Welcome to The Work Day, a series that charts a single day in various women’s working lives — from gallery owners to stay-at-home parents to chief executives. In this installment, we hear from public health expert Leana Wen, who recorded a workday in August.
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Name: Leana Wen
Job title(s): Public health professor at George Washington University; CNN medical analyst; Washington Post contributing columnist; emergency room physician
Previous jobs: Baltimore City Health Commissioner
What led me to my current role: My career has been in emergency medicine and public health. When the covid-19 pandemic started, all my work pivoted to addressing the greatest health threat of our time. I wear multiple hats as a professor, health communicator, doctor and writer. And mom! I have two little kids, an almost 4-year-old son and a 16-month-old daughter.
How I spend the majority of my days: Every day is different. There are some things set in stone, for example: teaching students or seeing patients. If there’s breaking news, I may have anywhere between one to four CNN segments to cover. There may also be a Post article that I’m writing. In between this, I work on longer-term research projects around reducing health disparities and reimagining the future of public health. And I just wrote a book, published in July (it’s called “Lifelines: A Doctor’s Journey in the Fight for Public Health”).
5 a.m.: I’m not a morning person, but I’ve realized that the best time for me to get writing done is in the morning, before the kids are awake and news breaks. I’m writing a long-form essay on the lessons learned from covid-19, as well as finishing a Post column. I spend an hour and half writing and drinking coffee.
6:40 a.m.: A month ago, I started swimming. I’d never put my head under the water before. Then, we joined the neighborhood pool and I thought, “I need to learn to swim to save my kids.” I’ve started swim lessons and really like it! Now, I try to go to the pool to exercise at least four mornings a week.
7:50 a.m.: I come home, shower, wake up the kids. We are fortunate to have a wonderful nanny who takes care of our children during the day. I take one final look at the Post column and submit it to my editor.
9 a.m.: Have a meeting (virtually) with a mentee about her research project.
10 a.m.: Discussion with colleagues at the Brookings Institution about our research project into public health infrastructure.
11 a.m.: I talk to two reporters and catch up on emails. Then I put on makeup to prepare for a CNN hit while listening to NPR headlines.
12 p.m.: I appear on a CNN segment to speak about the rise of the delta variant and the concern for unvaccinated people.
1 p.m.: NPR interview on the same topic.
1:30 p.m.: My editor at The Post comes back with changes. I send back edits while eating lunch.
2 p.m.: I speak with a colleague, then prepare slides for course we’re teaching this weekend.
3:30 p.m.: Go out for a speed walk in the neighborhood while catching up on headlines.
4 p.m.: I have a pre-taped radio interview for “Lifelines.” By the time I’m done, the Post column is online. I post on social media about it and make sure my upcoming CNN shows know about the topic.
6 p.m.: I have a CNN segment on “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer,” where I discuss the need for indoor mask mandates. Right after the hit, I make dinner (chicken and pasta), and prepare for the kids to come home.
7 p.m.: Feed the kids, have dinner with my husband, play games, read books, brush teeth, change kids into pajamas, hugs and kisses, to bed just before 9 p.m.
9 p.m.: I catch up on emails and prepare for clinic the next day.
10 p.m.: Final CNN segment for CNN International. I read news headlines right before to make sure I’m up to date. Then, I take off my makeup right after, shower, kiss the kids (who are fast asleep) and go to bed.