Stanley Andrisse, PhD, MBA, has a remarkable story that has taken him from a prison cell to Johns Hopkins University. He knows firsthand the effects of burnout and how to overcome it. He shares his tips on avoiding burnout and how he achieves an ideal work/life balance, as well as his own amazing journey.
Stanley Andrisse, PhD, MBA is a busy man. In addition to his duties as alumni adjunct assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and assistant professor of medicine at Howard University in Washington, D.C., he’s the executive director of From Prison Cells to PhD, a nonprofit aimed at transforming the lives of people with criminal convictions through advocacy and mentoring. Oh, and he’s a new father to a baby girl.
All of these responsibilities can lead to some extremely hurried and hectic days, which unfortunately, can lead to burnout – a phenomenon from which endocrinologists are definitely not immune. But Andrisse has found a way to balance his professional and personal obligations and not just go through the motions, but thrive and inspire others. “I successfully balance more than the average academic,” Andrisse says. “I am a scientist, professor, business owner who runs a nonprofit, and a new father. I think I was asked to do this session because I successfully balance those things well.”
Endocrine News was able to catch up with Andrisse to hear a little about his incredible story and learns what drives him.
Endocrine News: Your story is quite amazing. Can you give the readers a little overview of what brought you to choosing endocrinology as your career?
Stanley Andrisse: Growing up in Ferguson, Mo., I started making poor decisions in my early teens. By my early 20’s, my poor decisions had exponentially multiplied, and I found myself sitting in front of a judge facing 20 years to life for drug trafficking charges. The prosecutor classified me as a prior and persistent career criminal and stated that I had NO hope for change. The judge sentenced me to 10 years in a maximum-security prison.
Prison was an experience like no other I had ever encountered. I found myself challenged with a strong desire to change but faced with an environment non-conducive for transformative change. From poor institutional structure and policies to individual institutionalized thinking and behaviors, I battled on an ever-reminding DAILY basis to retain and maintain my humanity.
My dad’s health plummeted while I was in prison. Through phone calls and letters, I’d hear that piece by piece, they amputated his lower limbs up to his torso. Before I could reconcile our relationship, he fell into a coma and lost his battle with type 2 diabetes. I was devastated. I transformed that into inspiration. Upon release, after several rejections, I was accepted into a PhD program, completed my PhD/MBA simultaneously, and became a medical scientist and impactful leader at Johns Hopkins Medicine doing diabetes research. Education was transformative.
EN: Tell me about balancing those two tracks.
SA: I’ve stared down some very life-threatening situations eye to eye. Why would I be afraid of a dissertation committee? Or a dual degree? When I was given the second chance, I was ready for change. I was hungry for change.
“I successfully balance more than the average academic. I am a scientist, professor, business owner who runs a nonprofit, and a new father. I think I was asked to do this session because I successfully balance those things well.” – Stanley Andrisse, PhD, MBA, adjunct assistant professor of medicine, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md.; assistant professor of medicine, Howard University, Washington, D.C.; executive director, From Prison Cells to PhD
EN: How does your endocrinology training inform your work as executive director of From Prison Cells to PhD?
SA: Many people in prison are suffering from diabetes and metabolic disease. Some studies indicate that the stress level in prison may cause higher cortisol levels similar to a pseudo Cushing’s disease. I am able to provide insights on health to our P2P program participants.
My PhD training also provides me the ability to think strategically and critically about solving problems and asking effective questions to the issues with the criminal justice system.
EN: You’re not only helping people get education, but you’re training future doctors as well. Tell me about the experience of helping shape all these minds.
SA: Training and mentoring are the absolute best part of what I do. Scientifically, I have mentored over 50 trainees, most of whom are underrepresented minorities and all of which have moved on to gaining a PhD or MD — or on their way.
In terms of my P2P program, we connect with over 100 currently and formerly incarcerated people per year. I am an intimate part of each and every one of their journeys. We’ve successfully helped over 95% move into higher education.
“I’ve stared down some very life-threatening situations eye to eye. Why would I be afraid of a dissertation committee? Or a dual degree? When I was given the second chance, I was ready for change. I was hungry for change. – Stanley Andrisse, PhD, MBA, adjunct assistant professor of medicine, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md.; assistant professor of medicine, Howard University, Washington, D.C.; executive director, From Prison Cells to PhD
EN: Congratulations on being a new father! How has that new arrival changed your daily routine?
SA: Since I am the early bird between my wife and I, I wake up in the night to care for our daughter. Fortunately, aside from the few times when she has been sick, our angel baby has slept all through the night for all 15 months of her life.
My daily routine is changed in that I work from home from 4:00 to 7:00 am to help my wife get our daughter ready for day care. I used to go into work at 4:30 am.
Although our daughter does not wake up, my body is still on call all through the night, so I am half awake. Thus, I am more tired than I used to be.
EN: If I may, have you experienced burnout yourself? Or have you known someone who has? How did you or they deal with it?
SA: I’ve felt overwhelmed at times, but not quite burnout as I have seen in some of my colleagues. I stay away from burnout by maintaining a strict fitness, diet, and mindfulness routine. I have done this most of my life as I was a college athlete. My wife and I work out together, so it doubles as “quality time” and triples as time away from the little one as our gym has a day care.
- Work-life Balance:
- (1) Self-awareness. Knowing your capacity?
- (2) Self-management. Track time. Evaluate priorities (urgent vs. important).
- (3) Decompress mechanisms. Mine is consistent exercise.
- (4) Understandings with family in advance and revisited.