Undergoing strenuous medical training is truly a challenge to aspiring medical practitioners, but surviving such a journey is definitely worth it. One can lighten the burden, and even make it more meaningful, by understanding the importance of mentorship. Richard Marn, MD is joined once more by Guy Lin, MD, this time to look back on his medical training experiences that, despite the hardships, taught him independence and honed his expertise with the help of his reliable mentors. Guy also shares useful advice for students who want to follow his steps and start a career in the medical field.
Listen to the podcast here
The Importance Of Mentorship With ENT Physician Guy Lin, MD – Part 2
What’s intimidating about this is usually at such a young age in your career, you’re making a decision for future you that you don’t know and you will never get to know until you get to that point. I find that fascinating. How could the twenty-something-year-old Guy Lin understand what would be best for him in 20, 30 years? Quite frankly, there’s no way that I could have known that. You take the best guess you can.
We’re going to continue on with his thought process later on in the episode. This is episode twelve. It is a continuation from episode eleven with Dr. Guy Lin, an ENT physician. We’re going to learn in this episode how he thought about being a sanitation worker initially in his young childhood, but also have deep musings about his intense residency about his career, how he believes mentors throughout his career and his education help to shape who he is and help direct him, and how important it could be for you as well. We want to dive right into the second half of this interview with Dr. Guy Lin. Before we do that, if you want to get a hold of Dr. Guy Lin, and you enjoy what you’re reading here, you can email him at GLin@ENTAndAllergy.com or you can go to their website where you can see Dr. Lin’s bio. That’s ENTAndAllergyAssociates.com or ENTAndAllergy.com and look up Guy Lin. Let’s dive into it.
Did you always want to become a doctor?
A funny story, you live in Roosevelt. When I was a kid, my earliest memories were from Roosevelt Island because I live there. My bedroom window looked out at the smokestacks in Long Island City, and that’s my first memory of those smokestacks at night, the blinking light. For some reason, I was fascinated by the sanitation workers that would drive up. My parents didn’t take well to it but my first ambition was to be a garbage man. Not long after that, from a very early age, I wanted to be a doctor and I can’t think what formulated that mindset. I suspect my parents might have had a big influence on that. I’m from an immigrant family and I feel like that might have been the seed pushed into me.
Did they mention it when you’re young?
I don’t remember it. They didn’t discourage it. Let’s just say that.
You were vocal about becoming a doctor when you got older. In what age were you thinking this idea start coming out?
As early as maybe ten. I think that it fascinated me. Biology, the human body fascinated me. The ability to have a class and to be a tradesman or tradeswoman and have that. It’s like magic, like being able to look at the situation and be able to fix things.
Were there other doctors in your family that influenced you? Were there people you sought out to get advice about what it’s like to be a doctor, or was it an idea you had and you slowly made your way there?
Yeah, that’s the weird thing. My nuclear family was living in the United States. Outside of the United States, all of our family was remote. They lived in Israel. No, there wasn’t anybody who could serve as a role model or a mentor. I think that my parents had idealized the field of medicine and neither of them were in science or medical professionals. As a child, I probably latched on to the respect that they had had for people who practice medicine. Beyond that, I think I always independently had a fascination with science-related things. Computers fascinated me growing up as well. Anything that was technologic, that was biologic, it fascinated me and it suited my interests at that time.
Outside of doing well in school were there any skills that best prepared you for your current career?
I love sports growing up. In retrospect, I almost wished I’d committed more to sports growing up than I did. I prioritized my academics. My academics were more of a priority than sports. In retrospect, I could have balanced that a lot better but I think it teaches you how to manage your time. By being a student and an athlete, it focuses your mind well. It prepares you for a life of movement. Your whole life needs to embrace the concept of movement within it. You can’t just see your life as this window until a certain point and then you’ve left that all behind. If you have a sport that you played, maybe you can’t play that sport for the rest of your life, but you can take facets of what you learned in that movement practice and apply it to other movements. That leads to my infatuation with a surgical subspecialty. I like not only using my mind but also applying it with my hands.Being a student and an athlete focuses your mind well and prepares you for a life of movement. Click To Tweet
What sport would you have sought out if you could go back and do that part again?
