Healing Children [transcript] [audio]

Guest: Dr. Kurt Newman

Presenter: Neal Howard

Guest Bio: Kurt Newman, MD, is president and CEO of Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C. A native of North Carolina and graduate of Duke medical school, Dr. Newman has been a practicing surgeon and chief of surgery at Children’s National for over thirty years and is a professor of surgery and pediatrics at George Washington University Medical School. He helped create the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation, dedicated to making children’s surgery less invasive and pain free, and is a strong advocate for the expansion of mental health treatment for kids. He and his wife Alison (a neonatal nurse practitioner) are the parents of two sons and live in Bethesda, Maryland.  

Segment Overview: In this segment, Dr. Kurt Newman discusses how a pediatrician’s knowledge of the strategies and personnel of a hospital can be fundamental, even life saving.


Neal Howard: Hello and welcome to the program. I’m your host Neal Howard. Thank you for joining us here on Health Professional Radio. In this segment, returning guests Dr. Kurt Newman is a President and CEO of Children’s National Health System and also the author of ‘Healing Children: A Surgeon’s Stories from the Frontiers of Pediatric Medicine’. He’s returning to speak with us about how a pediatrician’s knowledge of the strategies and personnel of a hospital can be fundamental even life-saving when it comes to an emergency situation with your child. Welcome back to Health Professional Radio, Dr. Newman. Glad that you could return.

Dr. Kurt Newman: It’s great to be back here with you, Neal.

N: For those who aren’t familiar with you when you were here with us before, give us just a little bit brief background about yourself and talk about why you wrote ‘Healing Children’.

K: Sure. Most of my career I was a practicing pediatric surgeon here at the Children’s Hospital in Washington DC. Then six years ago, I had this incredible opportunity to become the CEO of Children’s National. I want to do in that role put into practice a lot of the things I had learned from being a pediatric surgeon and taking care of children and family is over 25 years and put that into practice. Then as I got into the role, I thought, “Well you know what I want to take some of these ideas and make sure that parents in particular but people in general knew the things that I’ve learned over the years and wanted to empower parents with that knowledge so that they could get the best care for their children.”

N: In Chapter two of your book, it’s titled ‘Old School’. What does ‘Old School’ have to do when it comes to pediatric medicine?

K: ‘Old school’ means to me, particularly in this context, the way doctors and patients that bond that relationship that I’ve found so enjoyable as part of the practice, where there was just tight connection and with pediatrics and children it was a tight connection with the parents and with the children and the pediatrician would follow the families along. They’d also be involved in all aspects of the child’s care and they were a resource that the parents could rely on, the children could rely on. I think what’s happened over the years is that a lot of that has broken down through nobody’s fault but with technology, with hospitals, with insurance coverages. I think that bond with primary care doctors is broken down a bit. What I was trying to do was through stories of just a great pediatrician and as I was breaking into practice build that sense of what it was like to have a connection between the pediatric specialists and the pediatrician. The benefits to the patients and it’s almost a longing, because it was, I’m not sure that we can ever return to that. I wanted people to look for those kinds of qualities in a practice, in a pediatrician, in a hospital that emphasized the warmth and the experience and sort of the connection over time with a physician.

N: That’s a very important aspect that connection that you talk about between the patient and the parents and the doctor. Do you think that it’s just as important for that connection to be established between the pediatrician and his environment as that environment is the hospital, health care facility, often times, well not often times I won’t speak that generally but sometimes you get that, as you say that disconnect. I’ve got patient number 12 today at 4 o’clock. We do things by the book, by the book, by the book, next patient. What about knowing intimately what is going on in that facility by the pediatrician not just by the book but knowing on a personal level what his staff is about, what the facility is about, what goes on? Is that just as important a connection as that connection between patient and physician?

K: Absolutely. I think from the perspective of now being a hospital administrator, if you will and leader, I think we have a responsibility on that side of things to be in a stronger connection with the pediatricians with the referring doctors. I think anything we can do to strengthen that bond, sometimes it’s technology. That’s where technology can help, providing the laboratory or the x-ray, but I think it’s even more fundamental than that. I think it’s really a mindset that we’re all part of the same team. We’re all focused on the same thing which is that family and that child at the center of it. To treat each other as members of that team and really equal members of the team, I think the responsibility on the side of the primary care and the pediatrician is to, in a sense advocate for their child to know who the specialists are, know about the emergency department, know what it’s like in the hospital. I think it’s amazing and so empowering when you see the pediatricians in the hospital, maybe they’re visiting a patient, maybe they’re coming for a conference. And I think it’s also a duty, if you will, for the hospital to make it that easy. I think this is where telemedicine on the things can play a role, where we can make it easier, because people are busy. It’s hard to get around places but I think there’s ways if we think about it. We can get back to that quote-unquote ‘old-school mentality’ of where we’re all in it together.

N: You mentioned technology specifically as being a probable cause of this disconnect. Don’t you think that the use of technology in order to make healthcare more efficient and have better outcomes, better patient outcomes, can’t we use that same technology in order to re-establish that connection between the hospital and the pediatrician so that the hospital doesn’t lose track of what the pediatrician is going to, and I’m the same side of that – on the other side of the coin, the pediatrician doesn’t feel left out of the loop with what’s going on in his or her facility?

K: That’s it. That is just so spot-on. I think what we don’t want to do is just get so reliant on the technology that we lose the humanity, if you will. I think what we want to do is find ways to use the technology to bring us closer together not to divide us. If it’s the electronic health record, yes that’s good and it has so many benefits, but there’s still something about that personal contact. Maybe it’s a phone call or maybe we use the telemedicine so there’s some face-to-face. I think we’re going to see lots more applications of that and I think it’s a real responsibility on the one side for the hospital to make that available. Then on the other side, I think it’s a responsibility of the primary care, pediatricians and so forth to make that important and to advocate for that and use it in a way that helps their patients. I think that over this, over the next few years we’re going to see more and more of that happening.

N: Your book ‘Healing Children: A Surgeon Stories from the Frontiers of Pediatric Medicine’, where can our listeners go and get a copy of your book?

K: I’m sure it’s in the local independent bookstores. I’m sure it’s also on Amazon and it’s been doing great. I’ve heard a lot of good feedback from parents and families because in a way through these stories of children, it’s helped empower them to think about their own children and how they can get the best care for their kids.

N: We’d also like to learn some more about Children’s National Health System as well. Is there a website for that?

K: There is a website and that is childrensnational.org and I have a medium page which is medium.com/kurt-newman-md.

N: Dr. Newman, it’s been a pleasure as always. I’m glad that you could return and talk with us. I’m hoping we can have some future conversations.

K: I’d love to be back.

N: You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host Neal Howard. Transcripts and audio of this program are available at health professionalradio.com.au and also at hpr.fm. Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, listen in and download it on SoundCloud and be sure and visit our affiliates page at healthprofessionalradio.com.au and also at hpr.fm.

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