What inspired you to become a healthcare provider?
I was always interested in science. I majored in chemical engineering and, after my junior year of college, decided it was not for me. I had interest in the biological side of engineering, and medical school seemed like a good idea--a noble profession.
Why did you focus on pain management?
Anesthesiologists have always been at the forefront of pain management. I remember being the Pain Clinic Director at William Beaumont Army Medical Center in 1990, and we wrote only 3 medications: ibuprofen, Elavil®, and trazodone. The science and practice of pain medicine was rudimentary. It exploded in the 1990s and so did my interest, particularly connecting with patients outside of the operating room.
Who were your mentors?
I had no formal pain management fellowship. I guess I learned most of this on my own, attending conferences and workshops. My interest in pain medicine came after my training in anesthesiology. With respect to addiction medicine, I have to credit Steve Passik as my mentor. He truly inspired me to look beyond the establishment of pain medicine, and to explore a different paradigm to treat patients with chronic pain and substance use disorders.
If you weren't a healthcare provider, what would you be?
A biomedical engineer. I studied chemical engineering and received a BS/MS, and that's where I was headed until I did an internship in engineering consulting over the summer, which changed my career path.
What is your most marked characteristic?
INTENSITY. I am serious, sometimes too much. Yet I have a pretty good sense of humor. But my background is problem-solving, so when I see a patient with a problem, I am looking for a solution.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Bicycling across the US in the summer of 1979 with a childhood friend. I think about that a lot, and maybe doing it again someday. I recently published a text: Controlled Substance Management in Chronic Pain: A Balanced Approach. This was truly a labor of love. It was important to me to consolidate all the great lectures and advise from great people in one text so others could practice safely and effectively.
What is your favorite language?
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 love the movie Fail Safe, which I consider one of the best movies ever made. My book would be Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which I read on my bicycle trip in 1979. Music would have to be Handel's Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks.
What would you like your legacy to be?
he person who made a difference, helping just a little to positively affect one's life. Isn't that the reason we all went into medicine?
What is your motto?
Always shoot for 100%, never less. That does not mean you do not have to accept less, but ya gotta try for the big banana! And if you don't get to 100% and you know you tried, that's just fine!