Hold people accountable for their health. In the USA between 50–85% of all dollars spent in healthcare is spent treating diseases that are enormously preventable if people would just take care of their health. Just like other forms of insurance, if people willingly engage in unhealthy habits that will end up costing the system more, they need to pay more for their insurance.
As a part of my interview series with leaders in healthcare, I had the pleasure to interview Dr. Reagan B. Anderson.
Dr. Reagan Anderson is an Osteopathic Doctor (DO) who specializes in general Dermatology and in Mohs Micrographic Surgery for the treatment of skin cancer. After graduating from Rampart High School in Colorado Springs, Dr. Anderson moved to Vancouver, British Columbia where he attained his Bachelor of Science and Biology from the University of British Columbia and a Master of Christian Studies degree from Regent College. Dr. Anderson was then invited to attend the founding Osteopathic Medical School, Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Upon matriculation, Dr. Anderson was commissioned in the United States Navy where he spent the majority of his time serving the United States Marine Corps as the First Reconnaissance Battalion Surgeon. Dr. Anderson states, “Over the five years I spent in the U.S. Navy, it was my distinct honor to serve the medical needs of the military men and women of our great country. This experience, particularly my tours in Iraq where I treated U.S. and coalition military members as well as Iraqi civilians, gave me extensive experience in recognizing and treating the underlying causes of dermatologic conditions.”
Dr. Anderson left the military in order to pursue Dermatology. During his three year dermatology residency at the Michigan State University Consortium/Oakwood Southshore Medical Center, he was actively involved in academic pursuits which included national and international lecturing as well as publishing several dermatologic articles. From October 2008-October 2009 Dr. Anderson represented all Osteopathic Dermatology Residents as the Resident Liaison for the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology.
Since opening the Colorado Dermatology Institute in July, 2010, Dr. Anderson has been recognized as a Board Certified Dermatologist by the American Osteopathic Board of Dermatology; as a Fellow Member of the American Society of Mohs Surgeons; and is one of approximately 40 Mohs surgeons in the U.S. to attain the prestigious American Osteopathic Board of Dermatology Certificate of Added Qualification in Mohs Micrographic Surgery. Dr. Anderson is on staff at Memorial and Penrose/St. Francis hospitals and is a member of the El Paso County Medical Society and the Colorado Springs Osteopathic Foundation. He is also an assistant professor at Rocky Vista University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Parker, CO. Dr. Anderson was the President of the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology from 2020–2021.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
In the middle of my second tour of duty in Iraq as the First Reconnaissance Battalion Surgeon I made the decision to change careers. I was burnt out, frustrated, and needed a break. I dated a woman who was a Dermatologist and she loved her job and never had to engage in the carnage of war. So, I decided to change career paths. Turns out Dermatology was where I belonged in medicine.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I was trying to write a prescription to treat a fungal infection that was literally eating the scalp off on one of my patients. This prescription was 4 dollars. His insurance company said it was not covered. I spent over an hour trying to get the insurance company to pay for it. They “accidently disconnected” me 3 times and said it must be my phone even though I was on a landline. They would never approve the medication because they had another medication to treat this that was much more dangerous. He eventually just paid the 4 dollars and was cured.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I had a patient who came in complaining about a “mole” that was changing. Simple enough I thought. I walked into the room, introduced myself and proceeded to take off the bandage. Under the bandage the “mole” had legs and was squirming. Turns out the patient had been bitten by a tick. My Medical Assistant who was with me is deathly afraid of bugs and she left the room so quickly it was like she was “The Flash.” We removed the tick, gave the appropriate antibiotics, and then proceeded to make sure that my Medical Assistant was still breathing.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
It is customer service. We truly believe that we are here for the patients, they are not here for us. While this might seem like the obvious philosophy it is sorely lacking in most of medicine, and politics it seems.
What advice would you give to other healthcare leaders to help their team to thrive?
Make it about others, not about yourself. You are there to serve, not to be served.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s jump to the main focus of our interview. According to this study cited by Newsweek, the US healthcare system is ranked as the worst among high income nations. This seems shocking. Can you share with us 3–5 reasons why you think the US is ranked so poorly?
You are a “healthcare insider”. If you had the power to make a change, can you share 5 changes that need to be made to improve the overall US healthcare system? Please share a story or example for each.
1) Have one set of rules for what is covered and how much it costs. This would save 6B/year = enough to insure every citizen in the USA and reduce copays and deductibles to zero. And more, we would finally start to have a market-based healthcare system with transparency instead of what we have now.
2) Allow government programs to price negotiate prescription drugs. We pay, on average, 2x as much for the exact same medications that can be purchased in other developed countries. If the government were allowed to price negotiate, everyone in the USA, regardless of their insurance, would pay less.
3) Hold people accountable for their health. In the USA between 50–85% of all dollars spent in healthcare is spent treating diseases that are enormously preventable if people would just take care of their health. Just like other forms of insurance, if people willingly engage in unhealthy habits that will end up costing the system more, they need to pay more for their insurance.
4) Make prevention the number one focus of the system. Starting in elementary school all the way through medical school we must have programs that are not sponsored by industry that consistently teach our youth what to eat, how to exercise, how to take care of their mental health, … so that they know the tools to keep themselves healthy and their healthcare providers have the education to assist in this rather than just treating the diseases that result from a lifetime of bad choices.
5) Hold industry accountable. From what ingredients go in the cosmeceuticals, to how “food” companies try to make us addicted to their products, to pharmaceutical companies continuing to jack up their prices so they are not affordable, to … we must start holding industry accountable for their actions so that health can be achieved.
Ok, its very nice to suggest changes, but what concrete steps would have to be done to actually manifest these changes? What can a) individuals, b) corporations, c) communities and d) leaders do to help?
See above — I tried to answer as I went along.
I’m interested in the interplay between the general healthcare system and the mental health system. Right now, we have two parallel tracks, mental/behavioral health and general health. What are your thoughts about this status quo? What would you suggest to improve this?
Mental health is the foundation upon which everything else in life rests. Without being taught how to have sound mental health in school and at home we will just keep spinning our wheels on healthcare reform. So many of us have unhealthful habits because we are using food, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, … to mask our underlying mental health disorders. Why else would we be voluntarily poisoning ourselves? We have to start addressing this deficiency in our educational system and in our healthcare system.
How would you define an “excellent healthcare provider”?
An excellent healthcare provider is one who does everything they can to help their patients without being co-dependent and taking on more than they have the power or authority to accomplish.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“We are all much more simply human than otherwise, be we happy and successful, contented and detached, miserable and mentally disordered, or whatever” by Dr. Harry Stack Sullivan. I love this quote because we often think that our problems are unique to us. Nothing could be further from the truth. We all thrive and suffer because of the same things. Given this it allows us grace to deal with our, and others, successes and failures and to strive to live our potential.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am trying to educate the public on how healthcare sort-of functions so that we can get involved and start changing it instead of waiting for Washington to stop yelling at each other and do their jobs.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better healthcare leader? Can you explain why you like them?
Tony Robbins is my favorite source for understanding why I do what I do and then empowering me to live to my potential. Once you start to understand yourself you are able to start understanding others and why things are as they are. Then you are free to start helping things change.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Start listening to others with the intent to understand, not just argue your point. If we can understand where others come from we might just learn we have the same goals, just different ways of getting there. We all want health, security, love, … Why not focus on these common goals and compromise on how to get there instead of just yelling at each other because someone else has a different path to get there?
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Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!