Listen to my recent appearance on the ‘On The Brink’ podcast here.

You 3.0 has become a regular feature of this blog. This month, I interviewed Valencia; her story follows.

When Valencia was a child, she had a dream that she would travel the world when she grew up and teach people the secrets of the universe. Today, in what she calls Act III, she has found her calling as a Functional Medicine doctor helping women overcome stress and burnout.

For Valencia, Act I began in high school when she decided to become a physician in her senior year. While she did not have any medical role models, she was always interested in the body and yet had a sense, even then, that heart and soul were critical elements to health. 

She wanted to go to Harvard. Her parents made enough money to raise six children in a middle-class home, too much money for Valencia to get a loan for college, and not enough, in their opinion, to pay for college, so she was on her own. In her words, “I went to a poor quality high school on the south side of Chicago, and while graduating in the top ten, Harvard wasn’t an option because I had no visible support or guidance to help me navigate the process.”

“I ended up going to the University of Illinois, Circle Campus, a commuter college because the school recruited at our high school, and I was able to get a scholarship and work my way through.”

Once at U of I, Circle Campus, Valencia decided she had wasted too much time in high school and was going to graduate college in three years. She mapped out her program and took it to her U of I Honors Program counselor to review it with him. The counselor’s response was “young lady; you are taking too many classes; young lady, you won’t be able to graduate in 3 years; young lady you won’t be able to get into medical school, there is too much competition.”

On her way out the door, Valencia said to herself, “I’ll show you.” “This counselor was her motivation.

Then, after seeing her test and grade scores, Harvard started sending her letters asking her to apply to their medical school. The tuition was $15,000, which seemed like a fortune. She took the letters to her parents, and they refused to help. She was young and naive, and without role models or advisors, it never occurred to her to ask Harvard for the money.

“U of I College of Medicine encouraged me to apply early decision, still angry with my parents, and more determined than ever, I enrolled at U of I once again. I went back to my counselor for the first time since that initial meeting to show him my early decision acceptance letter to the medical school – which literally left him speechless. Mission accomplished!”

Valencia went on to become an eye surgeon, complete her residency at the University of Chicago, and then a fellowship at the Kresge Eye Institute. She opened her Ophthalmology practice in 1991.

In 2007, she started having similar dreams to those she had as a child and inspired by President Barack Obama, and his boldness (he was a patient at the time) sold her practice. 

Thus began Act II. “I thought Act II was going to be like Act I, said Valencia. Act I was a slam dunk. Don’t get me wrong, I had to do the work, but the doors keep opening.”

“Act II was the hardest thing I’ve ever done—extreme personal growth. I found myself hopping around, collecting pieces, and ultimately learning what is worth fighting for. Several times I contemplated going back to Ophthalmology. It took me nearly ten years of trying to teach the ‘secrets of the universe’ to the business community, as a coach and speaker, to realize something was missing.”

2014 – 2017 were transition years for Valencia.

“2014 came in, and I realized it was time to stop. I felt as though the rug was pulled out from under me, again feeling intense personal and spiritual upheaval, I took a breath.”

Then in 2017, she and her husband moved to California to be near their son, who was in college, and fulfill a long-time dream of hers.

“In 2018, I finally found the missing piece, the body. I had given up the body in Act II and was unfulfilled. In 2016, I started hearing about functional medicine. I ignored it at first until, through striking synchronicity, I met Dr. Jacobson. Within less than two months, I had a business set up in functional medicine and had enrolled in the intensive yearlong medical training at the Institute of Functional Medicine. I opened my doors, January 1, 2019, in Walnut Creek, CA. My niche is helping busy women to overcome stress and burnout, stop annoying symptoms without scary drugs, and experience greater vitality, connection, and confidence.”

At age 60, this is the last act. I have finally pulled all the pieces of this journey together – mind, body, and spirit.”

I asked Valencia to share what she learned from her transitions; without hesitation, she shared these three:  

  1. Buckle up and be very serious about doing your personal development work – this is what saved me during the difficult times of Act II, my ability to be conscious of my emotions and skill set – to develop emotional resiliency.
  2. Search inside yourself to make sure you have a clear WHY – for me, I was clear, I wasn’t doing it for the money or recognition – more to do with being on purpose and knowing it.
  3. Slow down, listen to your intuition, be mindful of how you are spending money on your mission. Act II was hard on my purse – I so wanted to cross the finish line, I kept looking for help to get where I wanted to be, I should have paused. 

Finally, Valencia, shared, whatever journey you choose to go on, if your heart is in it, you will make it; people can feel the heart. 

Let’s work together. You can learn more about my leadership and transition coaching as well as my peer advisory boards here.

Share this story