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Nichole Young-Lin

Stars of Stanford Medicine: Empowering women globally

In this Stars of Stanford Medicine Q&A, obstetrics and gynecology resident Nichole Young-Lin discusses her interests and plans to help women worldwide.

When we first met, as an icebreaker of sorts, I asked Nichole Young-Lin, MD, MBA, if she had done anything fun over the weekend.

"Well," she responded casually. "My husband and I did yoga with goats." Yoga with goats!? I was all ears to learn more about this young physician who had crafted her own MD/MBA program while at the University of California, San Francisco, started a public health nonprofit, and is now a Stanford resident in obstetrics and gynecology.

Where are you from?

I was born in Taiwan, but I immigrated to Fremont, California and grew up with my aunt and uncle. I'm a Bay Area gal, I lived in New York for a bit and travel a lot, but I'm pretty local.

How did you get interested in medicine?

I actually knew I was going to be an ob-gyn before I went into medical school. My background in college was in political economy, public health and pre-law. I worked on a public health project in Africa and I realized that I really love the skills and ability to empower women found in medicine. I started a nonprofit after graduating called Saving Mothers, which works in several countries to provide training and supplies to prevent women from dying in childbirth.

I really love working with women and empowering them through health care. Ob-gyn provides the skills to help the population I really want to help.

What is most fulfilling about your work?

The most fulfilling part of my work is being a part of some of the happiest and saddest parts of peoples' lives. It is such an honor and a privilege to be in medicine and I'm so humbled when my patients are sharing their deep personal secrets and concerns, not to mention, trust me with their bodies.

What is most frustrating?

In residency, the hours are rigorous and you don't have a lot of control over your schedule. In medicine, a lot of times we are so focused on immediate clinical care, I'm afraid of losing sight of the bigger picture. And it is hard to be creative in a health care system that appears very rigid.

What is one thing that you did the hard way?

I definitely took a longer route to medicine. I was not premed as an undergrad.

I think the biggest lesson is that if you have an idea or a goal, you just have to try for it, even if it doesn't seem possible. I learned a lot from taking a little bit more of a circuitous route and that's my path, I wouldn't trade it for anything else.

Has anything about Stanford or residency surprised you?

I think I suspected Stanford had a very collegial environment but I didn't realize how friendly and how respectful it is. We have a culture where we support one another and are able to think about a person not just as their job, but also as a person with many other aspects.

Do you have a favorite scientist?

I am lucky that I live with my favorite scientist. My husband, Shawn Douglas, PhD, is a source of inspiration to me and constantly opens my eyes to advances in the biomedical field. He also has a knack for breaking down complex concepts into clear and digestible ideas.

What are you reading now?

Right now I think I am reading three books: the Modern Love collection, The Power of Focus and Option B, a great book about resilience to read in residency.

What do you like to listen to?

I love the podcast "How I Built This" which is about innovators and entrepreneurs.

How do you do your best work?

Like many medical people, I do really well studying on my own. But when it comes to creative thinking, I think you are really stronger when you have more minds together.

What is your ultimate career goal?

I'm hoping to use my background in clinical medicine and MBA to do something to impact women's health on a bigger scale. That could take a lot of different forms, and I know that I can try different things. As long as that's my main goal and I'm working toward it I'm pretty satisfied.

Photo by Becky Bach

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