Kevin Conrad, MD, MBA, could always picture being a doctor, given that he enjoyed the sciences and wanted a job where he could work with people. He has more trouble figuring out how people don’t enjoy the detective work that comes with medicine.
“I have a hard time imagining what people do besides people in the sciences,” he says. “In sciences, you deal with facts, you deal with numbers, you deal with data, and you put it together and you come to conclusions. And to me, that seemed like a career pathway as opposed to, say, a field like law or writing or whatnot. I could never wrap my head around what they actually do in a given day.”
Dr. Conrad’s passion for the sciences hasn’t waned yet. He serves as the medical director of community affairs and healthy policy at Ochsner Health Systems of New Orleans, where he focuses on systems improvement. He published his first book this year, Absolute Hospital Medicine Review: An Intensive Question and Answer Guide, and is working on his second tome.
And this year, he was named one of the eight new members of Team Hospitalist, the volunteer editorial advisory board of The Hospitalist.
Question: What led you to a more hands-on medical field as opposed to being a basic or translational scientist?
Answer: I had some early exposure to lab work in high school and college and saw what they did and saw how they were sort of confined to labs for long periods of time and said, “No, I think that I would rather be kind of out there, combining science as well as interacting with people in the field.”
Q: When you started residency, was it clear to you that hospital medicine was where you wanted to go, or were you looking at a few different options?
A: Hospital medicine combined my interests in internal medicine, which is sort of a broad overview of all aspects of medicine and healthcare as well as being a little bit more intensive, a little bit more action-oriented. The patients tend to be a little bit more ill, require a little bit more acute attention, and that appealed to me as opposed to my training in internal medicine.
Q: What about the intensity of hospital medicine appeals to you?
A: As opposed to sitting down with a patient in an office setting, I think, in hospital medicine, I like the idea that you’re called from one semi-emergency to another and that you have to think quickly on your feet and move on to the new task. And the new tasks come in rapid sequence: You have one problem that you fix and then you’re called to do another one, and each and every day, it will tend to be sort of a different set of problems.
Q: What was the motivation to write the book and now working on the second?
A: I wanted to share my experience, and I felt I was in a position where I could not only share my personal practice experience as well as sort of collate the other material that has been written and published in hospital medicine. I also think there is a need right now to continue to define what hospital medicine is and show what we’re experts at as well as show our value to the system. We have an ambiguous practice, and people still aren’t quite sure what we do and what we’re expert at. So I think it’s our task to showcase this is what we do well, this is what we do better than other people, and this is our value to the system.