Monday, February 27, 2012

My Grandmother Taught Me the Most Important Lesson in Life


People often ask me "Why are you so interested in the care of older Americans?"

I tell them that for me there has been since childhood a natural
attraction to caring for aging Americans. For that, you can thank my
grandmother.

Grandma's Doctor

My grandmother, whom I met when I was seven years old, was an
immigrant to the US. She didn't speak a word of English and I
couldn't speak any of her languages. Yet, we found ways to
communicate with each other. She loved when I pretended to be her "Doctor."
I would motion for her to stick out her tongue so I could put in
the back of a spoon and examine her throat; I would pretend to check
her pulse and listen to her heart.

A soft touch, a kind word, and genuine concern would never fail to
bring a smile to her face.

One day, while I was role-playing her Doctor, she turned to my mother and with a
bright smile, said something. I asked my mother what Grandma had said.
She replied that Grandma said I was her "sunshine." I knew then and
there that my destiny was to care for people, and that such care had
to include a soft touch, a kind word, and genuine concern.

Money and Medicine

Years later, I would graduate from the New York University School of
Medicine and pursue a career in surgery. During my two years of
surgical training, I felt that something was wrong. Day after day, I
saw that the economics of medicine were increasingly driving its
practice. People who had never actually provided care were making
decisions that affected patient care. I felt that people could more
appropriately make such important decisions with training in the
disciplines of both medicine and economics. There had to be a better
balance between meeting health care needs and making money.
So, I completed my residency and went to Harvard Business School.

In the Beginning…

In 1989, I co-founded HealthDrive with Dr. Alec Jaret, a dentist who
since 1983 had been providing the much-needed service of caring for
elderly residents at long-term care facilities. We shared a
philosophy of aiming to set higher standards of care for the
residence-bound elderly. In 1990, we recruited Dr. Jeffrey Morer, an
Optometrist, and in 1992, Dr. Mary Manesis, a Podiatrist, to likewise
establish high quality programs for the elderly in their respective
specialties. In 1995, we added Audiology. As a team, we carefully and
slowly grew our programs to serve thousands of elderly residents in
many long-term care facilities. Eventually, we took care of over 5 million seniors.

Keys to Success

We grew our programs by closely following three principles. First, we
would only work with providers after diligently reviewing their
credentials and ensuring that they were well-regarded professionals.
Second, we insisted that these professionals demonstrate the highest
standard of ethical behavior and provide their care with dignity,
compassion, and concern for their elderly patients. Lastly, we
required their treatment plans to be thoughtfully considered,
medically appropriate and clearly documented so that their care could
withstand close scrutiny.

Frustration Mounts

As the years went by, even as we continued to grow, my frustration started to mount. Hampered by government regulations that precluded virtually any preventive-activity, it grew wearisome to have very little effect on our patients’ ultimate outcomes. Ridden with chronic diseases and cognitive impairment, time was often not very generous for our patients. Regardless of what we did, we eventually said goodbye to them. We strove to do well by doing good but the well was easier to measure. By 2008, I felt the time had come to move on and I sold the practice to a private equity firm. I retired for a year then came back for another year before eventually exiting to start MDPrevent, the next and most meaningful chapter in my life to date.

What I saw and learned over those twenty years is what drives my passion to make the world a better place and help future generations avoid the same fate that befell my previous patients. I know MDPrevent can make a difference for people of all ages.

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