Last week, Leadership Health Care (LHC) launched hosted a Lunch and Learn series featuring Karl VanDevender, M.D., a long-time physician at the Frist Clinic and unofficial HCA ambassador. Today, he works closely with actor Alan Alda and The Alan Alda Center of Communicating Science, focused on exploring more empathetic communication in the medical arts.
Dr. VanDevender began the discussion talking about the history of HCA and how the hospital giant became what it is today. He touched on the special relationship he had with Dr. Thomas Frist, Sr., co-founder of HCA, having served as his personal physician, in addition to leading HCA’s efforts around building its corporate culture.
One of the most important lessons he learned from Dr. Frist, Sr., was that the role of the physician was not to treat the patient, but to care for the patient.
“According to Dr. Frist, there are four key principles to caring for the patient that I carry with me today and want to impart on you all,” said Dr. VanDevender. “Those four things are: dignity, suffering, independence and dependence. And while they were taught to me in reference to my role as a physician, I think these are four key principles all leaders should remember.”
When it comes to dignity, he highlighted that the term doesn’t refer to respect or manners, but to giving each and every person the gift of trying to understand him/her fully. In that respect, he sees the core of good leadership in treating those around you in a compassionate and empathetic way, not meeting some sort of number or financial benchmark.
“To see each other as complete human beings, we have to understand that suffering is going to be a part of the equation and we have to be willing to recognize when suffering is happening,” said Dr. VanDevender.
Regarding independence, Dr. VanDevender focused on the importance of making others feel empowered to part of the decision-making process, whether it’s a patient being part of their care decision or an employee being part of a company decision.
“It’s important for people to feel like their voice is not only heard but that it matters,” said Dr. VanDevender.
However, while independence is critical, at the same time it’s important to remember just how interconnected—or dependent—we all are on each other.
“Everything we do in this world is interconnected and effects other people,” said Dr. VanDevender.
He closed the discussion talking about how the role of the physician has changed in the ever-evolving health care landscape. From the rise in telemedicine and electronic health records, to the use of drug interaction technology, there have been both drawbacks and benefits.
“With electronic health records, it takes so much time to fill them out properly that it can be a bit demoralizing to physicians,” said Dr. VanDevender. “However, for every one negative, there are 100 positives when it comes to the role of IT in health care today. For example, drug interaction technology has been extremely helpful to physicians, as has having a patient’s medical history in a legible form. These advancements have not only benefitted physicians but have saved lives.”
Before concluding the event, Dr. VanDevender had one closing reminder for those in attendance.
“My obligation is to make you feel like a hero and your obligation is to make me feel like a hero. As a leader, your goal should always be to make others feel lifted up.”
This Lunch and Learn series discussion is part of ongoing programming for the Council’s Leadership Health Care initiative, offering members insights into key industry-related topics. For more information about Leadership Health Care, visit www.leadershiphealthcare.com.