Burnout Recovery

Special 010: Andrew Lustig ND, humanitarian aid in Ukraine

November 10, 2022 Dex Randall, Andrew Lustig Episode 0
Burnout Recovery
Special 010: Andrew Lustig ND, humanitarian aid in Ukraine
Show Notes Transcript

Andrew Lustig ND left being CEO of a media corporation in NYC to found Global Outreach Doctors, sending teams to offer humanitarian medical support on the frontline in Ukraine,  and other humanitarian crises across the world.

Hear Andrew's journey, what took him on this courageous new life course and his experiences in disaster zones over the years.

Andrew talks about life and what matters to him, as well as his experience of burnout.

Please support Andrew's work supplying medical aid in Ukraine and other world humanitarian crises by charitable donatation at:
Global Outreach Doctors
Andrew Lustig

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Hi everyone, my name is Dex Randall, and this is the Burnout To Leadership Podcast, where I teach professional men to recover from burnout and get back to passion and reward at work. Hello, my friends, Dex here, and today I am very, very happy to be doing a special interview with Andrew Lustig, who's a humanitarian naturopathic doctor, currently I think working with teams on the frontline in Ukraine, and he's also the founder of Global Outreach Doctors. And Andrew's provided medical care for the last 16 years in disaster zones and poverty conditions, areas of great stress in remote regions of the world. He's also worked with death row inmates at New Mexico State Penitentiary and been a fundraiser for the Maasai people of Kenya, amongst other things. And all of this comes on the back of being a CEO for a media corporation in New York for 20 years. So I think it's a fascinating transition. I'm very interested in the size of the leaps Andrew has made and why he's made them and what his experiences are of that, and those enormously challenging circumstances where he's worked. So welcome Andrew to the Burnout To Leadership Podcast. Pleasure. Thank you for having me, Dex. Lovely to speak with you. And would you like to add or correct anything from my intro of you? Anything pertinent? I think you've done a great job, appreciate it. Cool. So you're kind of headlining with the Ukraine at the moment. It's gotta be uppermost in your mind, if you're... IF you've got teams out there doing work there at the moment. So can you tell us a little bit about that. Let's begin there. Sure. Dex, we've completed at Global Outreach Doctors, the charity I founded, 38 missions around the globe, some in war zones, some in earthquakes, typhoons, refugee crises in the Congo, in Ethiopia, in Kenya, in Bangladesh, US COVID response. And Global Outreach Doctors, however, has never responded to a war the size of the war in Ukraine. And so by far, the war of 2022 in Ukraine is the largest conflict that we've responded to. We currently have a team on the ground, on the frontlines providing medical care to wounded soldiers and civilians. We also have brought into the country, driven from the UK, 11 ambulances. Of those 11 ambulances, four are in our direct control and the others are at hospitals around the country. Ukraine is something that's very, very close to my heart. It is a conflict where an entire country was invaded and it was a peaceful country until this happened. And I am just interested in doing my part and our team doing our part to help our brothers and sisters in Ukraine. We have also delivered in Ukraine besides medical care, $300,000 of financial support to Ukrainian hospitals, some of which have been damaged by bombs. Our teams don't deploy into the country without body armour. There are no medical teams that do not wear protection from incursion. In addition, our teams come from several locations; the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK. And primarily, we focus on acute medical care, however, we have provided medicine and primary care to civilians. Wow. It sounds extremely risky and extremely bold and courageous thing to have done. And I'm in great admiration for you when you talk about as well your speed of deployment. It doesn't sound like there was any hesitation on your part to get a team in there. And I'm hearing that you have an enormous amount of skills and experience in getting all of that together very quickly. So I think it's fantastic. But I'm very curious because you've had a very big switch in your life at one point from being a CTO to this humanitarian role and I'm keen to understand what happened there for you a little bit. How did you find that drive