Michelle Goñi, MD
- Board certified in Diagnostic Radiology by the American Board of Radiology
- Sub-specialist in Musculoskeletal Radiology
- Teleradiologist for over 16 years
Dr. Goñi was raised in Long Island, New York. She attended Boston College where she completed her pre-medical studies and received a BA in English. She attended medical school and completed her Diagnostic Radiology residency in Puerto Rico. In 2005, she completed a fellowship in Musculoskeletal Radiology at the University of Miami. Since then, she has worked as a Teleradiologist from her home office in Miami, Florida.
When she is not working, Dr. Goñi enjoys spending time with her husband and three sons, traveling, getting together with friends, and exercising. She is an avid Peloton user. She has a growing interest in real estate investing and hopes to write a book one day.
- MD: Universidad Central del Caribe, School of Medicine — Bayamón, PR
- Diagnostic Radiology Residency: University of Puerto Rico — San Juan, PR
- Musculoskeletal Radiology Fellowship — University of Miami — Miami, FL
Radiologist Dr. Michelle Goñi talks about growing up as a Latina in New York, why she chose radiology, her Peloton obsession, her spiritual side, and more.
- The running of the bulls in Pamplona
- Her father’s parenting style and his role in her career path
- Her struggles with her Latina identity
- Coping with her father’s death and bombing the MCATs
- Her initial steps into radiology
- Why she chose her field
- Juggling a career and a family
- The pros and cons of working from home
- Why she loves her Peloton bike and the Peloton community
- Her gratitude journal
- Why Doctorpedia appeals to her
- “[My mom] says that I’ve always said I wanted to be a doctor. We had no physicians, no medical professionals in our family. I was the first one. No female leadership roles either. So why I jumped to that I don’t know, but that was the one constant, that I always said I wanted to be a doctor.”
- “My dad was actually a priest, before he had me, obviously. So he didn’t come over to the States to New York, actually, til [his] early 40s, and in the late 60s, there was a mass exodus of the clergy.”
- “I remember that [my father and I] sat down and he said, ‘What do you want to do? What do you want to be?’ There were not many of those conversations. And I said, ‘I want to be a writer.’ I really loved to write. And he said, ‘Nope. Doctor or lawyer. Doctor or lawyer.’”
- “There’s some validity to respect and to authority, you know what I mean? And I truly believe that there’s a lot of problems today because our kids sometimes don’t have that respect that we had at the time, growing up.”
- “People who really appreciate radiology know that without radiology in medicine, a lot of things can not be done.”
- “Peloton has been great for me and especially the other thing that has been great [is that] there’s a lot of groups in Peloton. We have a physician moms Peloton group. So what’s great is that you ride with all these women across the United States and you have never met them, but you know them, we have a Facebook group and you get to know them and their struggles. That’s really the biggest thing that I love about the Peloton, it’s really community-based.”
- “I truly believe you can be grateful for something, at least one thing, every day. It’s so easy to get ourselves into the negativity and the negative chatter and the anxiety and you can get consumed by all of it.”
You have to find the joy. Life's not easy and it's not going to be a walk in the park every day and you really have to find it. It's an active process
Michelle Goñi, MD
Radiology is like a puzzle, you just get some clinical history and then you have to figure out what the patient has.
Michelle Goñi, MD
That's what I love about Doctorpedia. It's very user-friendly. I can see any of my friends or family looking on it and understanding it, and I feel good about it, because it is vetted by physicians.
Michelle Goñi, MD
Daniel Lobell: (00:00)
This podcast or any written material derived from its transcripts represents the opinions of the medical professional being interviewed. The content here is for informational purposes only, and should not be taken as medical advice since every person is unique. Please consult your healthcare professional for any personal or civic needs.
Daniel Lobell: (00:34)
Welcome to the Doctorpedia podcast. I’m your host, Daniel Lobell, and I’m so honored to have on the line with me today, Dr. Michelle Goñi, how are you?
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (00:44)
I’m good Daniel, how are you?
Daniel Lobell: (00:46)
Good, and before the broadcast, I was practicing saying your name with the proper emphasis. Did I get it close?
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (00:53)
You did, you did a very good job, actually.
Daniel Lobell: (00:57)
You mentioned that it’s Spanish, right?
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (01:01)
Yeah. So my last name is Spanish. My dad was from Spain, from Pamplona. You might know the North of Spain, Pamplona is where they do the running of the bulls. You might know that once a year, they do that there. And that’s his last name, when he came over to the United States. Very hard at the time to get that “ñ.” The Spanish accent “ñ.” So growing up most of the time I was just “Goni.” But yes, that is the correct pronunciation. And that’s the correct last name.
Daniel Lobell: (01:42)
So happy I got it right!
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (01:42)
He would be very happy. He would be very proud of you.
Daniel Lobell: (01:46)
Did he ever do the running of the bulls?
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (01:48)
He did not actually run. We actually went, maybe around ’95, my family and we watched it and we did see some bull fighting, but we did not actually participate in the run.
Daniel Lobell: (02:06)
I understand that it’s pretty dangerous. People actually get killed in the running of the bulls.
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (02:09)
Oh yes. Very dangerous actually. And especially when people that usually get killed are the ones that don’t have the experience with it, or have been maybe drinking the night before and don’t have the correct reflexes to respond to when there’s a bull coming after you. So yes.
Daniel Lobell: (02:29)
I’d be down to do like the walking of the cows, I think that’s more my place.
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (02:32)
Yeah, [laughs] exactly! I think I would agree with you on that.
Daniel Lobell: (02:39)
At some point I might be like, “Ah, this is too dangerous. You could step in something.”
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (02:42)
Yeah. I don’t think I would be egging on any cow or bull or anything like that. [Both laugh]
Daniel Lobell: (02:53)
I’m really excited to talk to you about your specialty, about radiology. And you’re the second radiologist that I’ll have spoken to on this podcast. But before we get into that, I always like to ask the doctors a little bit about themselves, about their childhood, about how they grew up and sort of what kind of inspired you to go into medicine. So I’ll let you pick where you want to start with that.
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (03:17)
Okay. So I was born in Brooklyn, New York. I actually stayed there till I was five and then we moved to Long Island, which I think you’re from there, correct?
Daniel Lobell: (03:29)
Correct! What part?
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (03:32)
We lived in Malvern. It’s a small town on the South shore.
Daniel Lobell: (03:37)
I know it.
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (03:37)
You do? Okay. So then —
Daniel Lobell: (03:43)
Not well, but I know it. I’ve been there.
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (03:44)
And most of the time I grew up in Valley Stream for the most part, because that’s where I went to school.
Daniel Lobell: (03:51)
Yeah. Valley Stream is right near where I grew up. Long Beach. Same train line.
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (03:56)
Yes, exactly. Valley Stream is the first stop on the Long Island railroad. So I was on the side shore. That’s basically where I grew up after five years old. And then I went to college in Boston, Boston college and then went on to medical school. From what my mom recalls, she says that I’ve always said I wanted to be a doctor. That’s really what reasoning, I can’t give you a really exciting story because she just said one day I said I want to be a doctor. We had no physicians, no medical professionals in our family. I was the first one. No female leadership roles either. So why I jumped to that I don’t know, but that was the one constant, that I always said I wanted to be a doctor.
Daniel Lobell: (04:54)
Pretty interesting then, that it seems you don’t even know where it came from.
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (04:59)
No. And I know at the time I did want to be a pediatrician, that’s a doctor that cares for children. Babysitting was one of my earliest jobs. Back in the day – I’m Generation X – you babysat at like the age of 12 and that was one of your jobs. So maybe that’s why I liked kids. I didn’t do it at the end, but I always liked kids. My dad came from Spain, like I said originally, but he didn’t come to the United States until he was in his early 40s. That’s kind of an interesting sidetrack story, but my dad was actually a priest, before he had me, obviously. So he didn’t come over to the States to New York, actually, til early 40s, and in the late 60s, there was a mass exodus of the clergy. Like how priests can’t get married and things like that.
Daniel Lobell: (05:55)
He got swooped up in the 60s, huh? He was just like “Free love, man!” Throwing off the collar, going to America to live a life of sin!
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (06:06)
Exactly! Life of sin. So then he went to Brooklyn and he left and that’s where he met my mom. Growing up, it was a very strict upbringing. I was the first daughter of three girls and he was 19 years older than my mom. So a very ethnic mentality in the setting of “Whatever you do, your sisters are going to do” and “You have to be the role model,” and this, and I don’t know how you were raised, but by one look of what he did, you knew how you were with him. [Daniel chuckles]
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (06:53)
There was not much else. And his mentality was coming to the stage. He just worked 7 days a week. Really, that’s all I knew. He worked 7 days a week. He was an assistant principal in a school in Brooklyn and also on the weekend, he was a self-taught pianist. For the cathedral in Rockwell center. I don’t know if you knew it, but he would run the choir and he would play weddings and funerals and things like that. So basically that’s all I knew of my dad. And his main thing was education, education, education. So he instilled that in us. No beads were allowed in the house.
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (07:40)
And I remember one conversation with him, cause he has since passed, but I remember one conversation with him that we sat down and he said, “What do you want to do? What do you want to be?” There were not many of those conversations. And I said, “I want to be a writer.” I really loved to write. Just creative prose writing. And he said, “Nope!” [Both laugh] “No writing, no money, no writing. No, you can’t be a writer.” And I said, “No, but that’s what I like!” And he’s like, “Nope. Doctor or lawyer. Doctor or lawyer.” [Michelle laughs] “That’s where the money is.” And I said, “Okay then, I guess I won’t do that.”
Daniel Lobell: (08:15)
Wow, you listened to him.
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (08:15)
I did. That’s what I always tell my kids. There was always that little fear factor with my dad. At times he was extreme and you should only take the positive, right? To your kids now, from what you learned. But that fear, sometimes that was there with him. But you did learn to respect and you always had that in the background of your head, like that little voice in your head. And he did instill that in me, that education was the most important. So that’s what I continued on that path. And it just helps to not deviate me off that track.
Daniel Lobell: (09:05)
Pretty wild story. And your dad seems like he was really an impressive guy.
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (09:10)
He was. He was what I would describe as like a self-taught Renaissance man. He was very smart, he spoke mostly Spanish in the house. So that’s why we learned – for me, he’d tell me “You have to learn three languages. You have to take French in high school.” Because at school you would have to pick a language. And I’m like, “No, at least let me learn Spanish because I don’t know it!” And “No, no, you have to be trilingual!” You know, that kind of pressure. The good thing is he always forced the Spanish in the house. So even if we were saying it completely, terribly wrong, he would enjoy it because it was torture for us. [Michelle laughs] And you know, it was worth us to speak it and he would speak it with my mom. So we always heard it. We always understood it. But our speaking, it wasn’t up to par.
