Dr. Eric Fishman attended the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in Manhattan from 1993-1997 and spent his general surgery residency there through 2003. He then was a general surgeon as part of the faculty at Mount Sinai’s Elmhurst Hospital in Queens. When Dr. Fishman decided to pursue vascular surgery as his specialty in health care, he continued his fellowship training with Mount Sinai and then moved to the Westmed Group in Westchester County, New York.
In all of his years practicing vascular surgery in the New York City area, Dr. Fishman has realized he picked the right practice for his talents. He enjoys seeing a diversity of patients, from the young to the old, who he helps to improve health care outcomes and literally get them back on their feet again.
What made you want to be a doctor?
I come from a family where there is a tradition to become part of the medical field. But apart from that, even as a child I always liked biology and always thought one day I would help people. I knew I was going to be a doctor since I was very young. Early in my medical education, I knew I wanted to be a surgeon of some kind. I just wasn’t sure what kind. I took my time during my residency, but when I went into my general surgery practice at Elmhurst, there was a good staff that dealt with vascular surgery. I had a good mentor that helped me decide to pursue vascular surgery and I am glad I did.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
For two days a week, which is Monday and Tuesday, I am in the office the whole day seeing patients. I don’t do procedures or surgeries on those days unless there is an emergency. I work from 8-to-5 or 8-to-6, depending on the day. On Wednesday and Thursday, I do the bigger surgeries on the sicker patients, which are both done in the OPL (outpatient lab) office or in the hospital for the more serious procedures. Then on Friday, I see a couple of patients in the office, but most of the day is spent in the office doing vein procedures. I take off every third weekend on average.
How do you bring ideas to life?
After all the education and training to become a vascular surgeon, which is four years of medical school, ten years of residency, and two years of vascular training, I have a lot of experience and a constant and vibrant work life with many great colleagues. Ideas just naturally come to life working with and exchanging information with other vascular surgeons and health care partners who are leaders in the field, not only in our country, but in the world. By exchanging ideas with all these peers, we learn so much from each other to improve care and can put all our ideas into practice.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Certainly, minimally invasive procedures are an exciting trend in healthcare. For vascular surgery, it would be called angiographic revascularization or endovascular treatment. We are seeing some tremendous opportunities for patient health in that area.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I really try to spend a lot of time talking to my patients. Some of the treatments for my patients’ problems, for example, are treatments for which you get to know the patients as their vascular doctor over the course of several years. Any patient that requires followup for a serious operation, I give them my cell phone so they can call me or text me at any time. Plus, you can never discount discipline and working very hard.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t multitask while you’re taking care of your patients. It’s one of the things that as a busy doctor you sort of need to do a little bit, but I would tell my younger self that while you’re taking care of patients you should absolutely not do anything else. You should take care of one patient at a time and give them your sole focus.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
As a surgeon we have a bias to operate, but we are human and any minor procedure you do can carry complications or consequences. I think it’s very, very important to try to not operate if it can be avoided. Most people that practice modern medicine in this day and age, where you get reimbursed more for doing a procedure than for not doing a procedure, have an intrinsic bias and therefore may disagree on the threshold of when to operate.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I like to ask my patients about their non-medical backgrounds, like where they come from and what they do for a living. I think that humanizes people a lot more. When I learn that somebody is a businessperson or a craftsman, for example, I will try to explain things to them in ways are tailored to their way of thinking. I spend time with my patients to get to know them better and communicate better, and it humanizes both of us, so we become real people to each other. My patients are not a number to me.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Trying to be honest with my patients has always helped me in my medical practice. My philosophy is to see the patient, get the patient medically cleared for surgery, and that’s it. One of the jokes that a friend of mine told me that helps explain this theme is realizing that their primary doctor helps protect them from us, meaning, I may see a patient that needs surgery two times before surgery, which isn’t much. I try to really cooperate with their primary doctors since they have a long relationship with their patients and know them really well.
As a vascular surgeon, I get referrals from the primary doctors or other medical specialists. The other source of referral is the patients themselves. Then the third group of referrals is the hospital staff. Everybody that I work with, from the president of the hospital to the housekeeping crew of the operating room, gets treated with respect. By treating them how I would like to be treated with helps to build trust in me as a surgeon.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
One thing that surgeons deal with is that we operate and people can die, or they can lose a leg. We’re human. We can make mistakes, though even if we do everything perfectly, something bad can still happen. When these things have happened, it has been extremely important for me to rely on the friendship and experience of mentors in the field who, if you are fortunate enough, will back you up both at the time of the problem and after the fact.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
A LinkedIn for ideas. Let’s say you have an idea but don’t know how to make it happen, and then there are the people who are interested in developing different ideas, but don’t have the idea. As a business you could charge a fee to connect those people and help start the process of collaboration. Then, of course, if a product or service comes of it, the website would take a very small percentage of that idea.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
A couple of times, I have had patients who had no way of getting to my office, so I paid for their Uber.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Doximity is a website where I can review any of the popular medical journals like Journal of Vascular Surgery and Annals of Surgery. But I also like to look at the journals themselves.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Western Canon by Harold Bloom. One of the things that makes English such a powerful language is the amount of literature there has been written with it. I think The Western Canon really gives you a good perspective on several of the great books from the West. Reading this book is like taking a very good English course in college, with a good teacher that makes the best recommendations and gives reasons why. I grew up in Peru, and one or two authors included were from South America, though I had not been exposed to them.
Also, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind is a fascinating book about how humans and animals related and discusses Darwin and evolution.
What is your favorite quote?
“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” In the medical profession, it can be very difficult to help people without hurting them.
- As a doctor, the only person you should care about is the patient.
- Make sure the patient gets all the time they need, even if it means running late.
- Doctors should give a direct line of communication to their patients.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.