Balancing the demands of our professional and personal life has always been difficult, but in the middle of a pandemic, when we are all taking on new hats, it’s even harder. As internal medicine doctors and nurses fight the symptoms of COVID-19 on the frontlines, psychologists, psychotherapists, and mental health professionals are trying to keep everyone else afloat. Part of this cohort is Dr. Delvena Thomas, a Black entrepreneur and CEO who founded DRT Behavioral Services. She’s a board-certified doctor of psychiatry and neurology, and an advocate for wellness. Her desire to join the medical field came when her second-oldest brother was hospitalized for two years due to a spinal cord tumor in high school. Due to this, she spent a substantial amount of time in the hospital, watching doctors perform their duties.
Her big heart, passion for helping others and her business acumen have allowed her to thrive in this industry. In fact, she says she loves every part of the business: managing, directing, mentoring, you name it. Starting her own company was born out of a frustration with the injustices Black women face in the workforce. She wanted to change that—and did.
She took the time to discuss relevant topics with The Ladders:
What are the trends you see within your industry currently?
Virtual healthcare is the most significant trend currently because of the pandemic. As a healthcare provider, I am always seeking ways to provide my patients with services to improve their health. Before the pandemic, insurance companies would not reimburse healthcare providers for virtual sessions, whether if conducted via video or telephone. Since the safety of the population has become a top priority, that has since changed. The industry is seeing a significant shift and realizing that virtual healthcare is effective. Patients have more access to care, including a larger pool of providers they can select from.
How would you describe your company culture?
Our company and office culture are filled with positivity. That is who we are and what we do! Everything builds on positivity. We make it a priority to check our own mood, so our environment interactions reflect positivity.
What can a job applicant do to catch your attention? What stands out the most to you?
If someone is interested in being a part of the DRT Behavioral Services team but has a lot of negative energy, they would not be a good fit. To be an excellent fit for the team, positivity, a team player attitude, reciprocity, and the heart for helping others are critical assets that need to be brought to the table. They must also have a true passion for mental wellness. One word: authenticity. They should live by their teachings, walk the walk and talk the talk.
What’s the most challenging part of being a leader/manager? What’s the best part?
The most challenging part of being a leader or manager is juggling multiple things. As the CEO, I am involved in all aspects of how my business is run, which is what I prefer. At times, the learning curve can be steep, especially when entering unfamiliar territory. In addition, I am multitasking to manage my personal life, assist my team and patients in managing their own as well as their careers.
The best part of the business is making my own schedule and paying myself what I am worth. I can be as busy as I want or as relaxed as I want, depending on what my current goals are. While I set my schedule, setting my own pay rate feels good. I do not have to worry about someone else telling me what they think I’m worth.
What’s your advice for tackling big projects at a company-wide level?
Delegation, delegation, delegation! It’s essential to hire people who are just as great as you are. Having specialists who are talented at what they do helps you bring the vision to life. Your team should be skilled, competent, and trustworthy. The best way to tackle big projects at a company-wide level is to have qualified, dependable individuals who you can confidently delegate duties to and trust that they will be completed accordingly and timely.
How do you keep your staff motivated? How do you motivate yourself?
Food is a way to a person’s heart. I keep my staff motivated by feeding them—ha! I foster a family environment by incorporating team lunches and dinners as well. We indulge in recreational activities like car racing, simulated sky diving, attend movies together. We also travel together as a team. Our best trip so far has been our trip to Orlando. We spent a weekend in the area and visited fun theme parks, ate great food, and hung out in an Airbnb playing games and just talking to one another. We also keep each other motivated by sharing information, especially about future life goals and finances. The stock market is a hot topic in our office. We’ve all created accounts on different platforms and share different picks we’ve selected in the market. Financial literacy motivates all of us!
I have a passion for helping others, but I also know that I can’t pour from an empty cup. I motivate myself by making sure I take care of myself physically, mentally, and emotionally. I love traveling, exercising, and learning new information. This allows me to impact the lives of others while sharing further information I learn.
How do you find a balance between work and life demands?
I find my greatest balance by scheduling everything. I must keep a running schedule to make sure I’m meeting all my goals. I also have assistance. I have virtual assistants and an office manager at my practice. I understand that I cannot do everything alone and have people who assist me in other endeavors, especially considering the number of projects I’m involved in.
I also balance work and life by having fun. It cannot be all about work and no play! Before COVID-19, my balance was travel. Since COVID-19, I haven’t been able to do that, but I find balance by spending time with my Boo, working on small projects, reading, and writing.
What are some of the challenges you have faced as a POC in this industry?
In every industry being Black and a woman has always been a challenge. My race poses unnecessary limitations, primarily financial. Companies try to pay you less to do the same job.
How do you feel about the current climate in America right now in regards to race? Is it changing your work culture?
In America’s current climate, it’s necessary to call everyone’s attention to the disparities across all realms of Black life, not just in healthcare but also in our justice system, especially the killings of Black men and women at the hands of law enforcement officers. I have hope that the current climate regarding race will improve. It seems White Americans are now educating themselves and trying to be more open and receptive to the feelings and perceptions of minorities in America.
Regarding our work culture, the current climate in America has not changed. My office is unapologetically Black. When our patients book our services and come to our office, they know that. It is rare.