Daniel Lobell: (10:06)
So did you grow up around the Latino community?
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (10:12)
No. We had nobody outside of the home that spoke Spanish with us. So my accent in Spanish was not good at all. I didn’t speak well at all. But I understood it. At my high school actually, there was one other Latino boy that was in my classes with me and that was it. And I just knew he was Latino because he had a Latino last name, but otherwise we didn’t have that. So I didn’t ever feel really that I was part of that group culturally, except what I saw in my home.
Daniel Lobell: (11:03)
You were really more Brooklyn than anything else I suppose.
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (11:06)
Daniel Lobell: (11:06)
Or Valley Stream. I’m not sure. One of those. [Daniel chuckles]
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (11:10)
Queens, I guess we should say, Queens. But yeah. And later on I would learn more culture, aware of my culture, I should say. And I’ll be honest with you. I probably had some shame in it, because you know, growing up in the 80s, you only saw negative on TV. It wasn’t a lot of positivity with Latinos, especially with Puerto Ricans. My mom, like I said, was Puerto Rican. So you didn’t really see much. You saw a lot of crime and then they blamed it on, it was a Puerto Rican or something and I kinda didn’t want to be associated with that. And in high school, you hear all those ethnic slurs and they associate it to you. So you really started feeling bad. And high school’s already a tough place, and then you start hearing all these negative things. So you kind of didn’t want to be associated with it. And I know that sounds privileged and it is. And I learned later, I guess, in a situation when I went to medical school in Puerto Rico actually, and you learn that —
Daniel Lobell: (12:20)
Well, I wanna hear all about that, but go on.
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (12:23)
So actually that’s when I embraced the culture more, which, you always find the lessons in every life journey, right? And that’s probably what it was. So when I went to Boston college, again, it was the same thing. All my friends were not Latinos. It’s not because I forcibly chose it, but because those were not my crowd. I guess we were the minority obviously. And Latinos at college at the time were very European Latinos or South American Latinos. So I wasn’t raised that way. And then, I mean, this is another side story, but my dad got really sick when I was a junior in college and long story short, he passed away that year. And that’s when you start applying, you take your MCAT, which is the exam to get into medical school. I started applying to medical school.
Daniel Lobell: (13:22)
That must have been so tough for you. I’m so sorry about that.
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (13:22)
Oh, it’s so hard, especially that my dad passed on a Holy Thursday and, you know, in the Catholic church, you can’t be buried on those holy days. So he was not buried until like Monday after Easter. And then that Saturday next was not only my 21st birthday, but it was the day that I was supposed to sit for my MCAT for the first time. So basically I was not going to go, I was going to just say, a lot of my friends are like, “Don’t do it, don’t do it. Just move on. It’s okay. You don’t have to abide by everything the upbringing of your dad and go education, education, you could let it go.” But my mom was like, “No, just do it. You should just do it.”
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (14:06)
So I sat for it, which, hindsight in 2020, I definitely should not have sat for it. I could have waited a year or whatever. I bombed it. I did really bad on it. And later that year, which would be then the summer, let’s say of that junior year, my mom lost her job. It was a really tough time. And then I have two younger sisters, so then my mom is a widow, recently widowed. She has no job. She’s 50, like 51 at the time. And she’s like, “How am I going to apply for any jobs now, competing with 20 year olds, 30 year olds?” And then I have children to raise. So that was a really hard time. And then I said, “You know what?”
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (14:55)
“I bombed my MCAT. I’m going to go home. I have to work. There’s no choice right now.” There was no money coming in to the house. So I went back home after senior year. So I worked to that year as a receptionist. I literally made $25,000 that year. And I thought I was a millionaire because coming out of college, making 25,000 dollars, you think you’re making so much money.
Daniel Lobell: (15:18)
Right. [Daniel chuckles]
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (15:19)
[Michelle chuckles] And I was so proud, my mom was able to get on her feet again. And she found somebody, an angel who gave her a job. And I was able to fix things in my house, whatever, the washing machine, have things settled and obviously feel, and actually mourn the loss of my father, which I had not done that previous year, I put it off because I was strong and I was powerful and I was Wonder Woman. And I was invincible and nothing was going to bring me down.
Daniel Lobell: (15:53)
It’s quite a story. And I’m just going to interject for a second. For people I’m sure who have taken the MCATs and bombed, and maybe listening to this right now. I think it’s a kind of encouraging story to say, “Look, you can brush yourself off and get up and do it again. And go on to be very successful.”
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (16:12)
Yeah, for sure. And you can also put it off and it’s not going to be the end of the world either. So then I applied that year and I got wait-listed in some programs, but then I got into some programs. My mom’s aunt who was in Puerto Rico, she said, “Hey, why didn’t you apply here?” And I was like, “No, finally, I said, I’m home. I want to be with my family. I have to heal and all those things.” But that’s where I got into. And it’s part of the United States. So it wasn’t like a foreign thing. We didn’t have to like retest or anything like that to get back into the United States. But I wasn’t ready to leave. You know what I mean? But again, my mom just said, “Hey, if this is what you want, you have to keep going. You gotta get moving.”
