Curtis J. Coley II, MD
- Board Certified in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine
- Has held multiple leadership positions: Intensive Care Unit Medical Director at several facilities, Department of Medicine Chair, Chairman of the System Sepsis Collaborative for Piedmont Healthcare, Co-Chair of System COVID Surge Staffing Models
- Clinical expertise in Sepsis Management, Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, Shock states, mechanical ventilation, and airway management. He has a personal interest in healthcare quality initiatives, peer review, social determinants of health, patient safety, and end of life care.
Dr. Coley grew up in the small town of Elmira, NY. He earned his undergraduate degree from Cornell University in 2001. He subsequently earned his medical degree from the Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine in 2005. He completed Internal Medicine residency at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, NY in 2008. Dr. Coley went on to complete his fellowship training in Pulmonary and Critical Care at the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 2012. He earned a Masters of Healthcare Administration from UAB in 2017. Since completing fellowship, he has practiced in North Carolina, Alabama, and ultimately established roots in Georgia. Dr. Coley began working with Piedmont Healthcare at the Fayette campus in 2016. He helped establish the Intensivist program in 2016-2017 as the ICU Medical Director of the 14 bed ICU. By 2018 Piedmont Fayette was awarded America’s Top 100 Critical Care programs. This designation has continued for the last 3 years. Dr. Coley subsequently transferred to Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, where he has served as the ICU Medical Director since fall of 2019, and subsequently the Chairman of Internal Medicine in December 2021.View Profile
March 18, 2022
Critical Care Specialist Dr. Curtis J. Coley II talks about his early interest in problem-solving, his late father’s influence on his life, why he loves his profession, his role as a healthcare administrator, things on the horizon in critical care medicine, and more.
- His high school teacher’s impact
- Why he went into medicine
- Hs father’s passing and how it shaped his worldview
- What critical care medicine is
- Why he chose both of his specialties
- What his current job role as a healthcare administrator entails
- Upcoming developments in his field
- The importance of the doctor-patient relationship
- The applications and challenges of the online health space
- How Doctorpedia has found its niche in the online health space
- What he does to stay healthy
- “[In 10th or 11th grade], I programmed on [my calculator] a way to solve for all of the vector problems that came up on a test… [My teacher] was completely OK with the fact that I was innovative and tried to figure out a different way to solve the problem. I would probably say it was one of the earliest examples of an authority figure allowing innovative thought that I can truly pin down as kind of like an example of something like that in my childhood.”
- “Recognizing that I had the strength in biology, recognizing that I had an affinity to interacting with people and wanted to help individuals, it was just a natural transition that happened fairly early on.”
- “[My father’s death] was life altering. And it was by far one of the most difficult times that I’ve ever gone through emotionally and spiritually and all of the different things that comprise a person. But I would say that on the other end of all that hurt and pain, I became a much more empathetic person and a much more empathetic provider.”
- “Over time… I think that as a part of our appreciative inquiry process, you start to question some of the things that previously you accepted. And ultimately, everybody goes through an evolution of sorts, no pun intended, of what their thoughts are, what their beliefs are.”
- “I trained under the tutelage of some phenomenal physicians… Some amazing docs that have gone on to do great things. And I always thought, ‘I want to do that. I want to be like that.’”
- “[In terms of COVID], there’s more to come. And I think that it’s gonna depend on what we as both community and a nation decide to do in terms of trying to keep ourselves and each other and our family members and loved ones safe.”
- “If one does not trust me or their individual provider, then there’s gonna be a limitation on the amount of information that’s exchanged. There’s gonna be a limitation on the care that we can provide, because we’re only as good as the information that we receive. And so in order to help facilitate that exchange of information, there has to be foundational trust.”
- “As long as we’re able to have a healthy discussion of opposing viewpoints and come away with some common plan that most certainly is in the patient’s best interest, I think that that’s the best space, because just like any interaction, unless all parties have some degree of buy-in, the plan is not gonna go anywhere.”
- “I think that [Doctorpedia] is an extremely sophisticated, innovative and, I dare to say brilliant, way to create a warehouse where so many different medical professionals can house information, can house explanations, for patients in one central location, to kind of create this immersive experience for patients that most likely are scared for either themselves or for their family members, or friends, loved ones, things like that, in an unbiased way.”
My hope, something that excites me, is the prospect that, at some point, and hopefully in the near future, that all the warriors that have been out there putting in the work and trying to save lives and things like that will get a well deserved rest.
Curtis J. Coley II, MD
I think that the way in which providers think is not necessarily the way that administrators approach problems. And so being able to be that intermediary between providers and administrators by having the vernacular of both, uniquely positions individuals to communicate effectively with both sides.
