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Meet a leader: Dr. Andy Furman

18 Sep 2016

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How did you start working in healthcare?

My mother was a telephone operator at a community hospital. I grew up without much, in a pretty bad school district. I always had a determination to succeed though, so I made the most of what I had. I qualified for a lot of financial aid to go to a good college, Muhlenberg in Allentown, PA. I happened to go to a pre-med interest group meeting on the way to play basketball with my friends, met an ER doc, and the rest is history. A funny side bar is that during residency, I had the opportunity to work at that same community hospital where my mother worked.

What’s the best advice you have ever received?

“Things often resolve on their own if you simply give a tincture of time.” This was sound advice from my mentor both in medical school and then during my emergency medicine residency training. Dr. David Wagner was trained as a pediatric surgeon and became one of the founders of emergency medicine as a specialty, serving as an original board member and starting one of the first emergency medicine residency programs at the Medical College of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia. It’s easy early in your medical career to want to jump in and fix things, but he taught me to step back and think first.

What everyday thing are you really good at?

Communicating with my kids. My schedule is and has always been pretty hectic, so I have missed certain events in their lives, but I always make sure there is at least some contact made with each of the four of them every day. I think they all know I am there to support them in any way I can.

What are three of your favorite books?

I love to read, so I have quite a number of favorites. From the educational aspect, Creating Magic by Lee Cockerell, was one of my favorites. Recently, Bahaa Wanly introduced me to a book called Switch by Dan and Chip Heath which I read cover to cover on a flight because it was so good. From a pure entertainment aspect, The Song of Ice and Fire series (better known on TV as HBO’s Game of Thrones) by George R.R. Martin is incredibly well written. The books are 1,000 pages each, and it takes five years for a new one to come out, but they are worth the wait.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?

When people assume an unknown to be negatively derived. I know sometimes I say things and the words may not come out as intended. My wish would be that everyone assumes a positive intent in those words. My number one job as VPMA is to do everything I can to clear the way for others to do theirs to their best ability. That is an easier job if our assumptions going into any conversation are based in positivity.

What is your most embarrassing moment (as a child OR adult)?

My pants broke on my rental tux on my wedding day. My sister, Alicia, came to my rescue and we were able to splice things together with some safety pins. It gave me an excuse to not have to dance!

What is your favorite quote or saying?

It’s in permanent marker on my office white board at the hospital and hanging in my office at home, from Michael Jordan, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” I may strive for perfection in everything I do, but I know there will be failures along the way that help me learn, grow, and hopefully do better when I try again.

What hobbies do you have?

My wife, Nicole, and I are foodies. She’s more into how good the fries are, but I’ll try anything as long as it’s not moving on its own will. I love to play basketball, golf, newly enjoying disc golf, hiking, and traveling this beautiful state so new to my family.

What is your favorite thing about working at Salem Health?

The team spirit. I was welcomed on so many levels from medical staff leadership to all of the great staff in the ED.

What is a book you’re reading now?

Redesign the Medical Staff Model: A Guide to Collaborative Change by Johnathan Burroughs. This book was recommended by Heidi Conklin, director of Strategy and Clinical Integration, after she saw him give a great presentation. That and the fact that he is an ER doc, I couldn’t resist.

Can you think of an example of how the OHSU affiliation will affect your team?

The idea of collaborating across quality community and academic health centers weighed into my decision to move across the country. There are some differences within our physician cultures, but I think there is great opportunity to redefine a physician-led health care future.

What apps, software or tools can you not live without?

I can’t live without my phone in general. I do enjoy my new Microsoft Surface, although I’m still a little peeved that about a week later Dr. Nair got his at great discount compared to me. I base many buying decisions on how much it costs to buy on Amazon, but this time was a letdown.

What are your kids like, and what makes you proud of them?

My kids are awesome! Sam, 15, is my boy. He couldn’t be less like me, but that is what I think I love most about him. One of my favorite Sam stories centered around the idea of moving to Oregon from Pennsylvania. My wife was on-board with a change, but across the country was a bit much. I talked to Sam about it and he said, “Dad, I can be bought.” Fast forward to today, and I never realized how expensive a desk top computer could be, but it was worth every penny for his support.

Ally, 14, is my gymnast and perfectionist. She had the most difficult time with the move because things were all lined up and in her control in Pennsylvania. I’m very proud of how she has adjusted to the dramatic change.

Naomi, 11, is my swimmer and by far the most relaxed in our household. She takes things in stride and is just genuinely nice. I’m very proud how successful she has been in her first year of competitive swimming. She ended up qualifying for state championships in every event she attempted and finished with 2 seconds, 2 thirds, and 2 fourths and top 8 in 3 relays at the state competition last weekend.

Elaina, 7, is my youngest and everything you would expect from the last of four kids. She’s fearless, rambunctious, and just overall a crazy, wild spirit. She’s strong and athletic and keeps bouncing back from gymnastics to swimming, but I’m hoping she settles on a sport I actually know something about.

What skills or hobbies do you have that few know about?

When moving and looking for a home and even when we built our home in Northeast Pennsylvania, I purposely looked for and left the basement unfinished so I could do the work myself. I never enjoyed the taping and spackling, but loved to layout the design, frame out the walls, hang the sheetrock, and create unique rooms like a play area for my then little kids with built in monkey bars.

Who is your hero?

I envy people who have that inborn drive to be the greatest.

What was the last movie you saw, and what did you think about it?

The Secret Life of Pets. It could’ve been so much better.

What is your favorite place to eat in Salem?

Gilgamesh on the outside patio.

What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

I’m a prankster. When we were moving, I had an old refrigerator to dispose of, but I thought it would be more fun to put it in the basement of my buddy’s new construction across the street rather than throw it in the trash. I did put a beer in there for him, but his wife didn’t think it was very funny. Fast forward to a month or so ago, and I finally sold my Pennsylvania house. We still had numerous paint cans in the garage. I contacted another neighbor friend, a well-respected ENT, and ran an idea by him. About an hour later I got a picture with his son dancing around a giant pile of paint cans on this same buddy’s as yet unlandscaped front yard. I couldn’t stop laughing that I managed to continue the joke from 2,500 miles away. Something tells me his wife won’t like that one either, but I’ll find out when I travel back next week.

What is something you’ve learned in the past year?

To appreciate everything I have and thank those who made it possible any chance I can.

What is your favorite family tradition?

We have lots of quirky things we do in the Furman household, but the best is when we are all just hanging out together. We started a tradition in Oregon of taking our dogs to the Minto Brown dog park (thanks David Barlow for the suggestion). At least 3 days a week we’re all there.

What is something still on your bucket list?

I can’t wait to visit Crater Lake.