to do that? Dex, I was the CEO of a media company with 1000 associates around the country, and I was in the role of media executive for almost two decades, and New York City was our headquarters. At some point, I woke up at 39 or 40 years old and asked myself, "What am I doing to help humanity?" I think my mid life crisis lasted about three hours because over those couple of hours, I realized that I needed to do something to help the suffering around the world instead of watching it on television. And I didn't find a sense of purpose in delivering TV shows and we had a record company and graphics and satellite communications. It certainly provided income for myself and many people and it certainly placed me in the position I am today to run a global charity and not take any salary while doing it. So my time is about service to others, and at the time that I made the switch from CEO to then EMT, because I trained to become an EMT and work on ambulances first, then thereafter wanted to spend more time with a patient because as an EMT, your relationship with that patient lasts 20 minutes until you get them to the emergency room. At a later point, I worked in the emergency rooms where I brought these patients and I would literally change out of my EMT uniform because my shift was done and go into the hospital and put my scrubs on, and the patient would say, "Wait a second, you brought me here," and it's like, "Yes, I have a different shift now and I'm now in the hospital." However, my relationship with the patients didn't generally last long enough to sort of monitor the change and the progression to see what affect my care offered. And that's when I went to school to become a naturopathic doctor, because as an integrative provider, I could really focus on the core reason for their illness or their disease. And so now as a naturopathic doctor and as an EMT medic, I work both in the allopathic world of medical doctors, nurse practitioners, RNs, people that work in our charity Global Outreach Doctors, but I also work in the integrative care of naturopathic doctors, homeopathic doctors, acupuncturists, chiropractors and so on. So I am fortunate that I have a number of skills that I don't practice directly anymore, but that I guide others to practice in many regions around the world. Cool. For anybody who doesn't know what an EMT is, could you let us know? Sure. An EMT, often known as a medic or paramedic, there are several levels and paramedic is the highest, and they are... So an EMT is an emergency medical technician. Those are the people that work on ambulances or in emergency rooms. And I am in the middle level of those... Of the paramedic versus the EMT basic. And one other thing I wanna add to my transition is that it really felt important to be of service to others. I had achieved a lot of success, I had a lot of material rewards, and it wasn't really enough and I just felt like, in my humble opinion, we're all here to serve others and any other sentient being, whether it be animals, I live on a horse ranch with horses and dogs, or human beings. The world's a cruel place. And I'm working on a book called Kindness in A Cruel World. And I think kindness and service to others is a terribly important thing for all of us to consider, in my humble opinion. That's amazing. So you kind of went through this change in life or occupation at 39, so you must have spent quite a long time going through medical related training as well after that, or did you already have that? So later on in life, so about 40 years old, Dex, I first trained as a medic. I went to an ambulance company and I said, "I'd like to do what you folks do here," and they said, "Great, we'll put you in school." And so I went to school and I concurrently did all of the lower level jobs at the ambulance company before actually working with patients. Eventually worked with patients, eventually worked in an emergency room for a decade, and during that time was also training to become a naturopathic doctor. I had a lot of knowledge in integrative healthcare because I was living a life of a holistic healthy life. And so I had learned a lot, not so much in the training, but how to take care of your body and take care of your mind and your soul and your heart. And all of those areas contribute to good health. And that's why providing a variety of services... And acute care, you don't use a naturopathic or homeopathic medicine when you're doing CPR in a patient. So I truly believe in both, and there's a time and place for both. But I believe the ideal circumstance in anything other than very acute emergencies is to offer a variety of healing modalities so that you can offer the patient the best chance of healing. And I must admit, I'm with you on that one. Both sides of the coin. Amazing. Thank you. So it really sounds like you have spent a lot of years going through those progressive sets of training to take you to where you are. And at that time, you... What was the actual point where you just thought, "Okay, now I'm going to work with disaster medicine across the world"? Well, I thought that as I started to learn these various skills, that I would work in high need, low resource regions. And I worked in the Amazon jungle with Amazon Indians on little tiny islands that we would get to with a canoe. And I worked with other non profit, other NGOs, non government organizations, to learn how to provide services to individuals who may have never seen a doctor, or who may only see a doctor once every couple of years, to individuals that barely can survive. And so I started working in places like the Amazon jungle, Nicaragua, in other locations in Africa. And I thought that the best use of my newly acquired skills would be to help those that have no resources versus in developed countries where we have a tremendous amount of resources for a lot of the population, even the very poorest population have more resources than some of the regions that I've worked. So how did that lead then to the kind of epic adventure of starting Global Outreach Doctors? Well, after I worked for various NGOs, I thought these NGOs were either allopathic, medical doctors, nurses, physician assistants, medics, RNs, or they were homeopaths, naturopaths. And so I thought, "Well, why don't I start an NGO that offers both of those services?" and in the process of doing that also realized how important it was to offer search and rescue. And so we provide search and rescue teams that use specialized canines and the managers that run these teams are highly trained, and the dogs, the canines are highly trained. And when we deploy those assets, we are able to put the doctors on top of the rubble pile where the victim is found by our search and rescue team, thereby putting more definitive care at the point of meeting the patient. Because in some of these disaster areas, you're gonna put this patient in a wheelbarrow and push him for two hours to some location that has physicians, definitive care, surgical, and there you won't meet the golden hour, which is that one hour timeframe when you get a very acute patient to definitive care, which is a medical doctor. And so over a period of eight years, Global Outreach Doctors, and our website is globaloutreachdoctors.org, forgive me for putting that out there, globaloutreachdoctors.org, we developed relationships around the world in partnership with organizations that are local to the regions we work because we are invited to these regions if they have an earthquake, if they have a typhoon or if they have a refugee crisis. And so it was important to me to combine all of these skills under one roof, including the search and rescue, because otherwise you would have to coordinate with other agencies, which is fine, and happens all the time, but we thought we might offer all of these services. And we also offer a drone search and rescue team, which we have used in flooded areas in the United States when there is a hurricane and it's hard to access the homes, and so the drones fly in to look for potential patients. I'm still trying to get my head around the kind of hugeness of the leap you've made, not just into going to all these different areas and learning how to help people in different situations, learning how to deploy different services, but even running, logistically running and fundraising Global Outreach Doctors. That must be a pretty epic task. You brought up the hardest part, which is fundraising. We are very modestly funded. Most... We punch way above our weight. Most large NGOs can't figure out how we are doing what we are doing with the limited funding we have. And it's very difficult to do the amount of work we do with so little money. It really requires extreme effort. And we hope to solve that issue over the next couple of years. We have the resume now, Rex. We're not selling smoke and mirrors. Somebody will... A corporation will get behind us. An individual will get behind us. We'll get an application for a board of director candidate that's a rain maker. And some combination of those will allow us to bring on more full time staff to manage this. But it is an enormous task. And I'll use the Ukraine as an example.

At 3:

00 in the morning my time, it's noon over there. It means half the day is gone. So that's why my phone rings

at 3:

00 in the morning. We have great managers and my phone doesn't

ring as often at 3:

00 in the morning now, but it is an enormous task and it's... I'm dedicated to it and it is my life purpose. And coming back to your original question, one of your original questions, I wake up in the morning knowing I'm helping thousands of people. Sometimes you improve a life, sometimes you save a life. Either way, that gives me a sense of purpose. The greatest thing I've ever done in my life, by the way, just to switch gears, is to produce two beautiful children, to put two human beings along with my then wife on this planet that hopefully will continue to do good in their own fields. And so I identify myself first and foremost as a father. And my ability to run this charity isn't my medical background. I don't practice medicine. I know how it works and I know what teams we need where and I understand what they're doing. My ability comes from being a former CEO, the ability to deploy teams, to communicate, to coordinate, and frankly, not to accept no as an answer. Yeah, I bet. I wouldn't like to say no to you. I try to be really compassionate and if somebody does say no and we really want to do something, we'll try to give them a compelling reason to do it. And we'll come back to that. We'll talk about that a little bit at the end, but I mean, you brought me around to one point really, which is one of the reasons I was very keen to have you as a guest on the podcast today. I work with executive and professional men in burnout, and quite a lot of physicians as well, but a lot of those are trying to rediscover fulfillment and purpose in life, they're trying to reconnect with the things that are fundamentally important to them that they've kind of lost track of in their career, and they can be quite challenged to think about, Okay, if I'm going on from here, either in a work capacity or after retirement, where can I do good in my world? Is a question that quite often I mean sneaks up on them during the course of recovery from burnout, because one of the drivers of burnout is I'm not living my passion and I'm not feeling fulfilled and rewarded by the way that I'm contributing in this world, so sometimes they're thinking about charitable and altruistic projects, sometimes they're thinking about mentoring or how they can look after the people that they already look after better. They'll find some, reconnect with some passion in that. So, do you have any perspective on that? Because you've obviously connected in a very deep way with your apparently at least twin passions, perhaps more in your life. You know Dex some of the smartest most successful men have often said some of the same words, which are, Do what you love, do what you're good at, and it won't be work. I would say to any of your listeners that are C Suite that feel burned out, life is short, you never know when your number's up, and if you want to help people around the world because that makes you feel good ring me up, globaloutreachdoctors.org, and I'll help you get there, maybe through our organization, but also maybe referring you to others because maybe your passion is saving dogs, maybe your passion is serving food, areas that we don't focus on, but I can certainly direct you. And I think that, what's the risk? The risk is, you don't wanna jump out of an airplane if you don't know how to use the parachute, so you're looking for, What is my risk? Will I still be able to feed my family and take a chance, and I was in a position where I knew I could take care of my family and take a chance, but when I left my corporation, I didn't know what I was gonna do, and you know a lot of people wanna know what the next step is because they want an easy transition, they wanna know where they're going, because otherwise it's written more risky. So I would say that, look at your basic needs and decide really what you want to do, and decide if your basic needs are still covered while you take this risk. That's what I did. I'm not a motivational speech, a motivational coach or anything else, I just know what worked for me, and if somebody wants to reach out for any thoughts about that, and I'd be happy to speak to them, globaloutreachdoctors.org. When you... So you made a choice to leave your CEO role at media company before you chose what you're gonna do next, what was the impetus for you, what was the situation you left? Well, like the title of your show, and... So I was burnt out Dex, I had doctors tell me you're not gonna live a long life, Andrew doing whatever it is you're doing. I was getting testosterone shots, I couldn't stay awake without coffee, the lady that served coffee had to make sure she knew where I was where anywhere in that building because it was important that I be at the top of my game, and I was exhausted. And so there was a health concern, and I also didn't see my children early growing up, and my daughter whose 28, didn't see me a lot early on, but by the time I did make a transition, I could spend more time with her. And by that time, my son was born and I was starting to spend more time with them as well, so that's the other thing is my feeling is that family is incredibly important as a support system, as a reason for being on this planet, and very busy CEO's and busy executives that are not seeing their family, those children are gonna get old really fast and you're gonna miss it, and I miss some of it, and I regret that, however, it brought me to a place where I can do what I do now and spend a lot of time with my children, though they are older. That's good to hear. Thank you for sharing that, 'cause I think that's gonna be very supportive, I think, to a lot of our listeners, and I've been through the same thing, I was in a corporate career, and I crashed out in burnout had heart attack. I had a lot of health problems, I got the wake up call, I got the tap on the shoulder, and that's why I do the work that I do, because most of the clients that I work with are in extremely high achieving, but really good value big hearted people, and they have a lot to give in this