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Dr. Deane Waldman: “Accepted wisdom”

There is much “accepted wisdom” about healthcare that is just plain wrong. It prevents us from having a useful, fact-based discussion that leads to a true cure for sick Healthcare. In the book, I bust myths such as: all solutions for healthcare must come from Washington; the root cause of healthcare failure is greedy doctors, […]

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There is much “accepted wisdom” about healthcare that is just plain wrong. It prevents us from having a useful, fact-based discussion that leads to a true cure for sick Healthcare. In the book, I bust myths such as: all solutions for healthcare must come from Washington; the root cause of healthcare failure is greedy doctors, or venal hospitals, big pharma, or lobbyists (pick your favorite villain); and worst of all, healthcare is too complex for the public to understand.

The book was written for the American public, not for the political class. Those in power in Washington are a cancer killing healthcare and will never voluntarily relinquish their control. Only the general public can make them return control where it belongs: in the hands of We the People.

“Curing the Cancer in U.S. Healthcare: StatesCare and Market-based Medicine” will: (a) give the necessary information to We the People, (b) energize them to believe they CAN make Washington do our bidding, and © show them a healthcare system that they control, that works!


As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Deane Waldman or “Doctor Deane” as his patients say.

Dr. Deane was educated and received his post-graduate training at Yale (BA, History), Chicago Medical School (MD), Northwestern, Harvard, and Anderson Graduate Schools (MBA).

He has nearly 300 published articles in The Hill, Forbes, Huffington Post, Investor’s Business Daily, Real Clear Health, Fox News, USA Today, The Blaze, Federalist, OpEdNews, et al; as well as American Journal of Cardiology, Pediatric Cardiology, Circulation, Journal of Thoracic & Cardiovascular Surgery, Annals of Thoracic Surgery, Catheterization & Cardiovascular Diagnosis, Cardiology in Young, et al.

Dr. Deane is the author of 12 books. His latest book is multi-award-winning, “Curing the Cancer in U.S. Healthcare: StatesCare and Market-Based Medicine.”

His titles include Professor Emeritus of Pediatrics, Pathology, and Decision Science at University of New Mexico; former Chief of Cardiology (Pediatric) at University of Chicago; former Director of the Center for Healthcare Policy at Texas Public Policy Foundation; former Chairman of Ronald McDonald House Charities of New Mexico; and former Director, Board of New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I claim to be the only child raised in Manhattan who begged for piano lessons and was turned down!

We lived in a luxurious 9-room apartment that took up half the fifth floor at 1160 Park Avenue. As you walk through the front door, you face a long corridor with doors to the right to four bedrooms. Farthest to the right was my parents’ bedroom suite with two walk-in closets. Then there was my bedroom. My mother decorated the room in art deco style that was the rage then with black linoleum floor and the walls, bookshelves, and bedframe painted Chinese black.

When my eldest uncle, a thoracic surgeon, came to see what his sister had done with the apartment, he took one look at my room and shouted at my mother standing next to him, “Muriel! The boy [that’s me] will go crazy in this room inside of six months!! I mean it!!!”

I think he was right.

Next to my room at 1160, connected by a shared bathroom, was my sister’s room and then a guest bedroom. The corridor then led to a large living room on the right and a formal dining room on the left.

Dominating the living room was a magnificent Steinway M-class grand piano. My grandfather gave it to my mother, saying it should eventually be given to me. I was three years old at the time.

From age 3 to 10, I gazed longingly at the big, beautiful piano in our living room. When I was ten, I got up the courage to plead with my mother to take piano lessons. My sister, 3 years older, had already started her lessons.

Without a moment’s thought, my mother shook her head and gave me an emphatic, “NO!”

Back when I was seven years old, I started to sing in various choral groups. I loved church music, especially masses written by Bach, Mozart, and Verdi. My mother complained that I would frequently lose all track of time when making or listening to music, tuning out everything including her orders to do my homework. She also protested that I was spending more time in churches than in synagogue (we are Jewish). She was right.

After her “no piano” dictum, Mom never explained her decision, at least to me. As an adult, I did understand. My mother was afraid that I would seek a career in music. That was most definitely not acceptable. Not in our family.

Our family were physicians, grandfather Michael; Aunt Helen who also married a doctor, Aaron Gold, both of whom died in the Warsaw ghetto; Uncles Sanford, Martyn, and Wilford, as well as four male cousins, two of whom married physicians.

