Faces of Cedars-Sinai: Dr. Michael Albert
Jan 11, 2021 Cedars-Sinai Staff
Meet Dr. Michael Albert, a staff physician in General Internal Medicine and Obesity Medicine Physician in the Weight Loss Center at Cedars-Sinai! A transplant from Oklahoma who loves L.A., Dr. Albert practices what he preaches and believes we can do better in helping patients with obesity.
We talked with Dr. Albert to learn more and him and his pursuits.
"The foundation of healthcare is respecting the dignity and uniqueness of every patient."
You're passionate about innovation in healthcare. Tell us more!
Dr. Michael Albert: When I was finishing my residency in internal medicine two years ago, I realized that there's a lot that we could do better. We're good at managing disease but not as good at preventing it, and we really see that in how we care for patients with obesity. We're also living in a time when technological innovation could bring better healthcare to more people. The coronavirus crisis has accelerated some of that, like the widespread adoption of video visits. Disruption in healthcare is the name of the game.
But it's not just about technology. Some improvements are actually about remembering the value of being old school: building strong and lasting relationships with our patients, which can make all the difference in prevention and long-term wellbeing.
What excites me is thinking about new models of care, where we don't do things just because that's the way we've always done them. From how we approach each individual to how we implement tech on a broad scale, it's about combining the best of the old with the best of the new.
How does this apply to your own work?
MA: Disruption is very important in my specialty. I'm a staff physician in general internal medicine, but my focus is helping people with obesity. We know the risks associated with obesity, but we are still learning a lot about how best to help patients. When I started in this profession, I realized that I didn't want to just keep prescribing drugs to combat one symptom or another. I wanted to find a way not only to prevent the problem from arising in the first place, but to truly listen to the patient, understand what's going on and learn the very best way to assist them.
The treatment and the outcome aren't going to be the same for everybody. For some, bariatric surgery is the right call. Others do well with certain lifestyle changes or other interventions. The Cedars-Sinai Bariatric Surgery program offers a multidisciplinary program with a personalized, respectful approach to every individual patient.
Most importantly, it's not all about weight. It's about confidence, happiness and quality of life. It's about thinking differently about the disease. We have more and more options for people with obesity, and at Cedars-Sinai we treat everyone with compassion. We understand that complex problems require dedicated teams who bring multimodal solutions. I offer as much support as I can to help each patient live the life they want.
What are some of the obstacles for patients with obesity?
MA: Many people with obesity have had bad experiences with the medical system. They feel judged, or worse, dismissed, as if every problem they have just comes down to their weight. They don't feel heard. This is not a good state of affairs.
The foundation of healthcare is respecting the dignity and uniqueness of every patient. For people who are reluctant to come in for a visit because they feel stigmatized for their weight, video visits can be a wonderful option to help ease them into a relationship with a doctor. It gives them a chance to start building that relationship and lay the basis for those all-important in-person visits.
People with obesity are not suffering from a character defect, and their condition is not a moral failure. This may seem obvious, but the stigma is real. I'm encouraged at how quickly medicine is changing its approach, but we still have to overcome some of the discomfort that's been caused for these patients.
What do you do when you're not working?
MA: I love my job and am rarely not working, and now with the pandemic, it's all hands on deck. This is also a time to really explore innovation and how disruption can help bring about the best outcomes for all patients, including those with obesity. I'm very focused on this.
I am a movie buff and love going to film premieres—and I look forward to doing so again. I'm originally from Oklahoma, and I moved to L.A. for both the film culture and the endless opportunities to be active outdoors.
I get to work at an amazing hospital and enjoy a city filled with wonderful sites and people. What could be better than that?