2016 Western Health Care Leadership Academy was a huge success (and a lot of fun)!

May 16, 2016
Area(s) of Interest: Physician Leadership 

The 2016 Western Health Care Leadership Academy welcomed nearly 500 attendees in San Francisco to hear from a dynamic lineup of speakers, including Atul Gawande, M.D., a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship winner, a New Yorker columnist and author; Bennet Omalu, M.D., the physician who identified chronic brain damage as a major factor in the deaths of NFL players; veteran political strategists Karl Rove and Donna Brazile; and entertainer, internist and founder of Turntable Health, ZDoggMD.

Dr. Gwande, general surgeon and author of Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, described during the Saturday afternoon session how he learned to cope with mistakes that he made in the operating room as a resident.

"I had to deal with my little imperfections and the complexities of the surgery itself," said Dr. Gawande. Eventually he became comfortable with the surgeries and his own imperfections, but then faced an even more difficult phase of his surgical practice: How to treat those patients who did not do well after surgery.

"What do you do with those patients who did not get better? How to you help patients cope with death?" he asked the audience. "I am a surgeon. I want to fix everything in three hours." But Dr. Gawande said he found his medical education sorely lacking in dealing with mortality.

As a pathologist, Dr. Omalu, only dealt with people after death. In his speech on Sunday morning, he recounted the story of how he was on call on the Saturday at the at the coroner's office in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, when the popular Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster's body was brought into the pathology lab. It was this encounter with Webster that led to Dr. Omalu's discovery of chronic brain damage as a major factor in the deaths of NFL players. Dr. Omalu is currently the chief medical examiner for San Joaquin County, and is a professor in the UC Davis Department of Medical Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. His story inspired the 2015 Hollywood movie, Concussion, starring Will Smith.

Veteran political strategists Karl Rove and Donna Brazile, two personalities on opposite ends of the political spectrum, spoke on numerous topics during the Friday afternoon political panel. The upcoming presidential election, in particular, was a subject both candidates had dispirited opinions on, with Brazile foreseeing one of “the most chaotic and dramatic elections” in her lifetime and Rove anticipating “one weird election.” Nevertheless, both seemed to agree that the outcome of the election is anything but predictable at this point.

The surprise hit of the conference was Las Vegas internist, comedian and rapper ZDoggMD (also known as Zubin Damania, M.D.) who entertained and educated the crowd with his unique, insightful and hysterically-funny health care rap parodies.

We had a great time at this year's Western Health Care Leadership Academy, and we hope you did, too! A big thank you to our corporate supporters and exhibitors for helping to make the event possible.

Check out the photos from the conference at http://www.facebook.com/cmaphysicians and feel free to tag yourself and your colleagues.

If you missed out this year, mark your calendars to join us next year in San Diego, May 5 – 7.


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