Our family dinners could have been used as scripts for TV shows like ER, Royal Pains, and particularly, Doc Martin, who was a brilliant and highly dysfunctional physician. My ninth birthday present was a copy of Gray’s Anatomy. Subtle was not an adjective that one used with my family.

Eventually, I did become a physician, fulfilling my family’s expectations, in a sense, joining the family business. I can’t complain — I have had a most enjoyable, exciting, and fulfilling life of service caring for babies and children with heart problems.

When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story about that?

I read Ayn Rand’s objectivism tome, “Atlas Shrugged,” back when I was 14 or 15. It forced me to examine the relationship of the individual to the government and to consider what personal responsibility entailed eventually leading to an understanding of what freedom really means. I became what is now called a conservative.

My mother was then (and remained) what is called today a liberal or progressive. When we argued about politics, she would invariably shake her head and blame Ayn Rand for “the book that ruined my son!”

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

Just before I finished med school and five years of post-graduate training in Chicago to move to Boston, I published an academic medical paper in Journal of Pediatrics. It was released in late May 1975. In July, I began my third fellowship and teaching position as an Instructor at Harvard.

In August, I was making rounds at Boston Children’s with a bevy of med students trailing behind me. I wore a white lab coat with my name badge on the left lapel. The badge was made of heavy metal and had flopped over taking the soft lapel with it. No one could see the badge.

After seeing a few patients, one of the med students–Harvard med students are notoriously arrogant–asked me a question about a very esoteric topic. He smugly queried, “Sir, do you know what effect low blood oxygen levels have on the blood cells in cyanotic children (blue babies)?” He actually grinned, thinking he had one-upped the Instructor. He expected me to look embarrassed, shrug my shoulders, and say, “Gee, ahem, well, I don’t know.”

That was not my response.

I began speaking, “Well, children with cyanotic heart disease and low blood oxygen have problems with the function of platelets, so that…”

At this point, the student imperiously interrupted me saying, “No, no, no, that’s not right! According to Waldman et al in Chicago, the problem is in the white blood cells.” He was quoting my own research to me in front of everybody, and quoting it WRONG!

I should have given him a calm, reasoned, adult, evidence-based, unemotional answer. I just couldn’t. That’s not who I am. Observing the superior look on his face, I responded as follows to him, in front of all the other students, three nurses, and a senior attending (observing) physician.

With fire in my eyes, I turned over my name badge for all to see, and in the middle of the crowded hallway, with a voice heard four miles away, I shouted, “I’m Waldman, you schmuck!!”

The lesson I took away was the folly of arrogance. Though you think you are smart or fast or attractive, there I always someone who is smarter, faster, or more attractive. And besides, what does it matter? One should judge themselves based on internal values, not external ones comparing ourselves to others. We shouldn’t need a pecking order, but most people do!

Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?

There is much “accepted wisdom” about healthcare that is just plain wrong. It prevents us from having a useful, fact-based discussion that leads to a true cure for sick Healthcare. In the book, I bust myths such as: all solutions for healthcare must come from Washington; the root cause of healthcare failure is greedy doctors, or venal hospitals, big pharma, or lobbyists (pick your favorite villain); and worst of all, healthcare is too complex for the public to understand.

The book was written for the American public, not for the political class. Those in power in Washington are a cancer killing healthcare and will never voluntarily relinquish their control. Only the general public can make them return control where it belongs: in the hands of We the People.

“Curing the Cancer in U.S. Healthcare: StatesCare and Market-based Medicine” will: (a) give the necessary information to We the People, (b) energize them to believe they CAN make Washington do our bidding, and © show them a healthcare system that they control, that works!

Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

A newborn was transferred to us with a very malformed heart. She was the first child born to young Spanish-speaking parents. Uncorrected, the condition would soon cause the baby to die.

One surgeon (Dr. X) who was twelve hundred miles away had experimented with special repair techniques. He had developed a way to fix the baby’s problem in one operation.

I wanted to send the baby to Dr. X. The insurance company said they had a contract with a different but widely respected surgeon (Dr. Y) and that I had to send the baby to him.

I called Dr. Y and discussed the baby with him. “Of course, I can do the surgery,” he said without hesitation. He went on to explain that he was comfortable with the old, partial, now-obsolete technique.

