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March 18, 2020

Podcast No. 65: Jamie Coleman, Trauma Surgeon, Author, Professor

Our guest today is Dr. Jamie Coleman, a Denver-based trauma surgeon. When Jamie isn’t saving lives, she is also a professor, writer, and media health expert.

By Will Ahmed

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Here at WHOOP, we are inspired by the work of doctors, nurses and medical professionals, especially during these trying times.

Our guest today is Dr. Jamie Coleman, a Denver-based trauma surgeon. When Jamie isn’t saving lives, she is also a professor, writer, and media health expert.

We discuss what it’s like to work in the male-dominated field of surgery, how a matter of minutes or even seconds can be the difference between life and death, the physical, mental, and emotional toll her line of work takes, balancing her busy career with raising two children, and how WHOOP enables her to be better at everything she does.

Jamie is also leading a study that uses WHOOP to understand the sleep and recovery patterns of trauma surgeons. It’s her goal to improve her colleagues’ lives and help them better manage the effects of long shifts, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Many trauma surgeons are affected deeply by what they encounter at work on a daily basis and we’re proud to be working with Jamie on this journey.

Stay tuned after our discussion with Jamie for some listener questions. You ask, we have answers!

Jamie Coleman Podcast Show Notes:

3:30 – Why She Became a Surgeon. “My grandmother was a microbiologist, but she actually wanted to go to medical school. But back in the 1940’s that wasn’t really the ladylike thing to do, so she became a microbiologist and I grew up with a love of science. I always knew I wanted to go to medical school and surgery just connected with me.”

4:16 – Working in a Male-Dominated Field. “Surgery as a whole has been a very male-dominated speciality within medicine for much longer than even a lot of the other specialities, and trauma surgery in particular.”

9:48 – Time is of the Essence. “You’ve got to figure out what’s killing [your patient] right now. They could have multiple injuries, but what’s the one that if I don’t fix in the next 10 minutes it’s going to end their life?”

12:10 – Staying Calm Under Pressure. “Your goal in the trauma bay or even the operating room is just to pour ice water over the whole room. Because being fast isn’t about necessarily being fast, it’s about being efficient.”

16:45 – Busiest Night on the Job. “My busiest night in Chicago, July 4th, we had 22-23 patients with gunshot wounds that came in over a four-hour period. … It’s all about load-bearing and load tolerance. You get overloaded so that you grow, so that you get better, so you learn how to be efficient. You learn and you see what happens when someone isn’t cool, calm, and collected in there and you see that that adds time that you just don’t have.”

18:40 – Dangers of Emotion in the Trauma Bay. “The main mistake I see [in the trauma bay] is emotion and energy, it’s easy to get caught up in that emotion. … You can see this person in front of you dying. It’s an emotionally charged environment.”

21:59 – Calming the Room During a Crisis. “If I’m not nervous, no one else gets to be nervous. I think it just gives people a sense of calm in that it’s going to be fine. I tell everyone, ‘It’s going to be fine, and even if it’s not fine, it’s still going to be fine.’ We joke all the time that the No. 1 rule of surgery is that all bleeding stops.”

22:34 – Coping With Death. “Every day I go to work I am witnessing someone’s worst day of their life. So there is this second victim atmosphere that happens within medicine.”

23:35 – Notifying Family Members of a Death. “The worst part of my job is not actually talking to the family, it’s in those moments before. It’s walking down the hall, it’s knowing that right now that I’ve got a group of people sitting in a room that have no idea that their entire life has changed. … It’s in that moment when I walk into that room and they look at you with hope, with longing, love, and knowing that I’m about to extinguish it. Knowing that I’m about to throw them in a world, into a brand new world, and then just shut the door behind them Into a new environment, a new atmosphere, a new life that they never imagined. It’s tough.”

25:26 – Offering Support. “It’s a surreal experience because you can see their mind trying to grasp the words and trying to internalize them and process them and make sense of them. I stay. Some families have questions, some don’t, some want to hug you, some say thank you, which I think is the hardest part of that.”

28:41 – Being Unable to Save a Patient. “My brain will tell me that they were never mine to save, but your heart still feels like they are. It’s this battle that occurs every time you lose a patient.”

32:42 – Struggles Many Trauma Surgeons Face. “[Researchers] did a survey of surgeons and out of 14 surgical subspecialties, trauma surgeons had the lowest quality of life score. One-third of us screened positive for depression. Other papers have shown about 40% of us exhibit symptoms of PTSD and the greatest number of hours worked on average per week. … The stress that we have, it’s this chronic, unpredictable stress.”