No doubt I would have been a swimmer. I didn’t swim a lot on a formal swim team. I did it in my summers but my daughter now, the older one, is a serious swimmer. I’ve got to say it’s beautiful to watch. It’s a lifelong sport that never disappears. You can tap into it your entire life. Now, whenever I get injured, I always go back into the pool. I always, to some degree, have the water to help me rehab. Water has always been fundamental to me. I know you’re a big water guy, or maybe you’re not.
Not big, but I like being in the water.
How could that be? You’re Hawaiian. I thought you guys have one foot in the water and one foot out of the water.
The idea of being, to some degree, immersed in water and combining that with a sport, that’s ideal. I don’t care what sport that is. Swimming is translatable to many different things. I love swimming.
When did the idea of you wanting to become a surgeon came about or was the idea of being an ENT doctor come about first?
I didn’t think that I was going to be a surgeon when I entered medical school and then I rotated through different areas and disciplines. I thought I was more well suited to be in the internal medicine specialties, maybe oncology because of an interest in science. Going through the process, I realized how much I disliked internal medicine specialties. I didn’t like always thinking about a problem but the limitation in terms of managing things. You have little to craft your idea of what these different disciplines are as you’re going through it.
My impression when I was going through it was that a lot of what I was seeing was sick people and we were managing these sick people with medicines, and that didn’t sit well with me. On the other extreme, when I was exposed to the surgical realm, I saw this area where discrete problems could be fixed and it felt gratifying to witness that. To some degree, any surgical specialty appealed at that time, but then when I honed in deeper into the lifestyle I wanted to lead and the problems that I wanted to be involved with, the pathway led in a circuitous route to ENT.
I first thought that I wanted to do neurosurgery and then I found through spending time in the specialty how much I disliked how sick the patients were. You learn a little bit about what situations appeal and don’t appeal. It’s ironic because I fell in love with head and neck surgery. That’s what initially drew my interest in the ENT. I think in the back of my mind, I realized that not all of ENT was patients with head and neck cancers and the sickest of the sick. There was a whole area within the discipline that was a healthier population and less intense problems, and not necessarily just the surgical fix to these problems.
What sacrifices or even obligations did you have to take on to achieve your career goals, if any that you felt?
The training was rigorous. You can, to some degree, manage things depending on your goals. To me when I think about that question, specifically, I’m drawn in my memory bank back to the days of my training. For me, that was the biggest sacrifice because in those young formative years in your life, personally, I’ll say that I wasn’t fully emotionally developed, physically developed in a way that I felt like I could best handle the demands. Despite that, I think I grew as a result of the training. You’ve got to give to get and it’s an immense obligation in terms of your time.You’re always moving forward and changing. Stagnancy is never a good thing in anybody’s life. Click To Tweet
To me, the hardest thing was this singular pursuit of it. I didn’t have much time to apply myself towards other interests mainly because throughout the training, I was tired all the time. You don’t get a lot of sleep. You’re just working all the time and you’re working hard. It’s a lot, and to be good at that demands your full attention. To me, that was the hardest pill to swallow, the all-in mentality like you are fully devoted to this craft, and it’s going to take every part of your being to learn it well.
You felt that during your training, it took more of your time than even medical school and college?
Yeah. I will say medical school was one of the greatest times of my life. I had tons of time to pursue outside interests. There was a genuine camaraderie in the process of learning, and it was great. The first two years where I went to school, which was UCSF out in San Francisco, was like a playground with a pass-fail system. We were engaged in the outdoors constantly. The setting in which we were studying was magical. It was by far one of the best times in my life. By contrast, I chose to go into a very rigorous and highly demanding place for training, which was at UPenn. At the time, I still think that’s the case. They had five hospitals and the call coverage was extremely intense. The number of surgical cases you did was extremely high.
