Naji Gehchan: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the podcast for purpose-driven healthcare leaders, striving to make life better around the world by leading their teams with genuine care, servant leadership, and love.
I am Naji, your host for this podcast, joined by Dr Yang, a thought leader and clinician dedicated to delivering high-quality, compassionate, clinical care to her patients. She believes in constant improvement and re-evaluation of clinical care systems and in developing the next generation of doctors.
Clarissa is the President of Pratt Dermatology., Dermatologist-in-Chief at Tufts Medical Center, and the Chairman of Dermatology at Tufts University School of Medicine where she is responsible for the strategic clinical, educational and research success. She also serves on the Board of Trustees at Tufts Medical Center. Previously, she held leadership roles at Harvard Medical School and was the Outpatient Medical Director for the Department of Dermatology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and helped expand the clinical footprint to 13 outpatient clinical facilities. Clarissa grew up in Canada and obtained her medical school training at McGill University. She focuses on operational efficiencies, integration of technology, and clinical care redesign. and has been awarded “Top Doctor” by Boston Magazine since 2018!
Welcome Clarissa! Honored to have you with me today!
Clarissa Yang: Great, thanks Naji for inviting me.
Naji: If there is, I would love to start as every time to hear a little bit more about what’s in between the line of your amazing career as a, as a clinician. What’s your personal story? What got you there?
Clarissa Yang: So I, you know, we always start from the beginning, right? I think my parents were first generation immigrants from Taiwan.
And they immigrated to Canada actually. Um, my father was a, um, nuclear physicist and there were only a few, um, Nuclear accelerators in the world. And one was a sketch one in Canada. And so, um, they came over and started a family and they moved east after I have an older sister. So when they moved east after that, but because they were, you know, the first generation here, They really didn’t have any money.
They really felt like they needed to build everything from scratch. So very much from childhood, they really instilled a sense of responsibility and, um, determination. And you know, how I probably landed in healthcare was, um, my grandmother came from Taiwan when I was much younger and, uh, she came over because she had metastatic breast cancer.
In her sixties. And I remember my mother taking her to all of her appointments and how challenging it was really for her, um, as an experience with a significant amount of lymphedema. And, you know, she, she lived about 10 years and then passed away, but it sort of left quite an impact on. On myself and how much healthcare, um, impacts others and their lives and the lives of their families as well.
And so I guess very early on because of those experiences, I always felt like I really wanted to become a physician and help make that impact. Um, and I always loved kids and always thought that I would end up, uh, as a pediatrician actually, But then once I got to medical school and then I had to take care of really sick kids, it was, it was hard, actually.
It was, um, I loved being able to be their advocate. I loved playing with them, but then when it came time to, you know, doing procedures and actually not having that kind of relationship with them, Uh, I started started thinking, is this the right thing? Um, and then one day when I was actually in the hospital, I was actually on a pediatric service.
Um, we had this child who had quite an unusual eruption on his lower leg. And for days, we really just didn’t know what was wrong with him. And, um, we finally decided to call a dermatology consult and the dermatologist that’s the time she just came in and she looked at him and said, this is clearly this diagnosis you should be doing.
You should have done this workup by. And I was sort of really amazed by that, that you could actually just look at something and know what was happening inside. And, you know, he turned out to have a bowel disorder and, and we figured it out. Um, so, you know, I was like, oh, this is really cool. I want to be that lady one day.
So, um, so that’s sort of how I thought about looking into dermatology and as. Explored it it’s really a window into what’s going on inside that not everybody gets a lot of training on. So, um, it was like this great expertise that sort of drew me to Durham. Um, and I couldn’t be happier. I love what I do and I love taking care of my patients.
Naji: The welfare, thank you for sharing, you know, your, your story and, and how you care every day for your patients and what drove you there. Uh, and on this piece, you know, if you’d talk a little bit about dermatology, we’re going to talk about, um, you know, uh, one of the things you’re passionate about, uh, as this clinical carry designs are reading sheet to learn a little bit more, but maybe before that, you know, dermatology, as you said, this really the skin that.
