by Carlos Anchondo
Michelle Mudge-Riley knows what it’s like to experience career burnout. The frustration. The anxiety. The uncertainty of what step comes next.
Ten years ago, Mudge-Riley did not know where her career was headed. After graduating from Des Moines University Osteopathic Medical School in 2003, she became a medical resident at Virginia Commonwealth University and quickly observed a high level of discontent among her older colleagues. To avoid becoming an unfulfilled doctor, Mudge-Riley earned a master’s degree in health administration from VCU and decided to dedicate her career to empowering her fellow physicians to achieve career success and personal happiness.
In 2008, Mudge-Riley created Physicians Helping Physicians to alleviate career dissatisfaction among doctors and to help physicians transition to non-clinical careers. Her goal is to help all doctors find purpose in their work through mentorship, personal development, and connections with others on a similar journey.
Mudge-Riley says that many physicians become unhappy and burned out because of long hours, a lack of control, displeased or noncompliant patients, or a seemingly monotonous routine. In this company, she guides doctors through the same obstacles she once faced.
“Most doctors do not fit into that round hole that everyone thinks all physicians fit into,” Mudge-Riley says. “I talk with the physicians and help them to understand that they are not alone in the way they think and that I am there to support them through hard times.”
Working with individual doctors, medical practices, and hospitals, Mudge-Riley offers counsel to physicians in all stages of their careers. She brainstorms with that person and determines a strategy that will make medicine come alive again, maybe as a concierge doctor or by simply changing how their practice is run. She might also help them to transition to careers in totally different fields, in positions such as chefs, consultants, or pharmaceutical representatives.
As a doctor, Mudge-Riley began to notice gaps in her own education and decided to become a licensed and registered dietitian. In 2014, she founded DocRD to bring physicians and dietitians together to best serve a shared patient. This business is divided into a consulting branch and a clinical wing, bringing nutrition science to doctors, corporate organizations, medical practices, and more.
Mudge-Riley says that, as someone with both backgrounds, she is immediately trusted by doctors and can effectively articulate the benefits of a dietitian’s expertise. She adds that the proper nutritional strategy can help many patients address chronic diseases, low energy levels, and often ambiguous symptoms that can be cured through a modified or healthier diet.
“As a doctor, I really did not know how great a partner a dietitian can be when taking care of a patient,” Mudge-Riley says. “I believe that more partnerships would lead to less burnout, happier doctors, and patients with better outcomes.”
As an active member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Mudge-Riley speaks regularly on the topic of physician and dietitian collaboration and its benefits for the patient. She says that while there is no magic formula that will automatically make one party realize the value of the other, she continues to believe in a patient-centered, integrative approach grounded in wellness.
A chemistry major who ran on the cross country team at Trinity, Mudge-Riley maintains an active lifestyle, still exercising daily and training for half marathons. Her personal best for a full marathon was a three-hour time in Virginia in 2006, and she recently clocked a 3:22 time at the Houston Marathon earlier in 2015. Training, however, sometimes takes a backseat to 80-hour work weeks spent maintaining both businesses.
“I am always working, but I am motivated by that excitement and passion that gets me out of bed each morning,” Mudge-Riley says. “I love helping doctors become happy with their lives again, and that’s really what drives me.”
For someone who always knew she wanted to become a doctor and to help others, Mudge-Riley says it was Trinity that helped forge her “entrepreneurial mindset” and introduced her to leadership opportunities and the chance to try new things. Ardently committed to improving the lives of others and helping them become the best versions of themselves, Mudge-Riley has found a career path that suits her, with no burnout in sight.