Dr. Howard Wetsman – Founder of Townsend Addiction Treatment Centers

If I can see what assumptions I (and others) have about a new idea, I can usually see what has to change for it to come to life by itself.”

Dr. Howard Wetsman is an addiction psychiatrist who specializes in the outpatient treatment of addiction. He is the chief medical officer and founder of Townsend Addiction Treatment Centers at American Addiction Centers. He is a clinical associate professor at Louisiana State University, School of Medicine and is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

Dr. Wetsman began his medical career as a general medical officer in the U.S. Navy. He then led a psychiatry research division and later became Medical Director of the Crisis Intervention Unit, Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, Virginia. He received a Meritorious Service Medal in addition to other honors for his service. Dr. Wetsman is a graduate of the Louisiana State University School of Medicine, where he also completed his Psychiatry Residency and received the Sandoz Award.

Dr. Wetsman is the author of “Questions and Answers On Addiction” and co-author of “Healing Stories.” He maintains a weekly blog at addictiondoctor.org and has presented papers at numerous addiction medicine conferences.

What does your typical day look like, and how do you make it productive?

I try not to have a typical day. I have found that if I constrain my day to some idea of what should happen, I limit what the universe has to give me that day. I try to stay as open as I can to what the universe brings me.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Usually, I search for the underlying assumptions of why no one believes in the new idea. New ideas aren’t liked mostly because they challenge existing assumptions. If I can see what assumptions I (and others) have about a new idea, I can usually see what has to change for it to come to life by itself.”

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Individualization of healthcare. We’ve been giving health advice for centuries based on, “Is this thing good or bad for people?” It’s ridiculous. The real question is, “Is this thing good or bad for you as an individual right now, in the context of everything else in your life?”

Most arguments in medicine are about whether “Treatment A” is better than “Treatment B.” It makes no sense. We should be — and increasingly are — asking who Treatment A is best for, who Treatment B is best for, and in which order?

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I’m not an operator, so having people around me that can take a new idea and operationalize it is essential. But what makes me more productive in my role as a problem solver is to constantly question the assumptions of others and myself.

What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?

Being a general medical officer in the Navy in the nine months between leaving my ship and starting my residency. It was in a place where most people went to end their careers. I was just off this high-powered billet on the flagship for the United States Second Fleet and waiting for the residency to start. It was a real letdown.

I learned that there are a lot of people who just don’t care about excellence. It’s amazing to me how many people will accept the status quo because it’s the status quo.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

Believe in myself more.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do repeatedly and recommend everyone else do?

Well, by now you won’t be surprised if I say, “Question assumptions!”

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Addiction treatment in America has not been patient-centric. We wanted to democratize addiction treatment. We set out to give patients a different message in everything we did. We called them “patients” instead of “clients” because they were ill. We made sure our clinics looked like doctor’s offices instead of “substance abuse clinics,” and we explained to the patients why they were having the experience they were having rather than telling them they weren’t having it. It worked. Most addiction treatment is done on a referral basis. We went right to the patients, and they came in great numbers.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

We thought that if we showed the insurance companies that we could save them money, they would not mind paying us. We were wrong. It was an incorrect assumption. I used to assume they wanted to save more money — I’m not sure anymore what their business goals are.

What is one business idea you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Find a way to measure blood insulin levels at home the way we can with glucose levels now. Then call me. We will revolutionize healthcare.

What is the best $100 you recently spent?

I went to dinner with my wife and daughters because both of them were leaving town for a bit.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

JMP is great statistical software that lets me find the patterns in data. Flying Logic is wonderful for examining the logical connections between observed phenomena. I’m also getting really fond of Twitter.

What is one book you recommend our community should read, and why?

“The Goal” by Eliyahu M. Goldratt, because the most important thing to understand in any endeavor is the goal of the entire enterprise. Ninety-five percent of improvement efforts get stuck trying to improve local optima and never get the organization closer to its goal.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

· Eliyahu M. Goldratt — I wish I’d met him before he died. I love the six statements ) on his gravestone.
· Nikola Tesla saw what others couldn’t see.


Personal Website: addictiondoctor.org
LinkedIn: Howard Wetsman MD )
Twitter: @addictiondocMD