33:13 – Depression. “Medicine in general has a problem with depression and suicide. We lose the equivalent of an American Medical School class, an entire medical school class, we lose the equivalent of that a year in physician suicide.”

34:57 – Trying to Help. “We are needed. It’s not an option, we are needed. How can we do this better? How can we have longer, healthier careers?”

36:00 – Teaming up with WHOOP. Jamie details how she discovered WHOOP and why she’s using WHOOP to study and monitor over 200 trauma surgeons across the country.

40:10 – How Surgeons Can Use WHOOP to Improve Their Lives. “The best preparation for us in the hospital is what we’re doing outside of the hospital … and WHOOP gives us a whole new insight into that.”

42:22 – What they are Learning About Themselves from WHOOP. “No. 1: people are prioritizing their sleep. I think secondly, people are really understanding the impact of alcohol. … It sounds simple when you say it out loud but it’s having a true impact and people are making real changes.”

44:10 – Getting Support After a Tough Case. “My husband actually said it best one time. I called him after a very tough death, it was one of those where there was nothing I could have done, and he gave me a few moments and said, ‘Okay, the next person needs you more now. You did what you could for her, you did what you could for that patient, and the next patient needs you now.’”

46:41 – Doesn’t Drink Caffeine. “I tell people there’s not enough caffeine in the world to pull you through some things and there’s just not enough wine in the world either.” Jamie adds not drinking coffee makes her an outlier among trauma surgeons.

51:41 – What She’s Discovered with WHOOP. “The biggest thing is consistency and rest. Allowing that recovery to occur. Also how important and how intricate sleep is. We get very little education about sleep during medical school and I think that’s been one of the cool things for me is delving into a whole new area of science and a whole new area of physiology that we don’t get much training about.”

54:19 – Dealing with Red Recoveries. “I’ll try to be cognizant of it and how hard I’m pushing myself and making sure I’m not overstretching and overreaching just because I feel like I should be able to.”

57:10 – Keys to Improving Health of Trauma Surgeons. “Better sleep. Yes, I’m in the hospital a couple times of week for 24+ hours at a time, but that’s still 5 more nights in a week that I have to focus on my recovery.”

59:00 – Should Trauma Surgeons Work Less? “It’s a math problem. There’s 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, and if myself or one of my colleagues is not in the hospital, that hospital can’t take trauma patients. … A lot of us are understaffed because there’s a shortage [of trauma surgeons].”

1:01:47 – Producing More Trauma Surgeons. Jamie notes the need for more trauma surgeons in the United States, with the country producing only about 1,000 general surgery graduates each year. “That has to change. We’ve been at that thousand ballpark number for over 20 years.”

1:04:16 – WHOOP Study Goals. “It’s about performance. It’s not just performance on a field but it also means performance in the operating room and in the hospital and that’s what this research is allowing us to do.”

Check out Jamie on Twitter: @JJColemanMD
Website: www.JJColemanMD.com

1:06:42 – Questions From WHOOP Members. Will answers some frequently asked questions about how to best optimize your WHOOP.

1:07:04 – How to Best Use the New WHOOP Journal. “In general, we recommend having about 10 questions a day that you’re filling out. A lot less than that, it may be harder to understand all the different things in your life. A lot more than that, it may be a lot of noise for you to pull out what is actually making a difference.”

1:08:20 – Why WHOOP is Paying Team Members to Sleep. Will details our new “Red Recovery Policy,” which also explains a new bonus program for team members who record 85% sleep performance in a given month.

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Will Ahmed

Will Ahmed is the Founder and CEO of WHOOP, which has developed next generation wearable technology for optimizing human performance. WHOOP today works with everyone from professional athletes to fitness enthusiasts to executives. Ahmed has raised nearly $100 million from top investors and has an active advisory board that consists of some of the world’s most notable cardiologists, technologists, and designers. He wrote “The Feedback Tool: Measuring Fitness, Intensity, and Recovery,” which sparked the underlying physiology and engineering for his work today. Ahmed was named a 2011 Harvard College Scholar for finishing in the top 10% of his class and a CSA Scholar Athlete; he captained the Harvard Men’s Varsity Squash Team. He was also recently named to Forbes 30 Under 30 and Boston Business Journal 40 Under 40.

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