Meet Danesh Mazloomdoost, MD, the medical director at Wellward Regenerative Medicine.
Hometown: Lexington, Kentucky
Hobbies: Travel, photography, cooking and writing.
Vacation spot: Torres del Paine in Patagonia.
The last good book you read: American Pain: How a Young Felon and His Ring of Doctors Unleashed America’s Deadliest Drug Epidemic (Lyons Press, 2015)
Medical News: Why did you become a doctor?
Danesh Mazloomdoost, MD: I was a clumsy child and had my first broken bone at the age of five. By second grade, I was so obsessed with injuries that I wrote a book about bones for a school project, complete with a ridiculous drawing of a blob that represented what I thought a body would look like without bones.
As I grew older, I became more interested in the body’s reaction to injuries, extrapolating that into the experience of pain and how the body heals from damage. Naturally, that drew me to anesthesiology, to study physiology, consciousness, and how our spirit processes the fragility of our bodies.
MN: What is regenerative medicine and why did you choose this specialty?
DM: Age humbles everyone with changes that inevitably cause pain. The accepted standards of care – opioids and surgery – mask physiologic damage and try to replace biology with inorganic fixes. It doesn’t work. I witnessed patients withering in this system and knew that we could do more.
So, I started researching regenerative medicine, which is the translational science to understanding physiologic damage, pain, and how we can supercharge the body’s healing ability. Practicing regenerative medicine requires an in-depth understanding of movement, the physiology of pain processing, and how the body heals.
When I started applying this to my practice, I saw radical changes in patient outcomes. I joke with patients that I’m in the business to put myself out of business. I reject the notion of chronic pain being an indefinite state; I see patients recover from it using these new approaches.
MN: How are you working to fix the problems in healthcare contributing to the opioid epidemic?
DM: Change starts with awareness. For decades, healthcare’s naïve approach to treating pain had unrecognized flaws that are now evidenced by dire statistics in newspapers every day. When I finished my pain fellowship, I was determined to catalyze change in my home state, the epicenter of the opioid epidemic.
For the past decade, I have sought to educate my peers through CMEs and lectures, advocate to state and federal legislators, and shape my practice around the awareness that pain is a symptom of many diseases, not a disease itself.
Sustainable pain treatment hinges on identifying the origins of pain and treating the physiologic source of the damage that’s causing pain. This demands a new framework for understanding three important components to every pain problem.
I also recently wrote a book – Fifty Shades of Pain: How to Cheat on Your Surgeon with a Drug-free Affair — to simplify pain into its elements and introduce an efficient framework for treatment, one that I call HEAL. HEAL is a blueprint for a culture shift in how we as healthcare professionals can sustainably and effectively treat pain.
MN: Tell me about your work in humanitarian medical relief? Any great lessons learned?
DM: My humanitarian work can be parsed into three categories: training, sustainability evaluations and medical relief. In Eritrea, we taught anesthesiology in a country devoid of anesthesiologists following 30 years of war. At the border of Afghanistan and Iran, I did a sustainability study with a specialty clinic staffed by ex-pat physicians. And in Honduras, we provided medical services to a population lacking in orthopedic or pain care.
Of the three categories of medical relief, I most enjoy providing services directly. Nothing feels better than helping in desperate situations. Still, I’ll continue to work in training and sustainability as well because I recognize that the long-term effect is more valuable to those communities.
MN: What’s one thing your colleagues would be surprised to learn about you?
DM: In the barrage of day-to-day responsibilities, my retention of mindfulness suffers. Photography realigns my consciousness for living in the moment. As a physician, I gain trust through good intentions, and this unique privilege allows me to grow through other people’s experiences. Photography is the artistic manifestation of the same guiding principle, allowing me to embrace the subjects’ feelings and vision. Practicing photography helps me to observe others and to anticipate their state of mind. It has made me a better listener and deepened my ability to connect with the lives I wish to help.
MN: What’s the best advice you ever received? Who gave it to you?
DM: “Go to conferences outside your field.” My parents advised me this when I started working at the practice they began in the early 1990s. While I’ve evolved the practice since taking over, they laid an important foundation that shaped how I practice medicine. They always encourage me to show courage in areas and situations in which I feel out of place. They explain that the vulnerability of that feeling fosters humility and curiosity. As the volume of knowledge in medicine grows exponentially, it becomes easier to remain within our own specialty, creating comfortable silos. Being the bridge between tangential fields generates a lot of new ideas and explosive growth, which ultimately helps patients through innovation.
MN: What is your motto? Why?
DM: My personal motto is “Growth above all.” Not every day can be a good day. The bad ones are a different kind of blessing – they build resiliency and inspire courage. Keeping this in mind when facing an obstacle shifts the perspective from being a victim of harm to a survivor of adversity. I believe that we are never confronted with problems we weren’t meant to overcome, and we each have a duty to bolster each other so that we can help one another overcome and grow from a challenge.
MN: Who are your heroes in healthcare?
DM: My grandfather, Dr. Shirazi. Unfortunately, he died before I was born, but the stories I heard about him growing up shaped my perspective in medicine. Dr. Shirazi was the quintessential sole family practitioner in a rural part of Iran and progressively worked to become his state’s public health official. As an advocate for human rights and health, he was held in great esteem, so much so that when he passed, citizens from his hometown hand carried his body dozens of miles to be buried where he grew up. I thought his impact may have been exaggerated until I visited Iran myself and met some of the people he helped. I hope I can have that kind of impact on my patients and my community.
MN: How do you go the extra mile, above and beyond your daily tasks to improve patient care, community health or hospital operations?
DM: Just as we have a responsibility to our patients, I believe we also share a role in population health. One of the mission statements in our practice is to create a living lab for changes in healthcare delivery of pain issues. As we incorporate what we learn from affiliate groups across the nation and solidify our successful protocols, we hope to make our findings and best practices available to the rest of the medical community. We have created an auditorium in our practice to offer a venue for learning and teaching, to include healthcare providers both inside and outside of the larger health institutions.
Substantial structural changes are needed to rectify the opioid epidemic on the institutional level. I have been volunteering on various pain and opioid reform boards in regional health systems and the Department of Labor with the intention to develop resources available to any institution. These procedures should be helpful across all of healthcare to improve patient satisfaction and outcomes, reduce opioid dependency, and reduce medical complications.