Difficult Conversations Podcast
Lessons I Learned as an ICU Physician
Episode 177 | September 20, 2022
A Life Dedicated to Babies
Dr. Gregor Alexander
Neonatologist at Orlando Health
Welcome to Difficult Conversations with Dr. Anthony Orsini. This interview was recorded over a year ago and for reasons best not discussed were not been able to make it live. Well the big day is finally here. Today, you are in for a real treat because my special guest is a true legend and a local hero in the field of Neonatology here in Central Florida and in the country. He is a hero not only because of his accomplishments, but because of the positive impact that he has left on so many lives and families. My guest today is Dr. Gregor Alexander, who is a friend, a former partner, and someone whom I’ve learned a great deal from. He has treated more than 45,000 critically ill newborns and has touched the lives of countless other families and children through his work with Orlando Health and the Arnold Palmer Foundation. He has been locally and nationally recognized by organizations such as March of Dimes, Children’s Miracle Network, and the American Institute for Public Service, to name a few. His relationship with Arnold Palmer and the work they’ve done together is a story he will share today. His story is so inspirational and interesting that Gregor is currently working on a book about his life as a Baby Doctor and what it means to truly live a purposeful life.
Gregor shares with us an incredible story about his family, living in Columbia, becoming a doctor, and how he ended up in the United States. He tells us about coming to Central Florida, working in a tiny NICU, and becoming the director. He talks about the miracle that came to him in 1981, which was Arnold Palmer, who helped with making a dream come true in 1989 to open the Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children. We also learn about the dream and planning of building the Winnie Palmer Hospital. Gregor goes into detail about the relationship he formed with Arnold Palmer over the years and why he called him the “King of Hearts.” Dr. Orsini talks about meeting Arnold Palmer, how he changed the game of golf, and how humble he was. Gregor tells us about the survival rates of babies back in 1975 and how scary it was. We hear Gregor’s philosophy on having that human connection with the families of premature babies, how he takes great pleasure and honor taking care of babies, and how he uses humor to start his relationships with the families. Also, find out why he says we are becoming “emotional billionaires.” Dr. Orsini brings up the importance of finding commonality. Gregor shares with us what he’s currently doing in his life, which includes mission trips, caring for babies, and writing a book about his life that he hopes will be an inspiration to people not only in the medical field, but for people that come to this country and have a dream and want to succeed like he did. Check out Dr. Alexander's upcoming book "The Baby Doctor"
Share This Episode
Dr. Anthony Orsini (0s):
Hello everyone before we get started. I just want to tell you that this is a very exciting day for me. I’ve been waiting for today for over a year back in April of 2021, I had the distinct honor and pleasure of interviewing someone who was really an icon. Someone that I look up to, someone that I call a friend and someone who has an amazing story about an amazing life led. His name is Dr. Gregor Alexander. The interview took place in April, 2021, but because of outside reasons that have nothing to do with The Orsini Way, Dr. Alexander or myself, we were unable to air it while I’m happy to announce that today is the big day, because we finally are able to let this interview go live.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (43s):
And I’m very excited. I have hundreds of people who have been asking me, when is Dr. Alexander’s interview going to drop? Well, today’s the day. So I’m excited. One last thing before we go to the interview is that since then, Dr. Alexander has been working on his book and that should be published any day now. And it might even be published by the time this airs. So I know after you hear this interview, you’re gonna wanna learn more. So go ahead and check out Amazon and look for his book. I’ll also be putting it on the Orsini Way website. So I’ve been waiting for this for over a year. Please enjoy the episode and let us know on the Orsini Way.com send us an email, let us know what you think.
Dr. Gregor Alexander (1m 21s):
We could always say, reach a commonality. And that also makes them very comfortable realizing that we have some common background, even if we don’t have a common background of where we are from geographically, but wherever we are, either spiritually or personally, et cetera, and make them realize that there is a human being behind the doctor. There is a human being like anybody else with a lot of virtues or few virtues and a lot of shortcomings, but I make them realize that I’m a human being, but a human being that has great experience, some knowledge, but tremendous heart and passion.
Dr. Gregor Alexander (2m 1s):
And I will give to that baby and that family 100% plus of myself, every single breath, every single drop of blood I will provide in the care of that baby.