world, and a lot of them do tend to surface some sort of altruistic ideas about what they would like to do in the follow up from this place, once they realize, Okay, I've hit burnout in this one it's not fulfilling me anymore, so it's very helpful, I think, to hear this from my guests when they come on as well. But I wonder them when you look back, it's good to hear about your family as well, 'cause a lot of my clients have difficulties in their families, they have difficulties in being there for their kids and being there for their partners, a lot of them have that challenging their family relationships as well, where they think they're not turning up in the way they would like to. And I think that's a really, really important part of going on recovery, just to help people re connect with the people they love and be there for them with the people that they love. So when you're thinking about your own kind of forward path from here... Well, do you ever think about what you want your legacy to be? Well, first of all, I wanna comment on how loud the knock on your door was with that heart attack, I'm familiar with what time heart attacks happened for most men over certain ages, I'm familiar with the survivability of depending on the age and health conditions of pre existing conditions for men and women. I'm fortunate that the knock on my door was not an acute myocardial infarction, but yeah, sometimes we need a real wake up call and I'm glad you're alive. Thank you. I don't think a lot sort of a legacy, I think of my time on the planet at this moment, and really with good fortune and good karma, I hope to pre decease my children. That's my goal. And I think about our charity going to the next step, we expect a transformative change, there are a number of very big things happening with the charity, and I would love to serve tens of thousands of people more, so if I was to think about legacy, would be about our charity getting to the point where we have some very senior executives that are rain makers that get us to that next step, and we're poised right now, this is the Malcolm Gladwell turning point for us. And so I think on a personal level, as far as the legacy, I want to be the best father that I possibly can. I think I'm doing a pretty good job. I hear that from my children to some degree, and that is sort of the most important that I support my family and their needs, while also supporting tens of thousands of people I've never met who live in far away places, and so I don't sort of, I have a saying that the cemetery is full of indispensable men, because sometimes my team members tell me they're the only ones that can do this job, and so I think of legacy and I think of what's gonna be on your tombstone, and I just wanna make a small difference in the world, and there's so many people that don't know if they're gonna live tomorrow because they don't have enough food or medicine, and, I wanna be there for them and I want our team to be there for them. And our Ukrainian brothers and sisters deserve our help. This is the largest crisis that I have personally experienced in my lifetime in terms of the scope and scale, and so it's a turning point for us as well in our charity because of the level of care and the amount of care we're supplying in that country. Fantastic, I know a lot of our hearts are with the Ukrainian people, and they have been struggling for quite a long time now. Dex, I wanna let you know and your listeners know that on our website are films about our work in Ukraine and images about our work in Ukraine, and I can't wave my hands fast enough and talk fast enough to tell you the stories of what we're doing, and that's why we use media to express it. My background in media has helped in terms of telling the story, but for the first time in our short history, we are telling the story in a very, very succinct way on our website, and so what I'm hoping is that some of your listeners go to our website and really see first hand, the stories of Ukraine, the news covers it real well, I see it in a way that's through the eyes of a charity, so it's a little bit different, but I wanted to offer that as well. Yes, I did watch some of your videos and I would highly recommend them. Actually, that I work for a Médecins Sans Frontières, Doctors Without Borders for a wee while, and it reminded me of the material that they put out. Yes, I would recommend people go to your website and we'll come back on that in a second. How... Before we just wrap up, I got a couple more questions, and one of them is how you feel that your humanitarian work particularly has changed you as a human? I didn't really know exactly who I was when I was running a media company, first of all, men don't grow up until the after 40, so let's just start with that. And you may not know who they are or how they feel, and how can they be compassionate to others, and of course, that's an enormous generalisation, but it was true for me... Let's just put it that way. I find that I'm an exceptionally empathic human being. I'm not putting myself on a pedestal, I just know that's part. I cry at movies regularly, I feel some of the pain of the patients that I've taken care personally, I've had people die in my arms, and I feel for people I've never met, and I am able to provide medicine in the times that I did do direct care, and do my job without crying because that's not gonna help me improve or save a life, if I can't keep control of the skills that I need to deploy, but I think what I've learned about myself is that my purpose is to help others. That includes helping myself and by helping others, I am helping myself and in feeling a sense of purpose, it just didn't come, it just didn't come with creating music videos and TV shows. It was a vehicle to get me where I am. And I don't regret my time, I might have wanted to start a little earlier, I was certainly the oldest person in the room in most of the media world because I had 23 year olds telling me what to do, and I was 39 at the time, or 40 years old so... But that's a little bit of an answer to some of your questions. And I can really relate to the not knowing who you are when you're in a business world, essentially, many of us are taught