Naji Gehchan: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to “Spread Love in Organizations”, a 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, joined today by Dheera Ananthakrishnan an academic orthopedic spine surgeon, currently practicing at Emory Healthcare in Atlanta. Dheera is also a philanthropist and entrepreneur, having worked with Medecin Sans Frontiere / Doctors Without Borders in Nigeria and the World Health Organization in Switzerland before moving back to the US., In, addition Dheera is co-founder of Orthopaedic Link, a non-profit that matches unused orthopedic implants with surgeons and hospitals in developing countries. She has also most recently cofounded the Women’s musculoskeletal initiative.
Dheera, It’s a real honor and pleasure to see you again and have you with me today!
Dheera Ananthakrishnan: Thanks, Naji. I’m happy to be here.
Naji Gehchan: Can you first share with us your personal story from breaking your leg at the age of 10, to your love of math and orthopedics, then your inspiring journey as a surgeon, philanthropist, and entrepreneur in healthcare?
Dheera Ananthakrishnan: Oh, sure. Yes, I’d be happy to. Um, I, uh, I grew up in, uh, a little in Poughkeepsie, New York, which is a little bit north of New York City. And, um, I was born and raised there in Poughkeepsie. My parents are immigrants from India. They met and married in, um, in New York. And, um, I was a real tomboy growing up and, um, Really got into a lot of, uh, like dissecting animals and running experiments. And, um, these kind of culminated in me breaking my leg when I was 10. And, um, I had a huge crush on my orthopedic surgeon and I pretty much decided the day that he flipped those x-rays up that I said I, I wanted to really be just like him. So, um, This became my driving force. I like fell in love with orthopedics and it’s like 40 years later and I’m still in. And, uh, yeah, it’s, uh, I actually ended up, um, I thought I would go to kind of just straight to medical school, major in biology. And then my father, who was an engineer in India, he went to Indian Institute of Technology and, um, Illinois, came to the US and to go to the o, other i i t, the Illinois Institute of Technology. He was like, set on me going to m i t and I was like, I don’t know. I don’t really wanna go. But he said, you know what, we’re gonna go. I said, all right, fine. We’ll go. And the minute I walked onto the campus, I, I was sold. I just, I felt this amazing energy. Um, yeah, and it’s, uh, and I’ve been lucky enough like you to have gone back, uh, also and it’s still got that same energy. So I, um, yeah, so I, I, I went to m I t, um, as an undergrad and I was planning on major in biology and, uh, I, I didn’t really fit in with the biology kids so much. Um, but, um, I really liked that my math classes and I got involved in a. Prosthetic project and, uh, Woody Flowers Lab. Now, Woody Flowers, unfortunately, I think he just passed away like last year, but he’s an icon at M I t and um, mechanical engineering professor. And so I decided to, to major in mechanical engineering and, um, plan on going to medical school. Um, So that’s, yeah, that brings me to getting to medical school. And then, um, that was tough actually. I, I recently, I recently gave a couple of talks and, uh, you know, getting, uh, I had a, at least one C on my transcript as an undergraduate. And, uh, I had some undergrads at m I t asked me, how did you get into medical school with a C on your transcript? It really wasn’t easy, but, um, It was m i t was really tough as an undergrad, but it really, um, taught me a lot about problem solving and, um, and, uh, yeah, about being humble and learning new things and that, uh, served me well. But, um, yeah, I had a lot of, a lot of struggles, uh, getting into orthopedics and then even going through residency. We had a particularly brutal residency in, um, in Chicago. Uh, it was, yeah, it was tough. Um, but it’s, it’s all been, uh, I would say 20 plus years of doing this as a surgeon. Um, have, uh, there have been ups and downs, um, but I would say overall trending positive.
Naji Gehchan: thanks for sharing part of your journey and you. As you mentioned, I, I wanna go back to orthopedics and your journey there. Uh, you said it wasn’t an easy journey, um, and really now you’re one of the most renowned orthopedic surgeon. You take complex spine cases and solve ’em, fix ’em, treat patients. Um, how, what, what is, what was your biggest learning along the way? As you were going through those pieces, you also, I know we talked about this, uh, the part that you’re a woman doing, orthopedic surgeon, you know, I’m, I’m an MD myself, and that was like always the case, like, oh, women don’t do this. Right. So I, I’d love to get your perspective as you obviously went through this and achieved what you wanted. What, what is your learning, uh, as you reflect back on your journey?
