Medical

Learning from Thought Leaders in Healthcare: DocThoughts Founder, Nirmal Gosalia

What is DocThoughts? Give us an intro.
DocThoughts is a media platform that interviews thought leaders in medicine and produces 5-minute films. DocThoughts gives the healthcare community an insider’s perspective on topics that you won’t necessarily learn in the traditional teaching settings. We talk to experts such as deans, executives, and physicians about their stories in a personal and informal atmosphere.

Why did you decide to go to medical school?
It’s hard for me to articulate exactly why I wanted to be a doctor, and I don’t believe that’s necessarily a negative. I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish and Hispanic Studies and throughout my time in college, I saw a career as a physician as a chance to use my linguistic and science background to solve problems that were not always black and white. I’ve always been excited at the prospect of working with the unknown, gray areas of medicine to develop sustainable solutions.

What led you to start making videos for med students and the healthcare community?
After spending the day in a clinical setting or catching up on additional reading, the last thing I wanted to do was browse a journal article on topics like tech advancements in medicine or the consequences of the Affordable Care Act. I needed a resource that was refreshing and personal. I wanted a way for doctors, students, and the general public to also get involved in these broader conversations. But, we’re often limited by our local social networks and don’t have access to key healthcare stakeholders with whom we can engage. That’s when I had the idea to create DocThoughts, a media platform that uses short films to build this collaborative environment. DocThoughts is my way of breaking these access barriers and bringing these leading healthcare voices to the forefront. Whether you’re a student, physician or patient, we want you to be a part of this environment where we can get involved in these important conversations with the current thought leaders in medicine.

How did you assemble the DocThoughts team?
After some initial brainstorming, I realized that there was no way I could possibly create such a platform by myself. How was I supposed to professionally film video when the only camera I had ever used was the one on my smartphone? How was I going to build content around areas of healthcare I had never previously considered? I wouldn’t be able to find team members with these exact skills, so instead, I looked for people who were passionate about their own interests and could offer their diverse backgrounds to individually shape DocThoughts. For example, we have Prakhar, an Architecture student who grew up in India and Japan, giving input to our creative side. Garima, a dental student, designing our logo and branding materials. Navika, a medical student, leading operations and constructing interview content. Katherine and Colin, bioengineering students, leading our marketing and technical departments, respectively. This mixture of skill sets and backgrounds is the primary reason why DocThoughts was able to come to life. We’re each able to contribute such a wide array of ideas that fuel interesting conversations and move the platform forward.

How do you hope DocThoughts will impact the future of medicine?
Many reputable studies have shown that moving from a passive, lecture-based didactic teaching method to a more involved, active style of learning shapes better medical students and eventually better physicians. Using social media and video-based resources are good examples of supplementary active learning where participants can engage in conversations and build communities around particular issues they care about. Of course, there is no replacement for actually learning medical sciences or clinical skills, but online resources in an active learning environment build upon those basics. We want DocThoughts to be an integral part of creating that community of active leaders and learners in medicine – a resource that serves those who want to engage in the deeper conversations about the current and future state of medicine.

Has your work on DocThoughts changed the way you approach your future as a physician?
The journey so far has been incredible, and I know there is still a long road ahead of me. Not only have the conversations on camera been so insightful, but the conversations off-camera are even more eye-opening. I’ve sat down with a variety of leaders in healthcare ranging from national policy makers to expert surgeons. I’m grateful for the time I’ve had with each interviewee, learning about their unique journeys. Although interviewees bring vastly different backgrounds to the conversation, I’ve noticed that they all share the common mindset of “physician first.” By “physician first” I mean that a successful leader, whether they have a clinical or non-clinical position, takes advantage of their role as a physician along with the skills gained in medical school and residency training, in order to make a larger impact on the healthcare system. Becoming an excellent doctor is essential to learning how to effectively approach problems and think critically. Also, the breadth of experience that a physician can bring to the table is unparalleled and gives us the ability to innovate on a new level. It’s not just about graduating with an MD degree, but rather the skill set these four years will give me to succeed in any future leadership roles. Seeing this commonality among all of DocThoughts’ interviewees inspires me to master the basic and clinical sciences so that I’ll have the resources to make a broader impact in the future.

