The emergency department is full of heroes, but Dr. Robert Ealy goes even one step further. Leading in the frontlines for over 30 years both inside the emergency room and out, Robert sees to it that people are not just given optimum urgent care, but also the knowledge and tools to help them avoid having to be rushed into the ER in the first place. Now that’s one emergency doctor who would have you do everything it takes to keep you out of his sight! As a speaker and coach, Robert helps people understand what health and wellness is really about, change their habits and change their lives. Listen in to his interview with Jeffrey Edwards to get a sense of this incredible person’s passion and dedication towards service that makes a difference.
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Leading In The Frontlines: With The Emergency Doctor Who Would Keep You Out Of The ER, Dr. Robert Ealy
Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your day. It’s always a pleasure to have guests here in the show. Our guest is someone that I had the pleasure of meeting many years ago. He is someone who inspired me in many ways. He’s a man that not only is highly skilled and very thoughtful of others, but he’s also someone who uses his platform to not only promote good health, at the same time, is there to ensure that people understand what health and wellness is all about. Helping people change lives and change their habits is part of what leaders do. Using that platform for influencing and helping people be better at what they do is what our guest here does on a regular basis.
Our guest is Dr. Robert Ealy. He is an emergency room physician, based in Indiana. He has many years of experience in emergency medicine. Through his work, he is identified on the outside as an emergency room physician, but what he promotes out there for others to consider is a, Stay The Hell Out of My Emergency Room, doctor. He is someone who brings not only his mind and expertise, but brings his passion and his heart to everything he does. It’s a privilege to have him here, sitting in The Leader’s Chair, Dr. Robert Ealy. How are you?
I’m feeling fantastic. Thanks for having me.
Describe what you do for a living. With being an emergency room doctor in many years of experience, I can only imagine what you have seen, witnessed and treated over that timeframe. When you look back on the road that brought you to where you are, how did it all start for you? What was that point in your life where you thought, “I’m going to pursue this path for myself?”
For me, it started with my family doctor, Dr. Weinreb. He was more than a physician. He was more to me as a healer, this guy used to make house calls. We were growing up as house calls. When I was growing up, he wasn’t just taken care of us, but he was to break up some of the fights my parents are going through at that particular time. He came there several times and I’m watching him how he helped keep our young family together, influenced me tremendously to the point that I remember watching him when he was in our project’s apartment, that I want to grow up and be like him. I wanted to make a difference to help people that they do have a chance. I was greatly influenced by my family doctor.
When you follow that path, it led you to going into medicine. Emergency medicine in particular, I’m not sure if many people understand that it’s a specialty onto its own. In working in emergency medicine, what drew you into that environment versus some of the other areas of medicine that’s out there?
You never know what’s coming in. Family practice doctors, internal medicine doctors, when they have appointments with their patients, they know what’s coming in. I have had this happened to me, going from pronouncing a young lady, it was twelve years old when her body cut in half from a boating accident and going to another twelve-year-old, a couple of minutes later, who has an ear infection. I had no idea this patient who got our body cut in half, was coming in. That’s a big difference. We never know what’s coming in. In addition, we have to treat a variety of illnesses.Lead by example. Click To Tweet
To let your audience know, we as emergency medicine physicians don’t say the emergency room. We used to always say, it’s emergency department. For us being called emergency room doctor is like an insult. We’re more than that because you have to get board certified in emergency medicine. In the old days, my family doctor, when he says, “I’m semi retired,” and you worked in emergency department. You can’t do that because in emergency department, you have to be able to put someone on the ventilator, put chest tubes in, put central lines in, do a thoracotomy, which means you open a person’s chest and you’re massaging their heart.
When I take a look at over the course of your career, I can only appreciate how many people and stories that you’ve seen come through. When you look at what you do. I consider some of the work that as doctor when you’re coming in with a trauma case, something comes in and you’re the quarterback or the coach or wherever that analogy could be. When you look at the people around you and you think of leaders that you’ve worked with and mentors that you’ve mentioned in Dr. Weinreb, what were the qualities that you appreciate in them that were impactful for you to help you move forward in your life?