Announcer (2m 15s):
Welcome to Difficult Conversations: Lessons I Learned as an ICU Physician with Dr. Anthony Orsini. Dr. Orsini is a practicing physician and president and CEO of The Orsini Way. As a frequent keynote speaker and author. Dr. Orsini has been training healthcare professionals and business leaders how to navigate through the most difficult dialogues. Each week, you will hear inspiring interviews with experts in their field who tell their story and provide practical advice on how to effectively communicate. Whether you are a doctor faced with giving a patient bad news, a business leader who wants to get the most out of his or her team members or someone who just wants to learn to communicate better this is the podcast for you.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (2m 58s):
Well, I am honored today that The Orsini Way has partnered with The Finley Project to bring you this episode of Difficult Conversations Lessons I learned as an ICU Physician. The Finley Project is a nonprofit organization committed to providing care for mothers who have experienced the unimaginable, the loss of an infant. It was created by their founder, Noelle Moore, whose sweet daughter Finley died in 2013. It was at that time that Noelle realized that there was a large gap between leaving the hospital without your baby and the time when you get home. That led her to start The Finley Project. The Finley Project is the nation’s only seven part holistic program that helps mothers after infant loss, by supporting them physically and emotionally, they provide such things as mental health counseling, funeral arrangement, support, grocery gift cards, professional house cleaning, professional massage therapy, and support group placement.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (3m 52s):
The Finley Project has helped hundreds of women across the country and I can tell you that I have seen personally how The Finley Project has literally saved the lives of mothers who lost their infant. If you are interested in learning more or referring a family or donating to this amazing cause please go to The Finley project.org. The Finley Project believes that no family should walk out of a hospital without support. Well, welcome to another episode of Difficult Conversations Lessons I learned as an ICU Physician. This is Dr. Anthony Orsini, and I’ll be your host again this week. Now, before we begin this very special podcast, I need to remind the audience that as with all my episodes, the opinions and statements represented by me and by my guests are based solely on our views and beliefs and do not necessarily represent those of our current or past employers and institutions.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (4m 46s):
Okay? Now that we have that out of the way today is special for me. And I know you are in for a real treat because today I have with me in studio, a true legend in the field of Neonatology. There are few people in this field who do not know this man’s name. He is a local hero in central Florida and in the country, not only because of his accomplishments, but because of the positive impact that he has left on so many lives and families. My guest today is Dr. Gregor Alexander. Dr. Alexander, or Gregor, as so many people know him is a friend, a former partner, and someone whom I have learned a great deal from.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (5m 29s):
Gregor started practicing Neonatology in central Florida in 1975 in the 15,500 days. And I meet exactly. He treated more than 45,000 critically ill newborns and has touched the lives of countless other families and children through his work with Orlando Health and the Arnold Palmer Foundation. He has been locally and nationally recognized by so many organizations. I would run at a time just listing them. They include however, March of Dimes children’s Miracle network and the American Institute of public service to name a few. His relationship with the legendary Arnold Palmer and the work they have done together is a story that I will let Gregor tell.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (6m 10s):
Without that friendship and cooperation, I believe the landscape of central Florida, pediatric medicine would be very different. Now I’m not giving this intro in front of Gregor because I know him well enough that his humble personality would not be comfortable with the praise, but I assure you, it is all well deserved. His story is inspirational and so interesting that Gregor is working on a book and I can’t wait to read it. It’s about a life, well lived a truly purposeful life. And in his mid seventies, he is still going strong. Please welcome my friend, Dr. Gregor Alexander.
Dr. Gregor Alexander (6m 49s):
Well, thank you so much, Tony. I’m very honored to be here with you and, and to get to see you again. So I miss you, I missed everybody at work, but thank you very much for the opportunity for me to be here.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (7m 3s):
There’s so much to talk about you and I can probably do three or four episodes of this. So we’re just gonna like dive right in. And I want everyone to hear your story. You know, this podcast is about two things, inspiration and teaching communication. Just your story alone could be really be two or three episodes, but I got a chance to work with you for, you know, over six years, I think it was. And the last time we saw each other, we’ve been speaking was across two different park benches having breakfast outside socially distanced in the middle of the pandemic. And we had a really nice chat. My book had just come out and you’re part of that book. So I gave you a signed copy. I was so honored that you took it and didn’t say, what do I need this for?
