An Interview with Betsy Gal, Author of The Illusion of the Perfect Profession

Short Bio: Betsy Gall and her three children, Grady, Gavin, Sophie, and their dog Liberty, split their time between Charlotte, North Carolina and Minneapolis, Minnesota where she focuses on faith, family and friends. Betsy is an active real estate agent, investor, landlord and habitual remodeler.

Betsy is speaking all over the country about physician suicide after her oncologist husband, Dr. Matthew Gall, tragically and unexpectedly took his own life on Thanksgiving Day in 2019. Betsy recently wrote a book titled The Illusion of the Perfect Profession. It is a story about love, physician suicide, and finding comfort and purpose in the aftermath.

In her spare time, Betsy loves to downhill ski, spend time at her lake home, and exercise. She continues to give back to Angel Foundation and the Dr. Lorna Breen Foundation.

BETSY Gall Interview

1.If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?
Faithful. Strong. Vulnerable.

2. Betsy, your life has taken a remarkable turn with your husband’s tragic passing and your subsequent advocacy work. Can you tell us about the journey that led you to become a prominent voice in raising awareness about physician suicide?
I felt called to write about our tragic story in order to help raise awareness, so that what happened to our family doesn’t happen to another. I don’t really believe in coincidences anymore, everyone that has come into my life since Matthew’s passing, has come into it for a reason. Right after Matt died, I read a book called Why Physicians Die by Suicide by Dr. Michael Myers and that was really the turning point. I reached out to Dr. Myers, and we became friends. He asked me to speak at the American Psychiatry Association Convention in New Orleans back in 2022 after a panelist has dropped out at the last minute. Everything sort of took off from there.

3. Balancing your career as a real estate agent, investor, and landlord with your advocacy work and speaking engagements must be demanding. How do you manage to juggle these responsibilities while also prioritizing time for your family and personal well-being?
It is not easy! And I don’t always do it well- hence the late response to this questionnaire! Being a single parent isn’t easy, and juggling everything can be overwhelming at times. My faith always comes first. I have found that starting my day in prayer and being grateful helps me stay balanced. My family is also my number one priority. My kids are all so awesome but we have all worked hard on healing ourselves when it comes to our grief. We recognize that we are all four different individuals and everybody grieves differently. We continue to show each other grace. All four of us prioritize our mental health, we see our own individual therapists and we prioritize our physical well-being. We hit the gym a lot!

4. In your book, you mention discovering that physician suicide is a troubling trend. Could you elaborate on what you found during your research and why you believe this issue needs more attention?

Physicians suicide is a trend. We lose approximately a doctor a day to suicide. Almost 1,000,000 patients a year lose their doctor to suicide! Think about that number. We definitely need to bring more attention to the issue. The nation faces a projected shortage of between 37,800 and 124,000 physicians within 12 years -according to The Complexities of Physician Supply and Demand projections from 2019 to 2034, a report released by the AAMC. We all need doctors and we need them to be healthy.

5. Writing a book about such personal and challenging experiences requires a great deal of courage and vulnerability. What was the most difficult part of sharing your story, and what insights did you gain about yourself throughout the process?

The most difficult part of sharing our story came right after I finished writing the book. It hit me that I was publishing my personal thoughts and journals. I started wondering what other people would think about me. But throughout this process, I have learned that my vulnerability is my greatest strength. I can’t worry or control what others think so I just turned that one over to God. I believe that by sharing we all can gain knowledge and do better. I have learned that I am incredibly strong and I owe it all to God. My faith is my backbone.

6. It’s clear that faith, family, and friends are central to your life. How have these support systems helped you navigate through the challenges you’ve faced, both personally and professionally?

Yes, my faith, my family and my friends are central in my life. The support that I have received has been incredible. My family, my parents in particular, are just fantastic people. They are positive and faith-filled and have been by my side every step of the way. I have received so much support from my girlfriends. They swooped in right after Matt died and organized carpools and meal plans and helped me keep my head above water when I thought I may drowned. My work friends have also been wonderful. The love and support that I have received from my team at Sotheby’s has been nothing short of phenomenal.

7. Your commitment to giving back to organizations like Angel Foundation and the Dr. Lorna Breen Foundation is inspiring. What do you believe are some of the most effective ways individuals and communities can support those affected by suicide and mental health challenges?
I think we need to show people with mental health challenges more compassion. And we need to keep discussing these difficult topics. It is such a personal journey, and there is so much shame associated with it. There are tons of different ways to get give back whether it be through financial support or simply volunteering time.

8. Research shows that physician suicide is a growing concern. In your opinion, what systemic changes are needed within the medical profession to address the mental health challenges faced by healthcare professionals?

Yes, physicians suicide is a growing concern, even though it has been going on a long time. I think change needs to start in medical school. Our young doctors are taught to not show weakness of any kind. They are taught that they need to know all the answers all the time. And that’s just not possible. They are sleep deprived and it is not healthy. They are people not machines.

9. Do you have other writers in the family and friends?
I did not have any family or friends that were writers, but I have since become friends with writers on this journey! Starting with Dr. Michael Myers. Another friend of mine is Dr. Jennifer Ashton of Good Morning America. They are both very helpful and supportive.

10. Your dog, Liberty, seems to be an important part of your family. How has the companionship of pets played a role in your healing journey and in bringing joy to your life?

Oh, sweet Liberty! She passed away last month, and we are all dealing with that layer of grief as well. She was the best. Our pets show us unconditional love they are there for us no matter what. Liberty helped each of us all along our grief journey. She brought so much joy because she was so funny! She brought us many smiles, and laughs. She is greatly, greatly missed!

11. For readers who have been deeply touched by your story and are seeking support or guidance, how can they reach out to you for counseling or further assistance?

I do hear from a lot of my readers. I believe the most important thing one can do is to find a local grief group or a Suicide Support Group that can help. I tell everybody that I am not a mental health professional I am just a mom that has been touched by suicide. I urge people to find their people at church, or grief group. You need to find a good therapist, too. Finding a group specific for your needs is so important. You need to continue to take care of yourself- nobody else can do that for you. People can find me on Facebook or Instagram.

12. What advice would you offer to aspiring writers who are considering sharing their personal stories to support others and raise awareness about pressing social or mental health issues?
I urge people to share. You never know who needs your support out there. I have found that sharing is difficult because it is still painful and such a sad story. But each day that passes, it gets a little easier and truly it is therapeutic and has helped me heal.

13. Can you share any upcoming projects or initiatives you’re excited about, whether they relate to your writing, or personal interests?
Currently, I am an active real estate agent, and I’m working on several deals. I also have just completed a few renovation projects and one more is currently in the works! People have asked me to write a second book, I am thinking about it. I have always said I wouldn’t write another book until I knew I was going to have a happy ending. And now I am sure that I am! My kids are all in a really good place. And I have even found love again! I say it all the time, but this I know to be true: God is good all the time.

The Illusion of the Perfect Profession – Available on Amazon.

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