three weeks ago, up in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Interesting. Interestingly enough, it’s called the hockey fights ms tournament, which was perfect for me. So your
Will Bachman 23:39
enrollment, you should be on the cover of that. Right? Right, exactly
Shannon Winakur 23:43
like the poster child. So yeah. The woman who started it, I think, was a college player. And she was diagnosed with MS. She’s about 10 years younger than we are. And so she took her, you know, you know, taking your lemons and making lemonade out of them. Like she decided that she was going to start this program of tournaments, and they’re all over the Northeast, and they benefit a local ms center or, you know, basically for patient care. And it’s awesome. So once I heard about this, obviously, I wanted to play in this tournament. So I played in the tournament three weeks ago, unfortunately, I pulled my hamstring very badly. Yeah, so I’m currently in physical therapy and on the mend, but when I’m actively playing, so I will take I’ve been taking lessons usually once a week at like 630 in the morning at one of the local ranks. And that’s hilarious because basically it’s me with a coach and it’s all these kids. And first the kids like, look at me, they don’t know what to make of me because they’re like, where are you? I’m learning just like you. And then all the parents are there with the kids. I’m sure they’re looking at me like oh my god, what is she doing? But it’s funny, so I have a good laugh about that. The leagues I’ve I’m in either one or two leagues depending on the time of year they go All yours, they’ve sort of rotate seasons. But I’ve played in an all women’s league and Laurel, and that’s one game a week. And then I have also played in a co Ed league in Frederick, which is about an hour west of us and Boston, Baltimore. And that’s one game a week, and hopefully they don’t conflict. And then sometimes, and then during the winter months, there’s the pickup game with the mother packers in Baltimore City, on Friday afternoons, and luckily, that’s worked out with my schedule, too. So. So it can be up to you know, three or four times a week depending and then sometimes tournaments. And that’s sort of hit or miss, depending on the season.
Will Bachman 25:42
Outside of the hockey, how do you? What sort of habits have you worked on, you know, any special kind of dietary considerations or exercise or sleep or mindfulness? Or what are sort of your, your health related habits?
Shannon Winakur 26:00
Yeah, no, that’s a great question. So and this, I think, is something that Western medicine and this has informed my practice too, is I think that while I have wonderful neurologists and a wonderful team at Hopkins, they’re not so good on the, the rest of it, like the mindfulness side or the integrative side, and I was fortunate enough to meet up with an integrative nurse practitioner who’s been taking care of MS patients for 25 years and met with her to get some other input on that. So I’ve practiced yoga different times, I, I’ve gotten out of the habit with hockey and trying to figure out the timing of doing yoga classes and hockey, and frankly, during COVID, that sort of throughout my yoga practice, just because you couldn’t go to yoga classes anymore. I meditate regularly. And one thing I haven’t really touched on with the whole story, which I think is important in sort of mental health is I also have depression, and I had a pretty major depressive episode. It’s actually right around that time, I got hurt in 2010, and it was a bunch of different things. It was, you know, I had postpartum depression after my first daughter. And I’d been in treatment for that. But it was it was it was a big, you know, sort of perfect storm of different things. But so with the depression and also Ms. And you know, there is a link, I mean, there are there is more depression in MS patients. So who knows, what’s that what’s, you know, prior family trauma, which we haven’t even touched on and things like that. But I definitely I’ve had a meditation practice over time, I did train in transcendental meditation, about a year, well, six months ago, and that’s actually been the one that stuck the most, which I really enjoyed use a mantra rather than mindfulness. But that’s, that’s been something that I’ve been able to stick to a little bit better than the mindfulness meditation that I did different trainings in dietary I had, there’s a bunch of anti inflammatory and autoimmune diets out there that you know, or are touted by different people. I think that there’s really a lack of coherent research on this topic. And even in nutrition in general, I think it’s actually a shame because I’ve looked into trying to figure out you know, even what to tell my patients and then also with my own health, I did the walls protocol for a while, which is a it’s a it’s basically a Paleo Diet developed by a woman named Terry walls. It’s W A HLS, who’s an internist in Iowa who had probably relapsing remitting MS for years, didn’t pay attention and didn’t get diagnosed, like doctors are the worst patients, by the way, if you haven’t already figured that out. And she went from basically running, biking and hiking to like being in a wheelchair in a matter of like a few years. And then she basically took time out from work and life just to research, different health protocols. And so she came up with this diet, which is based on mostly vegetables, but it’s very paleo and it’s very heavy into animal fat and animal meats, which, as a cardiologist I had some reservations about. Now, fortunately, I don’t have coronary disease. And so like I could get away with this for a while, but it just it didn’t seem to make sense to me in a lot of