We had this joke every morning when we were granted an ungodly hour. One of my senior residents would always look up with bleary eyes and he had a little smirk and he said, “We all chose this.” It was absolutely true. We would show up in the morning and be wrecked from a full day of work and very little rest leading up to that moment, and then we’re coming back to do it all over again. We chose to do it. We were getting trained in what we wanted to be trained in, and it was a privilege to have that opportunity. If you forgot that for one moment, you’d let the demons climb into your head and you didn’t want to have that happen because you had this long-term notion that life was going to get better after you were done with the training.
Yeah, immensely. It’s hard to be a student. There are many things that you’re not taught. Interestingly, I think there’s a way to be an apprentice. I wish someone sat me down now with what I know now instead of, “This is the best way to be a student because there’s an art form in being a student.” You’re apprenticing under a number of people and you’re taking invaluable lessons whether or not you decide to incorporate them into your practice. You’re learning constantly. You’re forming your own way of practicing. I think that’s challenging showing up every single day under someone’s thumb, not having any flexibility.
There’s also an advantage to that, and that’s what you learn coming out of the apprenticeship stage. You’re in it for so long that you forgot the independence and then when you’re independent, it’s scary because you take on the full responsibility. There’s a double-edged sword in that. To me, the process of being an apprentice was challenging. I was yearning to get out there and do things. You’re never quite ready if you think about it because when you’re under somebody’s tutelage, they take usually full responsibility. Finally, one day you’re responsible so it’s an intimidating moment.
If you could do it over again, with that thought in mind, as a student, as an apprentice, would there be anything different that you would do?
There was a lot of room for me in my maturation to soften. I had like a harder personality than I needed to have to weather the training.
What do you mean a harder personality?
We come out of surgical training with this notion that we’re going through the crucible, that we’re going through the fire. At the end of the day, the practice of medicine is a humanistic art form. It’s an art form of connections and whether that’s with patients or to your mentors or fellow colleagues, there’s this constant need to be empathetic. There’s a constant need to read a situation. Especially if you go straight through the process, you come out with no life experience. I don’t regret the way I did things. That was my pathway, but if I were to do it all over again, that means that now I have all these life experiences that I have now and I see the world in a different way.
It’s different to come into the world at the age of 23 when you enter, or 24, 25. I don’t remember the exact age, but you’re entering your residency in such an early time in your life, in my life. With the experience of being a father, a husband, having all of this weather, it teaches you things. You’re not the same person. You never are the same person. You’re always moving forward and change it. Stagnancy is never a good thing in anybody’s life. We’re always evolving whether we want to or not. Is that good? Is that bad? It’s hard for me to imagine going through that kind of training at this point in my life.Without mentors, it will be hard to define a direction for yourself. Click To Tweet
On the flip side of it, to have that mentality, stoic, that’s the best way to phrase it. I wish I was a little bit more stoic at an earlier age during my training. I think that the idea of mindfulness and stoicism, that’s something that was not on my radar at that time, and I think that would have helped me quite a bit. Now it’s hard to imagine being as sleep-deprived constantly as I was in those young years. There’s an advantage of training at a younger age and then there’s also an advantage of training at a slightly older age with a little bit more life experiences, so nothing is perfect.
What resources do you recommend students to consider utilizing?
It’s the human connection. In this day and age where so much is on a digital platform, I think it’s important to connect with an individual and it is important to have mentors. It doesn’t have to be a mentor specifically in what you do. The mentors that crafted my interests were not even necessarily all ear, nose and throat doc. They were people who reflected maybe a certain way of seeing the world that connected with me. Sometimes nonverbal things are as important as verbal cues. Being able to relate with an individual is a key component to deciding if something appeals. There are many ways to go at this. At the end of the day, what’s intimidating about this is usually at such a young age in your career, you’re making a decision for future you that you don’t know and you will never get to know until you get to that point. I find that fascinating.
