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patient. Think about the last time you went
to your primary care physician. He or she
likely sat there with an iPad and spent
much of the time checking boxes rather
than making eye contact and conversing
with you about what brought you in.
What technological advances would you
like to see in the future?
I have no doubt we’ll see lots of new tech-
nology that is not particularly important
or useful. I think for the things I will find
useful, we have to go back to those origi-
nal questions: Is this something that truly
enhances the care and safety of a patient?
Is this something that makes my care more
efficient? Is this something that can save
money in patient care?
After my first invention, the head of prod-
uct development for the company I was
working with said, ‘David, I think there’s
another invention in you, but let me give
you some advice. It’s not the product, it’s the
problem.’ In other words: You’re not going
to think of a product first; the key is to think
of the problem. True advances of the future
will be devices that actually solve problems.
Talk about some of your inventions and
the aha moment when you realized this
one is really going to work.
I had done a thoracic anesthesia case in
which we had to deliver continuous oxygen
under constant low pressure to a non-venti-
lated lung to provide enough oxygen to the
patient. In order to do that, we had to jury-
rig a system of a valve, an oxygen source, an
inflatable bag and a number of items that
were quite cumbersome. I remember driv-
ing home and daydreaming until a thought
just popped in my mind: Why couldn’t we
just have a little such-and-such?
The such-and-such turned out to be the
CPAP System, my first invention. Of course
it took several years of trying to find a corpo-
rate partner, convince them of what a great
idea it was, and get a patent. I learned very
quickly what Thomas Edison had alluded
to: Inventing was 1 percent inspiration and
99 percent perspiration.
My next invention was a bite block.
Previously, we made a makeshift bite block
by taking some gauze, wrapping and taping
it around a tongue blade, and putting it in
the mouth. As I was doing this in the OR
one day, I thought, wait a minute—there’s
got to be an easier way to do this. From
that thought came the product—my bite
block, called the BiteGard, which people
like because it’s so simple. The best inven-
tions are simple.
What do you see as your role as a
Physician Advisor and what are you
excited about the committee doing for
First of all, I want to stay engaged in medi-
cine since I’m now teaching in my group
instead of being in the operating room.
Through HealthTrust, I hope to be able to
interact with other physicians in analyz-
ing technology and trying to separate the
wheat from the chaff. Is there something out
there that we’re not using that we should?
Ideally, we will partner with HealthTrust
to better define and then make joint deci-
sions on which specific technologies are
I’m excited about physicians and sup-
ply chain leaders sharing perspectives
on the priorities each is tasked with, and
then collaborating to make related product
choices in an intelligent manner. There is
no way supply chain people will have an
understanding of everything that happens
in an operating room, yet physicians have to
realize there are limited resources so they
need to choose wisely.
What advice do you have on navigating
difficult conversations between supply
chain leaders and physicians related to
It starts with leadership in the anesthesia
department. You have to have a leader whom
the anesthesiologists respect and trust.
They should feel free to communicate to
that leader the critical medical devices that
they do not wish to compromise on, but they
should also be honest about which devices
are just preferences. A strong leader is one
who is willing to make some individuals
unhappy as he or she discerns which devices
are critical to patient care and which are
Productive conversations require a com-
bination of honest communication about
problems and needs as well as trust between
physicians in the specialty and between phy-
sicians and supply chain. •
Continued from page 67
David Alfery, M.D., calls Operation
Smile “one of the most meaningful proj-
ects” he’s ever been a part of. Started in
1982, it provides free surgeries for chil-
dren and young adults in developing
countries who are born with cleft lips,
cleft palates or other facial deformities.
Mobilizing volunteer medical teams to
conduct surgical missions in resource-
poor environments, the international
medical charity has provided more than 200,000 free surgeries in 60-plus countries.
“If you asked me what is the most meaningful week of my entire medical career,
it would probably be my first Operation Smile mission in Romania,” Dr. Alfery says.
“It’s so gratifying to be able to do this for little kids who would never get this care
otherwise. My friend Mike Stabile, with whom I went on quite a few missions together,
describes the experience like this: ‘It’s 45 minutes of our lives that will affect them
for the rest of their lives.’
“It doesn’t matter that you have to give up a week’s vacation to go on these
missions; you’ll be given more than you ever dreamed just from having gone.”
Dr. Marcos Oziel and Dr. Alfery with
Operation Smile in Barinas, Venezuela
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