I then called back the Medical Director of the insurance company and showed him data proving that Dr. X and the technique he developed was the best, the right, indeed the only, choice for this baby. I said that Dr. Y was not an acceptable alternative. The Director was unmoved. “The baby goes where we say she goes. After all, we are paying the bill!”

The baby, though stable, had to stay in the hospital because she needed a medicine that could only be given intravenously (IV). It did not work orally.

Administrative battle lines were drawn. The parents and I were on one side: the insurance company was on the other. We considered a lawsuit to compel insurance to send the baby to Dr. X but knew that would take years. I thought about threatening to hold a nasty press conference for the 11:00 p.m. TV news.

Meanwhile, the father did some investigating. He found that he could change insurance carriers to one that would send the baby to Dr. X. However, he could only change the insurance if the baby were discharged from hospital. This meant I would have to stop the life-protecting IV medicine.

It was standard of care to give the IV medication. Discontinuing it was clear malpractice. To practice the best medicine possible for my patient, I had to commit malpractice.

After more phone calls, emails, threats, stonewalling, and no progress, I decided I had to take the chance. I stopped the medicine, and discharged the child around 7PM and made plans to see the baby in my office first thing the next morning at 6AM. The goal was to give the father a chance to change the baby’s insurance carrier.

While I was doing this, nursing staff reported me to Hospital Risk Management and to the Chair of my Department.

Next came the irate phone calls from hospital lawyers and the Chairperson warning me about the legal risk that I was creating for myself, my Department, and the hospital by discharging the patient. (The lawyers and administrators didn’t understand I had to do what was medically dangerous. Otherwise, she would be operated by Dr. Y, which was more dangerous.)

The morning after discharge, the baby was worse but still alive. I immediately put her back in the hospital and restarted the medicine she needed. During her eighteen hours at home, her father had been able to switch insurance carriers. I called the Medical Director of the new insurance company and convinced him that the baby should go to Dr. X.

In the neonatal intensive care unit, with the life-saving medicine re-started, the baby returned to a good condition. When I was discussing with the neonatal doctor all the details of transfer, she commiserated with me about everything I had gone through to get the baby the care she needed.

It was the hot topic all over the hospital. There was a lottery going about what would happen to the Chief of Cardiology (me).

The mother was behind a curtain when I was talking with the neonatologist, but she heard every word the other doctor said to me.

I went to check on the baby just before the transport team left. The mother came to me with tears in her eyes. She put her hand on my shoulder and with a shaky voice in broken English, she said, “Thank you for fighting for my baby.”

For me, the mother’s words were all “payment” I needed. I was willing to accept whatever punishment the University decided. In fact, because I had tenure and because no lawsuit was filed by the parents, I merely received a formal reprimand. I also earned the enmity of the hospital administration who called me a “loose cannon.”

The next day at lunch, a nurse expressed the whole thing better than I could. She said, “You know, when our babies (meaning our patients) do well, it feeds our souls.”

What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?

The 1991 movie, Hook, is a retelling of the Peter Pan legend, the story of a boy who never grows up, with Pan, renamed Peter Banning, played brilliantly by Robin Williams. In that movie there is another character named Smee, played by the great, now-deceased actor, Bob Hoskins. Smee was always running around providing services to Captain Hook played by Dustin Hoffman.

Smee was often, pretty much always, confused in what he did and particularly the words he used. When he meant to say epiphany, he got tongue-tied and substituted the word, “apostrophe.”

In the Waldman family, we adopted the word apostrophe to mean a sudden inspiration or an epiphany. Late in my MBA program, while deep in the study of systems theory, I had my apostrophe, a new calling.

I came to understand why all the so-called “fixes” for our healthcare system failed and even backfired: they were treating symptoms, not the root cause. Since I understood the true root cause and because that led to a “cure” for healthcare, I had to get this message into the hands of the only people who could do what was necessary: the American public.

Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

The only people who have been positively impacted (so far) are those who have said or written to me, “Thanks. I never understood before why healthcare doesn’t work.”

