Healthcare’s future shouldn’t leave out doctors

By way of introduction: I’m a general surgeon. Before that, I was a dual degree MD/MBA student at Stanford. Along the way, I had adventures as an EMR product manager in India and venture capital analyst. And now, I’m at a start-up called Robin. I consider myself a physician and surgeon first (and a mom, but that’s a post for another day). I’m excited about this new adventure in technology.

I planned to change medicine from the inside out. That was the dream of a medical student 10 years ago. Then, I went to work becoming a surgeon.

Surgery residency at Stanford led to a fellowship in trauma / critical care at LA County + USC Medical Center (aka Big County). For the past year I carried a #10 scalpel and 2–0 prolene suture in my pocket, ready on a moment’s notice to sew up a hole in someone’s heart.

I surfaced this July in an unlikely role. I joined a tech start-up called Robin. Robin is addressing a problem in medicine that leaves doctors at best treading water, at worst drowning: we are taking on the burden of physician documentation. In the process we believe we will revolutionize the way we collect, store, and interact with medical data.

I joined Robin because this team showed me they are on the doctor’s side. I spent 15 years at Stanford, and I’ve been engaged in health tech since before we called it “health tech.” This is the first time I’ve seen experienced technologists so clearly interested in the doctor’s point of view.

So one Friday, I rounded in the trauma ICU, and the next Monday I went to work as a product manager. As I grow into my new role, I’m unbottling a dream I put on hold for years.

Like my colleagues, when I graduated medical school, I put my head down and worked. I saved lives. I became an expert. Just today, I took my board exam in Surgical Critical Care: 196 multiple choice questions to remind me how much I’ve learned (oh joy)!

Then I drove to my new office. I checked in with our team of engineers, an exercise that still stretches my brain into uncomfortable shapes. Because a tech company is not a trauma ICU. Here, I am not an expert.

I’m engaged in building technology because I want doctors to have technology that serves us.

One day at a time, on rounds or in clinic or the OR, our patients win because of our dedication. But when do we plan for our future, next year or next decade?

Our patients also win because of our specialization. But while I’m (literally) deep in the guts of a trauma laparotomy, leaders are making decisions in broad strokes. Power does not necessarily respect expertise.

We need to assert ourselves using the pace and tenor of the decision-makers. We have so much to contribute! But if we continue with our heads down, doing the hard and noble work of medicine, others will shape our future.

Hence why I joined Robin and became a novice again, after nearly a decade of medical specialization. I look forward to this opportunity to shape the future of medicine.