Curtis J. Coley II, MD
What do I personally do to stay healthy? Basically staying active, carving out time to make exercise a priority, making sure that we're taking time to have vacations and celebrate life and celebrate experiences with each other. And kind of protecting our mental health and personal peace and things like that, despite all the craziness that exists in the world.
Curtis J. Coley II, MD
Daniel Lobell: (00:00)
This podcast or any written material derived from its transcripts represents the opinions of the medical professional being interviewed. The content here is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. Since every person is unique, please consult your healthcare professional for any personal or specific needs.
Daniel Lobell: (00:22)
Hello, and welcome to the Doctorpedia podcast. On today’s episode, I am honored to be joined by Dr. Curtis Coley on the line. How are you, Curtis Coley the second? How are you, Dr. Coley?
Dr. Curtis Coley: (00:32)
I’m great, sir. I’m great. How are you?
Daniel Lobell: (00:35)
Good. Is Curtis Coley the first also a doctor?
Dr. Curtis Coley: (00:39)
He was not. Rest in peace. He was not.
Daniel Lobell: (00:44)
What did he do?
Dr. Curtis Coley: (00:47)
Well, he was, other than being my first superhero, he was a grievance counselor with New York State Department of Corrections for over 30 years. He worked in the trucking industry, and he was a Pentecostal elder.
Daniel Lobell: (01:10)
Dr. Curtis Coley: (01:12)
Yeah, he was a Renaissance man, for sure.
Daniel Lobell: (01:15)
Well, I’m sorry he’s not with us anymore. I’m…
Dr. Curtis Coley: (01:18)
Me too. Me too.
Daniel Lobell: (01:19)
He sounds like he was an amazing guy.
Dr. Curtis Coley: (01:21)
He really was.
Daniel Lobell: (01:23)
It’s a good enough segue as any to lead into your childhood. I always like to talk to the doctors about what made them go into medicine and how you grew up and where you grew up. So any one of those that you wanna start with, I’m ready to hear it.
Dr. Curtis Coley: (01:37)
All right, very good. So I’m originally from upstate New York. It was a small town called Elmira, New York. It’s right in the middle of the border of the base of the state. Let’s see… I always liked biology. I always liked problem solving. I always liked interacting with people. And so naturally that led to me choosing computer science as my initial major when I went to my undergrad. And that didn’t really work out all that well. So I ended up switching to microbiology over at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York and went pre-med and the rest is history.
Daniel Lobell: (02:29)
Well, you said you like problem solving. Do you have any examples from your childhood of things that you would do to problem-solve or problems that arose that you solved?
Dr. Curtis Coley: (02:39)
Sure. It’s interesting. My cousin and I talk about this every once in a while we get together, is basically whenever I would encounter something new, I would spend a pretty significant amount of time just looking at it and trying to figure out how it worked before I did anything with it. It’s very… I didn’t realize it until he actually pointed it out, but one of the prime examples that I remember is when we had tests in pre-calculus back in, I don’t know, 10th, 11th grade, give or take. One of my favorite teachers, Mrs. Elaine Perkins up in Elmira Free Academy.
Daniel Lobell: (03:27)
It sounds like a storybook name, Mrs. Perkins.
Dr. Curtis Coley: (03:31)
Oh, Mrs. Perkins was phenomenal, and is phenomenal. And I owe her a lot in terms of my personal development and growth, and for not reporting me to my dad for swearing in the classroom that day. I appreciate it, ma’am. She had a test related to vectors and forces and things like that. And I program, I think I’m gonna date myself at this point, but I programmed my TI-81, I think, or 82, something like that. One of those Texas Instruments. Massive.
Daniel Lobell: (04:11)
I had one of those. Yeah, yeah.
Dr. Curtis Coley: (04:12)
Yeah. They were great, right?
Daniel Lobell: (04:14)
Yeah. They were — you know what it was? It seemed so fun when — for me, it seemed so fun to get it. Then I just, once I had it, I was like, “Ah, this isn’t fun.” But I mean, for you, it may have been, but I was just like, “Oh wow, what a cool device.” I was excited until I realized it just did math.
Dr. Curtis Coley: (04:32)
Yeah, no, that’s funny. Yeah, no, I think that it — I thought that they were really cool and I thought that the fact that you could link your device to other individuals’ devices and send programs and send things like that. I thought that was amazing. I think that that was the first iteration of, I don’t know, AirDrop. But I programmed on that a way to solve for all of the vector problems that came up on the test. And she knew that I put in the work, knew that I understood the material, and was completely OK with the fact that I was innovative and tried to figure out a different way to solve the problem. And she allowed it and I ended up crushing the test, so.
Daniel Lobell: (05:22)
Dr. Curtis Coley: (05:22)
I would probably say it was one of the earliest examples of an authority figure allowing innovative thought that I can truly pin down as kind of like an example of something like that in my childhood.