Dheera Ananthakrishnan: Uh, yeah, so it’s interesting that you say that because those, I, I actually got those messages really early. Like when I deci, I dec, I decided at age 10 I was gonna be an orthopedic surgeon. And then, you know, you go to dinners with your parents and people would say, oh, what do you think you’re gonna be, you’re gonna be a doctor like your mom. My, my mom is a pediatrician. And I said, actually, I’m going to be an orthopedic surgeon. And it’s amazing to me how. Um, just a chance encounter, people will take the opportunity to discourage, right? Like the first thing is like, oh, well, you know, that’s really difficult. Or, you know, girls don’t do those things. And the like, immediate, almost visceral response is a negative. Which to me is like, it’s terrible, right? I mean, why, why would you say that to somebody? Um, what happened to me was it actually was very motivating for me. Like, I’ll show you, you know, you think I can’t do it, I’ll show you. And um, fortunately or unfortunately, that’s actually become a lot of my life has been like that, right? Used to swimming against the tide used to it is like, oh, somebody thinks I can’t do that. I’m gonna show you I’m going to do this. And, and it becomes, Almost like a part of like, I, I don’t know. I can’t remember not being like that, like not feeling that kind of like drive to like prove almost to prove people wrong. So like, you tell me I can’t do it, I’m gonna do it. It might take me a really long time. I might get a c I might like cross over the finish line laugh that has happened to me in certain, certain, uh, athletic endeavors. But I’m gonna do it. Um, I’m not gonna, um, To me, it’s actually, it, it’s, it’s, it’s funny to me when you, you ask this question, like, if I’m reflecting, I’m actually really proud of the C that’s on my transcript because it’s easier to drop a class, right. And be like, oh, I’m gonna drop that. I don’t want this c on my transcript. And, and I think, um, finishing, you know, I mean, you and I are both in, you know, gone to elite institutions, we’re used to being at top of the game, but like, Being, you know, human and like kind of finishing ugly is not there. There’s a lot to be learned from that. I actually teach our students and residents and fellows that, you know, many times, um, you know, you, you have to like learn not only learning from your, your failures, but learning from your struggles and also learning from your successes as well. Right? Like just high fiving and being like, Hey, we did a great job. Maybe you did a great job in spite of X, Y, and Z. Right? You. And so doing a deep dive and really reflecting, um, has, I think is really important. But, um, I would say that that discouragement and being the only, I mean, when I was at m I t I was kind of used to being one of the few women, but like being used to being the only woman in the room and being, um, you know, the one who’s like, well, I’m, I’m gonna do that thing that you think I can’t do, I’m gonna. Do the hardest case. I’m going to, you know, stay the longest I’m going to just to prove that I can do it. And now it’s become a very difficult habit to break actually.
Naji Gehchan: And, and you’ve done it. And I love how you’re framing it and really reflecting both on failure successes and how you can get better and be even better, uh, while taking those challenges. Uh, if you think about your experiences within, uh, Uh, and w h o, how did those come into play and shape your, the leader you are now?