This is what I believe, to me, you lead by example. I’m not a yeller. That’s not my style as far as emergency medicine now playing sports. That’s a different story. It’s ironic that you mentioned the team aspect because it is a team. In emergency department, you get to know the nurses, they get to know your style as far as particularly when a trauma patient comes in, because sometimes you have any time to say things, but you get to work with a different number of people and they know what you’re going to do. I know what they’re going to do next. I know what I’m concerned about and that my style of leadership.
Another thing that always do, when I was working in urgent care, I told them that this person had a heart issue and after we got her off in emergency department, I always praise people out of habit, because most people won’t give that praise and I didn’t get enough praise growing up. People appreciate that. If something goes awry, I said it was my fault, even though it may not have been my fault, but that’s what I do because people deep down inside, appreciate getting praise because most of the time you don’t get it.
Giving people that positive affirmation or recognition of what they’ve done, it’s part of recognizing their level of contribution, and demonstrate skill. In medicine or in general from your view, because your view is you see a lot of the world from a different lens than many people would in their everyday lives. Where do you see the impact and influence of strong leaders in terms of their influence and impact and what they can do? You’re there in the front lines and helping people each and every day, but you also see some of the mistakes. How you use your platform to promote better health in this world, particularly?
To be frank with you, instead of getting the truth, a lot of people want a nice white lie. I can have some young lady or young fellow, they may be overweight and the cause of their knee pain is because of they’re overweight. A lot of times you have to give people a nice white lie. You can’t do that because unfortunately, most hospitals or urgent cares or doctor’s offices, because a lot of doctor’s offices are owned by the hospitals, is that it’s imperative that you get good Press Ganey Scores, which is means patient satisfaction scores because what they found out, good patient satisfaction scores equals good reimbursement. You’re taking care of the patient, but you have to keep in the back of your mind about getting good patient satisfaction scores. Unfortunately, to me, it’s less about good medical care versus getting good patient satisfaction scores.
On that level, how do you define good patient care?
That’s easy for me. You do what’s right for the patient. When I go in to see a patient, I imagine in my head that it’s one of my relatives. That’s the thing. Particularly, if someone sick, I do both in our urgent care emergency medicine, a number of people would help me in urgent care that I could see if someone sick, “You don’t belong here. You need to go to emergency department.” I have several people that got sent in emergency department who got admitted. They were having cardiac issues and stuff. Doing what’s right for the patient, not necessarily what’s right for the hospital, and imagining that patient was a relative of yours that you liked, cared about or respected.
I can see where that would play a role in terms of the level of attention and care that would be invested in that individual from that perspective. In your experience as well, I was reading through some of your notes and such, I have to share this with everyone. When you mentioned about the emergency room, I love what you said that you’re not emergency room doctor. You say, “I am the, ‘Stay hell out of my emergency room doctor.’” I think I might be a little afraid if someone told me that if I met them. Where does that come from? It’s like, “I like you, but I want to see you come through this room.” What is it you’re seeing and why are you promoting and help people to stay out of your room?
A lot of the things I see in emergency department are preventable. Meaning that if you eat better, you exercise regularly and things like that, you won’t be in an emergency department. I have a tagline when I talk to high school students, I tell them, “You need to take back your health and be responsible for your own life because it’s your responsibility. It’s not the doctor’s, it’s not the pharmaceutical companies. You are not sure as how long they give a crap about you. It’s not the hospitals and stuff. It’s your responsibility. If you are taking care of yourself by trying to eat better, exercise and taking supplements, you won’t be in emergency department.” Most of the things I see are preventable.
One of my better examples is diabetes, as well as high blood pressure. If a nurse comes and tells me, “We have a 40-year-old nuance that’s diabetic etc,” I could tell you without going in the room, they’re overweight. I know that for a fact. It’s 80% or 90% are right. They call it type two diabetes. Now, they call it something else though. If you weren’t overweight, you wouldn’t be getting the diabetes and in high blood pressure, some of the foods we eat. Being overweight caused a lot of secondary problems, elevated cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure. That thing about, “Stay the hell out of my emergency room,” meaning that if you’ve taken care of yourself, you won’t be in my emergency department. It’s frequently as a lot of people I see.
