The Only Man in the Room

I really was. There were roughly 70 to 80 women. I wanted to actually count each and every one of them, and I started to, but then I caught myself looking like a weirdo as I rotated myself in my chair moving my eyes up and down the rows in the conference room. And since I typically sit in one of the first few rows, it looked even worse as I had to completely turn around in my chair to count those behind me. I was in Houston at the annual American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM) Conference. It was day 5 of 6.

And I was at a talk that I did not want to miss for several reasons: 1) Dr. Cindy Chang who had been what I would call an “indirect mentor” of mine was part of the panel, 2) the topic involved leadership, 3) two of the other women on the panel, like Dr. Chang, had held the position of president for AMSSM in the past and were trailblazers for the profession in many ways, 4) many other reasons.

The title of the presentation: W.i.LL – Women in Leadership Lead

Intriguing title. And something that resonates well in today’s society. I knew it would be 50 minutes of great energy and discussion, and that I would gain valuable insight. And it was. 4 women took their turns at the podium (one decided to remain seated during her talk, and that gesture alone was impactful).

As I have written in prior blogs, and preached to myself, my children, my coaching clients and my patients, be careful what you decide to shy away from when an opportunity presents itself, as you will surely always learn something that can help you on this journey of life. A lot of other men missed out on quite a special presentation.

A few days earlier with Dr. Chang

So what did I learn and reflect on during the talk that day…

Speaker number one emphasized:

  1. Go confidently into the room
  2. You won’t always walk-in and be one of them
  3. Stick to your values

Those were powerful ideas that can help all of us eliminate our fears, demand equality and strive for success.

Dr. Chang was up next. And just to tell you a little bit more about her…

  1. She is obviously Asian
  2. She is a wife and mother
  3. Team USA Chief Medical Officer at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics and 2012 London Olympics
  4. 13-years as the head team physician for UC Berkeley athletics
  5. She is starting a brand new sports medicine fellowship at UCSF
  6. She is well-known when it comes to primary care sports medicine across the world

And I could go on and on…

Dr. Chang spoke about things people had said to her during her time as a sports doc…

“You are too motherly to our athletes.” “You never played football, so how can you possibly take care of these players.”

Her stories went on. Her determination to overcome them was powerful. She made it a point to tell everyone in the room that day that you don’t have to play a particular sport to care for the athletes who play that sport (this can be translated to many service jobs/careers in life). She told the ladies in the room to find a pact of strong, successful women to surround themselves with. She spoke about being ambitious, unafraid to fail, to lead and to ask for what you deserve.

Two more physicians followed her. They spoke about getting paid for the work you do and to fight for it. One thought provoking exclamation dealt with finding your seat at the table, and if there was no seat for you in the meeting, then:

“You should bring your own chair.”

The energy in the air was stronger than the winds that were passing through Houston on that day. And they were pretty rough.

And I was the only man in the room. Nothing to be afraid of. I am the only man in my house. We can all learn when we are willing to drop any bias we might have. We can all learn when we are willing to open our ears and close our mouths. We can all simply learning by just being there in the moment.

What will you do today to learn something new, or at the very least to reflect on something you may have learned in the past, but pushed into your distant memory?

One Comment on “The Only Man in the Room

  1. I am thankful for my time in the military. I’ve had great to sub par leaders of both genders and of all nationalities. I’m wired different I guess but I have had zero problem being led by a firm, fair, competent, consistent, and compassionate leader. One of the best leaders I had was a female battalion commander. She easily was the poster board for awesome leadership. What I saw was it bothered those that suddenly were held accountable and made to raise their standard as a Marine leader. Needless to say those were the sub-par leaders. People I wouldn’t follow anywhere. I’ve never been a fan of the good ole boys network and clicks. I’ve been a fan of, can you do a great job and lead the right way. With that said Dr.Valadao, that’s what makes you unique as a leader, a doctor, a husband, a father, and a friend is that you surround yourself with greatness and desire to learn more. Which makes you the smartest man in that room too. Motivate Forward
    ~GP

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