Dr. Anthony Orsini (7m 46s):
So during that day, you told me a story that I had never heard before, because you were asking me about your book, which you’re writing now, and we’re gonna get to that. But you told me a story about your family. And I believe they came from Russia. So tell everybody, cuz this is a fantastic story. And then how your family ended up from Russia to Columbia and then you ended up in the United States and then we’ll dive into all the awesome things you did after that. But it’s a great story. So please tell everyone,
Dr. Gregor Alexander (8m 13s):
Well, thank you so much, Tony again. Well, I think my story is the typical American dream. My grandparents from the maternal point of view were Russian and my grandfather was a journalist during the last part of the 18 hundreds. He wrote against the desire of Russia. So he was sent to Siberia with his wife. Wow. And during the Bolshevik revolution there early 1900’s, he was able to escape to Germany where my mother was born. He eventually passed away from tuberculosis that he contracted in Siberia. My grandmother remarried and that’s where my mother was born.
Dr. Gregor Alexander (8m 53s):
And she had another brother and my father’s family had been in Germany back to the 17th century. And they were Shoemakers, by the time that they left Germany, they had already built one store. That was a whole block. It was the Alexander shoe store. And obviously Hitler came, there were Germany, Russian use and they had to escape. Unfortunately, the Russian Jew component of my family couldn’t escape. So they were sent to Auschwitz, to the concentration camps immediately. After that, they died in gas chambers. And I had an uncle that died of his starvation.
Dr. Gregor Alexander (9m 33s):
One month before liberation, he was 18 years old, how sad it was terrible. My parents and my Pater, grandparents escaped. They went, they took a boat from Hamburg via Cuba. They passed the Panama canal and they went to Columbia. Columbia was the country that had accepted them. They tried United States, but they had filled out the quota of immigrants very quickly. So I was born in, in Cali Columbia. My mother was in the late thirties when she had me, she had appendicitis at the time that she was pregnant with me, hooked to believe that she had appendectomy when she was seven months pregnant. Wow. And the local anesthesia, I locally anesthesia and she delivered me at nine months gestation.
Dr. Gregor Alexander (10m 18s):
I didn’t look too normal initially. I’m not too sure what, I’m not sure about that now either. I’m kidding. Oh, the fact that my mother was 39 years old initially they were concerned that I may have had down syndrome, but really wow. Eventually I grew up a few weeks. Few months later, I behave. And I was like very normally, unfortunately at when I was five years old, that’s when I considered, I had a major earthquake in my life. My father abandoned us, he left with another women and left my mother and my sister by ourselves. And after that life in Columbia was very difficult. We were very poor. We live in the back of factories, one room, the three of us.
Dr. Gregor Alexander (11m 1s):
But when I was seven years old, I had an inspiration. I was fishing in the river with a, a good friend of mine and all of this I, and I said, I want to be a doctor. And I want to be a pediatrician at seven years of age. Wow. And why a pediatrician? Because as I grew up, I used to play with the younger children and their family trust me to play with them. And that belief kept growing in me. Obviously our means were very precarious and, but my mother always encouraged me. She said, God will provide. And when I finished high school, I got a grant from the Jewish community. And I went to medical school.
Dr. Gregor Alexander (11m 41s):
I was 16 years old. At that point, I had 16 in medical school, medical school. I had to Skip one year kindergarten. And I started medical school. And I graduated when I was 22. And at that point in Columbia, when you finish medical school, you have to serve a year in the countryside. So I went to the mountains of Columbia to a little town called Pesca very high in the mountains. And I worked for a year in the countryside. I had two bed hospital with a microscope. There was no x-ray, there were no labratory, two beds, two beds. And I have an LPN and I had to make all of my diagnosis like the old doctor, the only doctor in town.
Dr. Gregor Alexander (12m 20s):
And I was at that point 23 years old. And I took care of close to a thousand Babies, children and women. And whenever the patient couldn’t make it to the town or the mother was in advance labor, they used to bring me a horse. And I used to ride in the mountains of Columbia. I look like cleaning with the good, bad, and the ugly. I had a had AANA. That is a Pocho. And I had my medical bag and I travel during the night in the middle of beautiful sky, full of stars and deliver Babies under candlelight. I built a pharmacy with a dentist and that year it was amazingly busy because I had an epidemic of measles in children with pneumonia.
