#193 How I Was Able to Transition From Physician to “Grey’s Anatomy” Producer, ft. Dr. Zoanne Clack - Passive Income MD
#193 How I Was Able to Transition From Physician to “Grey’s Anatomy” Producer, ft. Dr. Zoanne Clack
Episode #193

#193 How I Was Able to Transition From Physician to “Grey’s Anatomy” Producer, ft. Dr. Zoanne Clack

In this episode, Dr. Peter Kim interviews Dr. Zoanne Clack as she shares her remarkable journey of transitioning from being a physician to having a prominent role as a producer on “Grey’s Anatomy.” Gain valuable insights into her unique career shift and the challenges and triumphs she encountered along the way in being part of both medicine and the creative scene.

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37.33 Min • January 8

Episode Highlights

Now, let’s look at what we discussed in this episode:

  • Am I going to do this for the rest of my life? 
  • First steps into Hollywood
  • Transitioning to Grey’s Anatomy
  • Going full-time in the entertainment industry
  • Potential for doctors in the creative scene

Here’s a breakdown of how this episode unfolds.


Episode Breakdown


Am I going to do this for the rest of my life?

Zoanne shares her incredible journey on how she trained in emergency medicine at Emory University, experienced burnout during the second year of residency, pursued a fellowship in injury prevention, obtained a master’s in public health, and then eventually transitioned into writing.

She reasons how she initially planned to pursue medicine due to family influence and societal expectations. However, after questioning these goals during high school, she transitioned to Northwestern University, initially considering an entertainment career. She ultimately changed her major to communication studies and completed pre-med requirements. Despite pursuing emergency medicine and obtaining a master’s in public health, she felt disconnected from hands-on assistance and ended up considering a career in Los Angeles due to the influence of friends and the creative atmosphere.

“I just kind of got this bug… I always wanted to do that. Maybe there’s a chance that I could pursue that.” — Zoanne Clack, MD.


First steps into Hollywood

Dr. Peter continues by asking Zoanne to recall her first steps into the entertainment industry. 

She shares how she pursued various job opportunities, including an onset position for the TV show ER. Despite initially being rejected, she was later hired as a writer for a new show called Presidio Med after expressing her passion for writing during a meeting with the executive producer.

Zoanne started as a staff writer and described the experience of working in the writers’ room, where they discussed storylines, character arcs, and medical stories. She also shares her journey from learning about acting to finding her passion in writing, expressing the challenges of learning the TV industry and the emotional aspect of her career change.

“So I started writing, and I was like, oh my God, this is what I always wanted to do.”  — Zoanne Clack, MD.


Transitioning to Grey’s Anatomy

Peter goes on to ask Zoanne how she transitioned to the popular medical drama television show Grey’s Anatomy.

Zoanne recounts her experience of getting offers on House and Grey’s Anatomy. She discusses her initial skepticism about the networks and ultimately chooses the latter due to her familiarity with medical residency. Dr. Clack also covers the struggles faced by the show in its early days, including being pushed to a midseason slot and the uncertainty of its future. 

Despite all the hurdles, her story culminates in the show’s success, leading to its long-running 19-season tenure.

“I was always so happy when they didn’t know I was a doctor like they literally just brought me in for the content of the script… that always made me excited.” — Zoanne Clack, MD.


Going full-time in the entertainment industry

Dr. Peter Kim inquires about Dr. Zoanne’s transition to full-time work on Grey’s Anatomy.

Dr. Clack recounts her experience balancing medical work with her involvement in Grey’s Anatomy. Initially, she worked extensive hours but later decreased her shifts due to mounting paperwork and a slower pace in the ER. Ultimately, she chose to cease her ER duties, dedicating herself entirely to her role in Grey’s Anatomy as the sole medical person in the writers’ room.

“It was like the seventh or eighth season of Grey’s Anatomy, and I felt like, okay, I probably am going to be okay if I don’t have this extra job. ” — Zoanne Clack, MD.


Potential for doctors in the creative scene

Peter concludes by asking Zoanne about the potential doctors have in pursuing a creative path as she did.

Dr. Zoanne discusses the changing landscape for physicians and the increasing acceptance of pursuing alternative career paths outside of traditional medicine. She emphasizes the importance of being open to new possibilities, speaking up about career goals, and finding a niche that aligns with one’s interests and skills. She also highlights the consulting opportunities in Hollywood and the value of connecting with experts for accurate portrayal of medical scenarios in media, sharing examples of individuals who transitioned from medical practice to careers in writing and consulting for television shows.

Lastly, Zoanne advises aspiring doctors to speak up, take classes to improve their skills and write about what they know. She emphasizes the importance of journaling to capture rich and detailed experiences, which can help in pushing creative boundaries. She also highlights the concept of “luck” as being a combination of preparation and opportunity, encouraging readiness for potential opportunities.

“Just be kind of ready for the luck ball because you know, luck is preparation plus opportunity. So just make those things happen.”  —  Zoanne Clack, MD.

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