I think of the renaissance, but definitely more of a highlighted focus on leaders, corporate executives, on workplaces, promoting wellness and telling people, “You don’t need to work 70 or 100 hours a week. If you do, you’re going to pay a price someday.” From your experience, what’s been the trend that you’ve seen from your work exposure to corporate and business leaders or entrepreneurs out there and how they’re running their lives at this point in time as far as taking care of their health? What do you see they could be doing better?
People make time for the things that didn’t important. That’s a fact that it’s easy to do, it’s not so easy to do. For example, a handful of days when I have to be at work at 8:00, I’m up at 3:00 in the morning to work out for 1.5 or 2 hours. Is it easy to do? Is it not so easy to do? In general, when I work out, I feel better. “I’m not feeling good today because I don’t work out this morning before I had to do stuff in the morning,” but you have to figure out, it’s a balancing thing. When you’re building your business, you’re going to be spending a lot of time building your business, but sometimes you need to carve out a little bit of time or at least an hour to try to work 4, 5 or 6 times a week.
it’s going to make you feel better eventually too, that endorphin rush and it may help you with creativity in your business, but you also have to make sure you have your family time and appropriate sleep time. You don’t need to sleep as much as people think they do, this eight hours stuff. I don’t know who came up with that, but any successful person, they’re busting her bottom on the back end, trying to build their business.Do what’s right for the patient, not necessarily what’s right for the hospital. Click To Tweet
They have to figure out what is important other than their business. Their health is, their family, husband and wife, the kids that they have that, but it takes time. I have seen some people that one of my trainers at one time, “Why live in Northwest, Indiana, steel mill country.” He’s some of these guys work in the steel since he’s twenty years old and retired 25 years later and they don’t know why they can’t do what they did 25 years. “You haven’t worked out for 25 years.” It takes time. It’s easy to do but it’s not so easy to do. I remember when I first started working out, I couldn’t be on a StairMaster for 10 to 15 seconds. Now, I’m running 10,000 at 64 years old.
Congratulations, doctor. I got some work to do. I got to catch up with you somehow, some way.
I don’t tell you this to brag. I don’t like to run, but what I found out when I started running in 2019, is that if I could do some stuff I don’t like to do, how’s it going to spill over and other things in my life?
You mentioned earlier that when you’re out there, you speak to the high school students and sharing your story. How do you see your role as a professional in the community, as a health practitioner in educating our youth on saying up those healthy habits that will help them prolong their life and help them move forward with a little more ease and wellness as well?
One reason, I want to get out there because I know there’s a lot of high schools, I talked to in a town called Hammond by these kids come from poor background, they’re financially poor. It’s easy for you to see the speakers and they’re talking to these people who are that already making it and stuff who goes and talks to the downtrodden. That’s what I see that people have already written us off. When I want to become a physician, it’s a true story. A number of teachers would try to dissuade me and said, “Robert, you have this color problem. We know where you grew up and no one ever went to college for you, why don’t you become a lab tech?” I remember it like it was yesterday, people telling me this. I want to be a beacon of light for kids like me and that I would share with people that I’m trying to get these kids started at earlier age.
I’m still working on myself. I’m still not satisfied, but if I can make a difference in these kids’ life, go for it because a few times when I did talk to these kids, you would see sometimes that the light bulb goes on and it’s a wonderful feeling to see. I hated when speakers would say, “If I could touch one person,” screw that one person stuff. I want to touch all of these kids. Who talks to the downtrodden? Who talks to the kids came from a poor background? Nobody does. I wish high school let me talk to more of their students. It’s a rewarding feeling for me. When I was up there, I remember having an out of body experience, “I was born for this. I love this. We’ll see where it goes.”
I hear that passion behind your words and how important this is for you to get out there and be an educator and help these students, learn from your experience and aspire to look beyond their current situation.