Dr. Gregor Alexander (13m 8s):
But fortunately, and that town antibiotics were not being used before. So I had two antibiotics, penicillin in kanamycin. And if that was a bacterial infection, the Babies and the children, the adults would respond. I always wanted to come to the United States because I felt like in this country, I was able to fulfill my dream. And by that point, I already gone through medical school. I realized that I was tremendous affinity toward Babies. So I took a test of medicine and English, and I was accepted to a hospital in Detroit St. John hospital, that hospital offered a free English course to the new interns.
Dr. Gregor Alexander (13m 49s):
They saw my name, Gregor Alexander. They felt like I knew English. The first school was, I got to the airport and I called for directions. And they told me to be dropped at the Don donut place by a corner of a couple of his streets. And I asked him what the donut was because we didn’t, we didn’t have, we didn’t have donuts in Columbia. So, so that was their first. That was their first clue. And after that I arrived and, and they knew they had made a mistake. So I learned English working three days later, I was working in Detroit later on. I went to Miami and I did my fellowship in Neonatology. And I finished in December of 76. And I came to Orlando in 1977, January at 17, at 7:30 in the morning to a six to eight bed hospital in the adult unit.
Dr. Gregor Alexander (14m 37s):
And we totally fulfill with a tremendous commitment to be able to deliver something big in this city and things happen.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (14m 48s):
So as you you’re talking, things are starting to make more sense to me now. So cuz you know, as much as everyone loves you, I know that you’re tough. You don’t take no for an answer when things are right. You do the right thing. And I’m thinking you get your toughness from your mom, right? Because women are tough to begin with, but wow. Appendectomy without being under general. That’s tough. So that makes sense to me now. And then you’re time at Columbia where you had to do everything. Kind of make sense now that I know you as a kind of no nonsense, let’s just get the job done. So, so things are starting to make sense to me now after six years of knowing you. So now you come up to central Florida and you’re in a little tiny NICU, right?
Dr. Gregor Alexander (15m 28s):
Very tiny NICU. That was six
Dr. Anthony Orsini (15m 29s):
Years. You the first Neo, I think
Dr. Gregor Alexander (15m 31s):
I was the second. There was a, an Neonatologist for a short period of time. And unfortunately he was brilliant, but he couldn’t get along with anybody. So he was asked to leave and I became the director at that point, the group of pediatricians and specialist realized that Orlando was getting bigger and bigger. Disney was already 10 years in operation and the, the city was growing and we decided we need to build the children’s hospital. And we start looking into a facility study that confirmed that the hospital could become a reality and will be successful.
Dr. Gregor Alexander (16m 11s):
And the Orlando regional though, that is now the Orlando health organization support our dream. And later on, the Miracle came 1981. I was in the middle of working in the unit 24 beds, two closets full of Babies. And they told me there’s a gentleman. His name is Arnold Palmer. He’s coming to visit the unit. And Did you know who he was? No, I didn’t know who he was. I grew up playing soccer all my life, you know, and I didn’t know anything about golf, but I understood that he was somebody that, that would make a difference. It would be very important. So we welcomed with his wife through the unit and he was amazed by the tremendous tenacity that the Babies had to survive and all the Miracle that we were making possible.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (16m 59s):
What year is this?
Dr. Gregor Alexander (17m 1s):
As you talking early eighties, ’80 or ’81, and we presented to him the dream of having a children’s hospital and he said, we can make it possible. And through conversations with the board of the hospital, the administration, the foundation, the hospital became a reality in 1989, September 10 on his sixtieth birthday, we expanded the unit to 79 beds. So I still remember we moved that unit and the early part of the morning and by 11 o’clock called the Babies had moved
Dr. Anthony Orsini (17m 35s):
Dr. Gregor Alexander (17m 36s):
To, to Arnold Palmer, Arnold, not even, not even Winnie Palmer. And then years later, not too long after we are planning for 5,000 deliveries, only 79 Babies. And we realized that we had not built the place to big. We built a field of dreams. Babies came, but it was not big enough. So that’s when we started dreaming and planning about building the Winnie Palmer hospital. That became a reality in 2006 May 30th. And we moved to 112 beds. And shortly after that, as you are aware, we ran out of his space and we have to build a floor that was not supposed to be built until much later on.
