Episode 435 – Benson Babu

Benson is a Physician & Landscape Photographer

Benson Babu, a physician at Good Samaritan, talks about his passion for landscape photography, how he applies his photography skills to his career, and why it is important to connect with his patients at a human level!

Episode Highlights

• Getting into photography
• Connecting with his patients on a human level
• How he applies his skills in photography towards his career
• How much is it on the organization or the individual to encourage talking about your hobbies in the workplace



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    Welcome to Episode 435 of What’s Your “And”? This is John Garrett, and each Wednesday, I interview a professional who, just like me, is known for a hobby or a passion or an interest outside of work. To put it in another way, it’s encouraging people to find their “and”, those things above and beyond your technical skills, the things that actually differentiate you when you’re at work.

    If you like what the show is about, be sure to check out the book on Amazon, Indigo, Barnes and Noble, Bookshop, a few other websites. All the links are at whatsyourand.com. If you want me to read it to you, that’s right, me, this voice reading What’s Your “And”?, look for it on Audible or wherever you get your audio books. The book goes more in depth with the research behind why these outside-of-work passions are so crucial to your corporate culture, and I can’t say how much it means that everyone’s reading it and writing such great reviews on Amazon and more importantly, changing the cultures where they work because of it.

    Please don’t forget to hit subscribe to the podcast, so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week, and this week is no different with my guest, Ben Babu. He’s a hospital medicine physician at Good Sam Hospital in New York City, and now he’s with me here today. Ben, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?

    Ben: Oh, thank you, John. Thanks for having me.

    John: Yeah, absolutely, man. This is going to be so awesome. I have some rapid-fire questions though. It’s kind of fun to ask the doctor a question for once because normally it’s the other way around, so this will be fun. Let’s start you out with an easy one. Favorite color.

    Ben: Blue.

    John: Blue. Mine too. Solid. All right, how about a least favorite color?

    Ben: Black.

    John: Black. Interesting. Okay. All right. How about, since you live in New York, got to ask, rain or snow?

    Ben: Rain.

    John: Rain. Okay. All right. How about a favorite actor or actress?

    Ben: Tom Cruise.

    John: Tom Cruise. Solid answer. There you go. How about a favorite day of the week?

    Ben: Friday.

    John: Friday. Nice. There you go.

    Ben: Hands down, Friday.

    John: Right. There you go. How about puzzles, Sudoku, crossword or jigsaw?

    Ben: Jigsaw.

    John: Jigsaw. There you go. Nice, going old school. How about a chocolate or vanilla?

    Ben: Chocolate.

    John: Chocolate. All right. All right. How about Star Wars or Star Trek?

    Ben: Star Wars.

    John: Star Wars. Yeah, me too. Me too, on that one. How about your computer, more of a PC or a Mac guy?

    Ben: Mac.

    John: Mac. Yeah. I am not cool enough for that, so, good for you. Since you’re in New York, how about favorite toppings on a pizza?

    Ben: I like sausage and pepperoni.

    John: Okay, there you go. How about a favorite ice cream flavor?

    Ben: Rocky road.

    John: Oh, nice. Okay. There you go. How about more of a talk or text?

    Ben: Talk.

    John: Talk. Yeah, me too. Totally. How about your first concert?

    Ben: First concert, wow. That was Bon Jovi.

    John: Nice. There you go .

    Ben: Shows you my age though.

    John: No, no. There was someone else that had Bon Jovi. Maybe you guys went to the same one. That’ll be awesome. All right, we’ve got four more, four more. Do you have a favorite number?

    Ben: Six.

    John: Six. Is there a reason?

    Ben: No.

    John: No? All right.

    Ben: It comes up random all the time.

    John: Okay. There you go. Maybe you’re on the six train. Who knows? How about books, audio version, e-book or real book?

    Ben: The audio version.

    John: Oh, okay.

    Ben: I listen to it on my car radio.

    John: Yeah, that’s a good idea. Yeah, there you go. Do you prefer more hot or cold?

    Ben: Hot.

    John: Hot. Okay. All right. The last one is the favorite thing you have or the favorite thing you own.

    Ben: My mountain bike.

    John: Oh, okay. What kind of mountain bike is it?

    Ben: I have this Trek mountain bike where I use, to go, and I ride across the East River and loop around to Battery Park and go up to the west side, beautiful view.

    John: Oh, yeah.

    Ben: Yeah, especially during the spring and the summer, everybody’s out, hustle bustle.

    John: Very cool, man. That’s awesome. That’s awesome. Yeah, well, let’s talk photography. Next time we’ll do mountain biking, but photography, I love that. How did you get started with that? Was it something you grew up taking a lot of pictures, or you got into later in life?

    Ben: Yeah, John, it’s an excellent question, man. I started with photography because my dad used to do photography as a child. He had this little Minolta old school film camera that was sitting in his bedroom, so I used to toy around with it when I was a little kid. Ever since then, I was just taking photos of the family, weddings. My dad bought me some gear, and he’s like, all right, son, go ahead take the photos of the wedding. I’m holding all the gear, and he’s sitting in the back having fun. I’m taking everyone’s group shots. It just grew out of there, man. Everybody was just like, all right, Ben’s coming. Okay, he’s a photographer now. He’s going to take some shots and have a good time.

    John: That’s awesome, man. Your dad just did it as a hobby?

    Ben: He did it as a hobby, yeah. He collected a little bit of cameras, a few cameras, so I grew up with it. I’m like, this looks pretty cool, man. What is this thing?

    John: Right. It’s magic. You can capture, yeah. I have a nephew that, a couple of years ago, got him a digital thing that does videos and pictures. He was just like, yeah, it’s just cool to see the magic in a kid’s face when they realize what they can do with that.

    Ben: Right, especially with the film because then you get to tinker around in the darkroom.

    John: Oh, so you actually process the film yourself.

    Ben: I process it myself, yes.

    John: Wow. That’s incredible.

    Ben: It’s interesting.

    John: Yeah. Was there any events that were your favorite ones or ones that come to mind that stand out?

    Ben: It was mostly the weddings because, John, these weddings were like three or four days long, so I really got my training in. I’ll tell you that. The equipment back then were just like the old school IBM supercomputers. You know how huge those were.

    John: Oh, yeah, right, right.

    Ben: Those cameras were not small, man. Those things are good workout, too.

    John: That’s funny. You’re good at photography, and you became really strong at the same time.

    Ben: Right. Right. My right arm was bigger than the left. My bicep was bigger.

    John: Right. I am the strongest kid in school. How did that happen? That’s awesome, man. That’s neat. Was it this Minolta camera all the way through, or did you upgrade at some point?

    Ben: Yeah. It was the Minolta. I still have it actually, believe it or not.

    John: Nice.

    Ben: Yeah. Then I upgraded to a Nikon, a bigger full frame camera.

    John: Sure. Yeah. That’s cool.

    Ben: Yeah. It’s smaller too.

    John: Right. That’s pretty cool, man. As far as now, though, are you still like taking time to take pictures, and it’s still a part of what you do?

    Ben: Yeah, John. I belong to this photography club in the city. They’re pretty active. We meet once a week, and we go out and do these these hunts. We were in Rockefeller Center the other day, and we took shots there. Also, they had the Pier 55 which just opened up on the Hudson a few months ago. We explored that. It was beautiful. They had concerts and venues for people and their music.

    John: That’s awesome, man.

    Ben: I don’t know why, but it was picture perfect.

    John: Pun intended. Pun intended.

    Ben: Exactly.

    John: That’s cool because then you’re learning from each other and getting shots and seeing what people are doing.

    Ben: Right.

    John: Yeah, you just lift your game. One day, you should just show up with that Minolta and just see what happens.

    Ben: I know. I’ll probably get a line out there trying to figure out what the hell that contraption was.

    John: Right. Right. Which button do you push? How do you? What? How do you?

    Ben: It’s something that Jeff Bezos can use on the moon.

    John: Right. Exactly. That’s cool, man. That’s super awesome. Is this something that you talk about with colleagues or patients? Does it come up at work at all?

    Ben: It does actually. I have a group of patients that we just randomly chat about. One person that I know, he’s like, oh, yeah, Dr. Babu, I’m going to Tanzania. They do photography out there in October, and they’re going with a group. It was a good conversation piece. I was like, yeah, this is great. I want to go to Tanzania, but I can’t get time off.

    John: Right. Right.

    Ben: I didn’t tell him that. I was like, okay, maybe I’ll go next time.

    John: Right. Yeah, exactly. That is cool that it comes up because sometimes, people are like, oh, well, this has nothing to do with medicine or why you’re here or whatever. Clearly, there’s some rapport that’s developed through that.

    Ben: For sure. Yeah. It helps connect with all the patients. They see a human side of myself, so I establish a bond with them.

    John: Yeah, that’s super huge. Probably something that didn’t come up during medical school was, hey, go do photography because it’ll allow you to create a better bond with your patients. Right?

