Yvonne Whitelaw

Yvonne was born in London, and lived in several cities in Nigeria and the United States, which gave her an intimate look at humanity from a global perspective.

Medical school was her natural calling. Yvonne thrived. She became a medical missionary and an NC Albert Schweitzer Fellow. She pioneered an HIV outreach program that served 2500 people and trained 75 more medical students to help. She received a Humanitarian Award and two service awards.

Yvonne moved with her 5 month old infant to her Residency alone. Her husband couldn't leave his job.  She had no family, no community, 80 hour work weeks and the care of her infant. Yvonne experienced first-hand a cold and sterile life. For all the care and support she provided wherever she went, there was no reciprocity. No matter how idealistic and committed she was, there was no opportunity to rejuvenate. It was a gut wrenching ordeal. Yvonne reached burn out and exhaustion. Heart palpitations and chest pain sent her to the doctor where Yvonne was sent to a Psychiatrist who immediately told her “you don’t need a psychiatrist. You need support!” Yvonne realized she had to resign her residency. She would no longer practice as a doctor. After all that hard work she had to walk away.

Yvonne saw physicians differently. She saw how exhausted they were. She knew how hard driving their work was. And she knew a lot of them had second jobs to pay down their student loans. They lived in a world that was cold to them in return. And then she thought “What if they all burned out? What would we do? The system could collapse.” At the same time her father had a stroke in Nigeria and was in a coma in the ICU. The physicians went on strike. The patients were discharged – all of them. Hospital rooms full of beds lay completely empty. It was silent. Her father was sent to a small rural clinic. He died within 24 hours. Devastated by the circumstances surrounding the loss of her father, Yvonne realized she was meant to help.

Today Yvonne’s mission is to generate awareness of this serious problem. She works as a physician coach and advocate, building a support system so they can get help. As physician suicide has become more common (400 suicides per year) Yvonne is working as quickly as she can.

In early 2015 the University of California physicians went on strike.  Yvonne is building a large movement. She understands both the burnout and the solution.

Yvonne inspires a global tribe of humanitarian, idealistic and visionary physicians to thrive as they make a positive impact in the world. She creates a sense of belonging, a safe, positive and sacred space to share their stories and she teaches practical ways to cultivate their light by integrating community, music poetry and art into their lives.

You can learn more about Yvonne’s amazing work and services. Please find her at http://www.yvonnewhitelaw.com and her Live Your Ideals project.