My discussion with Dr. Peña was not only incredibly informative but also as robust and diverse as his professional career. Dr. Peña grew up in Madrid, Spain but spent time during his extensive training in the United States, Norway, Canada, England, and Spain to become a foot and ankle surgical specialist in Minnesota. Currently, Dr. Peña has grown a successful career as an orthopedic surgeon with the University of Minnesota, as a medical director within the orthopedic surgery center, Tria, and a founder of the start-up retail business Julieta.
I would encourage you to listen to full interview of this episode of ‘Planning on Call,’ the podcast, here:
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Our discussion began reviewing Dr. Peña’s transatlantic training. His experiences working in so many different countries give him a remarkably unique view of America’s healthcare system. In particular, his experiences abroad have allowed him to look at certain issues with a different lens than many other physicians… and in a lot of cases side-stepping the dogmatic adherence to convention. For this reason, Dr. Peña recommends training in other countries, especially Europe, and provides tips on how to do so.
We later turned the focus of our conversation to the logistics of growing a practice. Dr. Peña discussed the different challenges and mindsets needed to be a generalist vs a specialist, and what ultimately led him to become a specialist. He also provided advice for new surgeons, more specifically, how to stay true to yourself and coming to terms with the ethical decisions you will face as you grow your practice.
This brought us into a conversation on one of my favorite topics, personal finance. Fernando described how living beyond one’s means could, in some unfortunate cases, impact how doctors make decisions for their patients. We both lamented that making money should NOT be the reason someone becomes a doctor. Ultimately, Dr. Peña did shed light on common sacrifices needed to become a doctor and divulged some positive monetary payoffs from this career choice. That said, in part by finding and working with a trusted financial professional, a physician… no matter the specialty, should be able to find quality of life.
Dr. Peña felt similarly about his other business, the footwear company he started with his wife, Dr. Julie Thompson (who appeared in the Imposter Syndrome Roundtable episode of Planning on Call). Dr. Peña mentions that he began the company to affect a larger population than he could in his current role as a surgeon (if you can believe that!). He does clarify that being a start-up founder is quite difficult, and not without its own set of unique challenges. Additionally, we can deduce that being an entrepreneur, especially when balancing other career aspirations and a family, may be best tackled with an intense level of perseverance and passion.
We ended our conversation the way many of the conversations I’ve had with other successful professionals had concluded – the importance of being kind to yourself. Dr. Peña later referenced his experience as a semi-pro racecar driver, sharing that “it’s not always about winning and losing but about racing your best race. Whether it is behind the wheel or the scalpel, continually focusing on doing your personal best each day, and being kind to yourself, is all anyone can really focus on” when measuring success – even Renaissance-like individuals like Dr. Peña.
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