Somehow, like everyone sees it, right? Like it’s such a dizzy. Well, if there is a disease on the skin, uh, we can see, uh, there’s lot of discussions also in dermatology, obviously with innovation, like imagery, what that the medicine can bring, like all those scans and cancer that can transform this. So I’d love to hear before going into COVID and what.
Changed in medicine, uh, obviously, which is the most obvious piece. What are your thoughts about since you’re really into integration of technology? What are your thoughts about dermatology technology and all those changes?
Clarissa Yang: Gosh, I mean, I think it’s really exciting, right. Um, because I think a lot of. A lot of times when we go, at least as physicians go to medical school, we’re taught to take care of patients.
We’re taught diagnosis and treatment, but then outside of that, whether it is business innovation, Relationships with industry, um, working in a multidisciplinary fashion that is not necessarily outside of medicine, the traditional medicines, it’s actually more rare. Um, and you know, in most other industries, um, I would say healthcare sort of lags behind and its ability to deliver things efficient, efficiently, have everybody working at the top of their license, the ability to pivot and, uh, change with the times.
It seems to struggle. At least that’s what I’ve noticed in healthcare. Um, and so. I love that marriage of the two and thinking about how we do things better, but it’s not just technology that I care about. It’s it’s how do you just always look at something with fresh eyes? How do you think about the process?
It’s a very process-based and, um, and so I really think about process improvement and then how do you do things maybe differently than, than we’ve always done and not be scared of that kind of change? Um, I think some of the reasons why. Uh, I’ve always, I’ve always, if you go, if you always think back to, to sort of childhood, it was always, oh, well I see a problem, you know, why can’t we just do it this way?
Right. And, um, I used to laugh with my father actually, and he would do his things and I’d be like, okay, we can do this faster. Can you do it this way? And so, so I, I always knew that I liked, um, being able to create efficiencies in process. That’s also why I love care clinical care redesign.
Naji: So, so what is, what is your biggest challenge as it either, you know, and you talked about cross-functionality working with those different teams, try to talk.
Well, what is your biggest challenge to drive this efficiency in patient care?
Clarissa Yang: So I think some of the bigger challenges that I’ve noticed is because I’m an academic, uh, dermatologist. And so. When you work in larger systems, I think that sometimes there’s a lot of bureaucracy, right? There’s a lot of red tape where you have to get clearance in order to, uh, go to the next step and that sometimes stifles people’s drive to continue and keep pressing.
The other challenges I would say is that, um, when we don’t have time to think. Um, and sometimes, you know, that we talk a lot about healthcare and burnout, especially of physicians, staff. And if people are just moving all the time and they don’t have time to think they can’t really innovate. Um, and so I think that’s another big challenge is how do you create processes to give people back some of that time to innovate and think different.
Naji: Yeah, this, uh, well, the Headspace, right? The more we were able to create this test, that space for us to think and, and think different obviously. And you talked about health care and burnout, obviously what you’ve been living, all the work that you’ve been doing, also leading your team and as a clinician, uh, we can’t thank you enough.
Right? As a community, as patients with, with all that you’ve been going through with the pandemic. Uh, looking back, uh, at this, uh, I always feel like we never do enough, right. For the healthcare. We always say we got to do more, but then you’re on the frontline unfortunately, and, and suffering from this. So how, how have you led your team during those times for them to be able to keep on coming in, keep on, showing up, you know, with all the risks, right?
Like you’re, you’re literally. Uh, some of them are literally risking their lives right. Every day, coming in and going home. How have you dealt with this? Uh, during those times?
Clarissa Yang: Yeah. You know that, thanks for asking the question, because I think it was a really challenging time. The uncertainty it’s usually the uncertainty that creates the anxiety.
Um, and I have to speak for my team. They really, really rose to the occasion. Um, some of the most important things that both the leadership at my hospital and health system along with, uh, myself, was to increase the amount of communication, um, communicating all of the time, uh, multiple times a day, even anything we knew, um, creating.
Base, you know, we set up wellness committees in which we try to connect, um, because you know, part of it was, uh, the social distancing where people didn’t feel like they had any ties or, uh, places to, um, have discussions. And so we tried to create that kind of infrastructure and, um, And then check in and recognize and feel with others, right?