I assume the thousands of babies I have successfully cared for do not count as an answer to your question, which is about my new calling, not my old one of helping babies and children with heart problems. They were my former patients. Now, I only have one patient:a critically ill U.S. healthcare system.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

  1. First, recognize that one can never fix anything without knowing WHY the problem exists. Treating symptoms but not the root cause has put us where we are in healthcare: nowhere.
  2. Accept the fact that the patient is responsible for the patient’s welfare. The physician can and should advise. Washington should play no role and should absolutely NOT be responsible for our health or its care.
  3. Get government out of the way. Allow patient and physician to reconnect with no thirs party decision maker in between.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership is the ability to attract followers to go where they need to go, even if (a) they don’t know they need to go there; and (b) getting there will be arduous. To quote a useful quip, “When a true leader says, ‘Go to Hell,’ people will look forward to the trip.”

So far, I have tried to be a true leader but have not been successful.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Medicine is a business. You (that’s me) need to learn all the things they teach in an MBA program. (I did not enroll in my MBA program until age 55.)
  2. Most University Medical Centers have priorities in wrong order. They all put budget first. They all have risk management departments that reduce risk for the medical center, not the patients. The “elite,” prestigious university med centers put research next, followed by teaching. All med centers have signs that read, patients come first, but their behavior puts patients LAST.
  3. The problem with healthcare is cultural. Medical practice has misplaced (hopefully not lost) its soul, which is the one doctor-one patient, “whatever it takes to help the patient” ethos. Efficiency has supplanted effectiveness. Risk is a dirty word, but shouldn’t be. When I asked my mother-in-law who was her doctor, she said, “Northwestern.” When I persisted and asked the doctor’s name, she had no idea.
  4. Attending physicians treating patient healthcare never went to med school. Our healthcare public policy is determined by people who know nothing of systems theory, which is to our sick healthcare system as practicing good medicine is to a sick human. Can you imagine an effective army general who has never been in battle?
  5. The system disconnects physician from patient. A root cause of healthcare system dysfunction is the third-party payer has become the decision maker, both medical and financial. As such, the third party disconnects patient from physician and supplants both, taking professional guidance away from the physician and personal autonomy away from the patient.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Here are two life lessons that are highly relevant to my professional as well as personal lives: DIBEWIG I learned from study and the Turner technique from experience.

While studying for my MBA, including a very large body of past business experience, I spent a lot of time and skull sweat trying to understand change management. I developed an acronym to explain why people refuse to change even when they know they should.

DIBEWIG: different [change] is bad Even When Its Good [helpful; an improvement].

DIBEWIG is corollary to: inertial is the strongest force in the universe, and better the devil you know than the one you don’t.

Here is the story behind the universally useful Turner technique.

A large, very prosperous healthcare system asked me to consider being the COO, Chief Operating Officer. In that position, I could make care as user-friendly as possible. And, it was in San Diego, where I had previously spent 14 happy years.

The recruitment and vetting process was lengthy and arduous. The person recruiting me was a former colleague and friend named Searle Turner. Each time Searle communicated, whether by phone or email, Searle always used the same system. I learned this from him and later taught it in the class I taught at the management school called Strategic Management. I named it the Turner Technique in his honor.

Years later, I mentioned to him that I was teaching the “Turner Technique” to my students. He got a belly laugh out of that.

Each time Searle and I spoke during the recruitment process, he would (1) tell me why he was calling; (2) Give me enough Detail to accomplish the (3) Effect he desired from the call; (4) he would give me two Deadlines: the first when I had to accomplish my task(s) and the second was when he would communicate next with me; and finally, he would Confirm that I understood all of the above.

This is the Turner Technique for effective communication, with anyone about anything. This technique applies not only to professional contacts, but to personal communications as well. Whether you are talking to your boss, an underling, your spouse or your children, if you want to achieve the effect you want, employ the Turner Technique: C D E D C.

C ommunicate — why the contact is happening

D etails — enough detail so the other party understand

E FFECT — make sure you know what effect you want from this contact

D eadline — deadlines for both caller and listener

C onfirm — make sure the listener understands all of the above. “Let’s review the bidding,” as they say in contract bridge.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Ben Carson, for both personal and professional reasons.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

  1. Read “Curing the Cancer in U.S. Healthcare: StatesCare and Market-Based Medicine” and then encourage others to read it. Then, discuss with them.
  2. Subscribe to my free information service — videos and downloadable articles — on my website titled, We can fix healthcare (www.deanewaldman.com)

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!


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