“Not Everyone Shares Your Dream” 5 Leadership Lessons With Dr. David Sabgir of Walk with a Doc
“Not everyone shares your dream. I fear I have shared my obsession for Walk with a Doc with many that did not want to hear it. I’ve sensed that and spent a lot of years frustrated with the apathy I’ve witnessed from many that I respect. I’ve learned that’s not fair. This is not their dream. It’s taken me years to realize that. I believe it’s now important to save those discussions for those who share the passion.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing (David Sabgir MD the Founding CEO of Walk with a Doc and CNN Hero. His organization, Walk with a Doc, is on a mission to change healthcare as we know it. The organization helps doctors not just prescribe ‘the miracle drug’ (walking) to patients but actually take it themselves.
Yitzi: Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
During Internal Medicine and Cardiology training, like many others, I saw physical activity as a common denominator in my patients that were thriving. I tried a variety of conversational methods to motivate my inactive patients to begin a physical activity regimen. I was an utter failure despite hundreds to thousands of these heartfelt and sometimes fear inducing conversations. I did not want to play this charade for my entire career, so I finally went in a different direction. I invited my patients to join my family and me at the park. Now they would have to say ‘no’ to my face. This approach was kept local for 4 years until word started to spread and doctors around the U.S. started walking with their local communities. The Huffington Post actually did a great piece on our history last year. Today, we continue to do everything in our power to transform the way medicine is practiced around the world.
Yitzi: Can you tell me about the most interesting projects you are working on now?
The concept of walking with patients is still essentially brand new to doctors around the world, so we love sharing their excitement. We’ve also got doctors who are leading Walking School Buses, and a rapidly growing number of docs hosting ‘Cook with a Doc’ programs. We’re excited to break into these pockets of health.
Yitzi: So tell me a bit more about your organization?
We provide the infrastructure and support to enable doctors to walk with their communities in the park. Most events are held weekly or monthly. The ‘walk’ starts with a short talk by the doc or their healthcare provider guest (dietician, pharmacist, physical therapist, you name it). There are often blood pressure checks, coffee, fruit and pedometers available.
Yitzi: Can you tell me a story about a person that you helped?
We’re fortunate to have people reach out to us every day to tell us how walking has changed their life. Amar is a guy who was inactive for years and was beginning to feel the negative effects of inactivity. He started coming to WWAD and now runs marathons. More important to me, he is now able to enjoy taking his family on national park vacations. He was previously held back by his inactivity and is now empowered by his ability.
Yitzi: This obviously is not easy work. What drives you?
Oh my goodness, I love it. I truly feel and know we are disrupting the current medical model. The writing is on the wall for thousands of walk chapters and we are only at 330. There are a lot of health care professionals out there that are still unaware of the program. Once those providers hear and act, their practices and their lives will be dramatically improved. That is our charge.
Yitzi: 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?
Rachael Habash, our Executive Director, has made countless dramatic improvements to facilitate our explosive growth. I am eternally grateful for her discipline, passion and selflessness to improve the health of so many.
Yitzi: What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. There’s no script. I banged my head against the wall for years, hating myself for just being a doctor and not an MBA or MPH who ‘knew all the answers.’ Decision paralysis likely slowed progress. Trust your gut. It is more powerful than you will ever believe.
2. It’s never a ‘done’ deal until the ink is dry. I’ve left countless interactions believing prospective partners when they say, “I love it. We are 100% in!” Most of those never came to fruition. I’ve learned persistence is the most important quality and if you believe in your cause, you need to leave your introversion at the door and be assertive.
3. Not everyone shares your dream. I fear I have shared my obsession for Walk with a Doc with many that did not want to hear it. I’ve sensed that and spent a lot of years frustrated with the apathy I’ve witnessed from many that I respect. I’ve learned that’s not fair. This is nottheir dream. It’s taken me years to realize that. I believe it’s now important to save those discussions for those who share the passion.
4. The concept of a ‘social entrepreneur’. I was worried I was ‘crazy’ for 10 years until I started reading books (like Rippling) that beautifully laid out common traits of the social entrepreneur. I wish I would have known I’m not totally crazy a lot sooner.
5. Read. There are so many people that have come before us with brilliant ideas. You will be able to draw important analogies between your experience and their experiences bringing their vision to light. Use their wisdom to make your idea soar even higher.
Yitzi: Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see just see this. :-)
Michael Bloomberg. I’ve been a big fan of his many endeavors and his often unconventional views. I would love to learn lessons from his life and hear his visions for a better tomorrow.