Why “Indie Docs?”

The idea for this website emerged from feeling completely overwhelmed by all the decisions and seemingly difficult lifestyle demands of pursuing humanitarian medicine. Josh and I talked about options for full time missions, part time missions, advanced degree programs, traveling fellowships, how we would raise our daughter…the challenges seemed infinite.

I thought about this website and blog as a means to organize the vast information and generate discussion among a like-minded community, and for months I waited for the right domain name to pop into my head. I was frustrated that I couldn’t come up with something that encompassed all the ideas behind humanitarianism, global medicine, travel, professional independence, and philanthropy. Luckily, my husband has a habit of solving these types of problems, and on a long car ride I explained to him all the ideas I was trying to tie together. His face brightened up, eyebrows raised, and he said, “Hey, what about “Indie Docs?” My response: Yeah, good one! After all, physicians pursuing global and/or humanitarian projects need independence, both professional and financial, and a willingness to go against the mainstream. There is also a spirit of fun in the name. It doesn’t emphasize philanthropy or humanitarianism overtly, but I think this broadens our purpose a bit while still providing room for these motivations behind pursuing one’s professional ambitions as a physician, whatever they might be.

Of course I would be dishonest if I didn’t share our love of Indie music as a big influencer in the moniker. Josh and I fell in love at a Christian Indie-rock music festival in Memphis, TN, 15 years ago, and we’ve been bonding over great music ever since. The year before we had our first baby, we decided to go to every music show possible for a year, which despite our demanding residency schedules, was quite a few shows in our area near Minneapolis, MN, one of the best indie music cities in the country (thanks in part to the amazing 89.3 TheCURRENT radio station), and some shows in Nashville, TN. We rocked out to Wilco, Dr. Dog, Feist, Trampled by Turtles, Lucius, Father John Misty, Benjamin Booker, Houndmouth, and maybe a dozen other awesome indie bands. We went to Festival Palamino (VIP tickets!) and Eaux Claires music festival (put on by Justin Vernon of Bon Iver fame).

She’s ready for the show.

Why is indie music special? Without writing a tome on the subject, the artists work hard to simply make and promote good freakin’ music and challenge themselves creatively. Indie musicians have created an amazing community of artists and fans who share their ideals of loving the music rather than chasing commercial appeal and financial success. (For instance, FEIST refused to play her most commercially successful single, “1-2-3-4,” at both of her shows that we saw. Given the chance, I would request at least a performance of the Sesame Street version, “Counting to 4,” which my daughter absolutely loves).

My mom recently paid me one of the highest compliments of my life when she said she listens to Lucius’s “On the Run,” with tears in her eyes thinking of Josh and me. I can’t even count how many times I’ve listened to that song with a little mist in my eyes thinking of the exhausting effort of this path and all the hurting people I can’t reach.

So, if the Indie revolutions in  music, journalism, film making, and other creative fields occurred because the talented artists wanted to take back control of what they produced, give it to the people who needed and appreciated it most, and embrace the idealism that filled their young imaginations in the first place, the medical field might be similarly primed for this same transformation. Rumblings of discontent are growing in the medical community-at-large due to the endless pressures to increase billing and revenue at the expense of spending quality time with our patients. We see small pockets of counter-culture movements, including boutique healthcare, as a response, but there is definitely  a major grassroots movement of many idealistic (no longer a dirty word) physicians towards working in the global health and humanitarian arena.

Cliche as it may be, we went to med school to help people. Doctors have worked too hard and sacrificed too much to get to the end of training and face an unfulfilling career they never imagined or desired. As the oft-quoted study in JACR concludes, participating in global health projects reduces burnout,* and for anyone who has participated in even the smallest humanitarian mission, it’s easy to remember that pure joy of working with clear and present purpose and feeling effective. It is my hope that Indiedocs.org becomes a place for professionals to connect, encourage one another, and share the tips and tricks to maximize our ability to change all the little worlds we can reach with the hardest-working kind of love.

Happy Trails,


-On the Run-

“And now we pass so many people on the road
They could come along, I wish they’d been told
They may call it a shot in the dark
From what we know, it’s not unheard of

And we’ll one day tell our story
Of how we made something of ourselves now.”Lucius




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