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    Sunday, June 23, 2024

    Want to be better at your job? A doctor and Westerly native has some advice

    Resa Lewiss (Contributed)

    Resa Lewiss, who grew up in Westerly, has a bio that is as lengthy as it is impressive.

    She’s a medical doctor. She’s a professor of emergency medicine. She’s been a TEDMED speaker and a Time’s Up Healthcare founder. She is a point-of-care ultrasound specialist. She hosts a podcast about health care, equity and trends.

    Lewiss’s latest accomplishment is co-writing a book. She and fellow MD Adaira Landry have penned “Micro Skills: Small Actions, Big Impact,” published by Hanover Square Press, an imprint of HarperCollins. The pitch for the book is: “If you buy this book on Friday, you will be better at your job on Monday.”

    While Lewiss and Landry gives examples of how certain issues were reflected in their work life, the tome isn’t just for doctors. In fact, it’s meant for everyone from students entering the workforce to professionals who are having a tough time achieving work-life balance.

    Lewiss said in a recent phone interview, “We’re two women, we are physicians. … Many people have said, ‘Oh, it (the book) is for women,’ ‘Oh, it’s for health care.’ We’re like, ‘Nope, nope, we really want it to resonate with everybody. We believe it can.’”

    She noted that people who have seen advance copies of “Micro Skills,” which will be released Tuesday, have told her it does.

    The idea behind “Micro Skills” involves breaking down a goal or task into small, measurable skills. The topics range from listening, to creating a social media presence, to managing personal finances, to networking, to dealing with conflict.

    Landry and Lewiss offer personal stories (one segment of the book talks about how personal stories can help illustrate a point you want to make). In the section about self-care, for example, Lewiss wrote, “Early on, I had fully subscribed to a mindset of the more you work, the more you accomplish.” She eventually realized that wasn’t the best way to proceed. When she changed her approach, “I saw my own productivity soar when I ensured daily exercise, walks in nature, naps, pleasure reading, sharing meals, and spending time with close friends.”

    In another chapter, she writes about how “calling out sick when sick is a foreign concept for many doctors.” In 2020, though, before there was a vaccine, Lewiss contracted COVID. She admits she felt some shame over missing work and having to have others pick up her shifts. Since the pandemic, doctors’ views on calling out sick have changed, and Lewiss wrote that she sees it as “healthy movement toward self-care and better patient centered care.”

    Raised in Westerly

    Lewiss comes from a family with strong Westerly roots. Her father grew up there and went to Westerly High School, and so did her grandfather.

    Lewiss now lives in Philadelphia, but much of her family — her parents, Matthew and Florence Lewiss, and her brother, Peter Lewiss, and sister Hilary Turano — still reside in Westerly. (Lewiss helped deliver both of her sister’s daughters at Westerly Hospital.)

    As a youth, Resa was very active in sports, in part because she associated freedom and independence with being active. She played soccer, as well as farm system and Little League baseball with boys until her parents thought she might get hurt.

    “I had some music lessons, but where I really thrived in high school, I feel, was on the soccer field,” said Lewiss, a 1988 graduate who was a class officer and worked on the yearbook.

    Even though no one in her family was a physician, she knew for a long time that she wanted to be a doctor.

    “I always worked very hard in school. I think I really started getting a taste of the independence and the developing who I was going to be professionally when I left (Westerly),” she said.

    Although she went to college only 45 minutes up the road in Providence, Brown University was full of people from around the world “and my eyes got opened,” she said.

    “I knew I wanted to be a professional, and I really had it on my mind that I was going to be a doctor from a very early age. I think it’s because I really did like math and science. I remember really loving learning about the human body. When I went to college, I was pre-med, but simultaneously, my academic concentration was sociology ethno racial studies,” she said, noting that she took a full liberal arts curriculum, including studio art, French, and Greek tragedy.

    She knew she needed real-life medical experience, too, so she started observing in the Rhode Island Hospital emergency department.

    Motivated to make a difference

    The seeds of Lewiss’ writing, in a way, go back to the pandemic. She was working full-time in an emergency department in Philadelphia, and part of that involved urgent care and telehealth checks. When COVID hit, urgent care closed, and most of her shifts for telehealth were from home. So she had a lot more time than usual.

    “I really felt motivated to make a difference, to participate in some way. So I started podcast, the ‘Visible Voices’ podcast, with the specific aim of amplifying people and their voices in the healthcare, equity and current trends spaces,” she said.

    “At the same time, I had spent 20-25 years doing all the academic steps and publishing quite a bit in medical literature and journals. Right before COVID, I had been a founding member of Time’s Up Healthcare. I met a lot of inspiring women who really demonstrated that, sure, you can write for medical outlets and the healthcare community, but there is an ability to write for more mainstream outlets.”

    She began publishing in places like Slate. During the pandemic, Landry (who is an emergency department physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston) and she were talking about developing expertise in mentorship. Lewiss said if Landry wanted to write something together to let her know. Their first published effort was the article “What efficient mentorship looks like” in Harvard Business Review in Aug. 2020.

    “From there, we started writing articles that were all about navigating the workplace and just lessons we learned. We learned what we felt like was the hard way. We both entered medicine with the feeling and experience of there was a playbook and we didn’t get a copy of that playbook,” Lewiss said. “After these articles (we wrote) received a lot of positive response and really seemed to resonate for a general audience, Adaira came to me and said, ‘I want to write a book together.’ … It didn’t take me long to think about it. I am motivated, I (have a) growth mindset, and I’m ambitious. I said, ‘Sure, let’s do it.’”

    They wrote proposals, sent them to literary houses and signed with an agent. The project went to auction, and the duo signed with HarperCollins. Three years later, the book is ready to launch.

    Aiming to help everybody

    Lewiss has always been interested in books that touch on such topics as the workplace, efficiency, productivity, performance, effective communication, feedback, and management teams. Business self-help books are often written by white men in leadership at business industries, she noted.

    And she said those books tend to make certain assumptions. Some of the things that make “Micro Skills” different is the authors tried to avoid doing that.

    “We don’t all start at the same place, so we really tried to make no assumptions about financial resources, inherited wealth, network, knowledge, and really write a book that everybody could pick up and feel like speaks to them,” Lewiss said.

    Toward that end, they tried to break things down, taking people step by step through critical actions. In the chapter on growing your network, for instance, the subject is divided into topics including demonstrating your expertise to an audience, which is further subdivided into practicing introducing yourself, being visible, amplifying yourself through social media and writing bios of different lengths, among other items.

    “At the end of the day, my goal is to create content and an accessible read that will really help everybody, and move toward having people start at the same starting point,” Lewiss said.


    What: “Micro Skills: Small Actions, Big Impact”

    By: Resa E. Lewiss and Adaira Landry

    To be released: Tuesday

    List price: $28.99

    Lewiss will talk about her book: At 4:30 p.m. May 8 at Brown University Bookstore in Providence, R.I.

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