ways. So what I’ve sort of gone to more recently is more of like a Mediterranean diet or there’s a there’s a diet or a plan called the longevity diet. And the research comes out of California, Southern California, there’s a guy his name is Valter. I think it’s Longo. I’m gonna try pronouncing his name wrong or Ella ello NGL. He’s an Italian but he’s done a lot of research in basically longevity diets and fasting and intermittent fasting. And he came up with a plan called the pro on diet, PR O L O N. Some of these are gimmicky and like, you know, when it poucher Did prolonged on goop and all this stuff. So some of it sounds pretty gimmicky, but he actually has some good data for it and a couple of books out about it in terms of intermittent fasting and also something called a fasting mimicking diet. And this is really get into the weeds here. But it’s essentially like a Mediterranean diet and a lot and it’s actually low protein, like very low protein, as opposed to the walls diet. So it’s just it’s fascinating to me, like, how, how can both of these diets be right? So I think you sort of have to find out what’s right for you what you feel the best on? What makes sense with the rest of your life, that kind of thing. So yeah, so then, you know, that’s sort of the the dietary piece, I’m very careful about what I eat. I also was diagnosed with celiac about seven years ago, so I have to be careful with gluten too. So yeah, so that’s that side of it. And I’ve always wanted, you know, enjoyed exercise movement. So the hockey sort of given me a good excuse for that. So and then sleep I you know, sleep has always been my downfall, I’m a night owl, and always have been that just, it’s not a matter of not being able to sleep, it’s actually getting into bed at a reasonable time. So
Will Bachman 31:12
tell us, how did you deal with the depression? What was what was that? Like? It’s such a tough, tough thing to go through. I’ve seen that my own family, you know, people. And tell us about that.
Shannon Winakur 31:26
Yeah, thanks. Thanks for asking about that, too. So it’s been hard. I did a month of inpatient treatment in early 2011. And my kids were young. I mean, they were what five and seven. And they have very little recollection of it. We’ve talked about it since obviously, but it’s, you know, I’ve, I’ve done a lot of therapy. I, you know, really with work, I think part of the, you know, depression, you know, I really had to make sure that I was again, getting sleep taking care of myself. And when you’re, you know, even if, interestingly enough, I’ve always worked three days a week. And one thing I’ve always talked to women about that are coming along when I’m trying to, you know, in any kind of mentoring position is if you think you might want to work part time, do it from the very beginning. Because it’s a lot easier to come into it and you you generate a lot less resentment, if you start part time, and you don’t try to go from full time to part time. And I saw it over and over and over again, were women in my practice, or women that I knew that tried to go from full time to part time, and all the guys get really resentful, and, you know, they’re taking call and they’d stop taking call and that kind of thing. And even then I went through it myself when I tried to do it. But back to sort of taking care of myself with a depression. So I was working three days a week in the office, but when I took call or did hospital work, it was a full week. And then the weekends, I was just gone. Like I was gone, like the whole weekend. And up all night, a lot of the time. So juggling that with the depression and MS and everything and trying to be a good parent and be a good wife. And that kind of thing. It was tough. And it was it was also very frustrating because I technically worked part time and actually got paid part time. And Rich worked full time. And his days were usually a little less stressful. And His call was a lot less stressful. But he picked orthopedic surgery, which doesn’t have as many emergencies. So yeah, so, you know, with basically therapy and juggling the, you know, work schedule and taking care of myself. You know, I it’s been it’s been a challenge. And honestly, even at the time, like I I really think the stigma around mental health has been awful. And just the shame that you carry around with that. It’s just like a double. It’s a it’s a it’s a double whammy. And I didn’t feel comfortable being open about the depression at work. I didn’t even feel comfortable being open about the MS at work. Like I didn’t tell anybody I had MS until 2016 2017 and I’d had it for 20 years. 22 years. Yeah, because I was afraid you know, who wants to go to a doctor with Ms. Like that might not be able to work or who wants to hire somebody with Ms. And I know that there were obviously things in place especially after the Americans with Disabilities Act and that’s what I ultimately ended up counting on when I got some trouble. You know, I went I had to extricate myself from the job where I couldn’t really work part time or the part time way I wanted to but anyway, you know, you know that those things are in place but you still don’t know if you know if they’re gonna find some other reason to fire you. So I think just the openness now about it is just so much more healthy and the way I see my daughter Talking about it. And it’s just, I mean, mental health is health. But yeah, I mean, I think there’s a stigma and especially with it, I mean, even in healthcare, which is terrible, I mean, we’re supposed to be taking care of patients, but we don’t take care of each other. And we don’t take care of ourselves a lot of the time
Will Bachman 35:18
to talk about these with your patients, and how did they react?