Dr. Gregor Alexander (18m 16s):
And we expanded the unit to 142 beds. So has been a dream come through more many times for me to be able to be something that is bigger than life, you know, over 40 to 45,000 Babies had touch our lives during the last four and a half decades.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (18m 34s):
And for those of You Don know, Winnie Palmer is Arnold Palmer’s first wife, first wife who’s passed away. Yes, thanks to you. And the other people of course, but Arnold Palmer children’s hospital is now one of the premier children’s hospital in the country. And Winnie Palmer is actually the largest neonatal intensive care unit under one roof. And I am privileged to have worked there. So that’s just an incredible story. Tell me about, because people are listening right now. And if I go on the internet and I search you, you come up everywhere. But if you do images, a lot of those images are with you and Arnold Palmer, right? I mean, you guys became friends and we had just talked about this for the audience.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (19m 16s):
When Gregor came over today, we were talking about the last bay hill invitational that Gregor used to got me into the 18th hole behind the ropes. And I got pictures with Arnold Palmer right before he passed away. And that was one of the highlights of my life. But tell me about Arnold Palmer as a person, you had such a great relationship.
Dr. Gregor Alexander (19m 35s):
Well, he transcended bigger than life. You know, Arnold Palmer was maybe was not the golfer that had won more major tournaments, but he had such a tremendous heart. I always said that Arnold Palmer for the rest of the world, he was the king of golf but for us he was the King of Hearts. He wanted to be sure that we made a difference in the life of Babies, children and high risk women. And him and his wife were very committed. They were very available. They opened doors. They used to bring fortune 500 people to our facility. And many of them came initially forced by their spouses to visit us.
Dr. Gregor Alexander (20m 18s):
And they left the place with tremendous gratitude to the fact that we were doing an amazing type of job, saving the life of Babies, children. And I considered Arnold Palmer. One of my greatest friends, part of my family and Winnie used to his wife, used to call me in the middle of the day, asking me if we needed something, not only the, whatever we needed from the physical point of view and equipment, but how are the physicians doing? How are the nurses and RT’s? She cared tremendously. And the same thing with Arnold Palmer, when he used to visit, he used to stop and talk to the, all the ancillary personnel used to take pictures.
Dr. Gregor Alexander (21m 1s):
And that’s the way that he conducted all his life once he passed. And when he had passed, I have a very good relationship with Amy Sanders, his daughter, and she’s going to continue with the torch and continue this legacy. I don’t think his memory and his name will be ever forgotten. He also brought a lot of famous players. I remember that one time that Tiger won the, The Arnold, Palmer invitational and he was the 18th hole. And at that point, Tiger was quite busy, distracted. And Arnold said, Tiger. Come over here. Let’s get a picture with the doctor, with The Baby Doctor.
Dr. Gregor Alexander (21m 43s):
And he took a picture with me and he said, you don’t know when you are going to need him. And few years later, Tiger and Elan start planning to have children. Elan became pregnant. And I was at the delivery of both of his children. We planned to do the delivery at Winnie Palmer. We did it in separate rooms with all this scrutiny, with security and privacy. And later on, I also be part of the birth. Some of the golfers that had supported the Arnold Palmer invitation of that had won major tournament. So I think that the golf community will continue carrying that torch to improve the healthcare for Babies, children, and women, not only in central Florida, but our region as Arnold and Winnie Palmer is global.
Dr. Gregor Alexander (22m 31s):
You know, we get Babies and children from all over the country and all over the world. So I think the impact is going to be tremendous.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (22m 39s):
Yeah. I mean, if you’d speak the most professional golfers, they will tell you that Arnold Palmer really changed the game. He brought the game to the next level. He was the first one to really show that you can make money in the game. But what I really love was how humble he was when I met him. And you can see at the bay hill invitation now he’s been past several years now. I believe there’s still the big name golfers who go there. Bryson and DeChambeau won this year. And I saw an interview with him beforehand. And Arnold Palmer was his idol. If I remember the interview and to win the Arnold Palmer invitational, the bay hill invitational to him was just the testimony to Arnold Palmer.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (23m 21s):
And so he’s changed the game. He just showed the young golfers how to act. And I think because of his philanthropy and I think the new people now are following in his footsteps. There’s a famous story about Arnold Palmer telling all the professional golfers, when you write your name, make sure it’s legible. Sure. You heard that. I heard that. And Bryson DeChambeau brought that up and he said, he asked Arnold Palmer for some advice. And that was the first thing he, he said, make sure your name’s legible. So that’s incredible. And you and Arnold, and so many other people have really changed the landscape of Neonatology, but also just pediatrics in central Florida. Let’s move on back to Neonatology. It’s something That you and I love.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (24m 1s):
And we’re moving on to the talking about the care of our children. One of the things, your mantra that I learned from you when I first met was, you know, nurses still joke about how Dr. Alexander always said Babies first Babies first. And it’s kind of set the tone everywhere in Neonatology and Neonatology is a young profession compared to other sub-specialties. And when you started, what was the limits of viability back then when you started in 75? I mean, how young were Babies surviving?
