What inspired you to become a healthcare provider?
First, I liked the idea that being a doctor often leads to a personal, intense involvement in a patient's life. There is an inherent trust and responsibility to do one's best on all levels that goes with that relationship. Second, there is the ever-evolving science and knowledge that demands one's intellectual engagement. These two aspects motivated me to go to medical school and still keep me going.
Why did you focus on pain management?
As a medical student and resident I was surprised by the lack of understanding of what drove the chronic pain experience for patients--this was intriguing. Patients always have bodies, minds, and life circumstances, and we must look at all of them to find meaningful answers to chronic pain dilemmas. Effective pain assessment and treatment requires one to be truly immersed in the biopsychosocial model to care for patients&mdsah;I enjoy this. Finally, the variety of treatments that can be effective from intervention to medication to counseling to physical conditioning means that each patient requires a unique treatment plan. I really like sorting out a path for each individual toward better health and function.
Who were your mentors?
As a trainee at the University of Pittsburgh, I modeled myself after pain physician Michael Brody. His calm demeanor, compassion, and his advice "to be the doctor each patient needs you to be" still serves as a daily guide in my practice. Robert Dworkin furthered my interest in clinical trials and thinking about how to design better studies and have fun doing it. At ohsu, Jeff Kirsch taught me to be appropriately assertive in receiving recognition for my efforts. Finally, here at the University of Washington, John Loeser demonstrates weekly how to be effective as a clinician, researcher, and administrator while always smiling and loving your work.
QuestionIf you weren't a healthcare provider, what would you be?
Being a doctor is the right career for me. Most other careers that seem interesting to me would require an act of God to give me talents I lack--musical, artistic, or athletic. More realistically, I would be interested in public health policy as I had toyed with this career path when I was in college and there is so much to improve in this realm.
What is your most marked characteristic?
I would say it is being direct--some would say blunt--which is sometimes helpful, other times not!
What is your favorite language?
Despite living in the "French house" in college, living in Quebec for most of a year, and years of French language education, the only language I can speak or communicate in is English, making it my favorite by default. I am confident that my foreign language cerebral cortex (along with my musical cortex) is grossly underdeveloped. So despite my longstanding love of French, I am stuck with an outsider's knowledge of it.
If you had to choose one book, one film, and one piece of music to take into space for an undetermined amount of time, what would they be?
I would be happy with any book by Michael Chabon or as an alternative Being There by Jerzy Kosinski. Michael Chabon can take on any theme or situation with eloquence and insight, while Being There satirizes what it takes to be viewed as a wise pundit in the world of politics (not much, unfortunately) which is still relevant today.
In college I worked on the film series and learned to appreciate a wide variety of film. If I had to pick only one I would want an escape--action or sci-fi, but I am having difficulty picking one.
For music, I would pick David Bowie's album Heroes because it comes with an amazing Berlin vibe and collaboration with both Brian Eno and Robert Fripp.
What would you like your legacy to be?
Beyond having two healthy and happy children, it is important to me that the University of Washington's long tradition in pain medicine move to a new era of modern interdisciplinary care.
What is your motto?
My colleagues from Portland would say it is "Go! Go! Go!" Internally, I translate that to: "Let's get moving and figure out what we can do to help."