Today we’d like to introduce you to Dr. Paul Edward Kaloostian.
So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I am a neurosurgeon with a passion for writing https://www.drpaulwriting.com/. As far as I can remember, I was always fascinated by meaning behind the things we see and read, and I found that through the human creativity that exists within all of us (often laying dormant and untapped for an entire lifetime), we can each contribute to sharing that unique perspective with the world.
These perspectives are what change the world in a positive way and contribute to global health and peace. I found that through expression and creativity, in the form of writing, I was able to convey meaning from my viewpoint, that I hope will help people in their lives. As a neurosurgeon, having completed 12 years of training/apprenticeship that was arduous and often impossible in many ways, I have looked to writing as a means of catharsis for my own well-being. Interestingly, writing has also allowed me to share stories of my brave and courageous patients that are often in the fight of their lives, whose stories are sadly never told. I have found that through the medical poetry I have written that I can offer a new form of communication between doctors and patients. In this fast-paced society we live in, there is often a lack of communication and empathy between the doctor and patient (as well as between doctors and nurses/other doctors/insurance companies, etc.). I feel that this hinders medical care and can in fact prevent healing.
Therefore, I have sought to use medical poetry to convey what doctors and patients go through on a daily basis with the goal of improving communication and healthcare. Writing has been a much-needed catharsis as it has allowed my mind and soul to escape the rigid, calculated, precise and formula-based neurosurgical world and given me the opportunity to be creative, entrepreneurial and inquisitive. Through writing my memoir “The Young Neurosurgeon: Lessons from My Patients” I was able to tell the stories of a few of my patients and convey not only my small role in their life but how they contributed in magnanimous ways to my development as a human. I learned a variety of lessons including having compassion, humility, and a desire to always improve. Additionally, I learned lessons of perseverance and dedication from my patients that were dealing with the most lethal problems you can imagine but did so with courage, humility and such vigor and strength.
In addition to writing, I have been able to harness the tech industry to further create and improve communication. Through my food-based app YUMCEE and my augmented reality-based business app ZHIZDEALS (both on the app store), I have been able to use further creative avenues to enhance communication between people throughout the world. Connecting people across the globe through common interests such as food and business is another way I have tried to go beyond my science-based teaching and push the boundaries that are set for doctors in order to improve communication and the way others live. As a foodie myself, I have made many new friends all over the world!
Finally, I have started a medical company called “Second Opinions” (https://www.paulkaloostian.com/medical-review) in order to provide an avenue for patients and their families to have their records and imaging studies reviewed on an objective basis with a full discussion of findings and recommendations between the reviewer and the patient. I have found numerous cases where I have reviewed the films and records and have recommended less aggressive measures, for which patients have spoken to their surgeon or primary doctor about, and achieved success. Through second opinions, I have been able to honestly answer patient questions in detail and help explain their pathology to them so that they are better able to make decisions about their own health, rather than rely only on what a doctor tells them within a few minutes in the office setting.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Being creative in the field of medicine is a huge challenge as there are multiple forces that are inherently built in the system to prevent this from happening. For example, working over 120 hours a week taking care of very sick patients does not afford someone the opportunity to sit down and write. There simply is not enough time in a day to do that, and how can one’s brain shift gears away from constantly thinking about one’s patients! In my case, I have found opportunities in between surgical cases (as the OR rooms are being cleaned!) to write as well as any free moments either very early in the mornings (around 4 AM) or late at night.
Additionally, can you imagine describing your writing or entrepreneurial goals and interests to colleagues in the medical field? When I have done this, I usually end up with a blank stare in my face, immediate looks of confusion and bewilderment, sarcasm, them quickly changing the topic to something more scientifically based, or even anger and retaliation that I would take time out my training and work to do something so unimportant as writing and being creative. So, one needs to have intense motivation, passion, and perseverance with a specific goal in order to be creative in medicine. I have always found that through writing one can convey a totally different viewpoint on a topic that may change the dialogue both locally and globally. While I enjoy my work as a neurosurgeon, I feel that I am able to reach a vast global audience through my creative entrepreneurial efforts, such as writing and technology, that in turn has made a big difference in many people’s lives.
We’d love to hear more about your practice.
I am a neurosurgeon in private practice in California. I operate on a wide variety of traumatic and non-traumatic pathology involving the brain and the spine. However, despite the long hours and difficult patient cases, and perhaps because of the long hours and difficult patient cases, my creative and entrepreneurial interests started to bloom. Perhaps it was my psyches way of telling me how to heal and how to remain healthy in a very difficult and stressful field of medicine.
I have written two medical poetry texts: “From the Eyes of A Doctor” and “My Surgical Cases Told in Poems.” I am known for my medical poetry, as I have tried to tell the stories of my brave and courageous patients in a brutally honest and open fashion. I have tried to convey to those who are not in medicine what a “doctor” actually does. Many people including TV shows portray a singular perspective of a doctor, and I wanted to showcase the absolutely earth-shattering highs but also the devastating lows that a neurosurgeon may go through. I have written a memoir called “The Young Neurosurgeon: Lessons from My Patients” describing a few case stories that were very memorable during my training.
I discuss not only the life-saving feats and occasional loss of life that I endured with my patients and their families but also the lessons of humility, compassion, empathy and respect that are so critical (yet forgotten) in modern-day medicine. I tried to take people behind the doors marked “NO ADMITTANCE” to tell the story of my patients and to show the world what we doctors see and do on a daily basis to try to heal and make the world better. I have tried to show that communication and understanding of our fellow man, no matter what color, race, gender, sexual identity, etc. is critical toward providing a healing environment and in making positive change. Finally, I have tried to portray the striking beauty of the field of medicine that is often hidden behind the starkly dark, cold, bloody, gangrenous, malodorous, and stressful walls.
So, what’s next? Any big plans?
I am working on another medical poetry text focusing only on patients with traumatic brain injury. Being a neurotrauma surgeon for 16 years now, I have seen a myriad of traumatic injuries to the brain and spine. These are often times very bloody, dangerous, time-consuming surgeries with high morbidity and mortality. Fortunately, I have seen good outcomes in a majority of cases. Nevertheless, I want to deliver the stories of these courageous patients to the world. It is often unthinkable what other human beings are going through in this world, and I want to help tell their story the best way I can. Some patients unfortunately are unable to tell that story either due to their mortality or cognitive injury.
- YUMCEE APP-FREE
- My books can all be found on amazon or Barnes and Noble (See prices on Amazon or Barnes and Noble)