Dr Erkeda DeRouen: How To Thrive Despite Experiencing Impostor Syndrome
An Interview With Candice Georgiadis
Rise to the occasion- Now that you’ve had time to reflect on why you deserve everything that you deserve through reflection, self-reassurance, and readjusting your mindset, you must rise to the occasion. Show the world that you are capable.
As a part of our series about how very accomplished leaders were able to succeed despite experiencing Imposter Syndrome, I had the pleasure of interviewing Erkeda DeRouen.
Erkeda DeRouen, M.D. is a double board-certified Family Medicine and Lifestyle Medicine physician. She is passionate about merging the human aspect of medicine with the new field of emerging technology. Mentoring is important to her, as she believes that one should always share their gifts to uplift others. She hosts a podcast geared towards pre-med and medical students covering hot topics in medicine. She also is an energetic public speaker and author that spreads ideas about the state of healthcare, personal empowerment, and professional growth.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?
Thank you for having me! My name is Erkeda DeRouen. I am a Family physician that loves working to empower others to be their best selves, whether that’s in the exam room or boardroom. I have transitioned from in person clinical care in order to impact people from a higher level. I run my own speaking business, host a podcast, and have recently authored a book. I will have another book coming out next year.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
Never ask a medical doctor about interesting stories. We have a “special” sense of humor ;) This time, I will not share a story about patient care, but a story sprinkled with Impostor Syndrome. I am a speaker. I am also quite type A when it comes to work. Working in the technology realm, yes, that’s a story for another time, I have noticed that people in that field are a little more free flowing. I was asked to be a keynote speaker at a conference. I was having some self-doubt as to whether or not I was qualified to speak at the event given the famous speakers also highlighted at the event. I was told that I would be speaking on a specific topic, which I had spent a great amount of time preparing. Ten minutes before I was introduced, the organizer revealed that my topic had been changed. I took some deep breaths and winged.the.entire.speech. I received so many compliments after my speech that I believe that it may have been my best one to date! I spent all of that time worrying about whether or not I was qualified to speak at the event and practicing with friends simply to freestyle a speech in front of hundreds of individuals. As a subject matter expert, I needed to calm down and remember who I was, Erkeda DeRouen, MD.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story? As CEO of my own speaking business, I am able to use my skills and voice to empower others to overcome obstacles to be a better leader, physician, and human being.
I find mentorship important. For the past decade, I have mentored via various organizations. When I started speaking on overcoming one’s obstacles many medical students reached out to me, so I decided to speak with several student groups pro bono, as I have always striven to be the mentor that I didn’t have while in training. To my surprise, a chance encounter on Facebook led to me being able to reach thousands of pre-medical and medical students on a podcasting platform a little over a year ago. This journey has led me to meet so many interesting individuals, while giving them an avenue to tell their stories to inspire many.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Oh, this is a very tough question! Having a team of strong individuals in my life is the key to success. I like to call them my personal Board of Directors, or BOD. Those who listen to my podcast, The Prospective Doctor, hear about this often, as I believe that you need to lean on different people for different strengths. Each person may have a different perspective or experience that may give them a unique way to help you best move forward. Now, these do not have to be professional teammates. It can be your mother, your best friend, your sorority sister (shout out to Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated), or a colleague from an old job that you had 6 years ago. Being able to bounce ideas off of people that know different facets of you can be very useful.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the experience of Impostor Syndrome. How would you define Impostor Syndrome? What do people with Impostor Syndrome feel?
I would define Impostor Syndrome as a belief that you do not belong or you are not good enough, despite having all of the tools, capabilities, or credentials that say otherwise. Impostor syndrome impacts many. People with Impostor Syndrome can feel as though they do not deserve accolades or promotions, despite being qualified for them.
What are the downsides of Impostor Syndrome? How can it limit people?
Impostor syndrome can limit one’s potential. If you are always doubting what you can achieve, you will never achieve greater.
How can the experience of Impostor Syndrome impact how one treats others?
Impostor syndrome can cause you to place other individuals on a pedestal, instead of realizing that everyone has their own flaws. It takes your power away, sometimes prohibiting you from using your voice.
We would love to hear your story about your experience with Impostor Syndrome. Would you be able to share that with us?
Hmm. It’s hard to choose one story, as a Black female physician, I have encountered many times where I felt like an impostor. I reviewed one occasion that occurred during my medical school training in my book chapter featured in the book “Medicine Women: An Anthology of Stories and Letters by Female Doctors and Health Professionals,” so I will discuss a different situation here.
While I was working at a community health clinic for the underserved, I was the only physician in the office for a time period. I worked alongside a wonderful, relatively new nurse practitioner. Suddenly, many patients started to switch from me to her, and I was being called into the Medical Director’s office to review forged complaints. I was wondering if I was good enough to be a doctor, despite having many more years of medical training than my colleague and no negative outcomes. Finally, the nurse practitioner revealed that several of the patients confided in her that they had switched because they wanted a White provider and I was a Black physician. This was really weird because a lot of the patients were complex, so my colleague came to me during the clinic to double check her patient care plans utilizing my medical knowledge. While it hurt to find out that patients were switching from me due to racism, it definitely made me feel silly that I had doubted my own medical acumen. I was a fantastic,
compassionate, thorough, highly-trained, physician that almost allowed falsely negative reviews to cause me to question whether or not I was made to practice medicine.
Did you ever shake the feeling off? If yes, what have you done to mitigate it or eliminate it?
I would love to say that I have completely shaken off my Impostor Syndrome, but that would not be the truth. I definitely doubt myself at times when I am asked to speak to large crowds, consult with organizations, or even when I decide to try something new. What keeps me moving forward is when I take a step back and ask myself, “Why not me?” When you have a positive mindset, you can silence the largest critic, which may sometimes be yourself. If I find myself thinking that I am not talented enough, credentialed enough, or worthy enough, I take a deep breath, adjust my crown, and tell myself, “Yes, you are.” It sounds cheesy, but if you are not your biggest cheerleader, why should anyone else cheer for you?
In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone who is experiencing Impostor Syndrome can take to move forward despite feeling like an “Impostor”? Please share a story or an example for each.
Impostor Syndrome is REAL! You can move forward by remembering the 5 R’s (respond, reflect, resist, reevaluate,& rise)
1. Respond to the emotion- You are a human being. It’s okay to respond to your emotions, but you must not stay in a place of negative energy.
2. Reflect on your abilities- You are enough. Reflect on why you are in the room that is causing you to feel like an impostor. Your attributes brought you to this space. Remember what you have to bring to the table.
3. Resist the urge to put yourself down- Sometimes when you feel like an imposter, your brain tries to tell you every reason why that could be true. Wrong! You are worthy. Resist the urge to put yourself down.
4. Re-evaluate your perception- Re-evaluate your mindset. Refocus. Re-frame your identity. You belong exactly where you are.
5. Rise to the occasion- Now that you’ve had time to reflect on why you deserve everything that you deserve through reflection, self-reassurance, and readjusting your mindset, you must rise to the occasion. Show the world that you are capable.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I would love to inspire people to live their truth. So many people go through life trying to make other people happy by living up to their expectations. It’s one of the reasons that we do not have a fulfilled life. I live by the mantra “Decide what kind of life you really want, and then say no to everything that isn’t that.”
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them :-)
Aside from the obligatory Madam Oprah and Forever First Lady Obama (love you both!), I would love to have a private meal with the ever fabolous Stacey Abrams. Not only is she a political powerhouse, but she is a magnificent leader, orator, and author. I would love to have a conversation with her to see how she literally does it all.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I can be found on:
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!