to truncate who we are and just have a little split piece of our experience, Not a whole available human experience, and I think as an empath myself that's excruciatingly painful, both parts of that, not being connected, not being fully connected with life, not actually living life, but a lot of men in burnout come to me and they have no idea who they are, they don't know what their values are, they don't know what they love doing, they don't know what's happened to their passion, they're not... It's an experience of disconnection which I find very sad, and I think burnout recovery is about refining and reconnecting with all the things that are really important. So... Yes, and that brings up this that I really feel is that the light at the end of the rainbow and I wanna let your listeners know that if you're in burnout and you separate yourself from that company like I did, and you have the same experience I did, which was six months later, Dex I was able to think about people and they would call me, people that I hadn't spoken to in years, the power that we have, once we clear out the toxicity of a very stressful corporate life, I would say, you will be... If you're an executive and you could step out of that, you will be so surprised the power you have. At this point, I'm so accustomed to it, I even use it as a shortcut, I think of a person that I haven't spoken to, they will call me probably within a day or two, and somebody that doesn't necessarily have me on their schedule, and so I would say there's an exciting part of finding out not only who you are, but in order to do that, we have to sort of clear out some of the things that are stopping those powerful abilities to manifest 'cause we all have them, in my opinion. I agree, we all have them, but a lot of us aren't trained to notice them or are trained specifically to dismiss them early in life. No question. And I think reconnecting with them for me gives me a much deeper, fuller, richer experience of life and of people and all things that I do each day. I wouldn't really be without it, even though at times it, I feel a bit tender and vulnerable with that level of openness, energy openness, I would not be without it. I think you brought up a very interesting concept of vulnerability, I'm okay, if somebody took all my clothes off and put me on the front page in the New York Times, I don't look that different than many other men, and the ultimate invulnerability as an analogy. I'm okay to cry in front of somebody, I'm okay to tell somebody, I don't know what I'm doing. Can you help me? And I really wanna emulate, and I ask our team to emulate humble and humility, I become very close with a man named Chip Conley, and Chip is a pretty well known person in the world, and he's taught me a lot and that is one thing that I've watched him do out of many that I truly want to emulate and teach others, or suggest to others. Good yeah, the one that springs to my mind, there's a guy called Newton Chan, and he's the director of health and performance at Google, and he had a mental health breakdown and had to take leave from work, and he spent a lot of time being very public, courageously public about that and going, yeah, I'm human. Here we are, and I think it takes a lot more of us to stand up and do that as a role model for other people that your full humanity is always acceptable, you can always just be you, it's so many of us feel we don't have that mission I think or we're trained, particularly professionals are trained not to have the full breadth of humanity on display at work, particularly there my thing is such a sadness. Any how... What, tell us what's next for you then, what do you got coming down the line? Well, we will continue our good work in Ukraine, we will further develop our executive leadership within the organization at some point, I would hope that somebody that has far more experience than me will leave this organization, and I hope to select that person because they can take it to the next step, and I can get out of the way, and I am sure that my background in running a media business does not qualify me to run this charity, except that I have been doing it for the last eight years, and the success is mostly based on a fair amount of luck and opportunity and some skill. But I think my next step is unsure at the moment, in terms of after global outreach doctors gets to that transformative change where will Andrew go next? And I'm excited to see what that is, but I don't know it in the same way I didn't know when I left a CEO of a media company what I was gonna do, things worked out okay, things usually will be okay. I'm glad to hear you're trusting your future in that way, leaves us so many more options on the table than if we think you know what's gonna happen. Yeah. Alright, it really has been delightful hearing from you, is there anything that's sprang into your mind today while we were talking that you would also like to mention as we are closing? What a wonderful interviewer you are, I'm so pleased to have met you, and thank you for asking all those great questions, and I think it's been a great half hour. I have really enjoyed it, but now we come to the most important bit, I think I would like you to tell the listeners how they could volunteer or how they could help or support global outreach doctors, if they would like to do that. Sure, it's very simple, you type in, globaloutreachdoctors.org in your search bar, and you will find out all about us, you will find out a way to contact us, and let's see what we can all do to improve the world, what a scary place it is right now? And I think in that direction, you're pulling a great deal of load yourself, and I very much admire all of your endeavors, and I thank you very much for coming on to share those with our listeners today. I think it's deeply inspiring story of anybody who has left what looks like a secure job to suddenly go out and help others in the world. Thank you Mr. Randal appreciate it. Thank you very much. If you're in burn out and ready to recover, come and join my Burnout to Leadership program, you can book into talk with me at burnout.dexrandall.com. Just tell me what's bugging you and let's make a plan to fix it.