Posted by: Knightbird | January 4, 2011

He Saw Things That Others Didn’t

Dr. William Halsted was an amazing man, according to the book review I listened to on National Public Radio today. Dr. Gerald Imber wrote “Genius on the Edge: The Bizarre Double Life of Dr. William Steward Halsted.” During his interview, Dr. Imber made the comment that titles this post. What is it that allows some people to see so clearly while others are buried in the muck and mire of their lives.

Dr. Halsted gave us a lot. He pioneered hand washing, sterilized instruments, aseptic surgery, the use of local anesthesia, hernia repair and vascular surgery, among others. He was also a co-founder of Johns Hopkins Medical School. And he apparently faced the “strenuous resistance” of the medical establishment.

We have frequent guests who visit Chugachmiut for the purpose of looking at our operations and how our employees are heavily invested into their work flow and the value streams they work in. Most of them leave impressed—with the tools of lean. As much as I try to stress the culture of Lean, Respect for People (especially employees) and Continuous Improvement, they inevitably want just the tools. What our lean leadership sees is the huge cultural transformation we could achieve with adoption of the Lean Culture throughout our country. Dr. Toussaint wrote the following statement in his article, “Writing The New Playbook For U.S. Health Care.”

“It is estimated that the United States spends $2.4 trillion on health care, a number that grows every year by 6.2 percent. If we removed 40 percent of the waste throughout health care, we would save one trillion dollars.”

What do we get from our federal government instead: Healthcare Reform that barely stems the cost, according to some commentators, or increases the cost, according to others.

Many others see what Dr. Toussaint sees, a vision for positive change in the face of relentless opposition from an establishment that benefits substantially from the status quo.

Our own Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium has a budget of about $405 Million annually. Removing 40 percent of the waste from its budget could provide an additional $162 Million in services to Alaska Native tribal members. And believe me, those services are needed.

We need more Dr. Halsted’s: those who see what others don’t, and overcomes the resistance to make their vision reality.

And I might add that Dr. Halsted accomplished much of what he did while addicted to both cocaine and heroin. Today’s punitive culture in the U.S. would probably have put Dr. Halsted in jail for his drug use. What a waste that would have been.


  1. Can I simply say what a aid to find somebody who truly is aware of what theyre speaking about on the internet. You definitely know easy methods to deliver a problem to gentle and make it important. More folks must learn this and understand this side of the story. I cant believe youre no more popular because you positively have the gift.

  2. Dear Patrick,

    Now there’s a valid dilemma! Do we roast Dr. Halsted for his substance abuse or praise him for his contributions to society?

    Truth be told, a lot of other artists have gone through the same path and were also substance abusers. Your mission in Chicaghmiut also aims to help people undergoing similar challenges. Substance abuse is a problem. Do we treat this as a “treasure”? We all know that only if the person admits there is actually a problem with substance abuse can we really extend assistance to rehabilitation and perhaps see a success in turnover. Otherwise, it will just be Lean Change with only the tools but none of the Management’s buy in…Risks of fallback is high and success sustainanility is shot if not minimal.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: