President’s Message

Posted on Apr 6, 2021 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

A conversation with Joann Dominguez, MD:

As we close out Women’s History Month and celebrate Doctors’ Day, I felt it was appropriate to hear from one our female physicians. As I had previously started an interview series with members of our medical staff, this month I wanted to give some insight into Joann Dominguez, MD, one of our nocturnalists. I have always looked at night doctors as interesting people, with full lives outside of work, and have always valued them for being our guardians of patient safety while we are trying to get our zzz’s.

The following has been shortened or paraphrased in sections.

Me: Thanks for joining me today and giving up some of your valuable daylight. I wanted the opportunity to highlight your experiences as a female doctor, a member of the AAPI community, and a nocturnalist. I have a few prepared questions, but want this to go organically, so you can take it anywhere that you want.  This is meant to be insightful, but lighthearted.  But if you feel like you need to go down a dark hole, that’s ok too.

Ok, first question:  What prompted you to be a nocturnalist? Are you secretly a vampire?

Joann: Coming out of residency (working 80 hours a week with most of the daylight hours spent at work), I wanted my mornings. I wanted to know what is it like for normal people in the mornings. So I tried it out, it stuck. And I liked it. And part of me likes being alone. I love interacting with people, but I’m most productive when I am alone.

Me: When you’re not working, are you intrinsically a night owl?

Joann: No, I flip my schedule when I am off. Immediately after my last shift, I would take a short nap or stay awake, then go to sleep at night.

Me: How do you manage relationships with a night schedule, with friends, family, spouse?

Joann: When I first started, I was working a lot of nights, and I was working weekends which was hard on Peter, my partner. Then I realized I didn’t need to work that schedule. Now I have a set schedule Monday-Wednesday with an occasional Thursday.

With my son, Ben, working nights is better because I sleep when he is at school and wake up when he gets home. He falls asleep before I go to work and when I get back in the morning he’ll have just gotten up and it’s like I never left.

Me: But has he ever woken up in the middle of the night and asks “Where’s mommy?”

Joann: He knows I go to work, but it’s reassuring that I am there when he goes to bed. He has woken up in the middle of the night but dad’s home. It doesn’t faze him, it’s normal. In the beginning, it was tough, he asked “why can’t you be a normal mom?” but he’s getting the hang of it now.

Me: is it something you can do long term?

Joann: I’ve been thinking about that, it’s difficult, maybe just dropping down the number of days (that I work). I’m so comfortable now that switching to a rounding position would be so unfamiliar. Theres burnout, working nights. It’s so unpredictable, not knowing what you’re going to see and how busy you’re going to be is anxiety provoking, especially since there’s not a lot of support staff. Knowing who you work with, the nurses, the ER physicians, others who are around, can give a sense of comfort. I can trust their decisions, when they call me and give me information to help determine, hey is this really serious (speaking to teamwork!)

Me: I think you are alluding a culture of nocturnalists. Do you think that’s the case?

Joann: I think there is a culture of people who work at night. Again knowing who you work with, having a routine, how you manage or triage people are key.

Me: I’ve always looked at dedicated nocturnalists being the sentinels for the hospital, responsible for a tremendous amount of patients in the middle of the night, kind of like the Avengers, earth’s mightiest heroes (laughter ensues).

Joann: I like it the way you put it. My brother in law says “you’re just a glorified babysitter” (more laughter); he’s just forgotten how hard it is – he’s an endocrinologist.

Me: If you weren’t a doctor, what would you be?

Joann: Part of me wants to take away all the responsibility. Being a doctor is very intense, knowing that somebody’s life is depending on you. I have thought about working in a coffeeshop or a library, something calm and soothing. It may not be that way all the time, but just the total opposite of having too much on your plate.

Me: What’s your go to sustenance foodwise on shift – never mind, I know- Nutella a go go.

Joann: No. I’m one of those people that have addictions and then just stop. Right now in the hospital it’s cereal. Other than cereal, there’s nothing else that really soothes me. It used to be chocolate

Me: Sugar-y cereals?

Joann: No. It’s all fiber. It helps in other areas. (laughter)

Me: How has COVID affected you personally? Especially in family life.

Joann: In the beginning it was really hard, trying to identify people who had COVID, when to wear your PPE, thinking about bringing it home. I developed a good routine, stripping the top layer of clothing before getting into the car, then getting home and jumping into the shower. Peter (her partner) was worried. As for the rest of my family, well we don’t have family in the bay area. The last time we saw the rest of our family was over a year ago. That’s been hard.

The silver lining is that Peter got to stay at home, and we were spending more time together.

My brother in law got COVID, and was hospitalized, but in the end, he was fine. It hit close to home.

Me: How do you get your dopamine fix during the pandemic?

Joann: Running. The biggest thing is getting outside for exercise.

Me: What’s your perfect evening?

Joann: No admissions!

Me: How about at home? Or anywhere, assuming a nonpandemic world.

Joann: Traveling. I would be on a beach, just relaxing..

Me: Do you have any superpowers?

Joann: Other than being able to stay up?

Me: Are you a caffeine junkie?

Joann: No, I drink decaf.

Me: That IS a superpower.

Me: Last question, what do you think of all this anti-Asian hate going on?

Joann: You know, I look back in the past. Just looking at our family, moving from Hawaii to Massachusetts, it’s a big change. There was always a sense of being outsiders. I know that my mom had a lot of… not quite abuse, but people didn’t respect her because of her accent and who she was. It trickled down to us where they didn’t want to teach us the language (Tagalog) so we could assimilate. We felt that, we had that everywhere.  We moved a lot because we were in the military, and it felt like we just needed to suck it up.

We were surrounded by the unfamiliar and were taught to ignore it or let it slide by. But now, it’s not supposed to be normal.  I’m glad that people are standing up and it’s coming out. Hopefully it will bring a change.

Me: Thanks Joann, I think I’ve taken enough of your alone time today. You’ve been very gracious.

Joann: I hope you have a nice rest of your weekend.

And with that, I drank my coffee in preparation for my overnight shift, appreciative of what doctors like Dr. Dominguez have to do on a regular basis.

If you see her in the halls as you are coming in to get breakfast, recognize and thank her for the hard work that she has done for us over these past eight years, and wish her a safe drive home to see her son Ben and her husband Peter!


Please stop by the medical staff office to pick up these exceptionally fetching hoodies, hopefully in the size that you have specified, and show off your ABSMC pride. Thanks to the medical staff and administration!

Jeff Chen MD, MPH, FACEP
Chief of Staff, ABSMC Summit Campus

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