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Leadership is not simply about running the show, it’s also about choosing who will run it: How my mom chose an orthopedic surgeon in the Silicon Valley.

April 3rd, 2010 · 1 Comment · Talents, Innovators

By Marylene Delbourg-Delphis @mddelphis

IMG00087-20100226-1025My 88-year old mother, who is French and hardly speaks English, smashed her right shoulder by slipping on a speed bump on a parking lot in Palo Alto while she was visiting. Now just imagine the landscape: she has no insurance in this country and was provided an initial quote from a major hospital in the Silicon Valley of $80K for one night, surgery costs not included (of course). Good for her that the surgeon, Bradley Graw from S.O.A.R. who operated her did such a great job that she was able to resume her life by herself in Brittany two months later!

How to choose a surgeon? 

The Silicon Valley is so competitive that it also has an abundance of outstanding doctors and surgeons. So my mother had a choice of a number of experts. The Valley is a village and it’s pretty simple to know who’s who. S.O.A.R, a Surgery Group that specializes in sports medicine, total joint replacement, fractures, etc. came high on the recommendation list, along with quite a few individuals in that team. My mother decided that she would be operated by Bradley Graw, their youngest surgeon, based on the following reasoning. “I want a young surgeon. It’s important to give a chance to young people. They need to build a track record, and they have all the reasons to take special care of people to be successful. If he does a good job on a woman like me, it’s a win-win for both.”

Having lived in the Valley for 25 years, I realized that I had, almost unbeknownst to me, put on the typical ambivalent Siliconite jacket (where you are open to everything and newness-friendly, while basically being cautious just as anybody else anywhere in the country). I believe that I would have spontaneously gone with what we call the “seasoned professional” with ten or twenty years of experience. After the fact, I realized how well my mother had aged, applying even in a rather dire situation a faith in youth she had had her entire life as a school-teacher and headmistress, as well as the mother of five children.

Meet Bradley Graw

Loaded with prestigious degrees, residency, internship, fellowship at Yale, Georgetown University, and Stanford, Bradley Graw is only 33. His interest in a career in healthcare was certainly his birthright:  “As the children of two National Institutes of Health (NIH) researchers, both my sister and I decided on careers in medicine.  My parents [1] actually met at the National Cancer Institute of the NIH and after several years moved to the Washington DC suburbs to raise a family and start a primary care practice in pediatrics.  My sister and I both saw the enjoyment my parents had in caring for people and in the science behind clinical medicine.” However, it wasn’t until college that he decided to apply to medical school.  “As an economics major at Yale with a strong interest in social sciences I peripherally investigated careers in business,” he says. “Many of my friends took careers on Wall Street, finance, or the like, but I failed to see the positive societal impact that I would have with that type of profession.  So, I decided to enroll in medical school directly out of college.”

Both he and his sister trained as surgeons, respectively in orthopedic and general surgery.  “For me working in orthopedics is quite gratifying, and the positive impact on people’s lives quite dramatic.  Whether it be caring for someone with a fracture, arthritis, or an athletic injury, my work has a high probability of improving quality of life and getting people back to the activities which they enjoy.  I feel the past several years have shown the darker side of the American ethical code.  The financial crash has left some people extremely wealthy, but others without homes and jobs.  The healthcare reform debate of 2009 and 2010 has uncovered a health care industry with a skewed self-interest.  With this in mind, I feel lucky to have a profession that allows me to positively intervene in people’s lives.  At the end of the workday, I frequently have a feeling of satisfaction and pride as I have tried my best to help someone.”

Brad definitely helped my mother, not only because of his skills, but also because of his charisma and his caring style.

Marylene Delbourg-Delphis

[1] Robert G. Graw, MD, Brad’s father has had a varied career, first as a lead researcher in Bone Marrow Transplantation at the NIH in the late 1960’s-early 1970’s, then as a private practitioner in a small town, and most recently as a healthcare entrepreneur.  He started a successful group of urgent care clinics in the Washington DC area, Righttime Medical Care.

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Ying Cheng // Apr 5, 2010 at 11:59 pm

    What a wisdom! Thanks for sharing. -Ying

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