Daniel Lobell: (05:44)
Pretty amazing. Also amazing is that I had no idea you could share information from one! [Daniel chuckles]
Dr. Curtis Coley: (05:49)
Oh, man. So it came in the side. It’s almost like those extra little pieces in an iPhone that you can dig into them. But yeah, no, there was a cord, like there was a little cable that came with it that you could share. So, yeah. Fun fact.
Daniel Lobell: (06:05)
Well, while you were able to innovate ways with the calculator, I could barely use it for its basic function. So [both laugh] that illustrates the big difference between us right there, but…
Dr. Curtis Coley: (06:15)
It’s all good, but you’re on radio and you’re a comedian and do a podcast and things like that, and this terrifies me. So it all works out.
Daniel Lobell: (06:23)
I’m not complaining, it’s just different, that’s all. [Curtis laughs] So that’s pretty cool. That story is amazing. And what an incredible teacher to let you do that and to give you that confidence in yourself. It sounds like she was very instrumental in building this core of who you became, of being like, “Look, I should innovate. I should put my skills to the test and think outside the box.” And you don’t find too many people like that in life.
Dr. Curtis Coley: (06:56)
You really don’t. And it doesn’t matter what stage of life you’re in. You really don’t necessarily encounter a lot of individuals that foster that environment that’s conducive to innovative thought. And I was fortunate enough and blessed enough to encounter one at such an early stage. And I still keep in contact with her to this day.
Daniel Lobell: (07:19)
Incredible. Well, send her the podcast when it’s done.
Dr. Curtis Coley: (07:23)
Will do! [both chuckle] Will do.
Daniel Lobell: (07:26)
So you mentioned that you didn’t like computer science, or it turned out not to be the thing for you. But other than the fact that you liked problem solving, was there anything specifically about medicine that attracted you?
Dr. Curtis Coley: (07:41)
Sure. I — again, the problem solving part, the part that became very clear when working in computer science, was that I needed that human interaction. And there was so little of that, that was at least in my experience, at the beginning of being a computer science major, spending hours and hours in the computer lab and trying to get a ball to bounce across the screen from code, it was just extremely challenging for me. And I remember several times where I was just completely defeated, cause I couldn’t do what seemed to be a relatively simple task to a lot of other people. And so recognizing that I had the strength in biology, recognizing that I had an affinity to interacting with people and wanted to help individuals, it was just a natural transition that happened fairly early on.
Daniel Lobell: (08:44)
Were there moments in your life where you were the patient that struck you and inspired you in some way, or stuck with you?
Dr. Curtis Coley: (08:54)
Sure. I think that I went through a lot of the normal childhood injuries from sports, broken fingers and sprains and cuts and needing to have stitches and things like that. But by far the most impactful experience that I had on the other side of the white coat, so to speak, was with my father. And he was diagnosed with CMML in 2015, actually, about five months or so after my son was born.
Daniel Lobell: (09:35)
What is CMML? I’m sorry, because I just don’t know.
Dr. Curtis Coley: (09:38)
Basically it is a very aggressive form of leukemia that affects a very specific cell type and there are no real good therapies for it other than stem cell transplants and things like that. And so he went from this super robust, military Vietnam veteran that was —
Daniel Lobell: (10:04)
Superhero, I think is how you originally described it.
Dr. Curtis Coley: (10:05)
Yeah. Yeah. Robust individual running multiple miles per day, preaching in the pulpit, taking care of folks prior to his retirement and living life post retirement, and kinda whittled away, unfortunately, in front of our eyes over the course of a few months. And just trying to manage from afar, he lived in Atlanta at the time and I lived over in Birmingham, trying to manage coordinating his care remotely and keeping in contact with the providers and keeping in contact with my family members that were trying to understand what was going on. And all of the complexities of managing a chronically sick parent and also one that was approaching the end of their life. It was life changing.
Dr. Curtis Coley: (11:10)
It was life altering. And it was by far one of the most difficult times that I’ve ever gone through emotionally and spiritually and all of the different things that comprise a person. But I would say that on the other end of all that hurt and pain, I became a much more empathetic person and a much more empathetic provider. So I talk to many of my patients about how I can identify and empathize with their experience, especially as a critical care physician with what exactly they’re going through, and I know that things are hard and I know how it feels to be in their shoes.
Daniel Lobell: (11:58)
Yeah. I mean, that is an experience that I think would have a profound impact on anybody. You said that, a second ago, you said that now when you deal with patients, you feel like you know what it’s like to be in their shoes. Did you feel like there was more of a disconnect before that, or did it just really bolster up your… I don’t wanna use the same word as you did, but empathy.