How do you prepare for your interviews? What advice could you give a student preparing to shadow a physician who wants to ask insightful questions?
Our first shoot showed me that there is much more to a successful interview than just asking good questions and logistical workup. Creating a comfortable and welcoming environment is key to having any person open up. There has to be a synergy between the team, the interviewer, and the interviewee for intimate dialogue that allows us to delve deeper into the topics at hand

I put in about 7 months of prep work before we filmed our first interview, “Maybe You Shouldn’t Go to Medical School”. Although it was the toughest (not to mention most embarrassing!) interview, it was also an eye-opening experience and sent DocThoughts in the right direction. When it was finally time for our first interview, our whole team was at the shoot.

Everything seemed to be coming together smoothly and our interviewee was ready to go. Audio was set, cameras were rolling, and everyone was waiting for the interview to start. I opened my mouth and as soon as I did, I started stumbling through my lines. I couldn’t even properly ask the questions I had been rehearsing for 2 weeks in advance. My nerves were really getting to me and I wasn’t able to move forward. Fortunately, the physician I was interviewing was understanding and started coaching me through the interview. He created a comfortable atmosphere that gave me the chance to loosen up and stop worrying about all the different things that could go wrong. After stumbling through many retakes, the interview went well and we wrapped up.

As a team, we put a lot of thought and research into the questions we ask. More importantly, those conversations we have off-camera with our speakers before and after the interview are essential to building rapport, and ultimately, a solid interview. Similarly, my advice for students looking for mentors would be to think less about the questions themselves, but spend more time establishing a trustworthy relationship. With this relationship, you’ll be able to delve deeper into the topics you are interested in and hopefully come out with a much better understanding.

Has anything surprised you about your work on DocThoughts?
To be honest, I never anticipated the huge role DocThoughts would have in both my personal and professional development. I’m very grateful for my family, mentors, and the DocThoughts team that has supported my ambitious ideas. Having the opportunity to create something from scratch, call it my own, and see that work make a lasting impact on the others is an indescribable feeling. At times, medical school can feel like being caught in a windstorm where you have no control over the exams and projects that are constantly whizzing past you. In the middle of everything, having my own platform that can give me some sort of structure and grounding has been a tremendous stress reliever. DocThoughts has become that outlet for me where I can immediately see the impact of my hard work, pushing me to excel in other aspects of my life as well.

What advice do you have for students who want to have an impact on healthcare outside of the exam room or operating room?
The majority of medical schools will have many organizations, faculty mentors, and resources available to students who are interested in pretty much any aspect of healthcare. But before you spread yourself too thin, understand that those who are able to make a lasting impact outside of the exam room have mastered the basic and clinical sciences. Without a strong foundation of the skills it takes to be a good doctor and build the doctor-patient relationship, it will be very hard to innovate solutions to other healthcare problems. With that said, my advice would be to get involved in a few causes you care deeply about while also working toward the goal of becoming an excellent physician.

Anything else you want to share with SDN members?
I created DocThoughts with the intention of building an open resource that reflects the needs of the community. Our team is really open to hearing your suggestions for future content and ways we can fine-tune our platform. Feel free to get in touch at [email protected]!

What is your favorite type of Chicago deep-dish pizza?
I’m a Chicago native and I really can’t pick one favorite! Chicago has so many great pizza places – each and every one of them seems to hit the spot. Honestly, it will take a lifetime to settle on the perfect sauce to cheese to filling ratio. Chicago deep dish really is as good as it sounds!

Nirmal Gosalia is a current medical student and the Founder of DocThoughts: a media platform that interviews thought leaders in medicine and produces 5-minute films for the healthcare community. Check out DocThoughts at DocThoughtsMed.com!

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