Dheera Ananthakrishnan: Uh, yeah. So I would say that, um, I decided to go take this sabbatical with, uh, net San Frontier and the, uh, W H O uh, B. Because I was having a kind of a crisis of conscience. So I was in my first job in Seattle and um, it was my first job as an attending surgeon. And it was, it was tough. Um, I, I had a lot of struggles. It was a, it was a bit lonely. Um, and I had, um, I. I think, you know, everybody needs like a different environment. This is kind of speaks to this, the, the like con context of each individual situation, like where you are and what you need and what you get out of things. Um, really vary from place to place. So it, when I was in Seattle, and I would say if I went there now, it would be very different than going there as a junior surgeon, um, being sort of. Green and kind of being thrown into a very intense environment and where there was a lot of scrutiny, I was the only female spine surgeon. There were quite a few other women orthopedic surgeons, but I was the only female spine surgeon. And um, I. I mean, I didn’t have very many complications, but every time I had a complication, I was really under, under a, like a magnifying glass. And then the next week somebody, one of the guys would have a very similar complication and it would just get passed over. And those types of things happen kind of again and again and again. And I was really starting to doubt that maybe, you know, I, I started thinking, well, maybe all of this like, Pushing to be an orthopedic surgeon. Maybe I’m really not supposed to be an orthopedic surgeon, right? Maybe I am really, um, not good at this, right? Everyone seems to be telling me I’m not good at this, I’m not good at this, I’m not good at this. And that was kind of my message when I was a, a resident, but it wasn’t the message when I was a fellow and I was. Hoping that I would be in a better position to, um, but, but it was tough. And so I decided that I, I had wanted to do some developing world work for some time. Um, and uh, I decided I was going to, uh, leave Seattle. I was actually quite, quite miserable. It was sad to be in such a beautiful place and be really miserable. Um, and then I went to work with Doctors Without Borders and the W H O and they took about a year off. Before coming to Emory and I, I really, that was like a remarkable, remarkable experience for me because I went from a place where I was like, I don’t know if I know anything. And I got dropped in Nigeria and I realized I knew a lot. I could teach a lot. I was, uh, one of the nurses actually about a, after about a. I think I was there, I’d been there for about two weeks. She came up to me and said, you know, Dr. Dira, you’re the local expert on femoral nailing. And I thought, oh my gosh, if that’s true, like that’s a problem. And then it turns out it was true and it wasn’t a problem. Like I really knew what I was doing. And, and, uh, I was teaching Nigerian surgeons how to do things and how we do things back home and how they could do things better and. It was a, it was really a remarkable experience for me. Um, and so that, um, coupled with just like the o the other, the other thing that kind of came about at that time was the genesis of, um, the idea for orthopedic link. Um, because I mean, I would be rounding in the ward at, with M Ss F and you know, Trying to measure people’s legs to see if we had the right size implants for them and say, you know, you gotta wait till next week, the shipment is coming in. And then once I, I got to Geneva and I was working a little bit with some, um, Device companies and they told me, you know, we have a lot of surplus things that we just throw out and maybe we can try to kind of work together and, uh, and see if we can try to solve like a problem on both sides. So it was, it was really a transformative experience for me to, to pick up and go to a place that was completely, it was a little bit lawless. I was in Port Har court, Nigeria, and, uh, I kind of found myself there.
Naji Gehchan: Thanks so much for sharing, uh, also with your, with vulnerability and humility, this experience. I, I think those are things we rarely talk about. Uh, how, you know, how you feel the impact of others as you, you are delivering, especially for people who ha are humble already and have imposter thoughts. Uh, so it’s, uh, yeah. Tha thank you for, for sharing openly your experience and, you know, th this part of your journey. Uh, do you wanna talk a little bit more about Orthopedic Link? I think you’re doing just exceptional work there and helping so many people. So, uh, I, I’d love to hear a little bit more about it and that our audience know about it too.
Dheera Ananthakrishnan: Yeah, so Orthopedic Link. Um, as I mentioned, it kind of started after, um, after I’d been in Nigeria. I got back to start my job at Emory. Um, I was working with, um, Jim Kercher, who’s a local orthopedic surgeon in town. He was a resident at the time and his wife. Who’s a supply chain expert and he had been asking me about my experience and I said, you know, it’s really kind of strange that even in an organization like Met Sound so Frontier that we didn’t have enough equipment and that, you know, I’d also been talking to these device companies and he said, you know, this sounds like an, and both Jim and his wife Heather, were also engineers. We’re all like three engineers kind of in, you know, in the medical arena. And we kind of put our heads together and. I started, um, we started, uh, talking to implant companies reps to see, you know, is there like, do you guys have really have surplus lying around? And it turns out they did. Things were, you know, older generation of implants were sitting on a desk collecting dust. And um, and then we had to find a site and I started going to some international conferences just to, to try to meet people. And I happened to sit down at lunch next to. Dr. Gilbert Lon, who’s a Filipino surgeon, and he said, you know, I, he was like the perfect, it was just serendipity because he said to me, he said, you know, um, I am, I’m. Filipino surgeon. I trained in Australia. I trained in Hong Kong, I trained in Canada. I came back home. I have all these skills and I don’t have the equipment to treat the most, um, needy patients that we have. Um, and it was an equipment issue