National Physicians Week 2021

This post has been republished via RSS; it originally appeared at: Healthcare and Life Sciences Blog articles.

 

Claire Bonaci 

You're watching the Microsoft US health and life sciences confessions of health geeks podcast. A show that offers industry insight from the health geeks and data freaks of the US health and life sciences industry team. I'm your host Claire Bonaci on this episode we celebrate national physicians day with a special podcast with Dr.  Clifford Goldsmith our US chief medical officer. Clifford shares his unique journey that led him to become a doctor and discusses the importance of technology for physicians. Hi Clifford and welcome to the podcast

 

Clifford Goldsmith 

 Thanks nice to be with you

 

Claire Bonaci 

so you have been at Microsoft for quite some time now around 21 ish years but you were also a practicing physician for a long time before joining Microsoft do you mind giving us a little bit of background about why you became a doctor in the first place

 

Clifford Goldsmith 

well you know I think I it was a calling you know in a sense that i wanted to help patients it was a it was very much a feeling that I wanted to be able to make a difference and for individual patients and it as I studied medicine and went through medical school I actually became interested in community health as well and growing up in South Africa in under apartheid it became it became very obvious something that is fairly obvious to us today yeah after seeing health inequities in the us those were just as obvious you know during apartheid where you could see that inequity and so I started to get interested in in community health as well and and so that it was it was really around doing the right thing for people and for populations or groups of people

 

Claire Bonaci 

And so you did mention the apartheid briefly i heard through the grapevine that you kind of had some underground hospitals during that time can you explain a little bit more about that sure

 

Clifford Goldsmith 

so as you probably will people know Nelson Mandela headed up the African national congress which was the leading opposition to apartheid and for his for the work that he did and many others did they were jailed many people were jailed he was jailed for 27 years on Robin island but even as he was jailed on Robin island he was still able to influence the what was going on and so in the in the country and and through and he did this in this case so we got approached a group of us that were in fifth medic fifth year medical school at the time were involved in the anti apartheid movement but hadn't done much in terms of health care and we we got approached by someone who had spent five years on Robin island in direct contact with Nelson Mandela and he said so he came to us and he said one of the things that Nelson Mandela feels is necessary is that people in South Africa were being victimized after they had protested and the way this was happening was that the government was shooting rubber bullets shooting real bullets but spraying a dye that pretty much like the mace dyes that we see here today and that guy was on their skin and identified and then they would go they would send policemen or agents to the hospital the local hospitals to put into jail anyone who came in with an injury that had this purple or whatever color die was on at the time and so people were afraid to go to hospitals and he we discovered this from through Nelson Mandela indirectly but then we've also shown by an internal wing of the united democratic friend we were taken to churches in black communities and shown what was really happening and I was horrified I have to tell you I vividly remember a 21 year old woman who had an open chest wound and had had an open chest wound with a collapsed lung for seven days and she was so afraid to go to hospital because she knew should be arrested so what we did is we started an underground system that would when somebody was injured and needed care like that they could call a triage center and the triage center then would make sure that they could be taken out of that community to a different community where they would know where there wouldn't have been oversight over the hospitals so that was essentially what we did and we created a fairly extensive underground health system that led to unfortunately some of the doctors being killed off by the police as well the person who was triage during the coals was killed by the police and so it was it was in that period that I lived there was also a movie that was done and I agreed to be part of that movie so that only if the movie was only released after I'd lived South Africa and so in 1986 the movie was released it's called witness to a party

 

Claire Bonaci 

Wow that's that really is amazing what was kind of the reason for you to stop practicing medicine or was it to just go to the US and leave that behind

 

Clifford Goldsmith 

yeah so the main reason was to leave the to leave South Africa, I had to leave. There were other reasons I had to leave as well. I tried. Well, let me let me go back one step. So even after all of that, I tried really hard to stay in South Africa, but there was compulsory conscription. And every white male had to spend two years in the Army defending the country, I was able to defer that when I started medical school, as many doctors do, because they wanted doctors in the army. And so I deferred the medical training, I deferred the army. But when I finished medical school, I immediately got conscripted into the army. And unfortunately, someone who had been an opponent of mine in political circles, us, who was a right wing medical student who had led the pro apartheid movement on my campus, knew me, he had now become a colonel and a surgeon in the army. And he used that opportunity to really to, to, to exempt sort of what he thought was a form of punishment on me. And so I got sent into the very front lines of the pro apartheid army, fighting against Southwest African peoples organization, which is the organization in Namibia, in previously southeast Africa. And, and so and that was traumatic, there was incredibly coming, I was I was put on foot with reconnaissance mercenaries. And and it wasn't something I ever would have wanted to do in my wildest dreams. And so I ended up having to me, it was at that time that I made the decision that I needed to leave. And so I deferred the second year of my army, specialized in order to specialize which they allow me to do, and in the process of specializing, made plans to come to the US. And so that's why I came here.

 

Claire Bonaci 

Wow, that is an amazing story. I really, I would have never guessed that, to be honest. And so if you had qualified in the US to continue practicing medicine, is that something you would have wanted to do? It sounds like you would really, you're in such an arc of practicing medicine and seeing such horrible things? Is that something that you wanted to continue? Or were you really looking into moving to do something more in a technology company,

 

Clifford Goldsmith 

you know, as horrible as it was in South Africa, and the trauma that I saw, there was some sense of satisfaction, if you want or sense of gratefulness, that I was able to help. And so it was a really good it's, it's hard to say this, but it was a really good experience. And I've got many sort of vivid memories, not just of the people that we helped through the the underground health system for my emergency health system. But even in the army, I there was some sense of helping people in Angola that were I was placed outside of Southeast Africa. That was also quite rewarding. I think I if I had, I had to finish specializing. And so I was a pulmonologist by then came to the US. And unfortunately, we're fortunate unfortunately, we live in Massachusetts, and there are only some states that require that I go all the way back and redo my internship as well as my specialization. And I didn't really become very interested in technology. In fact, while I was doing my residency, could registrar ship in South Africa. I also did, I worked in technology, I got trained in computer programming, I loved computer programming. And it was through computer programming that I got my first job in America, I needed a job right away, and I got a job at Harvard Medical School. And the two hospitals that worked with in their hospital systems, the Beth Israel in the Brigham and Women's Hospital. And it was through that group, the Center for Clinical computing, that I became really, really interested in technology. If you ask me today, I would have loved to and I would still love to have been able to practice a limited amount as I see many of my informaticists physician colleagues doing, I would like to practice day, a week, two days a week. And, and and worked in technology as as I do, which I love and enjoy, you know, three to four days a week.

 

Claire Bonaci 

Interesting. Well, that's great. And Microsoft, we're very lucky to have someone of your background and your experience here. And I know I'm I feel very lucky to work with you every day. I'm curious. So have you been in contact with the doctors that you had worked with there? or How was the relationship after you went to the USA and left a lot of those people there?

 

Clifford Goldsmith 

It was a very hard time coming to the US from that perspective. I mean, I loved I always loved what America offered. I love the opportunity offered. I love the innovation and creativity in the US. And so I've never ever turned back on that. But when Nelson Mandela was released, I was I left South Africa in 1986. Nelson Mandela was released in 1990. He became the the Prime Minister of South Africa, the President of South Africa actually in 1994. That was a very hard day for me because it happened that exactly on the same day that He was inaugurated, as the new president of South Africa, I was also made a permanent resident. I mean, I received my US citizenship. And and it's a hard day because the the realization that what we've been fighting for came about. And so, you know, I, my friends, many of my friends were able to stay through that summit going back that I know, some, some didn't. But but some of them have gone back and played a very significant role in the new health system in South Africa. And it's a great system. It's a, it's a system that really views health equity at its core, which is cool.

 

Claire Bonaci 

That's, that's really interesting. I'm glad you kind of saved part of that as well. So given that you have seen both worlds of being a practicing physician, and on the technology side of healthcare, what do you think the role of technology is to a doctor who is so focused on the patient, you know, 100% of the time.

 

Clifford Goldsmith 

So I actually think that our role as technologists, I feel just as good, making technology that helps other doctors do their job as I did as a doctor in a way. In fact, I consider my approach to informatics as part of the Hippocratic oath. And the Hippocratic oath that we all took in medical school was to do the right thing for patients and for populations. And to today, I mean, I'm heading populations in the early days, it was really focused on the individual patient. And so it was really exciting. And I've just written a blog about this for for doctors day. And that it was really exciting to do things like when I read the Institute of Medicine reports in 1999, and 2001, which was the second part of that report was called Crossing the Chasm. It pointed out how technology could improve patient safety. And it was incredibly exciting to read that. And then it was incredibly exciting to spend the next 10 years implementing physician order entry, because we knew that physician or he was going to make prescribing more accurate and patient safer. And that was the joy of it. What I do worry about today, and in the last 10 years is we've heard about physician burnout, we've heard about physician dissatisfaction. In fact, if you remember there was this quadruple aim that the triple aim, which was came from the Institute of Health Improvement IHI and the triple aim was was about better care, better health at a lower cost. But no one thought about the fact that as you use technology to do that, you are going to create the possibility which unfortunately, sometimes happen of dissatisfaction or burnout among clinicians, physicians and nurses. And so it's quite disappointing that our technology has led or is bearing the brand, in some cases have this feeling of alienation, that doctor said, and so what would I like to do? I'd like to make sure right now that technology goes gets back to the point where it's actually empowering, and not alienating doctors and nurses. And and I think that's, you know, it's certainly we've seen that in many industries. And I think that healthcare is on the cusp, and I'm very excited about what Microsoft's doing around the Microsoft Cloud for healthcare, because I think that's our opportunity to really make to put physicians back in a position where they feel productive, they feel empowered, and they feel grateful for how you know, technology's living them practice what they love doing, which is caring for patients.

 

Claire Bonaci 

100% agree, I think you really hit the nail on the head around just that physicians and nurses they're so burdened with having to do everything and whether that's they have the technology to do that it's still a burden to end the the curve to learn that to implement it and to of course, be there for the patient 100% as well. So definitely anything that Microsoft and other technology companies can do to help that I think that's our end goal overall. And so 10 this podcast, I just want to say thank you again, Dr. Goldsmith, for being on the podcast and for sharing your story and Happy National physician day

 

Clifford Goldsmith 

Thank you. Thank you so much for the opportunity to do this. And thanks for all you do. These podcasts that you've done over the last year or more have been wonderful. So thank you.

 

Claire Bonaci 

Thank you all for watching. Please feel free to leave us questions or comments below. And check back soon for more content from the HLS industry team.

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