“Good outcomes don’t come from one person doing their best – it takes a whole team of people doing their best.”— Dr. John Handy Jr.

October 06, 2016

John R HandyJohn Handy Jr., M.D., is the medical director for the Providence Thoracic Surgery Program and is also the lead surgeon for Chest Watch, an event which gives students the opportunity to attend a surgical viewing. Dr. Handy has been involved with Chest Watch since its inception ten years ago, and continues to stress its importance as a way to demonstrate health care careers to students in addition to promoting an anti-tobacco message. 

One of the goals of Chest Watch is to demonstrate the need for integrated teamwork. Can you speak to the importance of this in the operating room?

It’s important in every aspect of health care – inpatient, outpatient, and procedurally. You can’t land a jet on an aircraft carrier unless you have someone operating the boat, someone managing the plane, and someone repairing the plane. Health care is the same way. When you see what a cardio-thoracic surgeon does, it’s very impressive, but they cannot do what they do without their team. 

Successful patient outcomes are the result of a multi-disciplinary team made up of people who are highly specialized and who perform the work repeatedly. Good outcomes don’t come from one person doing their best – it takes a whole team of people doing their best. 

With a schedule like yours, do you feel like you have to carve out time for yourself? 

Luckily, my wife of 36 years has been with me since the beginning. We met when she was in graduate school, and I was in medical school. She has been very understanding with regard to my time. Today I’m putting in a 10-hour day, which is a little bit on the short side for me, but I rode my bicycle to work and I’m riding back home. So I manage to integrate non-work activity into my day.

Do you do anything to prepare yourself before going into surgery?

Absolutely. To start, I‘ve already met the patient and talked extensively with them and their family. I review all of their information and look at all of the films. As a matter of fact, if a nurse asks me about a subsequent case, I let them know my mind is on the current case. I want my complete focus on the patient. You want to stay focused before you go in the operating room. 

What advice would you offer to aspiring surgeons?

For one thing, health care cannot be outsourced. It’s locally delivered and it’s highly intellectually satisfying. Also, I’m surrounded by professionals. Professionals by definition are trying to do their very best with ultimately big-hearted goals. So I get to interact with really smart, really directed people day in and day out – it’s a great way to spend your career. 

It’s an ever-changing landscape that you’re dealing with, not only with the patients and the diseases, but also with your teammates. So it’s a fabulous career choice. I’m in my sixties and every day is just as interesting. You might be tired when you go home, but you’re never bored.

Related: Students considering health care career experience live surgery with Chest Watch