Dr. Curtis Coley: (12:27)
Yeah, sure. No, I completely understand what you’re going for. I think that we spend years and years as medical professionals and healthcare professionals learning about the textbook definition of disease states and pathophysiology and treatment plans and things like that. And I think that it is completely appropriate, right? You want the providers that are taking care of you to be very knowledgeable of whatever condition they are responsible for. However, you never know what it’s like to deal with illness, unless it’s either you or your family that’s dealing with it. There’s not a natural understanding of what this disease state may mean for the rest of the families, right. And so I think that translating the book knowledge into patient experience is… That whole process is invaluable. And it adds an additional dimension, adds an additional layer to any of the providers who have gone through it.
Daniel Lobell: (13:58)
So as devastating as it was to go through what you went through with your father, it left you on the other side as sort of this super doctor who had this unbelievable personal understanding of what your patients are going through, it sounds like.
Dr. Curtis Coley: (14:16)
Well, I most certainly would not describe myself as that, that’s for sure, but I…
Daniel Lobell: (14:23)
Well, if you’re the son of a superhero, you have to have [both chuckle] some of those genes passed along. And I mean, from what I’ve read about you, it seems pretty accurate.
Dr. Curtis Coley: (14:33)
Well, I appreciate that. And I really have tried to make both him and the rest of my family proud. So I do appreciate that.
Daniel Lobell: (14:45)
Did you grow up with siblings?
Dr. Curtis Coley: (14:48)
Yeah, I have a sister who’s amazing. Who, on a side note, was right there every step of the way, with our dad. She’s… I won’t say ages or how far apart we are in age, but she is my older sister and is absolutely amazing.
Daniel Lobell: (15:10)
I gather it’s about 60 years, that’s why you…
Dr. Curtis Coley: (15:14)
[Curtis laughs] Man, I’ll let you tell it. I’ll let you tell that to her. [Both chuckle]
Daniel Lobell: (15:22)
So, I mean, your story is really incredible and I want to touch on the line you said about how it spiritually transformed you, and also your father having served on the pulpit. Where does faith come into what you do as a doctor? And… I want to hear about this spiritual transformation.
Dr. Curtis Coley: (15:42)
Sure. That’s a really deep question. Uh…
Daniel Lobell: (15:48)
We only go for the deep ones here.
Dr. Curtis Coley: (15:49)
[Daniel chuckles] Clearly, clearly. We were starting out… We went left real quick. So spiritually, where does that lead us? So as I said, he was a Pentecostal elder. I think that we went to church at least two, if not three times a week growing up. And that was just what we did. And I think that over time and gaining more experience, gaining more knowledge, I think that as a part of our appreciative inquiry process, you start to question some of the things that previously you accepted. And ultimately, everybody goes through an evolution of sorts, no pun intended, of what their thoughts are, what their beliefs are. And I think that there was a lot of reconciliation between that whole faith piece and fact piece, and how to apply that to day to day life, especially when you see so much in our line of work.
Dr. Curtis Coley: (17:07)
And I would venture to guess that a lot of medical professionals have had something very similar on their educational journey, and just in their life experience, which realistically probably could be a complete episode in and of itself. But I think that there are… I think there is a middle road where one can balance the faith piece and the things that one has been exposed to, whether it’s organized religion or whether it’s just spirituality, and the medicine and science and the fact behind all the things that we do on a day to day basis. And I think that I’m still navigating some of that, but from the humanity and the personhood that we all possess, I know that going through the experiences that I have and the losses that some of the patients and their family members have suffered, and some of the wins and success stories that we’ve had, cause there definitely are miracles that happen, there are amazing things that happen. And there, again, there’s just a connection that can be had to individuals when they’re at their highest moment in need, so to speak.
Daniel Lobell: (18:47)
You wound up specifying in pulmonology and you got board certified in pulmonology and critical care medicine. So forgive my ignorance: Critical care medicine. I don’t know anything about that. I just know that it sounds critical. [Both chuckle] So, two part question: Why those two specific? And second of all, what is critical care medicine?
Dr. Curtis Coley: (19:10)
Sure. So why critical care medicine? So critical care medicine is, in layman’s terms, when you take care of the sickest of the sick adult medical patients. So basically from a 10,000-foot view, any patient over 18 years old that comes into the hospital with any of the major disease states, the most prevalent right now, COVID, right. But then some of the other conditions, respiratory failure, sepsis, heart failure, COPD exacerbations, the list goes on and on. That their stability or medical requirements supersede what can be delivered on the general medical floor. And so it’s basically the sickest of the sick in the hospital.
Daniel Lobell: (20:10)
So it’s not quite hospice, in other words, but it’s possibly the place where many people going to hospice are before that, is that a correct assessment?
Dr. Curtis Coley: (20:23)
I think that that may be a glass half empty look at what critical care is. [Both laugh] I think that — no, it’s cool. I think that if we talk about pre-2019 critical care, some of the top programs across the country had mortality rates even for some of the most severe conditions, i.e. septic shock, at 25% to 30%, some places were 50%, based on what their resources were, but the vast majority of time there were wins, right? Like patients came in extremely sick and extremely unstable, needing all of the, what we call life support, mechanical ventilation, vasopressors for their hemodynamic instability, antibiotics, things like that, aggressive, around the clock care, and they would get better. And they still do.
Dr. Curtis Coley: (21:37)
But it requires coordination of multiple different disciplines. Nursing staff, respirate therapy staff, other consultants… Even down to the phlebotomy teams and the IV teams and even the environmental service teams to make sure that the rooms get turned over in the ways that they need to. It’s basically mass coordination of care for individuals that there is no other place for them in the hospital where they can receive the care that they require. So why did I like that? Why did I get drawn into it? Because it’s pretty badass.
Daniel Lobell: (22:34)
[Both laugh] I love that answer. I have not had any other doctors say that, but that’s awesome.
Dr. Curtis Coley: (22:42)
Well, I’ll be honest with you. [Daniel laughs] I trained under the tutelage of some phenomenal physicians. Both my attendings when I was in residency in Beth Israel in New York City. Paul Mayo, Frank Acera, Sam Aqua, and even the residents that I dealt with, Cress Peleccia and Andrew Lubin, and, some of these amazing docs that have gone on to do great things. And I always thought, “I want to do that.” And “I want to be like that.” And, when they walk in a room, there was the presence that, okay, people were gonna defer to them about the management of the patient that other people could not. And so I’ve tried to emulate that throughout the course of my career. And then when I ended up getting into fellowship at University of Michigan, there were some even more amazing people. Bob Hisey, who was my mentor, and Jack Iwashyna and Anthony Curry and… Like the list goes on and on, but these people were fantastic educators and fantastic providers that were extremely influential on me.
Daniel Lobell: (24:18)
So what about pulmonary? Why — it seems like critical care is such a broader field, and then pulmonary is very specific. So was there something specifically about pulmonary medicine, and I’m sure you’ve had your hands full since 2019 with that one. So my follow up question, I’ll tell you right now in advance, is gonna be, how has COVID changed things? [Both chuckle] But, why pulmonary, and then how has COVID changed the way you’ve had to work?
Dr. Curtis Coley: (24:56)
Sure. So — at the time where I was applying for fellowship, pulmonary medicine and critical care medicine were pretty much a package deal. I mean, there were some one-off programs where you could… Let me not say one-off programs. There were some programs across the country where one could do a critical care only fellowship, in addition to some of the other subspecialties. However the most common association at the time of my — at the time that I applied for fellowship, pulmonary and critical care went along with each other, and that was because of ventilator management. But to be completely honest with you, there was a very, very high burnout rate for providers in critical care. And to have that segue from the acutely dying and the intensive needs that are required by the ICU patient population, to the clinic where you have somebody that has a cough that has been there for months, and you’re able to diagnose why they have the cough and treat them, they feel better, that is a good respite from the trenches. So I think that there’s a natural synergy between those two specialties that I really do enjoy.
Daniel Lobell: (26:31)
Very interesting. I’m gonna — well, I wanted to kind of ask more about the COVID question before we move on. Has COVID changed the way you’ve worked in terms of pulmonology? Have there been many breakthroughs in pulmonology as a result of all the research that’s been done on COVID, and if so, what?
Dr. Curtis Coley: (26:55)
Yeah. I will be, again, very transparent. So part of what I do, the vast majority of my work has been as the critical care director for my entity, Piedmont Atlanta specifically, during COVID. I’ve been…
Daniel Lobell: (27:16)
You started there in 2019, right?
Dr. Curtis Coley: (27:18)
Well, I started at Piedmont Atlanta in 2019, but I started with the Piedmont healthcare system in 2016. And I was the intensive care unit director down in Piedmont Fayette with a team of rockstars that are down there, and then transitioned up to Piedmont Atlanta in September of 2019. So I had a good… What, four months? On campus before the world changed. And so there were a lot of challenges and I definitely dedicated a lot of my time to the inpatient operations as opposed to the outpatient operations. And I think that there are other individuals that can speak more to a lot of the pulmonary advancements related to COVID-19. There were some things that I can speak to. However, again, the vast majority of my experience with COVID-19 had to do with critical care management, ventilator management, how to deal with the day to day emergencies relative to all of the many surges that we have experienced over the course of the last two years.
Daniel Lobell: (28:48)
What do you think, looking at the virus now, do you think that we’re kind of at the end of this thing, or should we be optimistic? I know you were… You didn’t like it when I was a half empty glass guy, so… [Both chuckle] But where do we stand from your perspective now?
Dr. Curtis Coley: (29:10)
Yeah. I think that it’s hard to say “we” in anything COVID-related, because there’s so much variability based on your geographic location, based on a lot of other factors that are very complex, right? And so I think that there… I think that there is some hope with this most recent surge. But I don’t know. I would not have — I will say this. I did not imagine in 2020 that in 2022, we would still have this many people that are getting sick and dying from the disease. So I think that the right answer for that is, there’s more to come. And I think that it’s gonna depend on what we as both community and a nation decide to do in terms of trying to keep ourselves and each other and our family members and loved ones safe.
Daniel Lobell: (30:36)
Man, I was hoping you were gonna just say, “It’s over.”
Dr. Curtis Coley: (30:41)
[Both laugh] That’s a different podcast. It’s not this one, my friend. [Both laugh]
Daniel Lobell: (30:45)
No, you’re good. It’s fine. Take the mask off and have a great day. [Both chuckle] So you did a master’s in administration, in Healthcare Administration, is that correct?
Dr. Curtis Coley: (30:59)
That’s correct. Master’s in Healthcare Administration at UAB…
Daniel Lobell: (31:05)
Dr. Curtis Coley: (31:06)
Fantastic program. 2017 is when I finished, absolutely. The executive class 51, it was great. Some very, very strong friendships and bonds and a fantastic alumni network that’s associated with that program.
Daniel Lobell: (31:25)
Is that essentially what you’re doing now at Piedmont? Is that — are you more in an administrative role? Because it sounded to me sort of like you were running things, but I’m not sure. Please clarify. [Daniel chuckles]
Dr. Curtis Coley: (31:42)
I most certainly am not running things. There are people that are much higher pay grade than I am. They’re making the tough decisions. But I try to contribute with my ICU team and contribute intellectually to my division, the Division of Pulmonary Critical Care and Sleep, and try to work with the executive team there, to build a robust evidence-based program for sure. I think that the MHA program at UAB was something that I definitely wanted to get under my belt, cause again, kinda to the point that my cousin and I were talking about, I always want to know how things work. I always want to understand how the parts come together to make the whole. And this afforded me the opportunity to get that from the business aspect and the administrative aspect of healthcare, which has been invaluable.
Daniel Lobell: (32:47)
So, I imagine it has been invaluable, but can you give me an example, maybe other doctors who tune into this will will say, “Hey, maybe I should go and get an administrative master’s in healthcare as well.” But what have been some of the things that have been so eye-opening or that change the way, change your general perception of how you do your job because of that?
Dr. Curtis Coley: (33:09)
Sure. I think that, again, the way in which providers think is not necessarily the way that administrators approach problems. And so being able to translate, or be that intermediary between providers and administrators by having the vernacular of both, kind of uniquely positions individuals to communicate effectively with both sides. And so, if the providers, for example, if the providers would like to do a thing or institute a process, because there are studies that have come out to show that this is the evidence based medicine portion, we don’t necessarily have the training to figure out how to implement that new process or all the infrastructure that’s required to set up that new instrument or tool or procedure or whatever the case may be. And so that’s where all of the training that the administrators have, training experience in administration, is acquired over the years, that’s a lot of times where they either have their input or have collaboration with the providers. And so again, having a foot in both camps is wildly helpful. So. That would be my recommendation. Being able to translate between both sides, it’s essentially learning a new language, so.
Daniel Lobell: (35:06)
Makes sense to me, I’ll tell you what. When I become a doctor one of these days, if that should ever happen, I’m gonna also become a healthcare administrator.
Dr. Curtis Coley: (35:15)
There you go. It’s never too late, my man. [Daniel chuckles]
Daniel Lobell: (35:17)
I don’t know. I think it’s too late, but… [Both chuckle] But it makes sense to me. Makes perfect sense to me, actually. In fact, there should probably be courses in medical school on healthcare administration for doctors, just for that specific reason. I would think it would be incredibly helpful for people.
Dr. Curtis Coley: (35:37)
I agree. And I think that it would be very interesting, it would be very interesting to see how a medical education evolves, especially with the amount of individuals who have their eye towards business and leadership positions and things like that, that come into medical school, medical education, with these nonmedical related experiences, right? That they want to incorporate into their long term professional goals. So I think that it’s only a matter of time before things like that are done. And I would probably venture to say that a lot of it is taking place already on different campuses.
Daniel Lobell: (36:30)
That’s good to hear. What are things that are on the horizon, either in pulmonology or in critical care medicine, that excite you?