How could the twenty-something-year-old Guy Lin understand what would be best for him in 20, 30 years? Quite frankly, there’s no way that I could have known that. You take the best guess you can. The human connection is important. Do everything you can to learn. I think what you’re doing is great, Rich. Putting this series of interviews together is nice. It’s also important to connect, network and find people you can call your mentors because those are ultimately going to be the people I think define how you’re going to see a stretch of a career in front of you. Without mentors, it’s going to be hard to define a direction or a pathway for yourself. You can’t do it alone.
Having mentors would be wonderful. Therefore, would it have changed how you looked at things if you had those mentors, whether they were EMT doctors or holistic physicians?
At that time in my life, I wasn’t thinking this way at all. I wasn’t mature enough in terms of the development. I was coming out of training. I was still reductionist in my thinking. For me, that was the evolution. I wasn’t someone who was particularly interested in primary care at all. That’s what’s ironic about this whole thing. Would I now be interested in primary care? Maybe, with the right influences. I will say at that phase in my life when I was rotating through, the personalities that engaged me the most were surgical personalities. Even anesthesiologists were, they could break down their skillsets that spoke to me at the time.
There are manual skillsets or refined skillset, it didn’t appeal to some people right off the bat like they were out. You could see people get weeded out by whether or not they wanted to go into internal medicine or something else. In that something else pile, we all are drawn to our specialties for various reasons. You didn’t end up going into a surgical specialty but you interface with surgeons, and you are a master of physiology in a sense. Those types of things spoke much. Had I not gone this route, I probably would have regretted that.
Having said that, I did very much have mentors who I looked up to who gave me the sense that there was a magic or a wonderment in what they did. There was a trauma surgeon at UCSF, and he was this unique character. He’s very much like a renaissance man, well read. When I came to him for career advice, he recommended that I read Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. I love this Renaissance attitude, like you’re not just this gruff, in the muckety muck, fighting in the trauma bay. There are a purpose and reflections above that. This head and neck surgeon, Mark Singer, was a real expert at voice preservation surgery. He would perform laryngectomies. He took me under his wing and those were invaluable experiences. Did I end up doing what I thought I was going to do at that formative time in my career? No. I thought I was going to be a head and neck surgeon at that time for sure.
You’ve got to follow your passion, and maybe your passion leads you to a place that eventually you realize it’s not your passion anymore. It goes to the bigger question of our lives, like what is our life about? I don’t want to give the misinterpretation like you don’t wake up every morning with this passion. When you wake up in the morning, my back is hurting. I’m achy. I wish I had a couple more hours of sleep, but at the end of the day, you’re choosing to do something that you’re going to be in for a while. You want to be excited by the notion that you have more to learn or that you can put your thumbprint on something and make it better. Whatever it is, this is a big deal. The beauty of medicine is, let’s say over time you don’t like it anymore. It’s a hard decision to make, but you can do an about face and do something different. There’s a lot of translatability to other areas within medicine.
In other words, medicine is not the end of the road if you decide you want to do something different.
That applies to anybody in any walk of life.
Guy, in your career, what changes do you foresee in 1, 3, 5, 10 years from now? Pre-Coronavirus, how is that different than what you expect or foresee in the future, maybe not even in the coming months, but years from now?
I’ve never seen such a rapid transformation in a short amount of time. Here in New York, there’s been a rapid transformation in terms of how we’re changing the way we’re treating a new clinical entity. I don’t remember a time where a clinical entity was brought on us and then our way of treating it was defined in real time. Do you?You don’t realize the diversity of skillsets you have until something comes under threat. Click To Tweet
Every day, every week, it’s like a new thing we’re learning and we’re in real time developing models for how we’re going to deal with it. The biggest eye-opener for me at this point is if you have a jack of all trades mentality, in other words, if you’re not too fixed in the way you do something, and this is obviously going to be limited depending on what you do, if you’re an anesthesiologist doing elective cases, it’s out of your control. In what I do, not everything that I do is surgical. The non-surgical aspects of what I do right now, I can continue to do. I’m fortunate in that respect. You don’t realize what the diversity of skillsets you have until something comes under threat whether you’re disabled, and thank God I’ve not had to go through that.
