INTERVIEW WITH DR. JOSEPH ALPERT
Tell our readers about a time when you knew that medicine was your calling and purpose. How did you know?
My father was a very successful dentist in New Haven, Connecticut, and I had a number of other relatives who were dentists and doctors. So, I grew up with the idea that this was an excellent profession for me. I also thought about becoming a scientist or an astronomer. My Yale undergraduate experience was truly wonderful and I considered doing a PhD in marine biology. I actually did a year of marine biology research in Denmark at the Carlsberg Oceanographic Institute in Copenhagen, but in the end I decided I needed more interpersonal contact and returned to the US to be a Harvard medical student.
“I actually did a year of marine biology research in Denmark at the Carlsberg Oceanographic Institute in Copenhagen, but in the end I decided I needed more interpersonal contact and returned to the US to be a Harvard medical student.”
Have you ever been a patient as an adult, and if so, how has that experience informed your practice of medicine?
I have been a patient several times as an adult. These were eye-opening experiences. I think these events have helped me be more empathetic towards patients and have made me a better doctor.
Your wife also works in a field related to medicine. How does that enhance your relationship?
My wife (Qin Chen) is a PhD, not an MD. She is a professor of pharmacology and toxicology, and her area of basic scientific research is myocardial ischemia (lack of oxygen and nutrients in heart muscle that can lead to a heart attack or myocardial infarction). Her research complements my clinical interests, and my clinical interests complement her scientific work. We have a great life together and often discuss scientific topics. I learn from her, and she learns from me. My wife and I often travel together to scientific meetings and as visiting professors. I love traveling in Asia and especially China with Qin who speaks and reads Chinese. You can imagine that this is a very big plus when traveling in China or on Taiwan.
You travel quite a bit for your work. Do you have any memorable stories to share?
My most interesting trip was several years ago when I was invited to lecture in Iran. I met many cardiology colleagues there and their families, all of whom were very friendly and grateful for my presence there. It was a memorable trip, and I am still in touch with a number of my Persian colleagues here in the US and in Iran.
“My motto is ‘only exercise on the days that you eat!!’”
Many Americans accept cognitive and physical decline as part of aging. How can physicians help change this narrative?
None of us will live forever, but we can maximize our chances for long life by not getting obese as we age and eating junk food, and instead, eating lots of fruits, nuts, and vegetables (remember that the diet of our nearest “relative,” the chimpanzee, is mostly fruit and veggies with only occasional meat), exercising regularly (my motto is “only exercise on the days that you eat!!”), and having periodic examinations with your internist or family physician to check blood pressure, cholesterol blood tests, colonoscopy, vaccinations, etc. In addition, a loving relationship becomes more and more important as one ages. There is no question that decline in function occurs with aging, but there is a lot one can do to retard the process of decline.
What about Doctorpedia resonates with your personal and professional mission?
Many of my patients complain that when they see a doctor none of their questions are answered, which leads to anxiety and (at times) failure to take their medicines as prescribed. Doctorpedia will fill that knowledge gap.
What problem do physicians face that Doctorpedia can help solve?
When patients do not get their questions answered, they are more likely to do harmful things to themselves, such as not following medical advice or purchasing worthless substances from the internet. Even worse, some get caught up in a valueless or dangerous form of therapy available for substantial payment offered by quack healthcare workers. One example of this is the number of stem cell clinics now springing up around the US and the world. There is absolutely no proof that therapies like these have any value, and often they are harmful.
“Doctorpedia‘s videos are just the right length and sophistication for the overwhelming majority of patients.”
What problem do patients face that Doctorpedia can help solve?
Doctorpedia can fill in knowledge gaps so that patients can make rational choices.
Why do you think that shorter videos offered by Doctorpedia may be more user-friendly?
Most people have a modest attention span. As a result, information should not be delivered in large quantities over a substantial period of time. “Short, sweet and to the point” results in the best retention of new material. Doctorpedia‘s videos are just the right length and sophistication for the overwhelming majority of patients.
What do you like best about Doctorpedia?
I like the fact that really excellent doctors are giving really excellent, rational, and scientifically based advice to patients.
How has your experience been thus far working with the Doctorpedia team and advisors?
It has been a 100% pleasure. Jeremy and the staff are superb!!
Dr. Joseph Alpert
Editor-in-Chief of the American Journal of Medicine
Board Certified Cardiologist
Professor of Medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine