Academia

My Interview With Capt. Sully Sullenberger: On Aviation, Medicine, and Technology

The story of Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger – the “Miracle on the Hudson” pilot – is a modern American legend. I’ve gotten to know Captain Sullenberger over the past several years, and he is a warm, caring, and thoughtful person who saw, in the aftermath of his feat, an opportunity to promote safety in many industries, including healthcare. In my continuing series of interviews I conducted for my upcoming book, The Digital Doctor: Hope, Hype, and Harm at the Dawn of Medicine’s Computer Age, here are excerpts of my interview with Sully, conducted at his house in San Francisco’s East Bay, on May 12, 2014. Bob Wachter: How did people think about automation in the early days of aviation? Sully Sullenberger:  When automation became possible in aviation, people thought, “We can eliminate human error by automating everything.” We’ve learned that automation does not eliminate errors. Rather, it changes the nature of…

My Interview With Health Policy Expert Mark Smith

Mark Smith, MD, MBA, was the founding CEO of the California HealthCare Foundation; he served in that role for 17 years before stepping down last year. I’ve known Mark since we were residents together at UCSF in the mid-1980s, and both of us were influenced by training at the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic. Mark continues to see AIDS patients at San Francisco General Hospital one day each week. He was the lead author of Best Care at Lower Cost, a major Institute of Medicine report, published in 2012. Mark is one of those rare people who can take complex and politically charged concepts and distill them into sensible nuggets – while managing to be hilarious and profound at the same time. In the continuing series of interviews I conducted for my upcoming book, The Digital Doctor: Hope, Hype, and Harm at the Dawn of Medicine’s Computer Age, here are…

Teaching on Today’s Wards: All You Need Is 1 Minute, So SNAPPS to It?

During my eight-year tenure as Associate Program Director for our Internal Medicine Residency, I read countless letters of recommendation for aspiring residents, and many were signed by familiar hospitalist friends from all over the country.  If you think about how many students and residents come into contact with hospitalists, making sure hospitalists are great teachers is more than just a pride issue, it's also critical to training the next generation of physicians, no matter what specialty they go into. Unfortunately, there are many barriers to teaching on the wards today for hospitalists.  First and foremost, time is of the essence.  Less time worked by residents has increased the clinical workload of teaching attend ings…and what has been squeezed out is time for teaching.  Therefore, methods to teach trainees efficiently on the wards are must-have skills for any academic hospitalist. Fortunately, there are two new articles in the Journal of Hospital…

My Interview with “Technology Optimist” and 2nd Machine Age Coauthor Andy McAfee

Andy McAfee is the associate director of the Center for Digital Business at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. He is also coauthor (with his MIT colleague Erik Brynjolfsson) of the 2014 book, The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies, one of my favorite books on technology. While he sits squarely in the camp of “technology optimists,” he is thoughtful, appreciates the downsides of IT, and isn’t overawed by the hype. In the continuing series of interviews I conducted for my forthcoming book on health IT, The Digital Doctor: Hope, Hype, and Harm at the Dawn of Medicine's Computer Age, I spoke to McAfee on August 13, 2014 in a restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I began by asking about some of the general lessons from today’s world of technology and business that have implications for healthcare. McAfee: Our devices are going to continue to…

My Interview with Atul Gawande

Atul Gawande is the preeminent physician-writer of this generation. His new book, Being Mortal, is a runaway bestseller, as have been his three prior books, Complications, Better, and The Checklist Manifesto. One of the joys of my recent sabbatical in Boston was the opportunity to spend some time with Atul, getting to see what an inspirational leader and superb mentor he is, along with being a warm and menschy human being. In my continued series of interviews I conducted for The Digital Doctor, my forthcoming book on health IT, here are excerpts from my conversation with Atul Gawande on July 28, 2014 in Boston. I began by asking him about his innovation incubator, Ariadne Labs, and how he decides which issues to focus on. Gawande: Yeah, I'm in the innovation space, but in a funny way. Our goal is to create the most basic systems required for people to get…
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