Tending to Transition


By: Sonja Van Hala, MD, MPH, FAAFP

As I embark on a new era in my professional life, I am giving attention to how to transition. Over the last twelve years as residency program director, I worked alongside remarkable and dedicated faculty and residents. I am immensely grateful for all I learned from them. Now, as I look ahead, I see many career possibilities and I have a keen sense of wanting to be selective. I made this transition with a specific goal in mind: to create space for the rest of my life. Don’t get me wrong: I love my work. I have no concern about finding work I am passionate about. All I need to do is look around me: to be a family doctor, to teach, to mentor, to collaborate, to create, to learn. This career is a remarkable gift.

I’ll share a few thoughts about how I am tending to my transition.

I am taking the time to appreciate where I have been. I am taking the time to consider where I am going. I am marinating, steeping, clarifying. Others may have anxiety about the uncertainty ahead, but there is no need to make this anxiety my own. I have heard many reactions to my transition, but the lens that colors my circumstance depends on the person with whom I’m talking. Therefore, I have to be clear in my heart about what I want, as only I can articulate the lens that is my own.

Professionally, the trajectory could go many ways. Personally, the vision is much clearer: I am not going to hurry. I am enjoying shopping the farmer’s market with my daughter, shooting hoops with my son, exploring the foothills with my dog, sipping coffee with my husband. I am saying “yes” to board games, cooking classes, live music, and Girl Scout campouts. I am getting enough sleep.

The biggest change has been the absence of time pressure. This feels like space to be, to breathe. I am attentive to not backfill this space with busyness. This transition, this space, is a gift. I am opening it slowly.

Sonja Van Hala

Sonja Van Hala, MD, MPH, is an Associate Professor (Clinical) in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at the University of Utah. She is a board-certified family medicine physician who welcomes obstetric, pediatric, and family medicine patients to her practice.

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