What inspired you to become a healthcare provider?
Both my parents are physicians. I remember growing up as a young child with these medical textbooks strewn about the floor. I recall so many people, like family friends, asking my parents’ opinions on medical problems. I was enamored by that sense of trust people could have with them and, by extension, physicians in general. People let their guard down when they speak with healthcare providers about their personal problems. I don’t know of many other professions where I have seen that.
Why did you focus on pain management?
It’s so primitive! I mean the understanding of it. We've come a long way, but boy do we have a lot further to go. I liken the current state of our understanding of pain mechanisms to what cardiology was like in the 1940s. Pain is such a fundamental part of medicine, but neither do we know much of it, nor are we trained well in medical school to treat it. I was fascinated by how many questions I had during my residency training that actually had no answers…even up until now.
Who were your mentors?
My parents and my grandmother were critical to my personal development. They instilled in me the qualities to strive to be a better person, and I owe everything I am to them. They were and still are my best friends. Now that I'm married, my wife has embedded in me the qualities I love so much in her. She makes me want to be a better man.
Professionally, I cherish the mentorship that Alex Evers (chairman of the department of anesthesiology at Washington University School of Medicine) has provided me over the last several decades (yes, decades). The man is a visionary and is widely regarded as one of the best department chairmen in the country, creating an academic powerhouse. I am honored in being able to call him a friend. I also strive to be half the clinician that Robert Swarm is. He's the clinical division chief of pain management at Washington University School of Medicine. That man is a saint. I have never seen a more caring physician who puts his patients first before anything else. I also owe a lot to the entire faculty that I trained with at Johns Hopkins: Srinivasa Raja, Paul Christo, Steven Cohen, Michael Erdek, and Kayode Williams were each amazing individuals in their own right. I still keep in touch with them.
If you weren’t a healthcare provider, what would you be?
I’ve always wanted to answer that question like George Costanza and say “Architect.” But really I probably would have gone into either being a Classics professor (based on my love of ancient languages) or a watchmaker (have you seen how beautiful, meticulously detailed, and ridiculously intricate some of those high-end watches can be?).
What is your most marked characteristic?
I’m influential. My wife says I could sell ice to an Eskimo. I’ve been told by residents (and attendings) that people in the department of anesthesia talk of a “Bottros effect.” I think it’s the greatest asset that has helped me found the acute pain service, garnering the trust of surgeons, and changing the culture towards “pain management” here. The year I founded that service, almost half of the senior residency class decided on pursuing a pain fellowship, and they awarded me “Teacher of the Year.”
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Being married for almost 5 years to the love of my life--and soon becoming a father!
What is your favorite language?
Koine Greek. It was the language spoken in much of the Mediterranean following the conquests of Alexander the Great during the Hellenistic period. The antiquity of that language and the sheer volume of work whose translations into English lose much of the subtle nuances make it a favorite for geeky Classics majors like me.
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?
Book: The Bible. It would bring me much solace if I really did find myself in space for an undetermined amount of time.
Film: It’s a toss-up between The Godfather: Part II and The Dark Knight. I know, I know…very different movies. The Godfather’s a classic, through and through; but there’s something about Heath Ledger’s performance that I can't take my eyes off.
Song: There are very few bands whose albums I could enjoy the whole way through; however, anything by Vampire Weekend or Radiohead would work.
What would you like your legacy to be?
That I left the world a slightly better place. Whether it’s through lending an ear to a patient in a time of need, or that I may have been part of the reason why a student or trainee wins the Nobel Prize.
What is your motto?
While it may be cliché to quote Steve Jobs, people who know me know I try to live by this: “We don’t get a chance to do that many things, and every one should be really excellent. Because this is our life.”