That’s exactly what I’m trying to do, hit the nail on the head.
When you look back on your life and in the many years to come, how would you want your legacy to be described?
It’s short and sweet, “He made a difference.” The kids could look back, “He made a difference.” Who helps the downtrodden? That’s my thing. I listened to a lot of motivational stuff. I said, “Who helps downtrodden like me and my siblings, who does?” Not that many people.
Have you come across anyone that you’ve spoken to or have had the pleasure of working with that come back to you and say, “Doctor Dr. Ealy, thank you?”
I’ve had several people, but one of the most ones is that I had a younger cousin. She wanted to become a physician. I kept on our case like, “You got to be focused.” That was a play around word say, “Mean the Mensa.” I was trying to keep her focused because at a certain age that you want to be popular. You want to be able to go out to dates, but you have to sacrifice. Eventually, my cousin, she’s not only became a physician, she’s an emergency medicine physician in Long Island, like me.
What was it that she shared with you in regards to what your influence in her career direction?
She kept on saying those words would encourage her. Every time I would see her with once or twice a year and tell her, “Keep focus, do this, do that and stuff like that.” She said that it always helped her that she kept focused. She knew what she wanted. She knew her goals about becoming to physician. She said that was the words of encouragement, even though I didn’t see her that often that every time I saw her, I was always encouraging her and to go for what she want.Hard work pays off. Click To Tweet
On your path to where you are now, what kept you going? Who were the people in your life or the drivers inside you that pushed you to continue forward?
Mostly, my mother and my father. They would always encourage me that I could do anything I want because there’s a lot of haters out there and they don’t want you to succeed. As well as all these different things, going mostly in the States right now with the racial injustice and stuff. One of the big time professors at my school at Penn State, he got up in front of our hundreds medical student, the class of ‘82 and said, “No minority should be doctors,” just like that. He failed all of the minorities in that class. They failed all of us, but he had said that, “No minorities should be doctors.”
We had our professor in anatomy Alphonse Leure-duPree, who’s there to protect us and always encourage us about doing things. In addition to my people encouraging, because I remember my father telling me when I was visiting home that, “Why down? I have no money, no clothes, and no car. Your hard works going to pay off. You don’t see it yet.” He was right. It was weird that all these doubters from that stuff, now they’ll come at me telling me, “You could do it.”
I told them like, “You wouldn’t give me the time of day when I was going through school, you’re always negative about it.” He told me all this stuff’s going to happen. Pop was true about that. My mother, my father, Alphonse Leure-duPree, our professor in anatomy, but if you look at my background, I have a brother Anthony who is a successful business person, we were supposed to make it. We were supposed to be another statistic and that’s why I want to talk to the kids and stuff. I’m still not finished. I have a lot of stuff I still want to do, but I want to make sure they know that someone’s thinking about them and will be there to talk to them, someone they can lean on it.
Personally, you inspired me to get a bigger platform. What can I do to be able to get out here more? How would I allow these high schools in this area? Let me talk to their students. I didn’t charge them anything. Eventually, I want to become a speaker. That’s one of my main things in health and wellness type of stuff, but I wish that they were allowing me to talk to the students because I know I can make a difference in their life. Someone that believes in them.
You’ve already started that path for yourself here. It is a great example of the passion that you bring to any environment or any room and the message that you have. You’ve overcome obstacles and other people’s objections and other people’s opinions, perspectives on you and you forge your own path. You’re also a mentor as well. When you consider the people who influence in your life, it looks like you’re looking to pay back in any way you can and help people get that leg up and have that same opportunity that you carved out for yourself. The world can use a lot more Dr. Robert Ealy’s out there. You and I have talked over the years and I appreciate your humility. At the same time, I admire your courage and your determination as well. Now is no exception to the quality and the depth that you bring to every encounter that you have.
I appreciate that you inviting me and having me available a chance to talk and hopefully, make a difference and have a great message to a lot of people too, as well.
I appreciate your kind words. I look forward to following up with you. Thank you for being here and thank you for tuning in until next time. Be good and lead well.
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