INTERVIEW WITH GARY SCHWARTZ, MD
What guided your decision to go into medicine and specifically, your chosen field?
The craving for constant inspiration. The human body is a treasure chest of complexity and being able to unravel it daily and repair it as needed is a constant challenge. To be continuously inspired and challenged while simultaneously helping others achieve health is a blessing. Thoracic surgery as a specialty encompasses oncology, transplantation, vascular surgery, critical care, and trauma surgery, with the ability to apply new technology and continuous innovation to benefit my patients. After 20 years in medicine, I still wake up every morning excited to go to work.
“Doctors need to truly listen to the concerns and needs of their patients, and patients need to understand the limitations of their physicians and have realistic expectations. It is a bidirectional relationship that enables both parties to benefit.”
What are the most important qualities for a doctor to have?
The ability to see the big picture. Doctors make complex decisions with limited data that can have significant consequences. Every decision point has the potential to alter someone else’s existence. Doctors must see every tree but never lose sight of the forest.
What can a patient expect when they have you as a doctor?
I will provide the absolute highest level of quality possible. Starting with an initial evaluation, through testing and creating a treatment strategy, to the operating room utilizing the most cutting-edge surgical techniques. And once I’ve operated on someone, they are my patient for life.
What is the most important factor in the doctor/patient relationship and why?
Listening – in both directions. Doctors need to truly listen to the concerns and needs of their patients, and patients need to understand the limitations of their physicians and have realistic expectations. It is a bidirectional relationship that enables both parties to benefit.
What makes you different from other doctors in your field?
My background in philosophy contributes to my understanding of the physician/patient relationship and seeing the big picture for each individual patient. At the same time, the technical aspects of surgery came to me naturally having grown up watching and working with my father, an electrical engineer.
“The extent of knowledge regarding a condition or procedure used to be limited to what a physician told a patient; the internet widened access to medical knowledge, but with no limited quality control or reliability. Doctorpedia aims to change that by providing access to high quality, knowledgeable experts in every field at the fingertips of every patient.”
What is your favorite activity outside of work?
Travel. Only by seeing different places in the world and different perspectives on the world can we continuously improve our personal human experience. I’ve been fortunate to combine my passion for travel and meeting people and experiencing new cultures with my professional interests by volunteering on international surgical missions. Despite cultural differences, human anatomy and physiology is universal.
You recently joined the Doctorpedia team as a Founding Medical Partner. What about Doctorpedia resonates with your personal and professional mission?
Patient autonomy. We talk about “informed consent” prior to surgery, but how informed can a non-medical professional really be? The extent of knowledge regarding a condition or procedure used to be limited to what a physician told a patient; the internet widened access to medical knowledge, but with no limited quality control or reliability. Doctorpedia aims to change that by providing access to high quality, knowledgeable experts in every field at the fingertips of every patient.
What were your previous roles in healthcare and what did you learn from them?
I started volunteering on an ambulance squad in high school, and eventually became an Emergency Medical Technician throughout college. There’s a lot of problem solving and logistical decision making in emergency services, independent of medical training. Those years on the back of the truck really prepared me to deal with crises in a calm and organized manner, which was crucial when I responded to Ground Zero in New York on 9/11, and continue to be on a daily basis.
Gary Schwartz, MD
Thoracic and Cardiac Surgery
Dr. Gary Schwartz is board certified in cardiothoracic and general surgery and serves as Chief of the Department of Thoracic Surgery at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, TX and as President-Elect of the Texas Transplantation Society.