Blog | Thursday, October 24, 2013

Leaders in academic medicine should channel Ganesh

Last night I had a wonderful dinner with a previous family medicine resident and his family. He now works as a hospitalist. I knew that he was celebrating Ganesh’s birthday -Ganesh Chaturthi 2013: Hindus Celebrate Birthday Of Lord Ganesh For Auspicious Beginnings Being fascinated with religions, I asked about Ganesh and he and his wife taught me. I knew that Ganesh favored learning, but I was unaware of the phrase “remover of obstacles.” Hindus pray to Ganesh when starting new projects, as he removes obstacles to success.

Although he is known by many attributes, Ganesha’s elephant head makes him easy to identify. Ganesha is widely revered as the remover of obstacles, the patron of arts and sciences and the deva of intellect and wisdom. As the god of beginnings, he is honoured at the start of rituals and ceremonies. Ganesha is also invoked as patron of letters and learning during writing sessions. Several texts relate mythological anecdotes associated with his birth and exploits and explain his distinct iconography.

What struck me during our conversation was the concept of removing obstacles! Can you remember praising a leader for removing obstacles? What I see in medicine today and in medical education today is a series of obstacles! Who is working to remove those obstacles?

While Medicare is in many ways a huge success as a health care program, unfortunately it often represents the anti-Ganesh. CMS creates rules that really are just obstacles to care. CMS focuses on payments and the budget. The rules, however well-intentioned, create obstacles. How can we decrease the obstacles to spending adequate time with patients, writing intelligent notes and decreasing health care costs.

The American Board of Medical Specialties and Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education continue to add rules for residencies. Residency programs spend inordinate time in documentation, while residents spend less time with patients and seemingly are not learning medicine as well (decreased board pass rates).

We in academic medicine, we in medical societies, and perhaps other health care leaders should reframe our conceptualization of health care. We need to channel Ganesh and work to remove obstacles. We need leaders who refuse to accept obstacles!

db is the nickname for Robert M. Centor, MD, FACP. db stands both for Dr. Bob and da boss. He is an academic general internist at the University of Alabama School of Medicine, and is the Associate Dean for the Huntsville Regional Medical Campus of UASOM. He also serves as a frequent ward attending at the Birmingham VA Hospital. This post originally appeared at his blog, db's Medical Rants.