I met Dr. Sylvia Richey first as a fellow mom for our sons’ regional tennis team, and admired her. I learned later about her career as a doctor, and respected her. Now we are longtime friends, and I am inspired by her ability to balance the roles of mother and professional with success and grace.
Sylvia has been a member of the team of Hematology Oncology specialists at The West Clinic since 2005, and beyond being an accomplished physician, she also finds time for outreach through her service on the board of directors at the Greater Memphis YWCA. As a devoted wife and mother to four children, as well, her schedule makes us wonder how she does it; her perseverance and style inspire us all!
It is with great pleasure that StyleBlueprint introduces you to our FACE of Memphis, Sylvia Richey!
Where did you grow up? If not Memphis, what brought you here?
I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama. I came to Memphis for fellowship training in Hematology/Medical Oncology at The University of Tennessee Health Science Center in 2000.
What led you to become a doctor, and then specifically oncology in the Memphis area?
I don’t really remember ever wanting to do anything else. I originally wanted to be a pediatrician and worked in my pediatrician’s office during high school. Once I started doing my clinical rotations, I had some great experiences in internal medicine and knew that was the direction I wanted to go. While in residency, I had a wonderful mentor on my oncology rotation, and he really encouraged me to pursue a fellowship. When I was choosing a fellowship, we actually had family in Memphis; that really helped solidify the decision. Six months later, our family got transferred and then we had no family here! But the program itself was more clinically-oriented than others I considered, and that is what attracted me to the fellowship in Memphis.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
Definitely meeting and interacting with my patients. They are from all walks of life, have fantastic life stories and are all so courageous.
What unique outreach or research projects related to oncology are you involved with currently?
Our practice is developing the first truly comprehensive adult cancer center in the mid-South. All of the components are here for world-class cancer care, but currently the parts are disjointed. We are pulling all of these pieces together to optimize care for the patients.
The patients you work with face life-changing obstacles. What inspires you to keep going when the physical and sentimental challenges of your work as a doctor set in?
I am there to fight for my patients. Often times it is not easy, and with the changes in healthcare, it is becoming more difficult. The desire for survival from every patient is more than enough to make me want to do my best every day.
Do you have a few words of wisdom (aka free advice) you can offer based on your professional experience, i.e., life lessons that would benefit other women health-wise and/or lifestyle-wise?
Life is busy. We are more “connected” now than ever, and it is very difficult to escape and have time for yourself. If you don’t have quiet time then you become unable to focus on any one task, and as a result become very ineffective. Stress also weakens your immune system and makes you more likely to become physically ill.
Who influences you most as a doctor, mom and individual? Why?
My colleagues at work inspire me every day. I work with such fantastic, compassionate people who inspire me to always do my best. I have so many great friends who inspire me as a mother. We are all in this together for our children, and we all learn from each other. Being a mom is definitely the most difficult role I have, and it helps to have people who care about you to consult with when making choices for your children.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
The best professional advice I have ever received came from the mentor I had in Birmingham who encouraged me to go into oncology. He said, “Sylvia, remember you will have hundreds of patients at a time, but they only have one doctor.” That simply stressed to me the importance of doing your best for every patient. They are counting on you.
What advice do you have about balancing the demands of home and career?
You’re known among colleagues and your patients to be a devoted physician. Your friends know you to be equally committed as a mom. A recent family photo project exemplifies your hands-on approach to being a mother. I think our readers would love to hear about this project.
Yes, one of my goals this year is to take a picture of each child, every day, no matter how casual the setting. We will have 365 images of each child, so they can look back and see what their life was like, every day in 2013.
What do you love most about living in Memphis?
The fact that it has a small-town feel with all of the big-city advantages.
Do you have a favorite guilty pleasure?
Good red wine!
If there’s one place in the world you’d suggest someone visit, where would that be?
I don’t know that I would suggest it for a vacation, but I have had the opportunity to visit Dubai and it is one of the most fascinating places you can imagine.
Do have a first-choice restaurant for date night? A tasty and reliable restaurant for dinner with family?
Restaurant Iris for date night; Brooklyn Bridge Italian for family.
What books are you reading, or have you most enjoyed reading lately? Do you prefer e-books or good, old-fashioned paper?
Definitely paper. I rarely have time to read for pleasure, so if I have the time, I prefer looking at home magazines or “pop culture” magazines. It relaxes me to just sit and look at pictures. I was an art history major in college, so I think the magazines are filling my right-brain needs.
Are there any light-hearted things could you not live without?
Morning coffee, my iPhone and ponytail holder.
Is there a beauty product you can’t imagine not using?
My NARS lip gloss.
Thank you, Sylvia! For more information about Sylvia, as well as The West Clinic, visit this website address: www.westclinic.com.
Today’s beautiful photographs are from Casey Hilder. To see more of his work, visit his website: caseyhilder.com.