In Notes on April 19, 2014 at 12:05 am

Work Stew is a collection of original essays and in-depth interviews. To learn more, please visit the FAQ.

New essays and interviews will be added regularly, so please check in often. Or you can sign up to receive email notifications of new contentlook for the button at the bottom right of the site.

Also, Work Stew now has its very own Facebook page; if you ‘like’ it, you’ll be able to see periodic updates in your news feed. You can also receive notices of new content via Twitter.


A brief history:

The site was launched in January 2011, when I published “Random Acts of Business,” an essay about extraordinarily long hot dogs, True Believers, and my lifelong quest for flow. Since then more than 70 other essays have been added to the mix.

You can view a complete list of contributors here. To date, the Top Ten Readers’ Favorites* are (in alphabetical order):

Molly Bishop Shadel A law professor writes about juggling her wide-ranging legal career with a personal life

Gerald Casale A founding member of the ground-breaking and enduring band Devo reflects on what constitutes “work.” 

Samantha Cole A prep school grad embraces her “inner laborer.” 

Ronald J. Granieri An historian pulls back the ivy to reveal what life in academia is really like.  

Tasha Huebner A self-employed Wharton grad takes a hammer to the old chestnut, “Do what you love, and the money will come.” 

Meg Heimovics Kumin A software developer reboots after three babies and two family crises and emerges as a photographer

Gopi Kallayil A Googler ponders the power of intention after an idea scribbled on a piece of paper almost immediately springs to life. 

Lindsay Moran Following the Abbottabad raid, an ex-spy reflects on her decision to leave the CIA

Rhino A soldier describes what it’s like to come home, including what goes through his mind when someone says to him, “Thank you for your service.” 

Terri Rowe A longtime factory worker reveals the secret identity that has sustained her since she was four years old. 

If you’re interested in submitting an essay of your own, please write to me at I’d love to hear your story.


Kate Gace Walton
Editor, Work Stew

*Note: ‘Readers’ Favorite’ is a pretty subjective designation based on page views, shares, comments, and the volume of love/hate mail each essay has so far inspired. So, read all the essays; as they say, your mileage may vary.

Am I the 1 Out of 10?

In Essays on April 15, 2014 at 4:37 am

By Shannon Winakur, M.D.

photoKate Gace Walton, editor of Work Stew, just posted a link on Facebook to an article about the high rate of physician dissatisfaction. It is disheartening to read this article, as well as the results of a 2012 survey conducted by a large malpractice insurance company that claimed that 9 out of 10 doctors surveyed would not recommend the profession.

Is it really THAT bad? In some ways, yes, it is that bad. There are more and more demands on doctors these days, especially the least well paid of my colleagues, those in primary care. See more patients, fill out more paperwork, answer more phone calls, learn a cumbersome computer system…all for the same or less income. Many physicians feel that the public looks down on them these days, that they have been vilified in the whole Obamacare debate. We certainly don’t command the respect that we once did. Reimbursements from Medicare used to be the “floor” in comparison to what other insurers paid for physician visits and procedures, and are now the “ceiling.” Every year, these reimbursements are cut, or there is a threat to cut them by Congress. And many physicians face a higher income tax bill due to changes made to pay for the Affordable Care Act.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Doctors still make a good living, for the most part. But we sacrifice a lot to get where we are now. The years of training are long, arduous, and essentially are rewarded with pay that is less than minimum wage if you factor in the number of hours worked. And now we are being at least partially blamed for driving up the cost of medical care. What doesn’t get discussed as much is the fact that we have to practice defensive medicine, in the face of a significant threat of being sued for malpractice. Because most lawmakers are lawyers, the tort reform needed to do away with defensive medicine will likely never happen…but no one sees the lawyers as the ones causing the high cost of health care.

In spite of all of this, I still like what I do, and I would still recommend medicine to my daughters as a profession. I am a cardiologist, and I am fortunate enough to be able to work part time: three days a week, with one weekend of call a month. I feel privileged to be of service to my patients, and I am honored that they share so much with me. I have been inspired by the work of Rachel Naomi Remen, author of Kitchen Table Wisdom, and My Grandfather’s Blessings. Rachel is also a physician, and talks about how each patient has a story. In reading her work, I have come to appreciate how lucky I am to hear these stories each day. I am fortunate in that I still have enough time to listen.

