Sima Pendharkar, MD, MPH, FACP, Founder + CEO, CareConnector
When Sima Pendharkar first started her medical residency, long before launching her startup, she kept remembering words she had heard somewhere before.
To take care of other people, you first have to take care of yourself.
I’ve heard these words too, but hadn’t understood the extent of their truth until speaking with Sima.
During her medical training, it was not uncommon for residents to work 90 hours a week and to perform 30-hour shifts. While specialists are now looking at regulations for residency duty hours, Sima remembers friends working until 4am and returning for their next shift at 6am.
“A pace like that takes its toll on people psychologically,” Sima recalled. “I had a few both tragic and touching incidents that made me realize this.”
First with a cousin when she was in high school and then later with a colleague while they were both physicians in residency, Sima lost two people close to her to unprecedented stress.
“They both committed suicide.”
At the time her colleague passed away, Sima was struggling with her own well-being. “I had some periods after a 30-hour shift where I felt awful. I was not at all in tune with my body. I was frustrated and unhappy. I wanted to find a better solution. Otherwise, I thought, what was the point?”
Sima realized that putting herself first was not a choice. “As physicians, we have an innate sense of wanting to help people, but it’s critical to remember your sense of self.”
To do this, Sima started a self-maintenance routine. “I did yoga three times a week, meditated for 15 minutes a day, and booked a massage and a facial once a month. It became not just helpful, but essential to take care of myself.”
“My goal is for patients to own their health.”
In the first few words we exchanged, I could tell that Sima was in the business of healing. A deeply beautiful woman with a calm presence and a palpable passion for health, she works to improve patient engagement and help patients take ownership of their own well-being.
Currently based in New York, Sima is an attending physician at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York. In January 2015, she founded her startup, CareConnector.
“CareConnector stemmed from my passion for health communications and the way we deliver information to patients. Health is so much more all encompassing than blood pressure, cholesterol – the things people usually think o
f. It’s about how you feel.”
“My goal is for patients to own their health, not look to physicians for answers. Each person knows his or her own body and has the ability to be in tune with his or her own health.”
Sima is first generation Indian-American. Her parents emigrated from Bombay to the U.S. in the 1970s. While growing up, she and her family would visit India every summer. “This allowed me to access Indian culture more than I would have otherwise.” It also shaped Sima by giving her the opportunity to choose exactly who she wanted to be.
“As an Indian-American, I learned how to disconnect from embodying a single category.” This translated into Sima’s professional and personal life, where she chose to be both a doctor and an artist. “I always pursued my passion for art while in medical school. While it’s unusual, it’s better not to set boundaries for yourself and to allow yourself freedom and flexibility.”
How to Find Balance
I asked Sima what advice she would give to other women who know they need to find a better emotional or professional balance, but don’t know how to make it happen. “Connect with people who seem to do it well. A lot of wisdom can be gleaned from someone else who is able to successfully make time for themselves. Spend time with other women who seem well-balanced and take examples from them.”
Despite losing two loved ones to unimaginable stress, Sima sees opportunity everywhere. “From obstacles come some of the best things that can happen to us. We learn a lot when we’re tested, and challenging situations give us the opportunity to re-center ourselves and explore other options.”
According to Sima, she’s had many opportunities to explore health and wellness and how to be emotionally well- balanced. “This is a passion and an interest that I want to give to other people. I’m excited to teach people how to be champions of both their physical and emotional health.”
Sima, thank you so much. We can’t wait to follow you on your path forward!
Sima’s Beauty Tips
“Being in tune with your body is a skill that comes and goes. Humans are constantly changing and evolving so that process changes and our needs change. At the end of the day, as long as we pay attention to these needs, that’s the best we can do for ourselves.”
As always, we asked Sima to recommend some salons she visits to recharge herself. Check out the list below, and follow Sima at @pendharkars0 on Pamperologist to read her reviews or ask questions about her experiences.
Behind the article:
Lea is Pamperologist’s Content Marketing Lead.
She’s passionate about finding a healthy balance between work and her other loves: painting, traveling, and being with family. She adores long, rejuvenating facials, and is constantly wondering if she should get bangs.
You can follow her at @e.lea.rutledge on Pamperologist.