because they, you know, they had, they had mostly the infrastructure and, and then, um, started trying to work with some other NGOs that were in the space. Um, and we were able to, Had orthopedic links started. That was in 2009 with some, uh, older, like first generation Medtronic sophomore dynamic equipment for spine surgery. And, uh, yeah, took that over to the Philippines. And, um, we actually also based on the W H O, um, assessment tool, created an assessment tool of our own to focus drill down on orthopedics. And, uh, yeah, that’s where it started. And we’ve, we’ve helped, um, hundreds, I think it’s close to 400 patients, um, across multiple countries. The, we have. Least two self-sustaining, um, sites. Um, we’ve worked with the Scoliosis Research Society in Bulgaria, um, and that place has become a regional site of, um, excellence and the local surgeons have learned so much just from. All kind of related to us initially getting this donation planted there, so that it was really, um, a, uh, massive, um, impactful thing to just bring the implants, leave them there, and allow people to learn with supervision, but not be tethered to purchasing equipment or having to have it shipped in and out. Um, it’s been really, uh, yeah, it’s been really remarkable. We had really grand visions for what it could become. Um, and one lesson I learned from working on this project is that, you know, even if you. Your vision of like a big alliance on one side. Uh, like we had this vision for a corporate alliance with all device companies on one side and N G O Alliance on the other side, and we would go be the go between. That didn’t really happen, but even because that didn’t even. Even though that didn’t happen, um, we’ve made a really good impact and I’ve, I’ve learned so much from other, about the industry, from another side, from other sides, from the side of the donors, from the side of the device companies, from the side of the, um, manufacturers, from, and, and also of course from all of the surgeons and the patients on the ground and all the providers.
Naji Gehchan: Wow. As you said, like it’s really remarkable impact that you’ve done across the globe. You do it every day with your patients. You’re doing it with patients in need across the globe, so it’s really remarkable, uh, work that you’ve been doing. As you think about all those experiences, uh, JIRA, uh, is there one lesson you would highlight specifically for future generation of women getting in med school? Men, you know, who are with ’em in, in med school or who are in leadership positions in residency, et cetera. Uh, and maybe something that you wish you knew very early on in your journey.
Dheera Ananthakrishnan: Um, So I, I think one of the things that happens in medicine, and I can really contrast this to engineering and now with my Sloan experience to the business teaching, is that, um, medicine is a very, um, it’s, it’s, it’s kind of isolating. It’s funny, you know, when you, you and I have talked about this, you know, spreading love in organizations. We don’t have much love in our medicine, in our medical organizations. I, it sounds terrible for me to say that because we’re humans taking care of humans and humanity and there really is not much love and there’s not, even just getting into medical school is so difficult and it’s, it’s like you’ve gotta step on other people to get in. Right. Which is counterintuitive to what you’re trying to do in medicine, I think. And so one of the things that I, I mean, I learned this at at, at m i t and I, I learned it, you know, and I feel like I’m, I’m learning it every day, but that, that other people can teach you a lot, right? Like people, you can always learn things from people. It doesn’t matter. They don’t have to be another doctor. It doesn’t have to be another, you know, another surgeon can only learn from another surgeon. There’s a lot of elitism and, um, I think I. It’s to our detriment because everyone who is working in a hospital, in a healthcare system is there to, to care for a patient. They’re there to provide care and to make, and, and hopefully, and I don’t know that our healthcare system necessarily does this, but hopefully to make people healthier, um, I feel like we have a disease care system rather than a healthcare system. And so there’s a lot, there could be a lot of conflict in terms of people’s motivations. But, um, but I think that, um, really trying to, um, collaborate, reach across disciplines, reach across titles, um, having, I, I think a lot of times, uh, medical students, um, don’t think that nurses can teach them anything. Don’t think that physical therapists can teach them anything. Um, And, uh, I think we have to break down those barriers. Um, we’ve seen with the Covid pandemic how important nurses are that you can’t, I can’t do my job. That’s one of the things I actually learned when I was in Nigeria, that, you know, come in and think that I’m the, I’m the bomb. And then it turns out that the washer woman who washes the sterile drapes, her son got sick and she couldn’t come in yesterday. No sterile drapes. It was surgery. So it becomes very evident how connected we’re all connected. And I think, yeah, I, I feel like we have to bring love into medicine and it’s, um, to your point, I think that it has to start with the younger generation. It’s not gonna be you and me, Naji. Well,
Naji Gehchan: yeah, we, we have to inspire, but I agree it’s younger generation will help out. And I, I’ve been, you know, I had the privilege to, uh, to mentor, teach younger generations. I’m, uh, I’m very hopeful when you see what they worry about and the things they are focused on from the questions. Uh, really the social impact they can bring. How to work together. Yes. Um, I’m hopeful we can, you know, bleed from a place of love and be physicians and treat patients in all industries too, you know? Yes. Whether in, um, in a hospital, in a clinic, in the pharma, biotech industry that I’m in as a physician, I, I really loved how you framed it. We’re all connected, uh, right? Yeah. And, and truly we all have the same shared purpose. Uh, if we are here, yes. We want to make life better for patients we are serving and caring for. So we, we all share this. I’d love now to get a reaction to a word I would give you. And the first word is leadership.