Daniel Lobell: (16:59)
Part of the success of your story is that you listened to your parents. I think, as I’m listening to this, that’s resonating a lot.
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (17:06)
Yeah. And I do believe that. Like, you should always take — my dad was very, very, very strict, but obviously I can’t leave my kids that strict, but you definitely, there’s some validity to the respect and to authority, you know what I mean? And I truly believe that there’s a lot of problems today because we do not know our kids sometimes don’t have that respect that we had at the time, growing up. But yeah, so my mom just pushed me forward and I said, okay. And so then, tying this all into the culture, I got there. And so I was the “Americana” and I was the girl who had showed up speaking more English than Spanish. And as you make friends, it was funny because they would go around the group and like, obviously slangs in different languages.
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (17:58)
You do not understand if you’re a literal thinker, right. Learning the language. And they would go around the group and tell jokes, and then they would all look at me like “Did you get it?” And I was like, “No, I didn’t understand.” Like, it went right over my head because I didn’t dominate the language, but the books were in English and the tests were in English, but the classes were in Spanish. So, you know what, when I got there, I said, “I have to dominate this language. I have to.” And I would listen to music in Spanish. I would listen to TV in Spanish. Everything I would force myself.
Daniel Lobell: (18:32)
And it must’ve completely transformed your perception of your heritage, because you mentioned before this negative feeling that you had about it.
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (18:44)
Yeah. So I became immersed in the language and the culture, much more than I had growing up. And I mean the food, the music, the everything. And, yeah, so that became part of my life. And it was a good thing because I was able to learn something that I hadn’t. Obviously my mom, a hundred percent, and it’s part of me, so —
Daniel Lobell: (19:10)
Yeah, it’s like a story of embracing your identity at the same time as becoming your own person in another place. And it’s kind of an interesting resurgence in your life story, you know?
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (19:24)
Yeah. And everything has its time. At the moment I wasn’t surrounded by things, and I only would see negative. And that’s why my dad, going back to that, my dad was just a principal in Brooklyn and he was in a very low-income, poor area and it was a public school. So imagine I was the oldest of three girls, coming back too long. He saw teen pregnancy, he saw bullying. He saw kids not coming back because they were shot. He saw all that. So he wanted to protect us, right? That’s why he was being more strict. All that negativity he didn’t want around us. And you have to learn from it too.
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (20:08)
And then make your own choices and make your own decisions on what you’re going to take into your own culture. And yeah, going to Puerto Rico was a big thing for me, going back to my roots and my mom’s roots. And then I stayed there to do my radiology residency actually. And that’s where I met my husband, in the hospital. And then we eventually came to Miami. So he’s Cuban. And so when we came from Miami I needed to do a fellowship, I did my fellowship in musculoskeletal radiology, at a hospital here at University of Miami. And then, then we saved.
Daniel Lobell: (20:47)
Now the Miami part makes sense because you married a Cuban.
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (20:52)
I always say that. My husband had said, “I really want to go back to New York. I want to go back to New York.” Except for the weather. I was like, no. I would give him the weather for New York. I didn’t want any more cold winters. And he’s like, no, because he speaks more Spanish than English. And so he’s like, “No, I have to be in Miami. That’s where they speak Spanish.” Like buddy, everybody in New York speaks Spanish.
Daniel Lobell: (21:17)
I love the Cuban community in Miami. I’ve been out there a few times. It’s so much fun. The old guys that roll the cigars on the sidewalk and the dancing at night, it’s so much fun.
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (21:30)
It’s great. And they meet every morning to have a coffee at the local coffee shop, and pastries. It’s really great. And there’s a lot of ethnicity here, big in Miami too. So my husband is Cuban and he actually didn’t leave Cuba till later in life as well. So it’s almost like my dad’s story, right? He actually grew up in communist Cuba, like very strict communist Cuba. So he didn’t learn English. They had to learn Russian. So that’s why his English is just okay. He has a thick accent. But yeah, so we stayed here and that’s our story to Miami. We haven’t left since.
Daniel Lobell: (22:23)
So, all right. We gotta shift gears a little bit because this story is fantastic, but I have to get into the medical stuff.
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (22:30)
I know we have to.
Daniel Lobell: (22:30)
I know, I feel like we’re both kind of dodging around it, cause this is such a fun — the exposition is just so much fun here, but why radiology? Let’s start there. Why did you choose that?
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (22:42)
So again, it’s not going to be an exciting story. Because in medical school, we don’t rotate through radiology until third year, at least my medical school did. I think a lot of that hasn’t changed. And I only had one week exposure. So I would lie to you and tell you I loved it the minute I saw it, but that’s a big lie. I didn’t understand it. I knew what it was, I understood what it was, radiology, but I did not understand it when they would put up CT scans or an x-ray, I did not understand it. Rotated through my clinical years, realized that I didn’t really want the pediatrics, which was early on, but I had thought I was going to be a pediatrician. And I did know that I wanted something that I could have a life as well.
Daniel Lobell: (23:35)
I didn’t think I wanted to be a surgeon only because I wasn’t going to be in the hospital since early in the morning and leave late at night. I don’t know why. I can’t tell you why. That’s just something I knew. And then at the end, when it came down to choosing, I said, “Well, radiology fits some things, I like to be inquisitive. I’m a very curious person, I like to ask a lot of questions.” Radiology is like a puzzle, you just get some clinical history and then you have to figure out what the patient has. I also liked pathology, probably for the same reason. Both of them [Michelle laughs] have to be a little isolated right? To their little rooms.
