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  • Writer's pictureCait Donovan

#straightfromcait: Higher Education, Again, as an Adult. Learning About Burnout Science

Updated: Sep 28, 2022


Did you know that although I received my Masters Degree in Acupuncture and East Asian Medicine back in 2007, I never received a Bachelor’s Degree? This academic path is actually quite common around the world, but definitely less so here in the states. And, of course, I happened to settle down in New Jersey, the one state in the entire country that doesn’t allow you to become licensed in or practice acupuncture without a Bachelor’s degree in addition to a Masters.

Fast forward to this summer: I am now going backwards at age 39 to receive a Bachelor’s Degree in Biobehavioral Health at Penn State’s World Campus. I am loving the opportunity to throw myself back into academics and to establish connections between my background in Eastern Medicine and the concepts we’ve explored so far in my new courses.

Tune into this week’s #straightfromcait episode to learn more about my journey back into higher education as an adult. Learn about the overlaps between Biobehavioral Health and Eastern medicine, why science always has its shortcomings, and why it’s never too late to dive back into the world of academia.

If you have any questions you want answered about burnout and the science behind it, feel free to share your thoughts in our FRIED. Facebook Group. In the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing research articles and other relevant sources on my #straightfromcait episodes, plus I’m always on the lookout for a good research paper topic!


  • “So, I decided at the age of 39 that I’m going to go backwards and get a degree that is lesser than the one I have to be able to practice a medicine that I’ve been at for a decade and a half. I told you, it’s a little convoluted, but here we are.” (3:00-3:20)

  • “Biobehavioral health is like the Western version of Eastern medicine. It’s the Western medicine’s ideal of creating a more holistic system.” (4:16-4:26)

  • I both love science and remain a science skeptic….Science is incomplete and will always be – that’s part of its definition. It’s a beautiful, powerful thing that we have to remember is here to help us explore and to learn and then to continue exploring and learning. Everything we learn is simply another step to getting another step to getting another step to allow us to go deeper or broader or connect things that weren’t connected before.” (5:40-6:11)

  • “I didn’t add a full-time degree to my life and not eliminate anything else. I had to eliminate something in order to maintain my sanity and be sure that I’m not burning out while I’m researching burnout and talking to you about burnout.” (8:08-8:22)


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Caitlin Donovan

Hello FRIED fans and welcome to season four of FRIED the burnout podcast. I'm your host Cait Donovan and my mission with FRIED is to hashtag end burnout culture. On this pod we end burnout culture by sharing stories of people who have been through it all sharing expert tips from the best in the burnout field, sharing hashtag straight from Cait episodes with my own expertise and some fun research now that I'm a student again, plus sharing actionable steps to help you end burnout starting today. If you're feeling burned out right now and you need personalized guidance, you can book a free breakthrough burnout call with me, you'll find the link Bitly backslash call Cait in the show notes. Also, if you love FRIED and want to be part of our community, we'd love to have you just head over to Facebook and type in FRIED the burnout, podcast discussion and click to join our group. It's a place for continued healing deeper conversations and connections with people who just get it. And now for this week's episode. Hello FRIED fans, it has been a hot minute since you've had a fresh straight from Cait episode in your ears. And in this one, I want to get a little personal and let you know what's been going on behind the scenes lately and why that might affect how FRIED will sound moving forward. The story is a little convoluted, but I know you'll get it. Here it goes. I have a master's degree from Pacific College of Health Sciences, I believe it's called now they have thankfully removed the word oriental from their title, which is lovely. And that degree is in acupuncture and East Asian medicine. So I finished that degree program in 2007. And since that time, I have practiced and taught acupuncture all over the world. So it's been 14 and a half years since that happened at the time of this episode release. That being said, on my way to my master's degree, I did not get a Bachelor's I know hold up hold up before you freak out. This is a totally normal thing in some parts of the world, it just happens to be slightly abnormal in the United States. So I did my first two years at Boston University as a pre-med/biology student with an Eastern religion minor. And then I moved to California and did a four-year Master's in acupuncture.

Now, after moving back to the US from Prague in 2019, we moved to New Jersey, myself, my husband, and my small white fluffy dog flora. And New Jersey happens to be the only state out of 50 that requires a bachelor's degree in addition to the Master's in acupuncture to be able to be licensed and practice, which is one of the reasons that my office currently is in Manhattan. So I commute to the city now just once a week to be able to utilize my medicine because I can't use it in the state that I live in. So I decided at the age of 39 that I'm going to go backward and get a degree that is lesser than the one that I have to be able to practice a medicine that I've been at for a decade and a half. So I told you it's a little convoluted, but you know, here we are. So all that being said, this past summer I started a degree in biobehavioral health at Penn State World Campus and World Campus from Penn State means that I am doing the work all online. So as this episode airs, I am officially in semester two and I am really, really loving being back in school much to my surprise. So biobehavioral health, according to the Penn State website is the science behind how biology behavior, social, cultural influences, and environmental factors influence health throughout life. The program includes courses in biology, epidemiology, physiology, nutrition, genetics and statistics. That was a fun class. Let me tell you in the summer statistics in the summer, never good idea. But I did get a 97. So it's all right. So basically, biobehavioral health is like the western version of Eastern medicine. It's the western medicines' ideal of creating a more holistic system. And I am so excited to be in this program. And I'm so excited to be in this program and be able to share the East Asian perspective that has guided me for so long. And I have found and had some really great feedback from my fellow classmates and from my professors so far because understanding how all of these things connect is really natural to me because of my background. So seeing things as interconnected has been something that I've been working out for nearly 20 years since I started my degree program and now I get to use that in s system that really doesn't think this way almost ever. So it's it's a really interesting sort of play that I get to do right now. So what this means for FRIED moving forward is that I am back into academic mode, I'm doing more research, I'm reading more research, I'm digging into more journals. And as I find things that might be interesting to you, I'm going to be sharing them with links to the research articles and the journals so that I can help you move through burnout in ways that are more impactful and are supported by the current science. And as I say that, please know that I both love science and remain a science skeptic Yes, yes, I said to science skeptic, because science is incomplete and will always be that's part of its definition. It's a beautiful, powerful thing that we have to remember is here to help us explore and to learn. And then to continue exploring and learning. Everything we learn is simply another step to getting another step to getting another step to allow us to go deeper or broader or connect things that weren't connected before. There are very few facts that will remain exactly what they are today, in 100 years' time, because science is constantly improving and constantly learning. The biggest area of this that's most interesting to me is the brain science, but neuroscience, because we know so little, and I really think of burnout as a syndrome that involves many different areas of the brain. So that will come at a later episode. But I think it's really important to realize that science is amazing and also has some shortcomings. So I'll share the research. But I want you to know this whole time that there's always going to be something more than we can learn and that not everything I share is going to be perfectly true even in six months from now as we continue to learn and we've got to just all sort of be okay with that. So as a burnout coach who went back to school full time, I took 15 credits in the summer semester, I'm taking 15 credits in the fall semester, I have to do things to maintain my balance in my business while you know bringing in a full time degree. So in order to do that, I was practicing acupuncture in Manhattan, Tuesdays and Thursdays, I broke it down to just Thursdays, which means I have an entire day of my quote-unquote work week that I can dedicate to studying and learning. Now listen to this, I just want you to listen to this for a second, I did not open that day up to scheduling for any type of coaching work, or corporate events that Tuesday is for school. So one of the things that I know about my own life in burnout is that I'm not good at doing the same exact thing every day. And that I need to have white space on my schedule. So I use Tuesdays as my white space for studying. And I usually start my day with an acupuncture treatment, which is such a luxury I know and is really helpful. But I didn't add a full time degree to my life and not eliminate anything else. I had to eliminate something in order to maintain my sanity and be sure that I'm not burning out while I'm researching burnout and talking to you about burnout because that would just be silly. And I didn't know when I first got into it, how fun being back in school was going to be as an adult, I have always been a lover of learning, I read like a fiend. And this past summer reminded me how obsessed I am with the body and how it functions. And I've been in the the Eastern medicine thought processes for so long that sometimes I have ignored the science part, and taken only the pieces that were valuable to me. And now I have the opportunity to reconnect all of the bits and pieces and explore a little bit deeper and get to know some of the science that wasn't available when I was a biology major, you know, 20 years ago, or 21 years ago, nobody's counting. So I'm really excited. I'm really, really happy to be doing it, even if it is a little backwards and a little convoluted. And I'm also really, really glad to have you with me on this journey. So thank you for being here. Thank you for being you. And if there is something that you would like to see if there is research on it is likely that I can use your question to write a research paper for school. So if there's something that you need to know and there is research on it, I will be taking requests on that. It will help me also guide my schoolwork to be the most useful for you that it possibly can be. So if you have ideas about stuff like that, then I would love for you to drop them in the Facebook discussion group that we have for fried, which if you go into Facebook and you go into search, you just type in FRIED The burn out podcast discussion, and the group will come up and you can join us in there and let me know what it is you want to know. Or if you want to share some research that you found, or if you need some help looking through some research because you're not sure how to read it. We can do all of those things together in the group. So that wraps up today. Welcome to season four. We have some really, really cool stuff happening this season. We're talking to a few more men than we have in the past. And it's some really interesting conversations coming up. So I'm excited about that. And here we are. a step closer to healing every moment, every day, every second even right now.


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