It’s the empathy, it’s the understanding where they’re coming from, arming them with the information, um, and then developing a common sense of purpose. Right? Um, why is it that we all come together in healthcare? Uh, why are we here, but also respecting what they have to say and trying to, to, to help them through.
Uh, the challenging time. So whatever fears they had, if I could address them, I would, if I could bring somebody in to talk to them about how they could be more safe, I would, if we could implement policies and procedures that would keep them more safe. We did. So. I know, you’re probably gonna ask me already about like some of the changes and healthcare, but at one point in time, our teams were worried.
There wasn’t enough PPE throughout the hospitals. We, you know, you think about dermatology. Maybe there are some people make there aren’t life-threatening complications, but we do, we have, we still see patients on the inpatient service that have. You know, disorders where their skin is sloughing or they have vasculitis.
And, and, um, so during those times we tried to leverage technology, right. We said, okay, how do we, how do we use tele on the inpatient service? Can we leverage. Different modalities to be HIPAA compliant for texting and photos, um, increase the communication. So, so that we could function and still deliver high quality of care while still preserving PPE and helping preserve some decreasing some anxiety for people.
Naji: Yeah, where you shared, you know, the common sense of purpose and really caring, obviously for, for each other, the wellness piece and, and all the work that you’ve done. So again, uh, I think all, all of us can take enough. Uh, all of, all of you who’s been here, uh, on the front lines, uh, taking care of ourselves during those times, um, Well, one of ’em, you know, as you were sharing about it and yeah, obviously I’ll, I will ask this question, right?
Like, is there one or two lessons that you took from what we’ve been going through and potentially innovations that you had, and you will keep on doing, uh, after this.
Clarissa Yang: So I think telemedicine is now here to stay. Right. Um, the adoption of telemedicine was actually quite. Slow at the beginning, because there was a lot of anxiety about quality of care. And, um, throughout the, um, COVID pandemic, we really, uh, tried to still deliver excellent care. And the things that we learned through that was the importance of.
I feel like we’ve always been doing, but even more so is the importance of reiterating a process. And so, you know, we had to, we talk about PTSA cycles, right? Plan, do study act, um, and then repeating them. And, you know, during the COVID pandemic, it was really hard because these cycles became really, really fast because you’re flying the plane and you’re, and you’re learning to do this at the same time.
And so we learned. Um, to actually really come together and set expectations that we would be constantly pivoting, um, and the amount of flexibility that we needed, um, during this time was substantial. And, you know, our team rose to the occasion. And so I do think that telemedicine is here to stay a lot of the challenges associated with delivering that is how much support staff do you need?
How can we deliver the same quality of care? Um, and what do we lose? Um, so we learned a lot of those pieces along the way. We’ve been able to improve the efficiency of care so we can increase volume, increased access, a lot of this. Challenges are still around, you know, governmental policy and, um, insurance, uh, reimbursements and things like that.
But we have found an amazing place, you know, amazing way to deliver care. That is really good for certain situations. So, um, So we did learn a lot about telemedicine. Um, Nigeria, what was your other part of your question? I feel like there was another card.
Naji: Yeah. It was like what you’re taking, obviously, this is why.
Well, one of the pieces you will be keeping, and I want to double click on something, you know, as a leader, you talked a lot about obviously, right? Like it’s always what you did for them. And, um, uh, how you led them in fact, to keep on being here, being themselves. Um, I’m also intrigued as a leader. Where did you.
Your resources from, how did you personally manage going through this? Right? Because many times we think about others and well, to, to care about others, we need to care about ourselves. So I’m, I’m intrigued how you manage to, um, yeah. Where, where was your sources of inspirations of, uh, comfort to be able to help your teams going through this?
Clarissa Yang: I think I’ve been lucky along the way, you know, I’ve had other leaders, um, Show me what is right. And what works well, um, even, you know, before COVID, um, where the importance of really taking care of your team, doing the right thing, um, doing the right thing for them, not for you, not for the organization and thinking about it through that those lenses, um, is, is, is really powerful.
And then. You know, I’m in a place, luckily that has very, very strong culture at the hospital level interpersonal culture where people care for each other. And so, um, the leaders within. The organization cared about the same things. They cared about. The people I cared about, the patients they cared about, the staff, uh, they cared about the physicians.
