James T. Hansen, M.D. -- "Reinvent The Heal

We all watch it happen, and in more cases than not, with much anxiety. It’s that single strike of the physician’s pen when it touches the prescription pad or our medical file and from which hopefully springs forth salvation from our affliction. It is in that single moment of truth that whatever treatment is prescribed; it will either work for us, with us, or against us.

The question is, are you one of those patients who blindly trusts and eagerly accepts whatever is written there? Or do you question things, consider alternate solutions and become actively involved in what’s prescribed for you? Have you thought about your “end of life” care and whether or not treatment should even be provided? Or better yet have you ever considered -- in the greater, more widely undisclosed medical arena -- what the real motivation might be behind your physician’s prescribed treatment?

Maui Gastroenterologist, Dr. James T. Hansen, says you should because the fact of the matter is that the motivation of your trusted physician isn’t always in prescribing a quick cure to your health issues. Instead, it could be that he or she is looking to hurl you deeper into the highly profitable health care cauldron.

“It’s a witch’s brew stirred by money, greed and control, with the real mission of medicine pushed to the sidelines while power attempts to wrest control of the industry.” he writes in “Reinvent The Heal”, a self-admitting, finger-pointing, tell-it-like-he-sees-it memoir.

His book aims for the jugular vein of his own profession by genuinely sharing his experiences – both good and bad – in an attempt to show what’s going on and lays out a path to affect nationwide change. It is written candidly and sometimes comically about how the physician’s pen is the driving force behind the high costs of America’s health care, generating nearly 70% of its costs. And, because he’s been there, done that as a medical specialist of internal medicine, he’s put it in print. Ironically and if you’ll excuse the unintended pun, his viewpoint is straight from the gut.

He admits to his own failures and credits his successes to patients who have opened his eyes. Among them was Hank, the Hell’s Angel who still haunts him and Matilda, the cadaver who furthered his anatomical knowledge. There was the dying Rose Silverman, the surprising case of Mary Little, the resuscitated “code blue” patient and the larger-than-life one who delighted him with his very presence. There were also instrumental doctors and administrators, like Eric Sweeny, and others more fiercely controversial like Nigel Southworth and the one Hansen shall forever call “Horseface”. He mentions no one by their real names but every one of them, he says, contributed to his mixed feelings of remorse, self-examination and eventual activism toward the writing of this book.

“Reinvent The Heal” is his personal shout out where he holds no punches because what goes through his mind today when he puts his pen to a patient’s paper is a quite different experience.

“Early on I was altruistic until I became a technophysician,” he says. “I was somewhat conceited, dogmatic and certainly not receptive to the nuances of my patients. I didn’t understand fully the difference between disease and illness but I have taken the walk of Damascus and removed the scales from my eyes… I have learned to care, to take inside of me the problems going on with the patient…to include the concept of a higher power as well as their hopes and fears. It took my mistakes, misunderstandings and a number of years to come to understand what my power was… But now I’m very conscious. I know costs and that it’s a trickle down to that witch’s brew. We activate this industry and then it’s out of our hands bringing in a lot of people. I’m conscious of that power now and I look for patients to participate in what I am doing. Today, I sit with them and listen.”

Hansen’s “Reinvent The Heal” might need editorial improvements, but throughout, it deftly exposes how a physician can use an array of venues to line his or her own pockets, raise his or her own status, or climb into bed with a medical oligarchy designed to capitalize on the chasm between the sanctity of life and the quality of life. His written argument offers real solutions to how we, the people along with our physicians, can make the changes needed. It also allows ways for the medical industry to climb onboard and redeem itself in the process.

“The seeds of health care’s own destruction are right under its nose,” Hansen says. “The only power is the people. We can still galvanize that group to make significant changes… We’re not that far gone.”

Hansen hopes that his memoir will incite the general public and have a meaningful place in the lexicon of this country’s health care crisis. Meanwhile his next book, which is pending, promises to spell out how the American Medical Association can and should join in the fight.

Having practiced medicine since 1965, Hansen has risen from intern, teacher and a highly respected gastroenterologist to chief of staff and current private practitioner here on Maui. He is a member of the American Board of Internal Medicine and the American Board of Gastroenterology.

You can purchase Hansen’s memoir, “Reinvent The Heal”, on the Internet through AuthorHouse.com, Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com.

Written by: Elaine Gallant, Jan. 2014
West Maui Book Club