Dheera Ananthakrishnan: I have, I don’t have a good reaction to the word leadership. Um, I, I actually was a generous with somebody yesterday who said, um, you know, we have bosses in medicine and not leaders, which is, um, I, I think, um, it’s, and, and I, I don’t want to disparage anyone in particular, but I, I feel as though we, in medicine, Don’t model leadership well. Um, and um, I don’t think of myself as a leader really. Like, I feel like a leader. I. In my gut, I feel a leader is a person that has a title and is, you know, in charge of a big organization. Um, I, I know, I know intellectually that’s not true, but, um, but, and I feel that it’s very difficult to be a good leader. Um, I do, I do think if you put the word servant in front of leadership, I, I understand it more like I, I feel that the person, um, I. The kind of leader that I would like to be is the person who’s in the weeds, in the trenches with people maybe in the front trying to guide them, but is in, in there in the mud, leading people through difficult times.
Naji Gehchan: Well, that’s the leadership I believe in, and you are definitely, and certainly a leader, and there’s, you know, titles are very different than actually a leader. You can have a big title, but not being looked up for and not being respected, not being followed. So we had this debate. I know you’re certainly a leader and we look up, uh, to what you do. What about health equity?
Dheera Ananthakrishnan: Health equity. Um, health equity is, that is a tough one because I, I don’t, I don’t think we have it. I know we don’t have it here in the us. Um, and I don’t know how to get it because I think it’s, I mean, it goes back a little bit to what I was saying with, uh, Um, us as you know, providers, physicians, and then even in your industry, in the food industry, in the device industry, we actually make more money if people are sicker, which is a counter like, you know, we, I don’t, I. I make more money operating on somebody than if I send them to physical therapy, get them to lose X number of pounds, get them to do their exercises every day, and then they’re feeling better. And you know what? Maybe they don’t need surgery or maybe they need a less invasive surgery that then I don’t make as much money from. So there’s a, a, um, There’s a conflict of interest I think in the system. The way it’s set up now. You can see it in the number of procedures that we do, um, and, um, in the number of, um, medications people are on in the level of health people have in their a s a rating. Um, and um, I think it’s a lack of, there’s a lack of education and there’s a lack of, um, Maybe ownership is not the right word, but a lack of a little bit of a lack of personal responsibility I think. Um, and uh, there’s also learned helplessness. I have a lot of patients that come to me and you had mentioned I do a lot of complex deformity surgeries. So they’ll have come to me having seen maybe five surgeons before. Um, sometimes they’ve actually had a surgery that’s gone awry. Um, and they’re hopeless, they’re depressed, they’re in pain. Many times they’re on narcotics and they come and they wanna fix, they will say that like, I want you to fix me. And changing, trying to be able to change the situation between a, like, I’m, I’m a person bringing my car to the mechanic and you’re gonna fix me. Versus we’re partners in this and this is a relationship and you are gonna need to do X, Y, and Z. Not only to get ready for surgery, but also afterwards. And there’s some things you can control and there’s things, things you can’t control. And if we enter into this relationship, a partnership, a contract, so to speak, then I think people, and and actually interesting thing to me is that when. Um, I approach these problems this way. These are complicated problems the patients have. They are very appreciative. They actually feel like they have a little bit of control. Like, it’s like, oh, I have a prescription. They’re not bouncing from doctor to doctor, getting a prescrip, you know, getting a pain medicine or getting something, and they’re being told. I mean, I can tell you. I do all my exercises every day when I’m in clinic because I demonstrate all of them to my patients like, you need to do this, this, and this. You need to do it every day. I give them a prescription for, for health and wellness, and then I say, you know what? I. You can get yourself to this point and then we’ll be able to do surgery and your outcomes will be better. And I can tell you, people come to my clinic and they’ll say to my nurse, oh, I heard Dr. Nancy Christian’s a hard ass. And she’s like, yeah, but you, you’re gonna wanna, you’re gonna like it at the end of the day. ’cause sometimes people need that. But I, I do think that the, our lower socioeconomic statuses really, really struggle. And um, those are the patients that, um, I. Our, our loss, I think with regards to their health and it’s a shame.