Um, so it makes it really easy when you’re in that kind of environment. Um, I will tell you it wasn’t always easy. You know, I, I, when I stepped into my job, um, it was a department. It was a turnaround situation that hadn’t been, um, that had, didn’t have a lot of leadership for a couple of years before I came on board.
And you know, that cultural revolution of like really caring team, um, thinking about others, uh, is something that I’ve really been trying to instill. Um, these last three years that I’ve been here, there. And it’s very contagious. Right. And when that becomes the norm, the new people who come in, you know, everybody wants to be internally consistent.
And so it becomes a much easier place to develop, continue that kind of culture. So both outside of COVID, but you know, even augmented through COVID, um,
Naji: And what is, what is, what is the one thing that made this happen? If you know our audience, because this is really about what we’re discussing and leaders coming in, always talking about this culture of care, this culture of what I call love, right?
Like spread love and organizations showing up for each other, being here for one another. It’s exactly the culture that you created throughout the years, but what is one thing? That’s who can advise the there’s to do for them to be successful as you were, as you were rebuilding this country and that same, or building it from scratch.
Clarissa Yang: I think it’s a lot of times too. Lead this you would like to be led, right? Like I would do anything from my team and they can see that, like, I work really hard. I’m there when they need me. I will, anytime when they need me. Um, and so stepping up to the plate, um, Doing the things that are necessary is sort of role modeling.
And then I think the other piece is believing in your team, um, believing in what they’re capable of and when you believe in what they’re capable of, they will always rise to the occasion. So I think that’s one thing I find, um, that I learned along the way. I didn’t always know.
Naji: Yeah. Powerful. Great, clear sentence.
Let’s play a little game now, so, okay. So the game is, I’m going to give you one or two words and then I’d love to hear your thoughts. Like something that’s gone, uh, comes top of mind when you’re here. Done. Okay, good. Great. So the first one is women and healthcare.
Clarissa Yang: To feel, to feel at a leadership positions.
That’s so there are a lot of women in healthcare and I think women have, uh, it’s challenging. Um, a lot of times women are expected to. Do there, they have multiple jobs. They usually are the primary caretaker. I won’t say always, but you know, for a good amount of time, they’re the primary caretakers. Um, especially when they’re having families or children.
Um, who are little. And so I do think that often they are spread more thin. I think it’s more challenging for them to continue to grow in a leadership position. Um, I think there’s still, unfortunately, a lot of disparity, um, at the higher ranks of, um, leadership. Um, I know, you know, our, our organization is really trying to change that, but for awhile I was the.
I was one of two chairs that was female and then became one chair. And now we have two again, but you know, our organizations, you know, going through bias training and things like that. But I think it’s tough, you know, and, and I think we need more women leaders. We know that when we have women at the table, um, different decisions get made, especially on boards and, um, Committees.
And so I’m hoping that, um, you know, that there’s, there’s just a lot, there’s just a lot more work that needs to be done. And, uh, I hope that there are more women who are empowered to grow within these work.
Naji: Uh, yeah, and, and the work is for each and all of us. We need to advocate for women, you know, as, as man.
And, and definitely this is something to continue that there’s long, long, long way still. Um, you leadership, I want to ask you this question, you know,
Clarissa Yang: Oh leadership. Oh yeah. This is the word leadership, I guess. It’s um, what comes to mind? I guess because we’re on this topic leadership, what comes to mind is my other, the P the other people who have role models for me. Right. Um, as soon as you say that I can actually think of, you know, a previous chair, uh, the CEO, certain CEOs and leadership.
Everybody has a different style to their leader. Um, and much like Edison and much like life, you go through life and you try to figure out, well, what parts of this leader do I love? And what parts of this leader do I love to sort of create your own personal signature? Um, and, and I think part of leadership is also being observant and listening and being able to sort of pull what works and what doesn’t work.
Um, From from your environment. Um, so that’s what I think of when I hear leadership.
Naji: What about the efficiency?