Daniel Lobell: (24:19)
I don’t know what that is. The second one that you mentioned.
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (24:21)
Oh, pathology? Pathology is basically the person that’s — so when you have tissue, let’s say you do a biopsy, and then they put it onto the microscope and they’ll tell you what it is. Like is it lymphoma? Is it skin cancer? So they’ll determine the name, the diagnosis of the tissue.
Daniel Lobell: (24:41)
So it’s not just a bunch of liars.
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (24:45)
[Michelle laughs] [Daniel chuckles] No, it’s not. So they go and they study the tissue. So they’re also in their room and they’re kind of like a radiologist, they’re in their room, sometimes alone, sometimes not. And they’re investigating, you know, they’re figuring out something. So why did I not pick pathology over radiology? I don’t know. And actually I was happy that it turned out that way. Because I went into radiology not knowing exactly — I wasn’t like, “Oh my gosh, my dad or my mom or my uncle, or I love this.” I didn’t know. And I wound up loving it even more because I realized that I really did like it. And I could figure it out and it did fit into what I wanted.
Daniel Lobell: (25:41)
Can we talk a little bit about what you like about it? I know you mentioned that you can go into a different room, but more than that.
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (25:48)
Oh yeah. Well, you’re in your own, well, I personally do teleradiology but we’ll talk about that later. Which is basically I’m home. I work from home. But usually you have to dictate cases, you have to interpret images. And you have to talk usually into a handheld device or a desk mic, a microphone, and you’re dictating what you’re seeing. And then you’re sending the reports off in cyberspace to an emergency room or a clinician. And so you kind of need your own space for that, so that the noise is not bothering you. It’s not getting in, interrupting the microphone and background noise. They kind of have to be in your own space. And so that was your original question about the space?
Daniel Lobell: (26:48)
Yeah. Also just, what is it you like about it? More than the space.
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (26:52)
Oh, what is it? So you get a clinical history and it’s like, “Pain.” So it’s up to you, the radiologist, to look at that CAT scan or x-ray or ultrasound and say what the patient has. So it’s very empowering. You’re really part of the team and the clinician needs you, the patient needs you. People who really appreciate radiology know that without radiology in medicine, a lot of things can not be done. A lot of surgeries cannot be done or avoided. If there’s a kid and rule out appendicitis and I see the CAT scan and there’s no appendicitis, you’re making that judgment and you’re helping the surgeon decide if he’s going to send him home, discharged home or give the patient antibiotics, or actually do the surgery. So you’re really integral in the team, in the clinical team.
Daniel Lobell: (27:52)
It’s a big responsibility too. Like you have to make that tough judgment call.
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (27:57)
Right. So that’s what I really do like about it. I also like that — I mean, for me personally, from when I finished my fellowship, I went in to do teleradiology. Teleradiology is basically doing radiology via obviously the internet, but you don’t have to be in-house, you don’t have to be in a hospital doing it. So I started working with a company that provided my computers and the whole IT, the the technical aspects. They would call the doctors for me if I needed a doctor, but I could do it from home.
Daniel Lobell: (28:36)
So yeah, this part is really fascinating. And when I was researching you a little bit, I was like, “I gotta get into this!” Because everybody loves a work at home job. How does it work exactly? I know you’re kind of touching on it, but what are the specifics? How does it work and why aren’t all radiologists working at home, if you can.
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (28:58)
[Michelle chuckles] I know, a lot of people have shifted that way, but, yeah, so basically you need an internet line obviously, and you need high resolution computers and monitors to be able to see the x-rays, in a good capacity. You also need some sort of a dictation system, either transcriptionist, which is what I grew up with, I should say, like how I trained. But now there’s computer systems that you can just talk into the computer and it will literally write out your words for you. And then you will hit a button and it forms a report for you. And then it goes through the internet, through cyberspace, and goes into the emergency room or the clinician or the outpatient facility and your report is basically available immediately for the clinician.
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (29:55)
That’s really all you need to be able to provide that service. And you do need in-house radiologists as well, because you have other procedures. Like radiology is also involved for scopic exams, like doing upper GI series or doing other studies or interventional procedures or biopsies, like mammographers, for mammograms and let’s say cancers, and you need people to do that. So some people do need to be in house. Does everything like just reading overnight studies or emergency studies, do you all have to be in house? Absolutely not.
Daniel Lobell: (30:37)
What’s funny to me is that you like the idea of being in this separate room and they were like, “Let me take this to the extreme. I’ll leave the whole building.”
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (30:47)
[Michelle laughs] I know. I call it my cave. I like to be in my cave. [Both laugh] That’s all I know, too. So that’s my story. Because that’s all I knew. I knew the other part of me was, I wanted to raise a family, and I wasn’t sure how I could do that, driving to maybe, I don’t know, 30 minutes away, 10 minutes away, an hour away. Like I wasn’t sure. And remember the added-on for me is that I don’t have family here. So we were kind of alone with my husband and I, and then raising kids. I didn’t know I was going to do it. I know I’m a super woman. [Michelle chuckles]
Daniel Lobell: (31:27)
I’m picturing you with a vacuum in one hand and doing a scan with the other.
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (31:35)
[Both chuckle] With a Dictaphone in the other hand. I’m telling you, that’s how I felt sometimes. Because again, another added-on, another thing, I wasn’t raised with nannies and that whole nanny world, but the reality is, and what I’ve come to learn after many years of suffering and struggling is, you do need help. And it’s okay to say you need help. And to reach out to either other moms or other people or the nanny agency. So you do need help. So at the time I didn’t, so that’s why I took this job. I said “Well, at least I’ll be home. So if a kid is sick, at least I can be home too.
Daniel Lobell: (32:15)
There’s a doctor in the house.
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (32:15)
Exactly, literally. So it’s something that that worked for me, but it’s not all roses and all good times either because you realize like my whole thing was, “I will sacrifice myself” because my first job was working full nights. So I would work 10 at night Eastern to 8:00 in the morning. So I would literally work all night, getting scans and interpreting studies. And then the next day “leave,” because I’m not a good day sleeper, so try your best to sleep. But my whole logic was, “I will sacrifice.” The kids, I would drop them off in preschool and then come home and sleep. And then —
Daniel Lobell: (33:09)
All this child thing, you really feel like you got to carry everything.
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (33:14)
Exactly. So when you do that, you realize, yeah, you’re the only one sacrificing. My kids didn’t even know for years that I worked and then worked at home and then, “Oh, mommy, mommy works on a computer,” for years and years, they didn’t know. Dad leaves the house and dad is the one who works because he leaves. But then it really puts a toll on you because that whole sleep schedule and that pattern, you know, I would do it seven nights on, seven nights off. So it was really hard. And it put a toll on me, like later on, I kind of burnt out a little bit, but I did it. And you live and learn and, and it was what was needed for my family at the time.
Daniel Lobell: (34:00)
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (34:01)
And that’s really all I’ve known, cause that’s all I’ve done. [Michelle laughs]
Daniel Lobell: (34:07)
You could do the running with the bulls, come on. [Daniel laughs]
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (34:10)
I know. I should, right? I think I could handle it.
Daniel Lobell: (34:13)
I think you can.
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (34:13)
And then I shifted hours. So it’s like more of a day job. And now I’m working a little bit more in the day. So that’s how I got here. [Michelle laughs]
Daniel Lobell: (34:25)
Do you feel isolated? Do you miss the human interaction?
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (34:29)
There were times for sure that I did, especially when I was working that seven days, seven on seven off. Because some days, the truth is I would not even see the light of day. And that really puts an impact on me. I would go to bed, maybe I would wake up and I would get out of work at like 8 in the morning or something, so I would see that light coming in through a window, but then I would go to bed and then I wouldn’t. Maybe it was 5 or 6 and it was dark already.
Daniel Lobell: (35:01)
Did your kids think you were a depressive, sleeping in all the time?
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (35:06)
[Michelle laughs] They knew that I was going, my friends knew that I was in the cave and basically I had very little at a time. Like I knew that week I was more irritable. It’s not sustainable to live, to sleep on that cycle. It’s not normal, right?
Daniel Lobell: (35:28)
You’re like Batgirl. You’re working from your cave and nobody sees you and you’re saving lives.
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (35:33)
And then they just knew you just couldn’t do any more than what was asked of me. Like I couldn’t handle any more. But then the next week when you’re off, you love it. Because your day’s off. And you got a lot done, but —
Daniel Lobell: (35:51)
Do you build a relationship with your patients like that, or do you not even have any interface with them at all?
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (35:58)
No, not at all. And you do miss that. Cause where I trained, we were very hands-on, so we would do the ultrasounds, so I do miss that and I tend to be a social person, so I do, but I think I also need to be recharged. There’s that extrovert introvert thing. I kind of do need the moments of recharging and I go into my cave, so to speak, again. And I do like the quiet. But you can’t be in the cave all the time. At least me, you know what I mean? I need, like you say, socializing, I need to get out, but I don’t interact with patients. No.
Daniel Lobell: (36:42)
So in your cave. I understand you also have a Peloton and you’re a big fan of the Peloton. [Michelle laughs] I have one being delivered to my house in — yeah, I’ve got my intel. I’ve got one coming to the house in two days. I’m pretty excited. Two days till my Peloton shows up!
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (37:00)
You’re going to have to tell me later what made you decide, and we can ride together. I love my Peloton. I grew up, I danced for almost 15 years. And that was my extent of my exercise. Went to college, didn’t really exercise.
Daniel Lobell: (37:20)
What kind of dancing did you do?
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (37:20)
Oh, I did tap and jazz from when I was 5 till I was 14 or so. And then through high school, I was on the — I don’t even know if you remember, kickline in Long Island? It was big. And you weren’t the cheerleaders, you were with the halftime shows at the football game. Then you competed in Long Island. And I was in the Macy’s Day parade.
Daniel Lobell: (37:49)
You were in the Macy’s Day parade? Get outta here. That’s amazing. [Michelle laughs]
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (37:54)
It was the year that it snowed, I think it was ’89, and it was the year that it snowed. It was so cold. It was horrible. But yes, I did.
Daniel Lobell: (38:03)
I’m going to have to send you one of my — I just put out a comic book. I put out autobiographical comic books. And I just put one out about the time that I snuck into the parade and did the parade.
