What inspired you to become a healthcare provider?
I first thought about becoming a physician in high school and college, but the desire was solidified in medical school. Medicine allowed me to make a big impact on human lives, and to help restore patients to a healthy and active state of living. There are many ways that we can touch the lives of others, and I was fortunate to have found medicine as the way I could best do that.
In medical school, I was inspired by rotations in anesthesiology and pain medicine. I was intrigued by the array of analgesics available to reduce surgical pain such as anesthetic gases, IV opioids, epidurals, and regional nerve blocks. Then in residency training, I saw firsthand how pain specialists used medications and specialty procedures like nerve blocks, epidurals, and implantations to reduce pain and suffering. I knew at that time that I wanted to subspecialize in pain medicine in order to make a substantial impact on the lives of those in pain.
Why did you focus on pain management?
As an intern, I saw many patients with inadequately controlled pain--arthritis, low back pain, headache, and neck pain--yet I didn’t have the knowledge to make them better. Patient visits were quick and most of my attendings avoided any discussion of pain care. I could see the need and wanted to help meet it, realizing that those in pain were completely disenfranchised and often hopeless.
My life’s work has focused on improving the lives of patients in pain through clinical care, education, and research. That drive has evolved into the creation of a national talk show on overcoming pain called Aches and Gains, which airs on Sirius XM radio. The show provides a media platform for hearing the stories of patients who have found relief, shares cutting edge treatments from contributing experts, and offers ways that people in pain can cope themselves. It’s been gratifying to hear that the show is making a meaningful impact on those in need.
Who were your mentors?
In middle school and high school, my scoutmaster in the Boy Scouts. He was a cardiologist and led me to the field of medicine. In college, Dr. Jeremiah Freeman (organic chemistry), and in medical school, Dr. Mike Heine (anesthesiologist). In residency, Drs. Sal Abdi (pain specialist) and Bobbie Sweitzer (anesthesiologist). Mark Hubbard (entrepreneur) has been a terrific media and business mentor.
If you weren’t a healthcare provider, what would you be?
I was passionate about playing the pipe organ in high school after years of studying the piano. I also realized that I didn't have the talent to make a living as a musician, so let that vision go. Instead, I would have liked to become a CEO of a healthcare company that delivers innovative products for treating chronic diseases.
What is your most marked characteristic?
My persistence has been the driving factor in all of my pursuits. I rarely give up, despite the barriers, and try to find alternative methods of achieving the goal.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
My greatest accomplishment has been a loving marriage, and raising two children. Professionally, it’s the development of my radio talk show, Aches and Gains.
What is your favorite language?
The language of music…
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 Magic of Believing by Claude M. Bristol
Movie: The Pink Panther series
Music: What a Fool Believes by the Doobie Brothers
What would you like your legacy to be?
Hope is a vital part of overcoming pain. There is no question that therapies can ease pain, but the belief that you can feel better is even more important. You must believe that things can get better, and remember that your life and well-being are worth the fight. I hope that I'm remembered for responding to human need personally and compassionately as a visible advocate for pain care.
What is your motto?
“No one is immune to pain, but together we can overcome it.”