We all have our lollipop moments

6 minute read

You’ve probably changed someone’s life without realising it.

These six minutes could change your life. 

According to Drew Dudley’s website, he is one of the most inspirational TED talkers of all time. That’s a big call because I’ve seen some pretty inspirational TED talks, my personal favorites including those from Brené Brown and the late Sir Ken Milne. On this however, I am inclined to agree with Dudley. 

His six-minute TED talk Everyday Leader struck a chord with me on a personal level. I have had lollipop moments and I suspect you have too. What’s a lollipop moment, I hear you ask? 

Dudley described those moments when your actions change a life, often without you even knowing it. A kind word, a piece of sage advice or the encouragement to try something for the first time. Comments often made just in passing.  

Dudley asks the question: do you ever tell the person what an impact they had on your life? If you don’t think you have been someone’s lollipop moment, he suggests it’s just because you have not been told. 

He urges us to reconsider our definition of leadership to one where we understand and enact small influences on each other in order to change the world. Just to clarify, he meant for the better – change the world, for the better. 

Lollipop moments can happen in any aspect of your life. I have had many lollipop moments and I’d like to share one that impacted the trajectory of my career as an emergency physician. 

As a medical student, I had fancied the impressive interventional skillset and heart-saving glamour of the cardiologists. Within days of rotating into general medicine as an intern, I determined the life of a medical registrar was anything but glamourous and swiftly struck cardiology off the list. There were no clear specialty favourites and so I elected to spend some time in the bush to figure it out. 

Rural and remote clinicians need to be jacks of all trades. Perched at the junction of five major highways, it was the potential multi-trauma in my new workplace that made me nervous. This fear prompted me to enroll in an EMST (Early Management of Severe Trauma) course in the next referral town. Claiming the Extrication Trophy with the bold statement to the simulated RTC victim “Don’t worry, I’ve done an EMST course!” triggered memories of the excitement and unpredictability of my intern rotation in the emergency department. The moment I arrived home, I signed up to the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine.  

They say ignorance can be bliss. This was certainly the case as I ordered my textbooks and without the support of a tertiary study program, launched into the four parts of the ACEM Primary Exam: physiology, pathology, pharmacology and anatomy. After six months of my life had been consumed with learning, I heard whispers of a Primary Preparation Course run by the eminent emergency physician Dr Ian Rogers.  

Deciding to attend the course six weeks before the exam was the first step that changed the trajectory of my career. Day one saw the candidates sit four practice exams, and I flunked them all in spectacular fashion. While Dr Rogers and his team spent the following days sharing wily study techniques and advice, my confidence had crumbled. In consternation, I considered conceding and attempting just one to two subjects at a time, stretching the process over years, rather than a single sitting. Burned into my memory is the moment Dr Rogers told me in no uncertain terms that I had the ability and the knowledge, that I needed to go home and work smarter, not harder, and complete all the components in one go.  

It was the boost that I needed. 

For the next six weeks, medical minutiae were everything; my reflection became my OSCE companion and was apprised of the landmarks of the wrist and the side effects of metoclopramide. As strictly instructed by Dr Rogers, I travelled to Melbourne and sat all four papers. It felt good and I knew I’d given it my best. 

There is a sense of bewilderment re-emerging into the world after closing a final exam paper. Wandering the streets of Melbourne for 24 hours, colliding with the occasional glass of champagne, I eventually logged into an internet café at the allotted time and plugged my ACEM ID into the portal. 

Physiology – PASS  

Pathology – PASS 

Pharmacology – PASS 

Anatomy – PASS 


While it has been said I am a memorable person (and I am suspicious this has not always been meant as a compliment), there was no reason for me to think that having delivered his wisdom to the examination cohort, Dr Rogers would have given my doubtful journey another thought. 

Fast-forward 12 years (research, fellowship, marriage, kids, house, mortgage, in no particular order) I found myself a participant at Oranges workshop where I was learning to use positive psychology as a workplace wellbeing tool. Gratitude is a powerful contributor to happiness and we were instructed to write a gratitude letter to a person who had made a difference in our lives. Had Dr Rogers not shared the words that encouraged and enabled, my future career trajectory may have been very different.  

In his reply to my letter, he shared his own lollipop moment. 

“Keep your passion for emergency medicine alive and share it with others. That is what my mentor Edward Brentnall taught me. My ‘lollipop moment’ was in 1986 when Ed told me about this new specialty that they were setting up called Emergency Medicine. He told me and Bob Dunn that we would be well suited to it, so we joined up.” 

And we are thankful that he did. 

At a conference last week, an emergency physician I greatly respect approached me after a presentation in which I discussed Drew’s Everyday Leader inspiration. Apparently, I had been one of her lollipop moments. It was a moment of which I had no recollection, but I was delighted that I had indeed paid something forward. 

What’s your lollipop moment?  

It’s never too late to tell someone that they have been an Everyday Leader in your life. 

Dr Bethany Boulton is an emergency physician working on the Sunshine Coast and a founding member of WRaPEM (Wellness Resilience and Performance in Emergency Medicine), dedicated to bringing the non-technical skills of medicine to the fore.

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