Being a Multipassionate in Healthcare

Tolya L. Thompson. PA-C

Tolya L. Thompson , PA-C

Published February 07, 2022

Advanced Provider with a passion to make an impact.

Do you have too much passion for one job or career to hold? If so, I see you.

As a physician assistant, author, community activist, speaker, fundraiser, and mom, I can relate to having more than one driving purpose in life. I consider myself a multipassionate, defined as someone with various hobbies, talents, and passions who brings their skills across a range of activities and pursuits.

I actually put off practicing medicine after graduating from my physician assistant program in 1997 because there was still so much I wanted to learn and experience.

Instead, I completed an internship at Ms. magazine working under legendary editor, academic, biographer, and activist Marcia Gillespie. She was a wonderful example of how I could thrive without putting myself in a box.

Given all of this, if someone had told me at the start of my career that I’d be practicing medicine for 23 years (18 of them in the same emergency department), I’d never have believed it.

The key for me has been finding a workplace that lets me bring all of me to my job. Fortunately, I found such a home with Vituity beginning in 2004.

An Advanced Provider Wearing Many Hats

Over the past two decades, my life has evolved in ways I never expected. But Vituity has been there through all my changing seasons.

As a PA, I have been asked to participate in programs and create programs of benefit for all teams in the organization, not just PAs. For example, I recently created a culture and culture competency module that all new hires are required to complete. What an honor! I feel that over my 18 years of service my skills and knowledge are truly valued and utilized in so many ways through Vituity.

Early in my PA career, I wrote a book called Loud Lips Lucy about a boisterous New York City girl who learns the value of listening after contracting laryngitis. This led to an entire series of Smarties books, including Worry Wart Wes and Catchin’ Cooties Consuelo. My intention was to teach health and life skills to kids in a fun and inclusive way. I really wanted kids to see themselves in the diverse characters.

As it turned out, kids, parents, teachers, and librarians all loved the books. Elementary schools around the country hosted me as a visiting author. My Vituity colleagues could have seen my author career as a distraction from my “real” job. But in fact, they were incredibly supportive. They even helped me to host pajama reads at our hospital at which every kid received a free book.

A few years later, I embarked on a new adventure: motherhood. This meant putting my author career on hold, but I was still itching to write. My opportunity came when I received a Vituity Innovation Grant to create educational materials for recently discharged ED patients. I focused on common diagnoses with a goal not only to inform but to entertain. These handouts, I believed, could deepen our connections with patients.

I also took the opportunity to get more involved in my local community as a civil rights activist and speaker. So you can imagine my excitement when Vituity launched its foundation in 2020.

Healthcare Disparities and the Good of Giving Back

I immediately connected with the mission of the Vituity Cares Foundation. In my author career, I’d met many kids who aspired to work in medicine but needed someone to guide them. And my work in the ED shows me firsthand the gaping disparities in our healthcare system. I immediately began attending Vituity Cares meetings and offering help.

On one call in 2020, Vituity CEO and Vituity Cares President Imamu Tomlinson, MD, shared the guilt he felt while eating a Thanksgiving dinner when so many in our communities were going hungry. This inspired me to collect money for local food programs. Our office administrator patiently helped me set up Venmo, PayPal, and Zelle accounts to smooth the donation process.

Over two weeks of talking to colleagues, hospital staff, family, and friends, I received almost $11,000 in donations. Vituity Cares used the funds to fill three local food banks. Many of my ED coworkers donated their time (and vehicles) to haul loads from Costco and Walmart.

In 2021, I led an effort for the Vituity Cares street medicine program. Several times a year, the foundation hosts pop-up clinics to provide medical care, clothing, and hygiene items to unhoused people in our communities. So many of my ED colleagues lined up to get behind this initiative that looks after the needs of this underserved and often misunderstood patient population.

Tips for Multipassionates in Healthcare

As a woman who has multiple “careers,” I’m often asked how I balance competing priorities. Here are a few things I’ve learned.

  1. Ask for help and be receptive to it. My husband, son, Vituity colleagues, and ED staff have made it possible to do so much more—to have so much more impact—than I ever could alone. Fundraising taught me that most people want to help a worthy cause. We just need to invite them in, let them know what we need, help them identify how they can be of service, and allow them to do the rest.
  2. Be grateful. I wouldn't be here today if others hadn’t sacrificed sleep, time, and effort to open doors for me. I made sure to express gratitude for the kind acts of others that helped me to achieve my goals, and I express gratitude for the everyday acts of generosity I continue to see. It’s important to acknowledge the graciousness of others, which helps you avoid taking things for granted.
  3. Prioritize your health. For me to do all that I do, I have to stay healthy and strong. (Also, I love chocolate, which motivates me to put in some extra work.) To help others, as I feel it’s my mission to do, I put in the time and work to be the most capable version of myself for the benefit of others.
  4. Find your community. I’ve benefited from finding a practice home that values all of my talents and gives me opportunities to express them. I sometimes wonder what will happen when my son goes off to college. What new passions and projects will emerge for me? No matter what, I know that my Vituity family will support me and stand with me.

There are times when I'm tired and frustrated. But I know that if those who believe in goodness, fairness, and justice don’t continue to push for those values, then nothing changes. This is just one reason I appreciate how Vituity inspires and empowers me and my fellow clinicians to bring our best to work every day. We’re so much stronger and more successful when we all come together.

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