Dr. Curtis Coley: (36:43)
One of the things that excites me about critical care medicine is the concept that hopefully in the near future, the providers who have put their lives on the line, time with family on the line, risked everything to take care of people, will hopefully soon, depending on all things surge related and vaccine related, will get a well deserved rest, not only from the job, but also from a mental standpoint and an emotional health standpoint. I think there’s a lot of people that have been burning the oil at all ends and are tired and need a well deserved break. So I think that my hope, something that excites me, is the prospect that, at some point, and hopefully in the near future, that all the warriors that have been out there putting in the work and trying to save lives and things like that will get a well deserved rest.
Daniel Lobell: (38:16)
Amen to that.
Dr. Curtis Coley: (38:18)
Daniel Lobell: (38:19)
So let’s talk a little bit about the doctor-patient relationship. What is the biggest compliment you can get from a patient?
Dr. Curtis Coley: (38:31)
Honestly, it doesn’t really even take much. Just a thank you is it. I think that there have been some incredibly grateful patients and incredibly grateful family members that have written reviews or sent letters into our administrators and things like that. I, like many other providers, don’t do the things for thanks, but I think that even any piece of acknowledgement, just a thank you, to me, it is so incredibly meaningful, especially given everything that we all have been through in the last few years. But I, again… Simple thank you. That’s the biggest…
Daniel Lobell: (39:35)
All right, well I’ll say thank you. Thank you for all that you’ve done.
Dr. Curtis Coley: (39:39)
[Both chuckle] It’s my pleasure.
Daniel Lobell: (39:42)
What do you think are the most important facets of the doctor-patient relationship?
Dr. Curtis Coley: (39:48)
Trust, for sure. I think that is the number one, two and three thing that jumps off my list. If you don’t trust me or if one does not trust me or their individual provider, then there’s gonna be a limitation on the amount of information that’s exchanged. There’s gonna be a limitation on the care that we can provide, because we’re only as good as the information that we receive. And so in order to help facilitate that exchange of information, there has to be foundational trust. And I think that that’s earned, right? That’s earned from the provider as opposed to automatically being given. And so, that relationship —
Daniel Lobell: (40:45)
And nowadays —
Dr. Curtis Coley: (40:45)
That true relationship —
Daniel Lobell: (40:47)
I think you guys are up against a lot, with all the competing information that circulates, and people seem to have… I don’t know, this is true to everybody, but I think a certain percent of the population has lost trust in medical opinions. Is that a fair assessment? And how do we handle that? I say “we” as if I’m one of the doctors, but how do you handle that as doctors?
Dr. Curtis Coley: (41:15)
Well, it is “we,” because you’re part of the medical community, even if you’re on the patient side. And so, I will take it back to the comment that I had before, if there’s not an environment in which there can be a healthy exchange of information and ideas, then we can’t get to a common place where we can have a productive doctor-patient relationship. So I definitely encourage patients to do their own research. I definitely encourage patients to look up articles and things like that. On the flip side, we as medical professionals have spent years doing exactly that and have been trained in terms of how to critically review articles and papers and information and things like that. And as long as we’re able to have a healthy discussion of opposing viewpoints and come away with some common plan that most certainly is in the patient’s best interest, I think that that’s the best space, because just like any interaction, unless all parties have some degree of buy-in, the plan is not gonna go anywhere.
Daniel Lobell: (42:45)
Makes sense. Shifting the conversation a little bit to the online health space, and I suppose it’s not too big a shift, because a lot of people get their information now from the internet before they even come in, what are your thoughts on the online health space and, tagging onto that question, what are your thoughts on Doctorpedia, which I know you are now a part of?
Dr. Curtis Coley: (43:08)
That’s right. I think that it is just the natural progression of how individuals consume information, right? Like I think that we go to the internet for all of the rest of the information, the vast majority, should I say, or the rest of the information that we consume, and so I think that it’s a natural progression for vetted patient-specific information to be delivered via this platform. And I think that it’s wise and I think that it’s novel, I think that it’s innovative, and I think that it is the best next step. In terms of Doctorpedia, I think that it is an extremely sophisticated, innovative and, I dare to say brilliant, way to create a warehouse where so many different medical professionals can house information, can house explanations, for patients in one central location, to kind of create this immersive experience for patients that most likely are scared for either theirselves or for their family members, or friends, loved ones, things like that, in an unbiased way.
Dr. Curtis Coley: (45:00)
And I think that that’s really, really important, right? Like being able to go to a source where there’s no spin on the data that’s being given, is just the facts related to different disease states, I think that that’s that’s very, very important, especially in this climate.
Daniel Lobell: (45:20)
I agree. And obviously I agree, cause I’m part of Doctorpedia as well.
Dr. Curtis Coley: (45:24)
That’s right. [Both chuckle]
Daniel Lobell: (45:25)
But I agree with your sentiments that it’s brilliant, and that people need to check it out. And go to Doctorpedia.com and find your profile on there, and and tell us, what can people find from you on the Doctorpedia website and what can we look forward to finding from you on the Doctorpedia website?
