Interview with Lynnea Mills

A Conversation with Lynnea Mills, Assistant Clinical Professor

Where were you born and raised? Where in the family hierarchy are you and how would you describe your relationship with your siblings?

Lynnea MillsI was born in Sacramento and lived there until I left for college. I am the second of three kids and the only girl. I've always had a pretty good relationship with my brothers, and we had all kinds of nerdy adventures growing up. We lived on the American River and used to go there to bike on the trails, skip rocks, and pick fennel. And we went on lots of family camping trips. I am the only medical person in the family but everyone does something different: my dad is a retired landscape architect who worked for the California State Parks; my mom is a guidance counselor at a Sacramento high school; my older brother is a lawyer; and my younger brother does design for a large construction firm.

Was your path to medicine always a given or did you ever consider another profession? If so, have you found a way to meld your interests?

I think many people can cite some epiphanic moment that made them want to go into Medicine but I didn't have one of those. In college, I just felt that I wanted to be a doctor, and taking premed courses seemed the natural thing to do—though I had moments along the way when I wondered if something else might be better, since I was so much more excited about the humanities than, say, organic chemistry. Where I am now is a pretty good mix of my interests: I am very passionate about the communication aspects of medicine and how we relate to patients, and that's the humanities part of me coming back to mix with the more scientific part of my work.

Within your circle of friends, are you the social coordinator, the caterer or the head gamer?

I would say that I am probably the coordinator. My closest friends are from undergrad, and several are here in the Bay Area. I tend to be pretty scheduled both at work and in life, so I am usually the one who checks calendars and coordinates with people. I am not a party girl so I don't arrange bar hops but I do touch base to remind friends that we are due to get together for dinner. I am probably a mix of both parents in that I am an introvert (I have to have down time, me time, quiet time away from everyone), but I love being with people I am close to and am very comfortable in one-on-one settings. I am less comfortable in groups, since I never know what to say and feel self-conscious. But around my friends, with a quiet conversation, I'm happy.

Which avatar or animal embodies characteristics most like you as you are or as you wish to be?

The only animal that jumps to mind is not particularly like me in personality but is on my brain, for some reason: a giraffe. I grew up constantly being told that I am short; I was "the short one," and I always felt held back by my height. Of course, in retrospect, it's crazy that I spent so much time wishing to be taller and now I absolutely don't care. It's just funny to think about how tall giraffes are and how their height gets in their way—they are too tall!

What was the most difficult challenge of your first year in the division? And your favorite achievement?

I think the most difficult was learning the culture of the institution while working and trying not to mess anything up. There is a way that local cultural norms influence work, and I felt this particularly when attending on the wards with my teams, because there is a definite expectation from residents as to how attendings will behave. I didn't want to fall short and was consciously aware of having to work to do things right. I have high expectations for myself, about being thoughtful and aware of how I interact with others—that is really important to me. As for achievements: I've gotten to a point where I feel that I know the key players in my areas of interest and I've been proactive about seeking those people out, meeting with them, and getting a sense of what's going on in those areas of communication and medical education. I've met incredible people whom I wouldn't otherwise have met, who could serve as wonderful mentors for me.

Describe your favorite mode of transportation to get to your ideal "away from it all" destination.

My favorite would be taking a car to go somewhere quiet in the mountains, like a little secluded cabin where I could stay and go hiking, but still be able to charge my phone and have hot water. Of all the places I've been like that, Alaska is the best. But another must-do trip for me every year is going scuba diving somewhere warm. I am not a beach person—I don't really like the sun—but diving is a little like being in the woods: it's quiet, not crowded, and really beautiful. The best diving I've ever done is in Thailand—lots of spectacular underwater life.

Lynnea Mills

Lynnea Mills

What qualities do you value in people?

I appreciate follow-through and honesty, both of which sound obvious but are sometimes easier said than done. If people say they are going to do something, they should do it. I appreciate that my closest friends can tell me anything and know that I won't judge; or, if I am overthinking something or being irrational, they can straight out tell me that I am being ridiculous and need to stop.

Of the five senses, which is the one you distrust the most?

Smell. I find it confusing that something may smell good but taste bad, like vanilla extract. Or that things that you associate with fond memories actually smell bad, like sea air, which smells gross.

What do you think makes writing worth reading? Who are your favorite authors and/or a book that still inspires you? 

I have a minor in fiction writing; I haven't done as much writing recently as I should, but I love reading outstanding fiction. Good writing is, of course, getting a message across, but I really appreciate good prose, when the message is subtle and there is something worthwhile in the writing itself as opposed to just the content. I like the early writing of Lorrie Moore, who taught at University of Wisconsin, since she has a humorous honesty that I enjoy. A book that I often think about is Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson; it is translated into English from Norwegian and there is a gorgeous lyrical quality to the writing, with sensational visuals created by the language.

Lynnea, this was delightful, thank you.

- by Oralia Schatzman

View Lynnea's professional bio | See previous faculty interviews