Naji Gehchan: Yeah. And you’re bringing a, a very important point, right, about health holistically, like from prevention to how you take care about your overall health versus like just treating or fixing, as you said, a symptom. Yeah.
Dheera Ananthakrishnan: Yeah, well, there’s a lot of conflict. Sorry to interrupt you. Go ahead. Yeah, no, go ahead. Go ahead. Yeah, no, I was gonna say there’s a lot of conflict, and this won’t be very popular, but you know, I mean, I work at Emory Healthcare and it’s, it’s funded by Coca-Cola, right? Like that’s a, there’s an inherent conflict of, of interest, even in the food that we have in our cafeteria. Um, and, uh, you know, I mean, I like a Coca-Cola as much as the next person, but I don’t think it should be in a hospital. But, you know, that’s the, that’s we’re fight. It’s tough to fight against that, right? Because we need the money from Coca-Cola. But one could argue that I. Coca-Cola is causing, or other soda drinks causing, you can X this part out if you want to, but they’re causing problems, right? You’re causing problems that then we’re having to spend more money to fix. So one could say, well, why can’t we just stop causing some problems or try to cause fewer problems? So, but yeah, these are controversial topics. Don’t know they’re necessarily spreading love, but I think that it’s important to, um, these are the things that are dragging us down, I think as a. Looking at our healthcare spending and looking at where we fit in the global scheme of things. Other countries, I think, do a better job.
Naji Gehchan: Yeah. No, it, it is controversial and I think this is why as leaders we need to have those debates, right? And talk about ’em. And it’s, it’s not something that it’s with or without, right? It’s a matter of how you can think of those systems holistically and talk more about, because everything is interlinked, right? Like it’s either we wanna say things separate or we wanna really think from a something. We both love a system dynamic way. And start thinking about those impacts, right? Like you go from prevention to healthcare and even health, being part of a global ecological system, we can go into climate change, right? And all this are interlinked. Even though we wanna think of them separate. Yes. We just are not, right? Like we can go and debate like, should I go to work running or biking versus. Taking my car. Like that’s another piece, right? Because all these things are to health and ecology and
Dheera Ananthakrishnan: the other pieces. Yeah. And then I, I, I think to that point, like it becomes like we become kind of numb to it. Or you think, well, what’s the difference if I drive my car, like one day I drive my car, one Coca-Cola one. You know what I’m saying? Like it’s only like, when you see it in these small segments, it seems like it’s not that big of a deal, but the in aggregate. It’s, it’s huge and so, so impactful. So I think that that like, you know, how much personal responsibility that each individual person has, um, to, and, you know, to facilitate health and facilitate change is, it’s very difficult. And you know, I mean, you like your car, I’m sure. I’m sure you have a nice car.
Naji Gehchan: So the third word I have is, uh, impost, uh, imposter thoughts.
