A family physician since 1983, published author, and creator of multiple groundbreaking medical devices Michael J. Haas, M.D., is dedicated to optimal health. Continue reading about Dr. Haas' path as a family physician committed to optimal health and wellness.
Dr. Hass grew up in Metairie, LA and attended Archbishop Rummel High School. He earned a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from Tulane. Dr. Haas received his MD from LSU Health-New Orleans and completed his family medicine residency in Bogalusa, LA.
Tell us about your path to choosing family medicine.
During medical school, I had considered many different specialty options. I loved the diversity of all aspects of medicine. My biggest cognitive thought process when choosing a specialty was the flexibility of family medicine. Family docs could choose any small town or city to live in (unlike Neurosurgeons and super specialists). Family medicine training also allows docs a very wide latitude of practice options. As a family physician, you can have a traditional, general practice, focus on children, deliver babies or not, hospital practice, Hospice, ER, urgent care, preventive medicine, teach - just to name a few. During college and medical school, I was doing research with a physician, Joseph Bellina, M.D. Dr. Bellina pioneered the laser world in Obstetrics & Gynecology. I was on a path to become an Ob-Gyn post medical school and to join his fabulous practice. I was to follow in his footsteps. In the beginning of my senior year, my mother died suddenly of an undiagnosed abdominal aortic aneurysm. This incident allowed me to see the diversity and need for caring family physicians. This drove me to switch back to family medicine, to the great upset of Dr. Bellina and others who told me I had lost my mind to work as hard as family docs do!
Tell me about your current practice setting.
I started the diversity right after residency. I worked as an ER doc in California until I got home sick and returned to Louisiana. Soon after returning home, I worked for a couple years teaching in a family medicine residency until it closed. I then decided to open my own practice, supplementing my income with emergency medicine work. After many years in a private practice, I sold my practice to a large entity, which allowed it to grow. My focus was in both sports medicine and preventive health, which was the initial stimulus to write a book on health. I had been considering starting a biomedical engineering company to create medical products for family physicians. The large entity that bought my practice changed hands, allowing me to pursue developing medical devices. Again, the diversity of family medicine allowed me the ability to pay my bills with emergency medicine work as I grew a medical device business. Developing products for Family Docs eventually led to us developing a life saving device to treat cervical abnormalities in low resource countries. I never thought a primary care doc would give talks to World Health Organization (WHO) sponsored events, do research with National Cancer Institute for cervical cancer solutions and be so involved in international public health, while still caring for patients back at home. At present, besides a small roll in cervical cancer public health, I spend most of my practice time in hospice, laser aesthetic treatments and promoting healthy living in our over busy world. The diversity in my medical career has kept me learning and finding ways to improve people's lives. My motto in medicine has always been "to cure sometimes, to relieve often, to comfort always" by Edward Livingston Trudeau (circa 1800).
How would you define the mission of your practice?
Just like the above quote, I have always tried to listen to people as to what bothered them. What I believe makes family physicians unique and apart from the specialties is that we focus on the individual as a holistic being, not the disease. So, my mission as a family doc has always been to look at, assess and treat an individual as a holistic person. When something troubles an individual - whether or not it has pathology associated with it, a family doc should address it to the individual's satisfaction.
What advice would you offer to medical students selecting their specialty?
That's a hard one.... Unless you head to medical school with clear-cut goals, you will be torn between so many interesting possibilities. I believe the decision to choose a specialty is multifactorial. What I have suggested to some of the medical students I have advised is to create a list of priority items in their life and rank them against the different specialties that peek their interest.
How have your personal experiences influenced your work?
Many life events have influenced and inspired my work, but probably the most powerful have been deaths of family and close friends. Besides my parents, my brother died at an early age from an AIDS related transfusion he needed following a crazy freak accident. That was back in the mid 80's when treatment was in its infancy. After his diagnosis, he had seen a news program about a group in Atlanta doing total body hyperthermia for treatment. He got me to hook up with them, and along with a team of physicians, went down to Belize to subject him to that treatment. The events during that time were like out of a science fiction novel! Compassion and empathy in me grew to immensely during that period. I gained my love for the hospice and palliative care aspect of medicine, which even to this day has brought some of my most rewarding times in practice.
Why did you choose family medicine what's your favorite aspect of it, and were you inspired by anyone?
The diversity aspect and caring for the entire person, not just a disease state is what steered me towards family medicine. The ability of a family physician to care for not only that whole individual, but also understand the bigger aspects of a person's family dynamics in the context of disease is one of my favorite aspects of this specialty. Growing up we had an old classic family doctor who would make house calls and just hang out and chat after a visit. That usually also involved a few sips of medicinal whiskey! My parents had the highest regard and respect for this Marcus Welby type doctor. That created an important emotional tie and respect for the family medicine doctor.
What is your favorite thing to do?
Now that I'm older, I enjoy watching someone grow up from a newborn baby to an adult with kids themselves! And to write about holistic health. I also like to invent new things
Tell us something fun unrelated to medicine about yourself.
I am a certified Yoga instructor, and I currently hold a lot of patents.
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