Excellence in Action

Mike Handler, MD, Children's Hospital Colorado

Many years ago when Mike Handler​, MD, decided to switch from adult neurosurgery to pediatric, he met a fellow doctor who had a profound impact on him. It wasn’t necessarily this doctor’s clinical or practical advice that impressed Dr. Handler; it was his attire. “I saw that his coat had cartoon animals all over it,” said Dr. Handler. “I knew I wanted one just like it.” Fast forward several years and Dr. Handler is now Chief of Pediatric Neurosurgery​ at Children’s Hospital and the proud owner of five unique coats, many of which were gifts from patients’ families.

Michael Narkewicz​, MD, Associate Dean of Pediatric Clinical Affairs​, said that it is no surprise that Dr. Handler recently received a PRC Excellence in Healthcare 5-star award for patient satisfaction. “These gifts are a clear sign of what patients and their families think of him,” said Dr. Narkewicz. “He always puts patients first. I know that if I ever needed a pediatric neurosurgeon for one of my children or friends, he would be who I would call and I have no doubt that he would answer right away.”

The PRC Excellence in Healthcare 5-star award honors individuals who achieve patient satisfaction ratings at or above the 90th percentile. Dr. Handler says the most important factor is that the patient and family do not feel like a problem waiting to be solved. “You have to connect with the patient and their families as individuals, on a personal level. Here in pediatric neurosurgery it’s built into our nature. You have to have it in your genes to want to relate and build a connection.”

However, Dr. Handler describes how it’s not enough just to believe in the patient experience; that belief has to be demonstrated. “Sit down when you see the families. Don’t behave as though you’re in a rush, even if you are. Make sure you ask the families if they have any questions before you leave the room. These simple steps can make a big difference.”

As for the coats, Dr. Handler says they are not a ploy to foster a connection with patients. “It’s just part of my personality,” he says. “But they do make it clear that I’m not an austere or remote surgeon. It’s all about making the connection.”

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University of Colorado Hospital
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