126. The Art of Human Care with Dr. Hassan Tetteh

The Do a Day Podcast from Bryan Falchuk

Dr. Hassan Tetteh is a board-certified heart and lung transplant surgeon, best-selling author and popular speaker who inspires people to focus on the heart of all that really matters in life.

His life-changing perspective came from growing up as a kid on the streets of Brooklyn to serving as a combat surgeon in the deserts of Afghanistan, from his time as a visiting scholar in the Congressional Budget Office to his success as an 18-time marathon finisher on two continents. Having overcome his own near-death experience, Dr. Tetteh never ceases to “go the distance” in all he does.

He recently published his first book, The Art of Human Care, which he gives the backstory and insights of in this interview.

Key Points from the Episode with Dr. Hassan Tetteh

  • Dr. Tetteh is a thoracic surgeon, and does a lot of heart and lung transplant surgery
  • It’s hard work, but incredibly rewarding when you think about the difference it makes in someone’s life
  • He is a Navy surgeon, and has deployed at times of war and combat, and visited over 50 countries with the Navy and personally
  • He’s gotten so much out of that travel, including coming home to appreciate what he has
  • Dr. Tetteh’s book, The Art of Human Care, explores not just what the philosophy is, but how it came to fruition
  • Dr. Tetteh is the child of West African parents, and had wanted to be an artist growing up, and pursued that path, including getting into art school
  • His father was not ok with that as a career path, and told Dr. Tetteh to follow a science and engineering path, attending a school focused there
  • In his junior year of college, he got exposed to and contracted Meningitis while at Johns Hopkins, where he was interviewing for Medical School
  • He was misdiagnosed by the school infirmary, so he got worse
  • Two friends went looking for him when they couldn’t find him, and found him almost unresponsive in his bed, and took him to his hospital
  • He ended up spending weeks in the hospital, with the thought that he had an acceptance letter waiting at home from Johns Hopkins being the thing that kept him fighting
  • The purpose of becoming a doctor was so strong in him that it kept him going
  • Another thing that saved him was an ER doctor who took his case seriously and really working on a proper diagnosis when Dr. Tetteh himself could not speak or help them figure out what was wrong
  • He was always a very curious person in life, and saw science as a way to explore and explain things, so it was how to engage in his curiosity
  • That early experience as a patient in an extreme case, and the kindness, support and compassion that ER doctor showed him left a mark on Dr. Tetteh that informed his path to becoming and being a physician, as well as his sense of what he talks about in his book
  • That and his work with patients facing death has informed his sense of always appreciating what we have, never taking life for granted, and working to sustain it
  • The book is something he’s really been working on his whole life
  • It is specifically called the Art of Human Care, and not just Care or Medical Care, because it’s about being a human as you provide care for another human
  • We all care for fellow humans every day, not just as doctors or in any other role or career
  • Are we helping people discover their purpose and achieve it?
  • Giving personalized care for any human being is so important
  • No individual person can give the kind of overall, holistic care where people can thrive, so it takes everyone coming together
  • This forms the three pillars of human care
    • Purpose
    • Personalization, and
    • Partnerships
  • Dr. Tetteh reflected on the suffering he’s had in his life, and what it’s taught him about how to be a human and care for others so that we can have a lasting impact beyond the years we get to spend on this planet


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