Shannon Winakur 35:28
With certain patients, I’ll talk about it, um, you know, I was out for a while, and but then I switched jobs right then. So it was I didn’t really have a chance to talk about it with with, you know, a lot of patients when I was out for with depression, but no, I have talked about it with certain ones that they’re struggling with things themselves. And it certainly I think it’s made, I think all of these things have made me a better doctor, just because I think I have some understanding what people are going through. I mean, not that you can’t be a good doctor, if you don’t go through these things, to imply that, but I think it it certainly has helped inform my practice. But people have been people been very gracious and kind. So
Will Bachman 36:12
it’s very, kind of a bit of an indictment of the healthcare system that you felt you couldn’t be open about your diagnosis with, you know, your professional colleagues. That’s, it’s, it’s kind of unfortunate that there was that kind of bias.
Shannon Winakur 36:30
Right. And then, and then, sadly enough, when I did, I was open about it. I went to my I went to my colleagues in early in 2017, and said, You know, I have MS. I haven’t talked about it, because I haven’t really needed to bring it up. But I have MS. I need to cut back on my hours. I need to, you know, not take call not do hospital work? And essentially, I was punished for it. Yeah, yeah, I, I tried to work out a situation where I could work only in the office, which by the way my male colleague had done when he had a cancer diagnosis. And it turned out he couldn’t go back into the hospital, because his immune system hadn’t recovered enough after the treatments. So he had a handshake, and it was done. And I, it took the better part of a year. And they were basically dragging their feet and give me reasons why they couldn’t do it and give me reasons why it wasn’t a good enough doctor and a good enough clinician and just basically trying to get me to quit. And I called him on it and basically negotiated my way out of that job. And then the universe cooperated. And I got the job that I’m in now where I’m working basically three days a week, and a part of a in a satellite office for a bigger group. And so I ended no hospital, no call. So it all worked out really well. And I wouldn’t have the job I’m in now if I hadn’t done all that. But it was, again, an indictment of the healthcare system that like, you know, my own doctor colleagues were so terrible to me, you know, when I when I tried to work out that situation, and when a male colleague had done something similar and was fine. So yeah, I definitely. In medicine, I’ve definitely come up come across, and especially cardiology, like chauvinism. And you know, I haven’t I haven’t been sexually harassed. Like, I haven’t gone through that, fortunately. But I’ve definitely felt discrimination and you know, different treatment for sure.
Will Bachman 38:36
No, mice standard kind of perspective on, you know, fellow students who became doctors, is like, the classic kind of profile was someone who was wanting to do it since they were a kid. And they were, you know, like, interning at the hospital during summers and so forth. And they were always focused on it. What? I’m curious like, you, you kind of decided, I guess, around junior or senior year to do this. Have you ever had second thoughts? Or has it does it felt like a real natural? Was it the right, the right choice or something? Or? I’m curious.
Shannon Winakur 39:14
Oh, yeah. No, that’s a great question. I actually, I, I think it’s been the right choice for me. I don’t, I mean, have I had regrets? I’m sure when, you know, I was in my early 30s and hadn’t even started out in a family yet because like, I still wasn’t done with training and that kind of thing. Or you know, when I’m, when I was on call a lot and that kind of thing. Sometimes I wonder like, was there an easier way to do this, but like when I’m actually like, taking care of patients in the office like that. That’s always felt natural and like a good fit for me. So yeah, this so I don’t have regrets. I really enjoy what I do. And interestingly enough, Rich and I both still really love what we do. And I think there’s a lot of doctors out there who don’t recommend it to their children. And we do I mean, whatever they decide to do, um, you know, No, we’re not saying oh, you know, you have to be a doctor? Of course not. But if they chose to do it, we wouldn’t, you know, we would advise them not to do it. I know interestingly, Our older daughter is thinking about becoming a physician assistant, because she sees it, that’s probably a better work life balance and what I tried to do so. And I think it’s, that’s a good call, I think if you want to start a family younger, and, you know, have a little more, you know, a little less responsibility, but still have a lot of options open to you within health care, I think it’s a great field. But I didn’t, you know, again, I hadn’t even heard of it until, you know, until I went till I was a retina, I was a medical student, when I was a medical student, there were some PA students who were rotating with us. But I had never even heard of this specialty. Again, I think some of the advising could have done
Will Bachman 40:53
better. I want to ask you, I want to ask you another question about hardware, but this time, any classes or professors that have continued to resonate with you, professionally, or we’re not, that just somehow have stuck with you?