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (38:13)
No way! Get out. Yeah, send it to me.
Daniel Lobell: (38:18)
For the listeners, you can get it at fairenoughcomic.com. Plug plug. But anyway, go on.
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (38:23)
That’s funny. So then college, no exercise really. I was always saying, I was like, “Yeah, I don’t have to do this.” And then medical school, I got into exercising. I got into weightlifting mostly. Not like bodybuilding weightlifting, but weightlifting, doing that. And then like four years ago, four or five years ago, I was like, “Damn, I don’t even run a mile. I don’t do any cardio.” You have to start doing some cardio in your life. And I was like, “But I’m opposite. I don’t need a trainer for the weights. I need a trainer for cardio because I don’t like it.” So I saw this Peloton and I said, “Oh wow, they’re yelling at you. And it’s telling you what to do. That’s what I mean!”
Daniel Lobell: (39:13)
You grew up with that. That’s your dad. [Daniel laughs]
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (39:16)
Exactly. Thank you. You learn quickly. So at the end of 2016, I got the Peloton and it’s been great. And I also have the treadmill now, too. I got that early 2019. I love it.
Daniel Lobell: (39:34)
You’re an expert quarantiner, you’ve been quarantining for years. COVID-19 must’ve been nothing for you. [Michelle laughs]
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (39:43)
People would say like, “Oh my God, this is so annoying.” Honestly, the only thing we do miss is, my husband and I would go out to dinner like once a week. And he’s a foodie. That’s the only thing we did miss. Because otherwise I’m like, “This is my life, this is what I do all the time!” I don’t have anything else. So yes, I’m an expert. But yeah, so Peloton has been great for me and especially the other thing that has been great – and maybe you’ll find your community too – so there’s a lot of groups in Peloton. Like, I don’t know, dads, moms, whatever, and each instructor has their own like group following, but we have a physician moms Peloton group. So what’s great is that you ride with all these women across the United States and you have never met them, but you know them, we have a Facebook group and you get to know them and their struggles.
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (40:46)
And I mean struggles from from cancer, divorce, things like that, or the celebrating of the positive things, and we motivate each other. You know, “Hey guys, I need somebody to ride with me at 4:00 today because I really need inspiration.” And “I’m having a hard time” or “This happened to me in clinic today” and you’ll get the community and that’s really the biggest thing that I love about the Peloton, it’s really community-based.
Daniel Lobell: (41:16)
That’s so cool.
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (41:16)
Yeah, it’s super cool. And we’ve actually gone to New York to the studio three times to do like what they call the home rider invasion. So like the groups will go and they’ll take over the whole studio and ride with the instructors live. We couldn’t go this year, obviously, but it’s a great time. So I do, and I hope you love it as much as I love it.
Daniel Lobell: (41:46)
Yeah. And listening to you talk about all these things, your life sounds like a lot of fun between the dancing and the Peloton-ing and going out, and by the way, I want to come to Miami and get a coffee with your husband in the Cuban section. That’s on my list.
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (42:03)
You can. Oh, and a cigar. If you smoke cigars, my husband will be very happy.
Daniel Lobell: (42:09)
And obviously you’re invited as well. Just because he’s Cuban, I really — [Daniel laughs]
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (42:15)
[Michelle laughs] I’m okay to let him go. [Daniel laughs] I’m inviting you to — [Both laugh], We are a very I Love Lucy kind of family, so I’m okay with letting him go.
Daniel Lobell: (42:31)
[Daniel laughs] But I will definitely ride with you on the Peloton as soon as mine comes. I’m looking you up.
Daniel Lobell: (42:41)
We talked a little bit about exercise just now. Are there any other things you do to monitor your own health?
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (42:48)
Besides that, I try to eat as best I can. I don’t love the kitchen secret, but I can survive. I can cook and survive. I kind of say, “I eat to live. I don’t live to eat.” So my husband lives to eat, but I do try to eat as healthy as possible. During these months of quarantine, it has been kind of hard and we’ve kind of not eaten our best, but besides exercise, I also do – I think a part of health is body, mind, and soul. Obviously the body I already described what I do. Mind-wise, I like to listen to podcasts or read some — I’m very into spirituality and energy. And I like to listen to those things or read on that. That can keep me grounded. I also like to keep a gratitude journal. I actually just got a new one. It kind of keeps everything in perspective to me.
Daniel Lobell: (44:00)
Tell me about the gratitude journal. Can you tell the listeners a little bit about that?
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (44:06)
Basically, I try to find something positive. I truly believe you can be grateful for something, at least one thing, every day. And it’s so easy to get ourselves into the negativity and the negative chatter and the anxiety and you can get consumed by all of it and fall down that rabbit hole really fast. And I just started doing this last year. I just jot down something that was positive that day or more than one thing, if I can, you know, to remind myself and to keep myself in perspective and to keep life in perspective. That there are good things. You just have to find them. And I taught my boys that too. Like you may have to find the happy sometimes.
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (45:01)
You have to find the joy. Life’s not easy and it’s not going to be a walk in the park every day and you really have to find it. It’s an active process, just like working on anxiety or working on whatever. You have to work, it’s active. So that’s what I do. I write down something I’m grateful for, and then sometimes I’ll reflect on that or I will reflect on something that I want, something greater, but it’s something out in the universe, like that energy out in the universe, something that I want to see happen, and that’s basically what I do with that. I mean, not anything formal, it’s just jotting things down.