Life throws a lot of curveballs at you. When you set up your interests and your skillsets, what this situation has brought to the forefront for me is, I don’t know how long we’re going to be in a situation where a shutdown persists. It’s been satisfying to be able to offer something beyond just taking someone in for an elective case because that’s on hold for an indefinite period of time right now. The second thing is, telehealth is likely here to stay. It’s going to transform the way we engage with our patients. For better or for worse, I don’t know. I have my own thoughts on that. That’s like going into Mach speed in terms of changes. One day, we didn’t have telehealth, and then we woke up the next thing, we had it offered for our patients. It’s going to transform the way we deliver our care. We’ll see how this evolves, but I don’t think you can easily shut the spigot off once that got opened up.
Are there any parting thoughts you have, Guy, for a student interested in your career?
The only thing I would say is to keep an open mind. Always have a beginner’s mindset towards how you look at things. Also, be willing to work hard for whatever end you pursue. I think those three distinctive traits will serve you well with whatever you pursue.
Guy, thank you so much. It’s been awesome to have you on.
It’s a pleasure.
There are some deep thoughts here. We went deep.
Rich, you’re doing a great job as a newbie in terms of the podcast space. You’re a great interviewer. I appreciate the time.
That was Dr. Guy Lin, an ENT physician, Ear Nose and Throat doctor or otherwise known as an otolaryngologist. He was great to have on this episode and I’m happy to have him. He’s a good friend as well. In our next episode, we’re going to dive into the dental world. We’re going to get a dentist finally on one of our episodes here, specifically an orthodontist. We’re going to be talking more than just braces of course. Until then, be healthy, be safe. If things are looking a little down for you, I believe it’s going to turn around, just keep that positive attitude. That’s the first step. You’ll find a way. I appreciate you all. Thanks for reading.
- Guy Lin
- Episode eleven – ENT Physician (Ear Nose & Throat Specialist) – Guy Lin, MD – Part 1
About Dr. Guy Lin
Dr. Guy Lin received his Medical Degree from the University of California, San Francisco Medical School. He then went on to complete a General Surgery internship and an Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery residency at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Lin also completed a clinical fellowship in Facial Plastics and Reconstructive Surgery through the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. After entering private practice, Dr. Lin maintained a part-time academic position at Mount Sinai, teaching both residents and medical students at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens.
He has now devoted himself fully to private practice, maintaining close ties to Mount Sinai Hospital, as Associate Clinical Instructor, teaching both medical students and residents. Areas of special interest include sinus surgery and surgical treatments to improve nasal airflow. Dr. Lin’s extensive training provides him with unique expertise in rhinoplasty. He is dual board certified by the American Board of Otolaryngology and the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. Dr. Lin performs surgeries at Midtown Surgery Center and Mt. Sinai’s hospital and ambulatory centers.
Dr. Guy Lin also specializes in the nutritional management of common inflammatory ailments affecting the head and neck. A major emphasis on whole foods that are plant-based will be used to help naturally treat chronic sinus, reflux, and other inflammatory disorders affecting the ear, nose and throat. The goal will be to ultimately reduce the burden of antibiotics, reflux medications and other anti-inflammatory medications that provide a temporary fix to a problem.
For a more in-depth explanation and to view photos of the cosmetic options available, please refer to Dr. Lin’s facial plastics web page on the Advanced Facial Plastics website.
Please click here to read Dr. Guy Lins article on ‘How to Treat Silent Reflux Symptoms: Heatburn, Persistent Cough & Hoarsness’.