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Health Leadership P5

I don’t know why, but I can tell you I’m walking beside the protein scientist. And remember, the proteins are the guys that are really wreaking havoc in your body. It’s the proteins. There’s thirty thousand genes. There’s three hundred thousand proteins, and the genes say to the proteins, “Give the guy heart disease, spread it around a little bit, do your thing,” and they’re out partying, doing their thing. So it’s the proteins that are causing the problem. So I said to the proteomic scientist, I said, “You know, I’m a musician, first. I’m a musician. Can you talk to be about music and genomics and proteomics?” And the gene scientist said, “Well, it’s the same. Like, it’s letters. The genetic code is letters, and the way those letters are placed and the order of those letters are like the chords in music.” And they are. Some are colored, some are basic. Some of them make impact that changes things dramatically, and others don’t. They’re just part of the core feel for what’s going on. And I said, “What about the protein thing?” And he says, “Well, I’ll tell you about the protein thing. The proteins actually move and fold and vibrate with music and sound.” “Really? Do we know what they do when they move and fold and vibrate?” “No, we don’t.”

The indigenous man, maybe he did. Maybe that’s the placebo effect. Maybe what’s happening is that certain combination of notes, that certain series of sounds is causing cures or placebos or whatever to kick off endorphins to make you feel better. I mean, we started baking bread in the hallways. Every day, bread machines all through the place. Why would we bake bread in the hallways of a hospital? Do you have any idea? What do you think? What do you think of when you smell bread? Do you like the smell of bread? What’s it remind you of, Michelle? Yeah, or somebody’s home. Grandma, aunt. Comfortable. And they always tell you – is there anybody in real estate here? Probably nobody left in real estate. They always tell you that when you’re selling your house, bake bread, right? Right? And put flowers out and whatever. It releases endorphins. The smell of fresh baking bread releases endorphins. It makes you feel better. It makes you better.

And I did that, and the state department health [inaudible] said, “You can’t do that.” And I said, “Well, why not?” “Well, I don’t know. You can’t bake bread.” I said, “Well, why can’t we bake bread?” “Well, no one’s ever baked bread before. And you can’t have these decorative fountains in here.” “Why?” “Well, they’ll cause legionnaire’s disease.” I said, “Well, we clean them.” “We’ve never seen that before.” That’s the kind of stuff we were up against.

The other thing we needed to do was become the employer of choice. How does one become the employer of choice when you have three big beasty hospitals cleaning your clock? How do you do that? How is it that you go from being the lowest, lowest, lowest dog on that totem pole to being the employer of choice? I have a two hour program I could answer that question with, but the reality is – how many of you have ever heard of the Hawthorne effect in business school? Any of you ever heard of the Hawthorne effect? So the Hawthorne effect was back in the early 1900s, the industrial revolution, people walk in and the look at all the people working in a factory, sitting at a sewing machine or doing whatever it was, and the Hawthorne effect was let’s do something to show that we’re paying attention to those people. And so they dimmed the lights, and the people worked harder. And then they thought, “Well, dimming lights worked. I wonder if raising the lights would work.”

And they went in and they raised the lights, and they worked harder. And it’s like, wait a minute. Was it really about the lights going dimmer or the lights going brighter, or was it the fact that people saw that we were paying attention to them? That we were noticing them? That we were caring about them? That we were investing intellectually and emotionally in their wellbeing?

And so to become the employer of choice, all of you, as leaders, have to realize the incredible impact that’s available to you by paying attention to the people with whom you work. And so we started to pay attention to them. And it took me a while, because we didn’t have the money to pay attention the way they wanted to be paid attention to, but we eventually started getting enough money in that we could pay more and more attention and do things that were really impactful. But before that, going through the place with the vice presidents and a push cart giving out smiley cookies on a rough day, like turn the lights up, turn the lights down. Sundae carts, going through, making sundaes, giving people sundaes, just saying, “Thanks for your hard work. We care about what you’re doing. You made a difference here for us.”

So we have the power to change the reality, and we have the ability to make things be some other way, and we definitely have the capacity for self-design. We definitely have that capacity, and we have the ability to modify our environment. All those things are built in to us, and you’ve all done it at some point in your life, whether it’s just within your own families, whether it’s in class, whether it’s in a club, whether it’s with a sports team, whatever, we have the ability to change things. And so we have to decide what kind of future it is that we want to occupy, and then we have the ability to design that future.

