INTERVIEW WITH ALVARO ANDRES MACIAS, MD, FASA
What guided your decision to go into medicine and specifically, your chosen field?
Very often people ask me this question – this is one of the questions my wife first asked me when we started dating. To be honest, I do not remember. I was always interested in biology, nature and caring for others. I frequently asked myself (and still do): “How is it that we are so complex? How did we get here?” When you think about the human body you realized that it is an incredible piece of art. Things almost flow silently while working yet at the same time it is performing incredible complicated chemical reactions. That admiration drove me to understand more about us and probably into medicine.
“All of our patients have someone who cares about them. They are trusting us with the most precious possession any human can have: their lives.”
Have you ever been a patient, and if so, what did it teach you?
Yes, I have. I have a history of kidney stones. You may know that pain from kidney stones is one the worst pains a human can experience. I have had 2 episodes, including one when I was 13 years old. At that time, I did not know anything about medicine. I went to the ER, got treated for couple of hours, and went home. More recently I had a second episode. At this time, I knew what was happening and it just reminded me how fragile we are. My stones are 2-3mm in size but the pain they cause does not correlate with that. Life is very fragile; I have seen it through my practice. When I am in the operating room I always think, “how would I like to be treated if I were the one lying on the operating table?”
What are the most important qualities for a doctor to have?
Compassion, dedication and knowledge. If you cannot cure, you can at least comfort – that is very important for both the patient and physician to understand. I feel that compassion is something that is sometimes forgotten. When I see my patients, I think about my family and I ask myself: “how would I like my family members to be treated if they were one of them.” For me, that is key. All of our patients have someone who cares about them. They are trusting us with the most precious possession any human can have: their lives.
What can a patient expect when they have you as a doctor?
I am very dedicated to my patients. I listen to them, I answer their questions, and – depending on the situation – I throw in a line or two to make them feel more at ease. We anesthesiologists have a very short time to make a good connection with our patients. We see them, ask all of these questions, and get them ready for surgery in about 20-30 minutes and then when surgery is done, we usually do not see them again. Think of it like a pilot on a plane: you do not see him or her for too long, yet you trust the pilot to get you from A to B. That is very similar to what anesthesiologists do.
What makes you different from other doctors in your field?
Trust – just like in any other relationship. Patients are trusting you with their lives and personal information. In exchange, they expect the same trust from us.
“When you have a platform like Doctorpedia, you can reach any corner of this planet with medical information from very knowledgeable, experienced and trusted providers.”
What is your favorite activity outside of work?
I travel a lot with my family. It is something that we love to do, to explore new places, cultures, and food. There is so much to see and experience of this planet in such short period of time.
If you could spend a day with any person in the world (dead or alive) – who would you choose?
Siddharta Gautama. His vision of life and the world is something that I admire and try to practice every day in my life.
What would you do for a living if you weren’t a doctor?
I would be a marine biologist. I love the ocean.
You recently joined the Doctorpedia team as a Founding Medical Partner. What about Doctorpedia resonates with your personal and professional mission?
Providing current, trusted, and real medical content is so important. We live in this age where information is everywhere, and yet there are so many misleading websites and videos on the internet that bring anxiety, confusion, and mistrust to the population. Look at COVID – I do not think I have to explain any further.
What problems do physicians and patients face that Doctorpedia can help solve?
Reaching the world with trusted medical information beyond our practices and borders. When you have a platform like Doctorpedia, you can reach any corner of this planet with medical information from very knowledgeable, experienced and trusted providers. I have so many patients who come in for surgery telling me that they watched their surgery on the internet and feel more anxious and nervous. I have watched some videos myself that are completely misleading. Doctorpedia can solve that by delivering truthful and current information.
“I am very dedicated to my patients. I listen to them, I answer their questions, and – depending on the situation – I throw in a line or two to make them feel more at ease.”
What do you think about the health and wellness information and resources available online?
Well, there is a lot of work to be done – a lot of potential but a lot of misinformation, too. That is why I joined Doctorpedia. We have so many people talking about health, yet many users do not check the credentials and expertise of the sources of information. It is relatively easy to start a website about medical information – there is not much regulation and users do not realize that they can be misled and harmed by the wrong information. Let’s not forget that we are talking about the most precious gift we have: our health.
What were your previous roles in healthcare and what did you learn from them?
I have been the medical director of the operating room, associate director of an anesthesia department, instructor of a regional anesthesia fellowship, and am a member of different national committees. I can tell you that we need more physicians interested in learning business models, group creation, and how to become leaders.
Alvaro Andres Macias, MD
Dr. Macias is a board certified anesthesiologist and an Assistant Professor of Anesthesia at Harvard Medical School. In addition to being the Chief of Anesthesia at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear, Dr. Macias is a Doctorpedia Founding Medical Partner and a Fellow of the American Society of Anesthesiologists.