Clarissa Yang: like, uh, if, uh, as through my training, if you asked anybody, um, about me, they all know that I really care about. And it’s, it’s really just to get from a, to B faster, better, and still maintain quality so that we can do other things. Right. So there’s so much to enjoy so much to do in life. Like let’s just be let’s, let’s get, let’s get everything done when we can do it.
So that’s, that’s how I think about it.
Naji: Awesome. Uh, spread love and organization.
Clarissa Yang: Yeah, I love that concept. Spread love. Um, I think it’s contagious, you know, when people give of themselves to others, um, it, it builds it’s a butterfly effect, right? So, um, yeah, I, I think this, your, your title, your organization here, podcasts spread love is a wonderful notion that everybody should adopt.
Naji: Yeah. Um, so now if we look moving forward, what would you continue right in your organizations from all that you’ve been doing in the last four, four or five years, uh, as we discussed the culture you created, what the tough moments have been going through also as, uh, as it’s in, uh, w with, uh, with a pandemic.
Moving forward. What are the one or two things that you will be focusing on as a leader again, within your organization to keep on striving?
Clarissa Yang: Well, I mean, I think the culture part is somewhat never ending, right? It’s we’re, we’re not, we’re still not in the place that we needed to be. Um, even though we started, you know, three years ago, it’s, it’s a continuous process.
Um, so. A lot of the lessons that we learned around communication about the importance of hearing others. Um, Those are pieces that we will continue. Um, we have continued, uh, you know, question and answer boxes and now we’re well past COVID because that’s been really helpful. Um, we’re continuing our wellness events.
We’re trying to think about different ways to connect and celebrate. Um, and so if there’s anything that we learned, it was. Trying to figure out how to become more connected and continue to become more connected to our time.
Naji: Um, do you have beyond all the readings that we’re doing? I don’t know if you have recently a book that you read that inspires you or even a previous book that you would recommend all leaders listening to us, like go get this book, this, this one inspired.
Clarissa Yang: Oh, gosh, let me think about this. Um, for leadership, um,
Naji: not necessarily the leadership either set up innovation or even a story.
Clarissa Yang: Well, I do, you know, the one book that I had read relatively recently was the power of. Like why we do what we do in life and in business and how we can change habits, things that are incredibly ingrained with us. Um, so I think the book starts out talking about somebody who had a neurologic issue. And even with a neurologic deficit and where you think that they cannot create new habits, they can.
Um, and so when people say I can’t change, you know, I can’t do something differently. You can. It’s about, it’s a lot about practicing. It’s about, it’s about a mentality. Repeating a particular behavior until it becomes part of you. Um, and so, so that, I, I really love that book because it sort of teaches you about how to, how w why it is that we do what we do and how do we form these new habits that we’re, we’re striving for.
So I think that would be a good book.
Naji: Um, do you have any, you know, find a word of wisdom? Uh, I would, I would love to hear it oriented to the young generation of physicians as you’re, you’re also coaching them and developing them to be the next generation of physicians or even younger. Like I’m, uh, I’m thinking.
Uh, both of them, right? Like all, all those young girls who are dreaming of becoming doctors and we want them to become leaders, all the kids and anything about this, then some words of wisdom around that.
Clarissa Yang: So I think we always have a lot of external influences that push us to do certain things, whether it’s a societal values or.
Peer pressure, whatever it is. Um, but I think actually really sitting down and really thinking about what makes you happy, right? Like what do you really enjoy doing? Um, because. I know it took me a while to get there. Um, you know, I used to just do, because I was supposed to do. And then when I finally sat back and go, why do I make the decisions that I make and figure out where the, where that nugget comes from?
Like what drives you? That is like really powerful because at the end of the day, it’s that passion that. Define what it is that you do in life, whether there’s success, whether there’s, whatever that definition of success is, right? Like everybody’s definition is different, whether you have impact and whether you actually enjoy all the years that you spend on this, in this place.
And it’s usually that passion that helps you succeed, um, and, and, and grow. And so really figuring that out, um, It is I think really important in people’s career trajectories. And I try to foster that those faculty residents really thinking about those pieces.
Naji Gehchan: Thank you all for listening to spread love and organization’s podcast. Drop us a review on your preferred podcast platform
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