Dr. Curtis Coley: (45:46)
Sure. So I’m much more of a behind the scenes type person as of right now. I think that there are folks that are much more comfortable than I getting on screen, and…
Daniel Lobell: (45:59)
Well, come on, you made the first step, the least — it starts with radio, and then it goes to television. [Curtis chuckles] You’ve definitely made a big first step into the world of entertainment here today.
Dr. Curtis Coley: (46:13)
Sounds great. Well, I appreciate being a part of it and you’ve been a great coach. Steering me along the way. So I think that this podcast was a great opportunity to kinda get involved in a more meaningful way with the organization. I’ve been involved in some of the planning sessions and evaluating some of the behind the scenes pieces and contributing from a thought standpoint. And I think that that’s where my wheelhouse is. But who knows, right? I’m not closing the door on any opportunity that may present itself downstream.
Daniel Lobell: (47:02)
I think this is just the beginning.
Dr. Curtis Coley: (47:05)
Well, I appreciate that.
Daniel Lobell: (47:06)
I mean, your father got on stage and talked to many people, and you watched, and I’m sure there’s some of that in you as well.
Dr. Curtis Coley: (47:15)
I would hope so. I would hope so, but we will see.
Daniel Lobell: (47:20)
Well, I appreciate you dipping your toe in it here with me today. I’m going to ask you the same question I ask all the doctors to round off the interview, which is, what do you personally do to stay healthy?
Dr. Curtis Coley: (47:33)
What do I personally do to stay healthy? Well, 2020 was tough, however, we’re getting back into it. I’m very, very active on Peloton in the Peloton community. Despite what their stock may be doing right now, I have a very active, very healthy group of friends that I keep in contact with and have accountability with, and my wife and I try to have healthy options with our meals and things like that. So basically staying active, carving out times to make exercise a priority, making sure that we’re taking time to have vacations and celebrate life and celebrate experiences with each other. And kind of protecting our mental health and personal peace and things like that. And despite all the craziness that exists in the world.
Daniel Lobell: (48:37)
So important. I have a Peloton and I have to admit, I never use it. I’m intimidated, but…
Dr. Curtis Coley: (48:45)
Well, you will have a welcoming community if you join. It’s funny, cause I’m not even doing this as a paid sponsor or anything like that, but it has been… I’m very much so pro-Peloton or whatever other exercise community that one can join because…
Daniel Lobell: (49:10)
How do you join the community? Is there like a community like chat room or something where you say, “Hey, I want to be part of the community?” I really don’t use it. I’m not kidding when I say that.
Dr. Curtis Coley: (49:22)
No worries. Yeah, no. So once you create your leaderboard, you create your leaderboard name and you are able to interact with individuals that are in your classes that you’re taking. Also, you can connect with people on Facebook. And there are a ton of Facebook groups, or, I’m sure there’s other social media platforms that have groups that exist. But I highly highly recommend it.
Daniel Lobell: (49:57)
All right. Maybe I’ll see you on there. Maybe that’s the push I need.
Dr. Curtis Coley: (50:01)
My leaderboard name is “Boot Camp for Bourbon.”
Daniel Lobell: (50:06)
“Boot Camp for Bourbon.” I like it. I like it. Not the healthiest sounding name, but… [Daniel laughs]
Dr. Curtis Coley: (50:10)
It’s really a joke.
Daniel Lobell: (50:12)
Sounds fun to me. I mean, you get me in with the bourbon, the next thing I know, I’m exercising… It’s a good trick, doctor. [Both chuckle]
Dr. Curtis Coley: (50:20)
That’s right. That’s right.
Daniel Lobell: (50:23)
All right. Dr. Curtis Coley the second, heir to the superhero Curtis Coley. May he rest in peace.
Dr. Curtis Coley: (50:32)
Rest in peace. Yes sir.
Daniel Lobell: (50:33)
It’s been an absolute pleasure getting to speak with you here today, and thank you so much on behalf of myself and Doctorpedia.com, I really enjoyed it and I hope people will go and take inspiration from what you said. And we hope, and I think I’m not gonna be disappointed that you’re going to get more in front of the camera, in front of the scenes with Doctorpedia, cause you’re in show business now, Dr. Coley!
Dr. Curtis Coley: (51:03)
Pressure, pressure, pressure. [Daniel laughs] Well, I really appreciate the time that you spent, I really enjoyed this, this has been really fun. And thank you very much for the opportunity.
Daniel Lobell: (51:13)
Daniel Lobell: (51:18)
This podcast or any written material derived from its transcripts represents the opinions of the medical professional being interviewed. The content here is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. Since every person is unique, please consult your healthcare professional for any personal or specific needs.