    Ben: Right. No, no, that was definitely not on the schedule, I’ll tell you. I wish it was. I wish it was.

    John: Right. Other books that were much bigger and longer to read involved with that. How about skill-wise, is there any any skill set that comes from photography, that translates over to medicine?

    Ben: Just like any skill set that you do, whether it’s math or reading poetry, it spills over to work. Photography actually gives me the ability to have a photographic eye in general, at work too. I’m able to read CAT scans and put it in context, to patients, in real time. When I look at all the images, I come back and talk to the patient. I know, hey, look, your gallbladder popped. I know exactly what the problem is and how it looks because I looked it on the image. This is how it looks. I paint them a picture. So, it helps with the conversation and how to describe it too.

    John: Right, because I never realized until now, being a doctor, you’re looking at a lot of pictures.

    Ben: Oh, yes, yes, yes, pneumonia, COVID, X-ray.

    John: Right? Yeah, just all kinds of images that you’re looking at. Having that eye, I would imagine, in return, that makes your photography better also because it’s just exercising that muscle group that then one side’s helping the other in both ways.

    Ben: Yeah. It really helps with that creative side of things, especially when talking to patients. It gives you that human side of things, like photography and trips because I usually marry both of them. I do travel photography, so we end up talking about the trips that I take, and then we share moments and stuff. It’s nice.

    John: Yeah, that’s awesome. Now that there are smartphones, it’s just like, here’s a picture. You can just show them. You don’t have to act like, I’ll bring one next time or whatever, like in the old days.

    Ben: Right. Right. Everybody’s got a professional camera on them. For sure. It doesn’t sound, the interviews don’t sound robotic. It just has natural flow to it. With the small talk, it really gives us the ability to get to know everyone on a much deeper level, believe it or not.

    John: Which it’s so awesome to hear because so many people feel like, well, we’re here for work, get the work done, do the work, talk about work. Anything besides that doesn’t belong. I love how you said that, that actually, it enhances everything, the small talk and the rapport and the non-work talk specifically, which is cool.

    Ben: Definitely. It’s like the glue.

    John: It’s the glue.

    Ben: It’s the glue. You need it. Otherwise, everything falls apart.

    John: That’s so profound, and it’s something that, unfortunately, we’re not really taught. It’s not our default mode either, for some reason. In our brains, we default to the other side usually, and it’s like, ah, man. Something that’s that important, it’s like, man, they should be teaching this.

    Ben: Yeah, for sure. My brain works better if I do some of the creative stuff and then blend it with the technical and analytic side of medicine, the art aspect of it, the right side of the brain.

    John: Right? Yeah, both sides of the brain go, and that’s even better. How much do you feel like, I don’t even know. You’re actually the first medical professional I’ve had on the show, so this is groundbreaking. How much do hospitals or organizations encourage people sharing those outside-of-work interests? Or how much is it on the individual to just maybe start that conversation themselves in a small circle?

    Ben: Well, most of it is starting it yourself. Once the hospital finds an interest, they have venues. Some hospitals that I used to work with, they have these photography challenges, where you’re able to present your photography. Whoever was a photographer, they’re able to showcase their photographs. At the end, there would be a challenge where they would put it into the display of the hospital. There was one hospital that was doing that. I felt that that was really nice because it gave the ability to have the creative aspect of medicine, which is not usually seen, and there was a lot of people that entered the competition, including myself. I saw that other side of them, which I never knew existed. I work with them every day, but then when you see the artistic talent that they have, it’s another game. It’s another world.

    John: Yeah, there’s another dimension to them as a person that you just unlock. It’s like, what?

    Ben: Yeah, exactly.

    John: Yeah, and there’s a lot more follow-up questions and more interesting conversation, I would imagine, around the photography. It’s something, even though you guys shared in common, even if you didn’t, it’s still a cool conversation piece.

    Ben: Yeah, it’s really cool. I think it’s one good way to bond with people.

    John: Yeah, and I love that the organization created that. That’s such an easy example for people to do, especially at a larger company. You’ve got enough people there that like photography, trust me. Just throw this out there and see what happens. There was once I did, for PricewaterhouseCoopers office, they were doing a PwC’s Got Talent kind of show.

    Ben: Nice.

    John: Thing for their promotion day, big thing. I was hosting it, and the office, one of the people was like, well, I don’t know how many people we’re going to get. I was like, well, you guys have over a thousand people. I bet you have 800 people that like to do something. There’s something there. It’s just, we don’t think about that people have those things because we don’t ask, or we don’t create that space. When you create that space, all of a sudden, there’s all this cool color and life, all of a sudden, around you.