Shannon Winakur 41:10
Sure. So interestingly, I first of all, I think it’s hilarious that I took one, quote unquote, science class while at Harvard, and even though I’m a doctor, and it was the history of science, astronomy course history of astronomy, that one of our other classmates had mentioned in a previous podcast, where they had us read The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, which was a great well, it was a great thing to learn about. And a great idea, though, it’s interesting. I went back and tried to read it, like a few weeks ago, think in preparation for the podcast and thinking, I was like, I couldn’t get through it, it was so dark. But the idea it’s it came, they came up with the idea of paradigm shift, which, you know, is something we talked about. And interestingly enough, it sort of reminded me what brought it up for me more recently, as well as there was an op ed piece at the beginning of Vanity Fair issue that where Nicole Hannah, Nicole, Hannah Jones, that what the woman who did the 1619 project, I’m sorry, anyway, was talking about the 1619 project was a paradigm shift. And then talked about the book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. And so I was thankful that I taken that class at Harvard. So I understood the reference and I, you know, understood the background of the paradigm shift even though now I couldn’t get through the book. You know, our classmates of all you know, a lot of them have mentioned justice and the march Garber Shakespeare courses, like I certainly have fond memories of those classes. Interestingly enough, Neil Gorsuch was my TF and justice. So that that’s sort of a funny memory. And actually, he was a he, we had no idea what his political leanings were at all, because they are not my political leanings. But no, he was, he was a very good teacher, actually. So that was interesting. And the other thing is, I some of the classes I have more memory of are the ones that I didn’t do very well in are the ones that sort of steered me away from what I thought I wanted to do. And I think the one that the class as opposed to just the experience, but the class that really told me, maybe I should do something else was the constitutional law class by with HW Perry that I think Charlie Reese mentioned, in one of the other interviews, like I did not do well in that class, and I struggled. And I think part of it was because I had a hard time making an argument for something I didn’t really believe in, or I couldn’t decide what I believed. And I just struggled with that. So I couldn’t really come up with a good argument. And meanwhile, I believe that Catan G Brown was in the front of that class, like answering all the questions like a rock star. And I’m in the back thinking, Oh, my God, I’ve made the wrong choice in my life. So yeah, so for the classes that sort of the sum up with that, but honestly, like some of our other classmates have said, like, it’s really the people that I met at Harvard that have really made the lasting impact. wonderful friends, rich, my husband is still very close with his rooming group and gets together with them. A number of times a year, I wish I saw my friends a little bit more often that we’ve been in touch on, you know, texts and zoom calls and things like that, especially during the pandemic. So, um, so that’s been good, but I think honestly, it’s really the people that have really resonated for me.
Will Bachman 44:33
You mentioned one of your friends think Bev Stickles, who kind of helped get you back into hockey. Has it been other friends that have somehow shaped the direction of your life and we’re still used stayed in touch with visited recommended things.
Shannon Winakur 44:56
Yeah, I mean, you know, fortunately, you know, I got to know Rich his roommates too, and actually, I knew some of them before he, you know, or at the same time he knew them before I really knew him. Well. You know, we’re, you know, we’re friends with David Mandel was one of his roommates. So we’ve been fortunate to, you know, catch up with him and follow his career, I’ve been excited to do that. And Dustin challenge or siRNAs. And then, you know, with my friends, Trish Hutchinson and Jamie Bell, and Tom Tao, I’ve been remain close friends. And visiting them over the years has been, you know, very meaningful and just there, you know, all these folks, their support and friendship has been, yeah, has been a true blessing over the years. Yeah, I hope that answers your question.
Will Bachman 45:44
Does. Thank you. Yeah. Shannon, for classmates that wanted to follow up with you or check in what you’re, where you’re at? Is there any links that you’d like to give? Or Where would people follow up and check out what you have going on?
Shannon Winakur 46:00
Yeah, so um, you know, I’m on the Facebook on our class Facebook page, that’s probably the easiest place. And I’m just Shannon Winokur, so that’s easy to find. I am on social media I’m on Instagram as well I you know, I’m on Twitter. I don’t go on Twitter very much. I’m on LinkedIn. I don’t go on it very much. But But I can be found in those places too. But yeah, but Facebook, I am, you know, fairly active on the Facebook page, you know, in spurts.
Will Bachman 46:29
Okay. Shannon, thank you so much for joining us today and for being so vulnerable and willing to share about you know, the kind of twists and turns and, and, and MS and depression and celiac disease you’ve, you’ve had some some tough challenges, and it’s great to hear that you’re thriving. And I’m so glad that we had a chance to speak today.
Shannon Winakur 46:54
Thanks for so much. I really appreciate the opportunity. Thanks so much.