I find the workings of the physical heart fascinating – the muscle, the valves, the blood vessels, the electrical system. I am energized by educating patients and the public, especially women, about their cardiac risk factors and how they can prevent heart disease from developing. But even more compelling to me is the emotional heart, and how much emotions and stressors can affect the physical heart. To help with this aspect of heart health, I need to listen to each patient’s story. It is so gratifying to help a patient make the connection between the mind and the body, between the emotions that she carries and the physical symptoms that she experiences. In my view, the symptoms are “real,” even when patients don’t have anything wrong with their hearts. I do my best to go the extra step not to dismiss patients’ symptoms and fears when their testing turns out to be normal. Something made them come to the doctor, and that something still needs to be validated and addressed. I feel that that is my role as a “healer,” and I am grateful for this aspect of my job.

I am fortunate that my hospital has taken the issue of heart disease in women very seriously, and has developed a Women’s Heart Center. The program now consists of screening appointments with a cardiovascular nurse who educates each woman about heart disease risk factors. A profile is generated to help each woman know her own risk factors and what she can do to decrease the chance of having a heart attack. It is gratifying to know that we are giving women the tools they need to prevent heart disease – the number one killer of women.

While I thoroughly enjoy my job as medical director of our women’s heart center, my ultimate dream is to include the emotional heart in the process, and to give women the tools they need to take care of their whole heart – physical, emotional, and spiritual. I dream of having a more integrative center, providing women with ways to care for themselves through yoga, meditation, spiritual practices, and other methods to ease the stressors that affect their hearts and their psyches. This will likely take years to develop…so until then, I will continue to find the blessings in my job, in spite of all the “negatives” that exist. I will continue to find the rewards, one heart and one story at a time.

New Interview

In Notes on April 8, 2014 at 10:43 pm

Indira_NairToday I connected with Indira Nair, a friend and former colleague based in Kuala Lumpur. Indira is a seasoned communications professional who used to work for Malaysia Airlines.

Ever since Flight 370 went missing on March 8, I’ve found myself wanting to hear Indira’s perspective on this long, strange month—as a Malaysian, as a former employee of the airline, and as a veteran communications counselor. In Episode #78 of the podcast, Indira weighs in on all these fronts. I’m grateful to her for sharing her views.

Recently, I took a break from stewing about work to stew about parenthood instead, and the piece I wrote is now up at The Huffington Post. Now, it’s back to our regular programming….coming up on the podcast:

  • A woman who bought a 12,000-foot school that she plans to turn into an artists’ residency.
  • The car-crazed entrepreneur behind the hot start-up Chariotz.

About the podcast…

The first Work Stew interview was released in February 2011. I spoke with Gretchen Peters, an intrepid investigative reporter who explained how she went from a job on Rodeo Drive to a hut in Afghanistan. Since then more than 70 other interviews have been released; you can view a complete list here.

The ten most downloaded interviews to date are these:

former CIA spy does a reality check on the TV show ‘Homeland’—what rings true, what doesn’t, and the scene that made her tear up.

newspaper cartoonist explains what it takes to be funny seven days a week, for more than sixteen years.

A husband-and wife team who make their living as long-haul truckers describe their life on the road.

The voice in my GPS describes how she got there. Turns out she’s an accomplished singer and songwriter.

writer of closed captioning for adult films explains how he got into such an unusual line of work and how he feels about it. One listener commented, “See, there ARE jobs for English majors!”

particle physicist describes what it’s like to be focused on topics thatmost of the world knows nothing about.

certified mediator explains why he loves getting involved with other people’s disputes.

comedy writer on the path he travelled to arrive at his role on Comedy Central’s hit show Tosh.O.

A long-time flight attendant who recently retired from the airline industry to become…a gorilla caretaker. Seriously.

A marketer-turned-cook describes how hard she works, how little she earns—and how much she loves her new career.

Why a podcast? Work Stew is a place for people to share their thoughts and stories about their working lives. Essays are one way to do that, and in-depth interviews are another. The hope is to build, over time, a rich collection of distinctive voices, captured in both the written word and the spoken word.

How to listen? You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or you can listen to all of the episodes here: Show Notes and Audio Players

Suggestions? New episodes of the Work Stew podcast are released every two weeks. To suggest an interview subject for a future episode, please write to


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