Daniel Lobell: (45:43)
Yeah. That sounds really positive and really healthy, which is what we’re [Daniel laughs] bringing us back to, what you can do for your health.
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (45:50)
It’s just too easy to get bogged down in the negative.
Daniel Lobell: (45:56)
And that negativity can really impact your health in a negative way, too, right? The mental and the physical and the spiritual, it’s all connected.
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (46:05)
It is. And then once you start that, it’s just hard to get out of that. And that’s what I kind of like, it’s active because I’m trying to force myself to do it. And then it gets easier obviously, but at the beginning, it’s work, you know. So I do that. And then I guess also, for health wise and the soul, I kind of feed the soul, my family. I like to get reconnected with my family and friends. I think that’s a big part of staying healthy as well. We personally, our family likes to travel, especially in the summers and the winter, which we haven’t been able to do, but, that’s kind of when we reconnect. My kids are off in sports and so we’re never really home at the same time.
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (46:51)
Or get together with friends and especially like-minded people that you can just release and vent and not in a nonjudgmental way, and feel good and it’s just too much. Sometimes, especially women, they get burnt out easily because they don’t have a venue, they take everything on the house, the marriage, the kids and this, their job, and they don’t have a way of just releasing. And they find it weakness if they do. Painful, if they do. To talk about divorce or to talk about other things that you just bring the shame factor in, and then you bottle it up and you keep it inside and it just eats at you and it’s not healthy, so you need to release it. We really need to work on that. Because I think another thing that helps is establishing good friendships and really valuing them — watering the garden, as they say. You also have to water the garden on friendships. And that’s all part of health. Being alone is hard. And isolation, and that’s why now with the pandemic, a lot of people are feeling those emotions even more than normal.
Daniel Lobell: (48:19)
I think that’s great advice. You recently joined Doctorpedia as a founding medical partner. Now, you’re no stranger to doing medicine over the internet. How do you think that Doctorpedia could best assist the online health space?
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (48:35)
For me, when I read about it and heard about it, I really liked the fact that it’s vetted by physicians. So the information you’re getting is provided by physicians, and so many times I hear friends or family, or even my husband, who’s also a physician and internist, he hears from his patients, “I had Dr. Google or doctor this or doctor that.” You know, it’s great for go online. We have that wonderful source for all of us. I mean, we all search the web all the time, but we need science-based information. And sometimes when you go looking for science-based information, it’s too complicated, and a lay person will not want to read all that and the statistics and the percentages. And so that’s what I loved about Doctorpedia. It’s very user-friendly. I can see any of my friends or family looking on that and understanding it, and I feel good about it, because it is vetted by physicians. And I know they’re going to get good information, valid information. So that’s what I really liked about it. And that’s why I decided to proceed and, and be part of the group.
Daniel Lobell: (49:56)
So I imagine you’re going to be working with the radiology channel at Doctorpedia. Are there any ideas that you hope to bring to the channel or plans for the future?
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (50:07)
I know you’ve interviewed Dr. Walled already, but that’s when I have to speak less by that. I personally would love to share just basic radiology.
Daniel Lobell: (50:18)
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (50:18)
I’ve been a radiologist since 2004, and I can still tell you to this day that people still ask me “What do radiologists do?” And they still think that I’m the tech who takes the image. And it was the funniest thing when I first moved to Miami and I said I worked from home, but I’m a radiologist, people would be like, “But how do you do that? How do you take those images at your house?” [Daniel chuckles] Like to that level, you know?
Daniel Lobell: (50:49)
I didn’t know until I talked to Dr. Doug.
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (50:49)
Yeah, exactly. But then flip it and say, have you ever had an x-ray, have you ever had an ultrasound? Have you ever had a CAT scan? So people know what that is, but they don’t know that we’re the ones who actually interpret the images. So I would love to have something I can talk to him about that. Can we just make it basic, before we jump to anything more complicated, just so people really know what radiology is. And that’s where I was about to start.
Daniel Lobell: (51:19)
Well, you are a great interpreter and [both laugh] somebody who learned an entire other language and [both laugh] had to [both chuckle] basically interpret what to do with your father passing away and being there for your mother and for your family, and that whole story about having to redo the MCATs. And I mean, it seems like you’ve done a lot of interpreting in your life and you’ve made some great interpretations to get you to this point. Just even figuring out how to raise a family and work at home as a doctor, I think it suits you that you’re an interpreter. And I really, really enjoyed speaking to you on the podcast and I can’t wait to come to Miami or see you on the Peloton.
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (52:18)
I would love for you to!
Daniel Lobell: (52:18)
Yeah. We gotta get you out of the house!
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (52:21)
Save my number, [both laughing] let me know. That’s funny. That’s exactly true. It’s never here for real. I mean, when we can travel again, let me know, and we would love to show you around.
Daniel Lobell: (52:35)
Awesome. Thank you so much. And I appreciate you being on the show.
Dr. Michelle Goñi: (52:40)
And thank you for your time as well.
Daniel Lobell: (52:49)
This podcast, or any written material derived from its transcripts represents the opinions of the medical professional being interviewed. The content here is for informational purposes only, and should not be taken as medical advice since every person is unique. Please consult your healthcare professional for any personal or specific needs.