And one of the things I learned, okay, so I’m in the hospital and I’m working, and I’m doing some crazy stuff. You know, bread and dogs and fountains and crazy stuff. And Mr. [inaudible] decides that it’s fun. He came out and visited. He said, “This is nuts. This is great. It’s fun. I like this.” And I’m sitting beside him one day at dinner, and I didn’t – I knew him, but I didn’t know him. I didn’t know what he did. I knew he was a congressman, but I didn’t know what that meant. And I was on a special program for heart disease at the time, and I was supposedly eating vegetarian food, but the woman that had the dinner didn’t know what to give me, so she gave me this great big white plate with two egg whites on it.

So here’s this place that’s about this big with two little egg whites in the middle, just egg whites, so they’re not even looking up at me, and I’m sitting beside congressman [inaudible], and he looks at me, and he says, “What the hell’s wrong with you?” He’s got this plate all piled up with mean and good stuff, and I’m eating these two little egg whites. And I explained to him that I had just come from a program where I met 23 people who were basically given six months to live twenty years ago, and I had seen their pet scans where they had reversed their heart disease.

It’s kind of like I cut myself a couple weeks ago, I hit the counter of my kitchen and I tore my arm, and I watched that day by day by day. What does it do? It gets better. It heals. And nobody ever thought we had the capacity to get rid of heart disease. Like once you got it you got it, you’re now a victim of heart disease. You’re going to live with this your whole life, then you’ll die. Right? You might get open heart and get some stints and get this and get that, but you have heart disease, and that’s it.

Now, one of the reasons that this theory that was put into place was not embraced by the physicians was because they themselves could not project themselves into doing this stuff because what did it require? It required human behavioral, what’s the key word here? Change. They couldn’t imagine themselves taking time each day to do a little bit of stress management. They couldn’t imagine themselves not eating ribs and chicken wings. They couldn’t imagine themselves exercising, which is why our physicians typically die ten years before we do. Before their patients. And so they couldn’t endorse something that they didn’t believe would work, but I’m sitting beside the congressman, and I’m eating my two little egg whites, and he says, “You know, we’re spending a billion dollars a year on heart disease, a billion dollars a year on heart disease in the military.”

And that was in 1998 or 99. A billion dollars a year. And that was before Iraq won – no it wasn’t, it was after Iraq won. It was after Iraq two. It was before we started sending all the national guard over who were ten years older who all had heart disease pretty much, because they were overweight, they weren’t in shape. They were flying more people to [inaudible] Germany for stints and bypasses than they were for wounds. And he said, “So, if you can find somebody down at [inaudible] or at [inaudible] that might work with you, I might be able to help you.”

I didn’t know what those words meant. I didn’t know what “I might be able to help you” meant. I didn’t know that. So I went to the Navy first, because he was a Marine, and they were really nice to me, and they threw me out. But they were nice. They were very polite about it. They said, “Get the hell out.”

So I go over to Walter Reed in a taxi cab, because I’d never been there, and I’m driving in the cab, looking out the window, watching people selling each other crack and doing all this stuff, and I walk into Walter Reed – any of you ever been into Walter Reed Army Medical Center? I walk into Walter Reed, and there are probably 550 doctors that rotate through there from all over the world. I didn’t have an appointment with anybody. I didn’t know anybody in the whole place, but I had a goal, and I had a vision, and my goal was to redesign the future of that little facility out there.

So I walk in and the first white coat I see could have been anything. Could have been a laboratory doctor, could have been an EKG tech, could have been anything. It was a doctor. Didn’t know him. Never met him. Walked up to him and said, “Doc, my name’s Nick Jacobs from this little town in south central Pennsylvania. I have this congressman that said if I could find somebody down here that would work with me, maybe he’d be able to help us, and I had this idea about heart disease.” And he goes, “Well, who’s the congressman?” I said, “Well, a guy named Jack Murphy.” He said, “Follow me.”

He was the only doctor ever in that organization to have ever gotten money to do research, and he got it from Senator Stevens from Alaska to study prostate cancer. So talk about serendipity. Talk about fate. Talk about God and the heavens. Whatever – Obi-Wan Kenobi – I don’t care what your belief is. I walk into the only guy in that entire facility that could have made a difference in our lives here in this area. And he took me right to the cardiologist office, and on her desk was the book written by the guy I’d studied from in California, Dr. Dean [inaudible], and her mother and father had both had open heart surgery within two years, and she was a candidate herself. And she said, “I’m very interested.”

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