Dr. Sangwan, CEO and founder of Intuitive Intelligence, is an internal medicine physician, international speaker and corporate communication expert. Her private practice and corporate consulting focuses on empowering individuals, organizational leaders, and their teams with the tools for clear, effective communication. She addresses the root cause of stress, miscommunication, and interpersonal conflict, often healing chronic conditions such as headaches, insomnia, anxiety, and depression.
She regularly consults with organizations such as the American Heart Association, American Express, Kaiser Permanente, and Google, and has shared her keynote presentation on the stages of TEDx.
I’m a first-generation American. My parents moved to the United States from India in search of a higher education and better opportunities for their children. My father is a mechanical engineer. My mother is a research biochemist who thought she had missed her calling to be a surgeon. For this reason, I grew up believing there were only two career choices: engineering or medicine. As soon as I figured out they weren’t mutually exclusive, I knew what had to be done. Yes, it’s true. I have an undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering and a graduate degree in Medicine. Don’t be too impressed.
It just means I’m a good Indian child.
I earned my Bachelor of Science in Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering from Michigan State University. I worked as a manufacturing engineer for Motorola before attending medical school at State University of New York at Buffalo (SUNY at Buffalo). I completed my Internal Medicine residency training at Temple University Hospital and subsequently became board certified.
As a dedicated Internal Medicine physician, I was so focused on other people’s health and doing what was expected, I rarely paid attention to what my own body was saying. My official diagnosis: a classic case of people pleasing.
For more than a decade, I regularly worked 36-hour shifts and saw up to 18 hospitalized patients a day. Instead of acknowledging my headaches, throat constriction, insomnia and physical exhaustion as warning signals, I silently fumed, becoming increasingly impatient, stressed and irritated. Like a dutiful daughter, I powered through shift after shift, fueled by caffeine, sugar and a fear of failure. Eventually the grueling pace, erratic sleep schedule and blatant disregard for my own physical, mental and emotional well-being led to burnout.
My first reactions were shock and disbelief. Someone other than me had to be at fault. My boss? My colleagues? The healthcare system? I wanted to blame others, but it was time to ask myself:
When I finally accepted responsibility for my part in the situation…everything changed. Reflecting back, I realized I had not been honest with myself. I regularly said yes to taking extra shifts when I should have said no and allowed myself to rest. Ironically, I regularly advised my patients about the importance of good nutrition and sleep. Yet somehow I cared more about being perceived as a team player than I did about my own health and well-being.
When my body forced me to slow down, I began to journal. It was through this writing and self reflection that I finally heard the voice of my own heart. I discovered it wasn’t being a physician that was making me unhappy, it was my inability to communicate clearly with myself and others that had created the stress that led to my burnout.
Through my own struggles, I recognized that my physical symptoms (headaches, throat constriction and insomnia) were directly linked to my inability to communicate. I love using the science of medicine to help people, but I have come to realize it is the art of medicine that transforms a physician into a healer.
Once I had this epiphany, I awakened to my true calling.
By combining the art of communication with the science of medicine, I began to teach people how to interpret their body’s signals so that they could ask the right questions in order to reduce stress and increase health and vitality.
I began my teaching career as faculty at Kaiser Permanente’s Northern California Physician Education and Development team, delivering innovative workshops to integrate physicians and nurses into cohesive, productive teams within their high stress environments. I had the honor of being published in General Surgery News (June 2010) for transforming a 20-year entrenched operating room culture to one of clear communication, increased productivity, and employee engagement.
I have now developed a comprehensive employee accountability program called the i-Five Experience that connects the dots between job satisfaction, health and performance. Since 2008, I have expanded my work to include speaking engagements and corporate programs at Facebook, eBay, American Express, and Google’s “Optimize Your Life” series. I was featured talking about “The Communication Cure” at TEDx Berkeley and “The Community Cure” at TEDx San Luis Obispo. Most recently, I’ve compiled my greatest life and communication lessons into my first book, TalkRx: Five Steps To Honest Conversations that Create Connection, Health and Happiness. I’m so glad you’ve become a part of this journey.
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