Dheera Ananthakrishnan: Imposter thoughts. Yeah, imposter thoughts. Um, those, I had those a lot. Um, I, I don’t, I don’t have them so much any anymore. I, I actually, to be honest, I’m starting to have them again as I’m like making a career transition. Um, but. I can tell you they, I think that those have motivated me a lot. So it’s like this, you know, yin yang, like good, evil, like the, um, goes back to maybe that, like I’ll show you, you know, I can do it and then it maybe inside I think, well, I think I can do it, but I also like a challenge. So, but the imposter thoughts, I mean, I can tell you when I, when I first got to Emory, um, I was, I’m sitting, I mean, I’m in a group with really world renowned surgeons and, um, really incredible people. And I kept waiting for the first probably three years to have somebody, um, tell me that I, they made a mistake and I wasn’t supposed to be there. I also, um, I remember reading Cheryl Sandberg’s book, lean In. Um, and she talked about sitting at the table and how like we as women, like never sit at the table. And I realized I did the exact same thing, like even as an attending surgeon. Like we had this conference and you know, all of the other attendings would be sitting at the table and I’d always sit at the back. Right. And somehow felt uncomfortable sitting at the table. Almost like, yeah, like, I’m like, well, I know I belong here, like on paper I belong here, but I still feel that I should. Not sit at the table. And, and some of it also is, it’s a little bit scary because if I’m sitting at the table next to all of these world renowned people, then they’re gonna expect me to have world renowned thoughts. Right. And I mean, I just feel like I have regular, everyday thoughts. So then there’s a lot of pressure. Like sometimes if you put yourself in the back, you know, the, I’m a, I’m always a sitting in the back of the class kind of person. So if you put yourself on the back of the class ab, you’re not gonna be expected to kill it every time you raise your hand and say something. So it may be, you know, there’s. Getting rid of the imposter thoughts also puts more pressure on you too, I think. Um, but um, yeah, I feel like as a, as a spine surgeon, I, I don’t have imposter thoughts anymore. For the most part, say 95% of the time. As a leader, I have a lot of imposter thoughts.
Naji Gehchan: We all do.
Dheera Ananthakrishnan: Yeah. Well, so that makes me good to, it makes me feel good to hear you say that because I. Every day. Okay. That’s helpful.
Naji Gehchan: That’s helpful to know. Yeah. And there is, there is actually, uh, I’ll send you the link, but I, I did a great episode with, um, uh, on imposter thoughts. Um, and, and I’ll share with you the link with some, um, with some good data and discussions. Uh, we had, um, sp specifically on this, um, on this topic, like there’s some good research actually from, uh, M I T. Uh, about this. So I’ll, I’ll share with you the link right after.
Dheera Ananthakrishnan: Yeah. I remember we talked a little bit about this at school, like, is it really real and does it motivate you? And is it really, um, is it imposter syndrome real? I. Yeah. Yeah.
Naji Gehchan: And it’s, it’s, well, professor Bafi, I don’t know if, yes. I had the, I can remember her. Yeah. I had the pleasure to be in one of her bosses and she did great research. I interviewed her. I’ll, I’ll send this to you.
Dheera Ananthakrishnan: Oh, okay. I’ll have to, you’ve interviewed a lot of people, so it’s been hard to catch up on all your episode.
Naji Gehchan: That’s totally fine. The last one is Spread love in organizations.
Dheera Ananthakrishnan: Ah, I knew we were gonna get to this. So, uh, yeah, this was for whatever reason, I, I would say this is like really tough for me, um, because, um, and it wasn’t until I, I think I shared with you that Khalil Giran poem about how what you love, you bring to your work. Um, and yeah, I think we don’t have much love in medicine in organizations, but it makes me sad. Sorry. Yeah, it makes me a little sad. Um, and I would like to think that I’ve spread love to my patients and to people that work with me. Um, but I think, you know, there’s a lot of burnout in medicine. I. And particularly after Covid, I think it’s been really, really difficult for, um, there to really be a lot of love in organizations in medicine. I’m curious to see what, what you think, um, on your side of the coin, but, um, I think it’s, it’s been tough. I think doctors have, um, Not had the brunt of it as much as nurses have, I think nurses have really, um, really not felt the love in healthcare for some time. I think that’s a lot of what’s driven this issue with, um, funding and the traveler traveling nurses. Um, Disrupting. Um, it’s very, it’s been very disruptive, um, for our industry to have nurses try to go off and like go across the street and make five times as much money working with someone else because they don’t wanna, like, organizations don’t wanna pay increased nurses nursing pay. And I do feel if maybe there was a little bit more like love and humanity in healthcare. Um, I think that, uh, it would, I, I feel like that type of motivation, the, I don’t wanna say mercenary, but maybe more financially driven, um, exodus from home institutions, that kind of thing would, would be better. Um, sorry, didn’t mean to get so upset, but it is, it is a bit of a source object.