    Ben: It is pretty amazing when you see people opening up and doing stuff that’s outside of work. It really is nice because it adds that extra dimension, like you said. It makes the relationship much better, and I would advocate it. Most hospitals do something with little music and food, and especially this photography session they do once a year at one of the hospitals, so I look forward to it every year.

    John: That’s the thing, you look forward to it. There’s some energy there where the all-staff meeting that’s every month, sometimes I don’t look forward to that. It’s just happening. Imagine if there were stuff like that for everybody. That’s super cool. Before I wrap this up, do you have any words of encouragement to anyone listening that feels like, hey, I’ve got this hobby, but it has nothing to do with my job, or no one cares?

    Ben: Yeah, John. The thing is, we all have a certain passion in our life, and a gift that was given to us to drive that passion. To go ahead and do that would be absolutely amazing. Take yourself as a human being to another level, and it will make work and work life and personal life so much more enriching and amazing. I would totally advocate that 100%, especially during the times when there’s a pandemic, when people are in different scenario, and it’s more of a mental health thing too, a total overall body kind of wellness. I totally advocate it. It’s something that would help with just everything, work like, personal relationships, really takes to another level.

    John: Yeah. There you go, everybody, doctor’s orders. You’re so right. When I wrote the book, originally, it was creating relationships between colleagues and clients and patients and coworkers. Then, in the last year and a half or so, it’s become so much more of just mental wellness, just for your own sake, just not to lose your mind. Have a break. Have something to take your mind off of the work that’s at the kitchen table right there, all the time, type of thing, for a lot of us. It’s cool, man. That’s so encouraging. Well, since I so rudely peppered you with questions at the beginning, I feel like it’s only fair that I turn it around and make this the first episode of the Ben Babu podcast. Thanks for having me on.

    Ben: It’s an amazing privilege. Thanks, John. Thanks for the question. What is the most interesting What’s Your “And”? that you’ve had on your show?

    John: I get this question sometimes. They’re all interesting to me just because they’re all cool because they’re things I’m not doing. That’s always neat. There was Rebecca Berneck who was a motorcycle racer and has a consulting firm, but at one point, had the land speed record for vintage motorcycles on the Salt Flats in Utah.

    Ben: Wow.

    John: That’s pretty cool.

    Ben: That’s really cool, yeah.

    John: Yeah, there was a guy that did, he would custom design suits and have them made. It was full bespoke. He had a full-on side business going of bespoke suits, and would do that. Somebody else that volunteers a lot by going to the Caribbean Islands, and helping people with getting their small business started, and how to get financing, to get the literacy behind that. It’s just interesting how there’s something that lights somebody up. Just to hear them talk about that is just like, I talk to everybody at their best. You’re most excited to talk about photography. That’s when I get to talk to you, and it’s awesome. Yeah, so everybody’s actually been really cool. Even the woman that does a 5K walk once a year for charity, that’s also cool. Stained glass, that’s awesome. How many people do you know that do stained glass? I know one, and she was on the show.

    Ben: Yes, that’s definitely cool.

    John: Yeah, there’s all kinds. It doesn’t have to be just one thing, and it doesn’t even have to be active. It can be something that’s just on the side.

    Ben: John, what is your “and”?

    John: Oh, so my “and”, definitely college football while eating ice cream would definitely be pretty high on my list. Going to concerts is also super fun. Travel is also pretty nice. You can have more than one, for sure. They can also be ice cream, can definitely be an “and”, trust me. When it’s to the level that it is with me, it’s definitely a passion. That’s for sure.

    Ben: It’s like ice cream and sprinkles and.

    John: Right? There you go, and hot fudge.

    Ben: And hot fudge, yes, yes.

    John: One of those places in New York, when I lived there, they have those places where it’s soft serve. You weigh it after you put everything, and that’s how you pay. I was like, man. The first time I went there I was like, whoa. Then you learn. This is still sugary, but it doesn’t weigh as much, so let’s go with that one. Yeah, for sure, man. Well, I appreciate you being a part of this, Ben. Thank you so much for taking time to be on What’s Your “And”?

    Ben: Hey, thank you, John.

    John: Yeah, and everybody listening, if you want to see some of Ben’s pictures or maybe connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com All the links are there. While you’re on the page, please click that big button, do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture, and don’t forget to check out the book.

    Thanks again for subscribing on iTunes or whatever app you use and for sharing this with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread, that who you are is so much more than what you do.


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