Professional Values Under Attack–A Sobering Look At Healthcare

Why Doctors Are Sick of Their Profession is an article that ran recently in the Wall Street Journal.  It’s a sobering look at the human side of the current dysfunction we call healthcare.

The article’s author Sandeep Jauhar MD makes the point that he and many of his physician colleagues are ‘struggling with the loss of their professional values’.  He suggests that in many ways he has become the doctor he never thought he would be: impatient, occasionally indifferent, at times dismissive or paternalistic.  Whether he’s being too hard on himself, I don’t pretend to know.

The causes for the trend are varied and, in many cases, deeply rooted within an industry in need of reform. In many ways the system has beaten down the doctors—imparting cynicism in place of their once noble aspirations.

The doctors are largely part of a system they can’t beat and many don’t want to be a part of.  This article is instructive in two important ways:

***First: it demonstrates how important professionals really are—healthcare just happens to be today’s example.  Absent professional values, things ‘go south’ fast for all stakeholders.  As Jauhar points out, naturally the patient’s experience is negatively impacted when the doctor’s professional values slip.

***Second: to me the answer to having a system ‘beat you down’  is (in part) to remember why you entered the profession in the first place.  In other words, never forget what your purpose is.  Tattoo it on your forehead if you must.  For one’s own mental health, a compelling purpose (on most days) will typically trump a bad system.

It’s interesting to note, from a systemic point of view, that the author suggests emphasizing professional values in the next generation.  That means ‘instilling professional values early on’ in medical school. Couldn’t agree more.  That’s precisely what we’ve helped do at the West Coast Ultrasound Institute. The results are exciting.

Professional values: without them, eventually we’ll all be sick. With them, we’ve got an invaluable  formula for health.


Coach or Educator? Identity Matters!

When the Game Stands Tall opens in movie theatres this Friday. It’s the story of De La Salle’s (Concord, California) storied high school football program under coach Bob Ladouceur.

De La Salle won 151 consecutive games under Ladouceur. Yes, you read correctly— 151.

Here’s an article previewing the movie that ran recently in the Contra Costa Times—a newspaper whose property is a stones throw from De La Salle’s practice field.

Having lived a short four miles from De La Salle for years, I’ve admired the school and all they stand for—football program included. Since 1994 twelve of their players have been drafted into the NFL (think: Maurice Jones-Drew, Amani Toomer, etc). No doubt, De La Salle’s football program is special.

What’s their secret sauce?

The Contra Costa Times article mentions, among other things, their conditioning program. Yes, that (and many other factors) all contribute to their success.

Yet to me their secret sauce starts with the professionals (some might say adults) that oversee the program—on and off the field. Typically we’d call them coaches—for the lack of a better term. And no doubt the kids call them ‘coach’. Yet, as defensive coordinator Terry Edison mentions in the article, “Our coaches see themselves as educators. The football field just becomes an extension of our classroom. “ To me this is the central ingredient in their secret sauce.

In other words, the men running the program see their purpose as educating the young men under their stewardship. Their commitment transcends merely giving lip service to an arguably noble cause. The men running the program have an emotional commitment.

The ‘players’ education is values based—centering on life’s lessons that helps the young men mature and realize their true potential. Bottom line: the program stands for something more than winning football games. Not surprisingly, when the young men’s potential is enhanced, they win a lot.

There’s a huge difference in being a coach and being an educator. The educator seeks a higher purpose. The men who have stewardship for De La Salle’s football program are professionals. They are professionals who happen to be educators. Identity matters!


Thanks Funnyman

Yesterday afternoon my thoughts turned to Bridges Restaurant in Danville, California. No, I wasn’t hungry. I was sad.

Bridges is a popular, high-end restaurant in our (San Francisco Bay) area. Some of Mrs. Doubtfire’s most memorable scenes were filmed there. Mrs. Doubtfire helped put Bridges on the map. And it was Robin Williams that put the iconic hit film Mrs. Doubtfire on the map. Now he’s gone. How sad.

My neighbor, Kevin Gin, has been the executive chef at Bridges since Mrs. Doubtfire was released in 1993. Kevin tells me that even today that guests at Bridges want to know at what table Williams was filmed at—even amongst many European travelers on holiday. The worldwide outpouring of emotion surrounding his passing is a testament to the depth as to how deeply he touched us.

Bob Sutton (the Stanford professor and management guru) shared a touching story about Robin Williams yesterday that further illustrates why Williams was so beloved.

That Williams was a first-rate human being (as Sutton reinforces) shouldn’t be much of a surprise. The fact that he is gone is.

‘Passionate Professional’, An Oxymoron?

There are words that seemingly don’t go together. Consider:

Jumbo shrimp
benign neglect
passionate professional

We have funnyman George Carlin to thank for his hilarious parody on jumbo shrimp. It’s perhaps Carlin’s most famous oxymoron. At least for our purposes, let’s call it a oxymoron.

Passionate professional (for many) is another oxymoron. Traditionally professionals are expected to be reserved (even stoic), conservative (in thought), 100% objective (evidence based) , cautious (in decisions/actions), buttoned-down appearance, etc. A more extensive list could be generated…..but you get the idea.

The irony is that for professionals (founders especially) passion is a requirement in living up to professional ideals. After all, the professional 1) creates more value than they extract and 2) subscribe to a higher order of thinking. For founders with a professional’s mind-set, their company has a purpose beyond making money. Simply put, everything starts with purpose—purpose that makes a difference.

Here’s a great clip (only three and a half minutes) that features Ruth Zukerman (founder of New York City-based Flywheel Sports):

The clip is entitled ‘There is No Substitute For Passion’. Check it out.

Does the founding professional need to have passion (and instill that passion in those within the organization)? Should those serving clients have passion for what they do? Do you want passion in your product developers? The answer—in each instance—is yes!

Thanks Ruth for the reminder. Passion…professionals shouldn’t hide it under a bush!