We had the good fortune of connecting with Paul Edward Kaloostian MD, FACS, FAANS and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Paul Edward, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
Starting my own private neurosurgical practice Paul Kaloostian MD, INC has been a breath of fresh air. Our headquarters is in the Los Angeles area with offices all over California as well as neighboring states. My goal was to have autonomy over how I practice medicine, how I set up my treatment space, and what I can do with my time away from work. This is a critically important aspect of one’s professional life and as medical students and residents/fellows in training over many years, we are not taught about life after completion of our apprenticeship. This wisdom would be invaluable and I have sought to convey my thoughts regarding life after training to my students and colleagues. I truly feel that some people excel with autonomy such as with a private practice while others excel in a structured environment, such as a university setting or large corporate Hospital setting. It is important as a provider to find out where you fit in and what will provide you the most fulfillment at the end of the day. For me, after trial and error, private practice allowed me independence to practice medicine in the way I see fit with utmost ethics, only performing indicated procedures without the need to “produce” a certain amount of money for the hospital, autonomy to lecture/teach and perform research and write extensively outside of my medical interests, and the appropriate amount of time to spend with my family. Therefore based on these reasons, I started my own professional neurosurgical private practice.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am a medical poet. I have authored numerous books.
One book is titled “My Surgical Cases Told in Poems” and the other one is “From the Eyes of a Doctor.” Through these medical poetry books, I was trying my best to convey to the world, and to my patients, what they’re going through when I tell them things like: They need to have a frontal lobe tumor removed. The words I use are big words and are complicated and distracting. I wanted to make things simpler and put them into layman’s terms. I felt that with poetry, with the rhymes and the staggered paragraphs, that poetry was a good way to do simplify and communicate. A lot of my patients have read my books before surgery or a consultation, and they gave me great feedback. It helped them understand what was happening. I found it a great way to put meaning, through words and rhyme, to what we physicians and surgeons do on a day to day basis.
Without my patients, I wouldn’t have this dedication to tell their story, to show how beautiful medicine is despite the hours, sacrifice, blood and stress.
I recall a young male, Hispanic, in his 30s who had a terrible tumor in the worst area possible. It was in the brain stem which controls your breathing and heartbeat. I remember sitting with him in the ICU prior to surgery and going through all the pitfalls and risks associated with taking that thing out. That’s like going into war and there are mines all over and you don’t know where they’re at, and anywhere you take a step can cause injury. It’s a tough place to take a tumor out of. Everything is so valuable in that area of the brain stem.
Nevertheless, he did well and was thankful afterwards that I had explained things to him multiple times. He really appreciated the fact that I was there for him as promised and he told me that this communication and empathy is what helped him heal.
One of my main messages is trying to show that communication and empathy are so critical in the field of medicine, especially in neurosurgery where you’re dealing with life and death matters. Through my writing, I hope to change the way medicine is by improving communication between doctors and patients, and even doctors and other doctors. I think we could increase our ability to heal and care for many great people in this world if we could improve communication
My motto is: DO NOT BE AFRAID TO FAIL, AND DON’T LET FAILING SLOW YOU DOWN
I have experienced countless failures in my life, and to fail in my opinion, is to show the world that you are human. But with my failures, each and every time, has come success that is unimaginable and much larger than the associated failures. There are numerous paths to achieving your desired goal, and just because one window may close on you, be creative and steadfast in searching for a door that will lead you to the promised land(your goal). That door may lead you down a path that may take you a bit longer to achieve your goal, but trust me what I say, that the journey is a beautiful one and the result of achieving your desired goal tastes and feels better than anything you can ever imagine
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I would start with a nice hike in the hills of Griffith Park in Los Angeles, followed by a savory breakfast at any of the hole-in-the-wall bakeries and cafes in Los Feliz serving delicous courses of eggs, french toast, waffles with coffee. I would then go to Santa Monica Pier and lay out on the beach and go body boarding in the ocean, and take in the fresh ocean air and sounds. We would then perhaps visit a museum in Santa Monica or Los Angeles to take in some culture, and grab an early dinner with perhaps some wine at Musso and Frank in Los angeles. During the week, I would make sure we attend a poetry reading in Los Angeles, as well as a concert at the Greek Theater to top off the cultural explosion that is Los Angeles
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Growing up, my parents and grandparents would always tell me that success in life comes from hard work and dedication and perseverance, but always involves the collaboration with other people in some way. As it often takes a village to raise children, it often requires the help of others to then bring on success in ones life. Numerous people have encouraged me in my life, including my parents and grandparents. However, my wife Talia has been a beacon of love, support, encouragement and faith. Despite being immensely successful in her business ventures, and despite being a fantastic mother to our children, she always finds time to encourage me in my ventures, to push me through obstacles beyond my comfort level, and to humble me to reality. She has been my strength and has truly been invaluable for me during my journey in life. In my search for my ideal neurosurgical position after training, my wife travelled with me (did not have kids yet) around the united states as I worked at a variety of hospitals needing neurosurgical coverage. She not only encouraged me to travel, but came with me. She walked the walk with me and we actually had a blast. So, I am very thankful and blessed to have such a kind, loving and encouraging wife who has influenced me in numerous ways to become the person that I am today. She is truly a beacon of light in my life.