Naji Gehchan: Yeah. And well, thank you to share this transparently and openly and honestly. And, you know, you, you asked me what I think, uh, you know, uh, we, we started this because I really believe we can, we can have a huge impact as leaders by leading from a place of love, at least making the world better for those around us in small circles, and then literally making the world a better place. And you’ve been doing it through your work with. Your patience with, uh, the nonprofits you have, but certainly there’s, there’s a lack of this in the world, but when you think even more holistically, I think we are seeing an increasing number of acts of hate, of wars, of hunger, of extremism. Uh, but I’m hopeful, you know, I’m still hopeful because there are leaders like you, we love to fix the unfixable and try to, you know, take the hard problem and make it better. And even if it’s a small piece with what you shared today, I’m sure you’re gonna be inspiring other leaders to really believe that they can do things differently and probably not. Take the examples of those. Others who lead from a place of hate and, you know, stepping on others to do better. So it’s, there’s still definitely a lot to do. But I’m hopeful when I talk to leaders like you, you’re, you know, you said I had many, I had the pleasure to have more than 120 episodes now, and it’s all really accomplished leader who have the same belief. I really think we will be able to do things differently and lead and deliver, you know, both for patients and also for the different stakeholders in the ecosystem. Um, but doing it from, again, a place of love to deliver even better results because we can deliver results, right? Both ways is just a matter of do you deliver it with people and people feeling good about it and wanted to do it again with you and together, or you do it. And everyone is burned out and you’re in a very terrible mental. Yeah, right. I think that’s kind of like the difference.
Dheera Ananthakrishnan: No, I, I completely agree with that. I, I think sometimes people don’t understand what it actually means. Like when you say, okay, we wanna spread love, but what does that mean? Like in what you do day to day? Right. You certainly, I don’t think anyone would say they’re spreading hate. Right. But it’s also more of like spreading indifference or spreading like, Disrespect or you know, like not engaging people, like people at all walks of life wanna have some agency into what their life is like and what their job is like. And they, if, if we’re, you’re asking us as leaders, if you’re assuming I’m a leader about bringing love to work, but you want everybody to bring. Love to work, right? Whether it’s your, the, the person who’s fixing your car or the person who is cleaning the hospital or the person who’s making the food. Right? And so how do you get those people to feel that they are seen and they are respected and that it makes a difference that they’re cooking your food Because they’re feeding me before I go back into the operating room. Right. And I, I think it can be as simple as, Saying hello to them and knowing people’s names and interacting with them and asking about their family. And then they know, they feel that they’re part of the organization and they’re helping you. Thanks so much because I’m hungry and I have to go back to finish my surgery. And, and rather than it being a transactional thing, right. And then, you know what, then it’s like, okay, well, It doesn’t matter if I serve food here or at a prison or at a, or at a McDonald’s or whatever. Like, it doesn’t matter, right? So I’m gonna go where they’re gonna pay me the most. And that’s what’s hap that’s what’s happened, right? Like, so that I, I think, I think spread love in an organization sounds like a really big idea, but it’s this, it’s a, what are you doing as an individual, right? Are you, you know, maybe. Maybe you’re driving your car versus walking, like maybe one day you just say hi to one other person who’s, you know, cleaning the room of your patient or like, those types of things. I, I, I think, I think that there’s a disconnect between what it means and people think it’s gonna cost something to spread love. That’s the other thing. It’s like, oh, we don’t have time, we don’t have the money to spread love. Right. Yeah. But that’s not true at all. Right? It doesn’t cost anything. Exactly. Naji Gehchan: I, and I love it because this is all about those. Small things and practical things that actually made a huge difference. You, you gave the best example I can ever think of. So thanks so much, Dira, and we can Thank you Naji. I, I’d love to hear your final word of wisdom for healthcare leaders around the world. Dheera Ananthakrishnan: Um, my final word of wisdom for healthcare workers around the world is I think try to listen to people that are not like you. I love that.
Naji Gehchan: Thanks so much. I could spend hours talking and chatting with you. It’s been a real pleasure and honor to have you with me today. Thanks for being with me.
Naji Gehchan: Thank you all for listening to SpreadLove in Organizations podcast. Drop us a review on your preferred podcast platform
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