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Farzanna S. Haffizulla, MD, FACP
Private Practice, General Internal Medicine & Women's Health,
2014-15 President, American Medical Women's Association
Cleveland Clinic Florida and Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Ohio
University of Miami Miller School of Medicine
If anyone has earned the right to add "expert on work/life
balance" to her CV, it is Dr. Farzanna Haffizulla, wife and mother
of four, internist, author, entrepreneur, health correspondent,
leader, teacher, and motivational speaker.
Raising a family and building a career is a challenging
endeavor, especially for working mothers who are still shouldering
much of the work in managing households. The good news, however, is
that effective parenting skills translate well to the workplace. In
her book, Harmony of the Spheres: Career, Family and
Community, Dr. Haffizulla cites a Clark University study that
found that parents committed to family life "excelled at tasks that
embodied effective managers: multitasking, handling and managing
stress, and negotiating with difficult employees."
Dr. Haffizulla's prescription for staying focused and energized
in her career and her role as a mother of four is about motivation,
focus, and strategy. "It's truly about your mindset," says Dr.
Haffizulla, "if you are doing something that is also your passion
you will have boundless energy." She also stays clearly focused on
her priorities (family is #1), and uses every tool, method and
resource available to maximize the use of her time.
"It's been a fantastic, exciting, 500-mile an hour journey,"
says Dr. Haffizulla; exciting and fast-paced, perhaps, but not
haphazard. By enlisting help from others, designing a career with a
flexible schedule, and optimizing the use of technology, planning
tools, and organizational strategies she has charted a course for a
life she describes as "rewarding and empowering."
Path to Medicine
Dr. Haffizulla's path to a career in medicine began when she was
just four years old growing up in Trinidad, the Caribbean island
situated just off the coast of Venezuela, where her mother, a
charge nurse at the San Fernando General Hospital, would often
bring her along while working the night shift on the pediatric
ward. While her mother made her rounds, checking IVs and incubators
of tiny patients, young Farzanna would leave her crayons at the
nurse's station and make her way into the rooms of the older
children to tell them stories and offer them a reprieve from
sickness and loneliness. "I wanted to do in some way what I saw my
mother doing," says Dr. Haffizulla, "I wanted to help and
When her family left Trinidad and moved to Florida, Dr.
Haffizulla was a 14-year-old honors student who had a knack for
science and math. A school administrator in Orlando, after
examining her transcripts, thought she might be ready to begin
college; however, the family decided it best to place her in 11th
grade so she could acclimate to her new environment and
At sixteen, she entered the University of Central Florida where
she graduated summa cum laude with a degree in Molecular Biology
and Microbiology. As a first-year medical student at the University
of Miami Miller School of Medicine, she met and married fellow
medical student, Jason Haffizulla. The couple's first child,
daughter Zarina, was born at the end of their third year and four
years later, while completing their internal medicine residencies
at Cleveland Clinic Florida, Dr. Haffizulla gave birth to their
second daughter, Anisa.
When asked if it was hard being pregnant and caring for an
infant while managing the mental and physical demands of medical
school rotations and residency, Dr. Haffizulla responds with a
resounding, "Absolutely!" But she was young, determined to succeed,
and had help from those closest to her.
If it takes a village to raise a child, it must take a city to
raise four and Dr. Haffizulla is quick to acknowledge help she
received from those she loves. "I married the right man," says Dr.
Haffizulla. "My husband is not only a great parenting partner, he
has been my best source of support and encouragement." Her in-laws
kept a roof over their heads during the early years, helped with
childcare, and gave the couple a start in her father-in-law's
medical practice where her husband, an internist, still practices
And she credits her own parents as excellent role models who
taught her the value of hard work and caring about the needs of
others. "Nurses in Trinidad are truly the first responders," says
Dr. Haffizulla, "my mother is comfortable taking charge and
delegating, and my father, a math teacher and businessman, is an
empowered individual—highly organized and just a natural
While others deserve their rightful credit, make no mistake, Dr.
Haffizulla is a tour de force all her own. She has a boundless
source of energy, is highly organized, and has a unique set of
skills that combine her love of science and instinct for
After practicing five years with her husband and father-in-law,
Dr. Haffizulla chose to open her own concierge, Internal Medicine
hybrid private practice. "I wanted a more flexible schedule and to
spend more time with my patients," she says. She also wanted to
achieve her vision of a paperless office and provide patients with
a mix of care options, including office visits, house calls and
In her work and household, Dr. Haffizulla is an expert planner
who maintains calendars, uses flow charts, and admits that one of
her greatest skills is her ability to view the components of her
multi-layered life as a kind of holographic image from which she
can spot opportunities, areas that overlap, and how one strategic
move can accomplish several goals. "My mind works in a different
way," she admits, "I like to organize my tasks in terms of their
commonality, almost like a Venn diagram."
She enjoys coaching students and offers them strategic career
advice: "It's never too early to start networking and building
bridges; You are an ambassador to yourself, so be very careful how
you present yourself in social media; Continue developing your
skills; and most importantly, Discover what you like best and find
a way to do it. There is no one-size-fits-all career
Dr. Haffizulla's own career is as broad and diverse as the field
of internal medicine. In addition to her clinical practice, she is
currently serving as the 2014-15 national president of the American
Medical Women's Association (AMWA) where one of her goals is to
improve the synergy among health care and professional
organizations, including a collaborative project she is working on
with ACP. She is the author of two books, Harmony of the
Spheres: Career, Family and Community and Lead with your
Heart: A Doctor's Rx for Personal and Professional Success,
and the on-camera show host and medical correspondent for the
nationwide health program, Mission Critical Health.
She manages a work/life balance website www.BusyMomMD.com, teaches Honors
Organic Chemistry to pre-med seniors at American Heritage School
and is an Affiliate Clinical Assistant Professor of Biomedical
Science at the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine at Florida
Atlantic University. She also serves as Voluntary Assistant
Professor of Medicine at the University of Miami and is a primary
scientific board member of Shulman Institutional Review Board for
to right, Dr. Jason Haffizulla, Dr. Farzanna Haffizulla; Middle,
left to right, Anisa (11), Zarina(15), Nadia (9),and Front, Adam
Dr. Haffizulla has earned several awards including the
Volunteerism and Community Service award from the Florida Chapter
of the ACP, a Quality First Award from the Florida Heath Care
Coalition, and a Leading Physician of the World Award from The
International Association of Healthcare Professionals. She was also
selected as an "Outstanding Woman in Healthcare" and "Woman of
Outstanding Leadership" by the International Women's Leadership
Like their parents, the Haffizulla children enjoy learning, are
goal oriented, and have their own share of awards. In addition to
their scholastic achievements, they play musical instruments and
practice martial arts. "As a family we like to travel, play board
games, and we are all foodies in our house," says Dr. Haffizulla.
"I love to cook, my husband tends our vegetable garden, and all of
us love being in the kitchen and cooking a meal together."
Achievements are impressive and awards are always nice, but it
is quite clear-Dr. Haffizulla's number one priority is creating a
legacy for her children. "As a parent, you're the living example
for your children. You can talk to them all day long, but if you
don't put your words into action it is worth nothing." In
Harmony of the Spheres, she recalls her own mother's
influence, "I saw how important my mother's work was to her. It
taught me the values of compassion, industriousness, and
responsibility. It defined for me the ideal and power of the
Compassion, industriousness, and responsibility-values being
passed from one generation to the next-are a working mother's
legacy, a valuable resource for the community, and a gift to us
October 2014 Issue of IMpact
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