Aug 31, 2021

Unhurried Medicine: Resident Applies Wide Lens to Experiences of Patients and Providers

Students, Education, Alumni
Dr. Brandon Tang
By Alisa Kim

Can health care be delivered more thoughtfully, with doctors afforded more time to engage problems deeply and nurture relationships with patients instead of scrambling to clear a backlog of cases?

Dr. Brandon Tang thinks such a change is possible.

Tang is a resident in the department of medicine at the Temerty Faculty of Medicine, and an alumnus of the MD Program at the University of Toronto. He is also a graduate of the system leadership and innovation program at the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

Tang says his training has fostered a big-picture perspective on health care, and a passion for quality improvement in medicine. “In medical school you learn how to look after individual patients, but the system leadership and innovation program put in the back of my brain, how can you design a system that allows for excellent patient care? Having this parallel angle has affected how I think and view my role as a doctor,” he says.

Tang recently enrolled in Vernissage Health, a program that focuses on the inner work of leadership in health care. “I got to hear all these amazing stories from people more senior and experienced than me,” he says. “They gave me an idea of what the road ahead might entail. The chance to get to know them one-on-one and find new mentors was really valuable.”

Tang’s mentors at Vernissage Health encouraged him to share his ideas on health care. He took their feedback to heart and was accepted to give a TEDx talk, “Healing Assembly Line Medicine,” which he delivered earlier this year.

He will address physician burnout and related issues on October 20 in a panel-discussion webinar, which will examine how to build healthier environments for providers and patients post-pandemic.

Tang says some of his ideas on health care evolved from a principle called “deep work.” Coined by Dr. Cal Newport, a professor of computer science at Georgetown University, deep work refers to the ability to focus without distraction on a mentally demanding task.

Applied to medicine, deep work means “slowing down to process what’s going on,” says Tang. “From a provider’s perspective, it is taking the time to build the relationship and think deeply about what’s going on with your patients. Patients who receive deep work don’t feel like they’re on an assembly line. They feel cared for and listened to.”

Tang’s suggestions for facilitating deep work in medicine include reducing doctors’ administrative tasks and integrating process improvement into the work culture of care providers.

“As someone relatively junior on the frontline, I hear amazing ideas during proverbial ‘watercooler’ conversations. Capturing the voice of frontline providers, scaling them up and creating a system that’s nimble enough that you could try out all these different ideas is how we could build in deep work,” says Tang, who recently received a 2021 Canadian Medical Association Award for Young Leaders.

Looking ahead, Tang says his goal is to weave his interests in medical education and improving patient care throughout his career.

“The perfect ecosystem for me to work in is academic medicine in a clinical teaching unit where there are trainees, interprofessional care providers and senior physicians, where everyone is always learning and providing patient care in tandem,” he says. “I’m passionate about how we can align the training of future generations of doctors with ongoing quality improvement.”