Dr. Gregor Alexander (24m 28s):
It was scary. You know, a, a four pounder had maybe a 70 to 80% chances survival, and you were talking about a baby under four pounds. Sometimes you are talking about 10 to 20% chances of survival. And that was even a, I would say, five to six years after the mothered era of Neonatology started that it started in 1971 with the invention of the neonatal respirator by Dr. Gregory. Because 10 years before Babies who were born at four pounds, like the famous John and Jacqueline Kennedy baby Patrick, who was born in the fall of 1963, few months before president Kennedy assassinated, he was four pounder and he was transferred to Boston and he was placed on the negative pressure respirator and he didn’t survive.
Dr. Gregor Alexander (25m 17s):
So the survival was very low, but I think one thing that happened is that the knowledge of Neonatology expanded the equipment that we had became more sophisticated, less invasive. We start also getting involved, not only in the healing of the body and the medical needs of our Babies, but the healing of the soul and the spirit. I remember the, when we started our neonatal unit, we allowed the parents to come maybe a couple of hours twice a day. And we didn’t realize the impact that visit had and the wellbeing and the survival of Babies. As we learned more about the development of these premature Babies, the need for TLC than the fact that what heals these Babies body is not the high tech medical care knowledge, but is the healing of the soul.
Dr. Gregor Alexander (26m 11s):
In the spirit. We start bringing the families in inside of the neonatal unit. And that has been a tremendous positive revolution that we have brought in the neonatal unit.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (26m 21s):
And to put things in perspective. So you started four pound Babies, 20%, 30% didn’t survive. And now routinely across the country and across the world, neonatologists and neonatal intensive care units are routinely saving Babies who are less than a pound. So it just goes to show you how far we’ve come. So you talked about the parents and the family. So that leads perfectly into the podcast part of this, that we talk about communication. And one thing that I noticed about you when I first started working with you is how good you are with your families. And as you know, that’s what I do. I go around the country talking about communication. I just gave a Ted talk just last week about personalizing medicine and how we can improve it.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (27m 4s):
And in my book, and during my workshops, when I mention your name, I often joke that, you know, I work with this guy called Gregor Alexander and after five minutes, he could figure out how he’s related to you. And there’s people now that you you’ve delivered children and grandchildren, that you’ve helped, but you had a way of not being Dr. Alexander, which is what I teach you were Gregor. And you got the utmost respect from your patients by still being a regular guy. And I’ve learned a lot from you, but tell us about your philosophy on, we have this mother, she just had a premature baby, and this has been going on for 15,500 days, but there’s always that first conversation.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (27m 50s):
There’s a lot, they’re nervous. They’re scared whether you’re a doctor or not. How do you make that relationship?
Dr. Gregor Alexander (27m 56s):
You have to have a human connection with their families. You have to show them not only that, you know, a lot of what’s going on with their baby and what are the medical needs, and what’s going to be the potential future, but you have to make them realize that baby that is under our care is going to be care, like will be part of our family. The fact that we are physicians doesn’t make us any higher or any lower in any point of view, it just make us very grateful. I always tell my parents as I introduce myself, that it’s a great pleasure and honor to take care of their Babies. I thank them for allowing me to do that because I realize that they’re trusting me with the most precious possession that they have their baby, their children.
Dr. Gregor Alexander (28m 47s):
And I established that connection in that way. I talked to them with tremendous knowledge, but with tremendous heart. And I make them truly believe that I’m going to give them more than a hundred percent in the care of their Babies. And they could feel very comfortable if they have any questions. So any concerns that they could reach me 24 7, and that is going to be a partnership between them and us all. And I, I’m not talking about me, myself, but all this stuff that is going to be involved in the care of the baby. And that’s what is going to be the formula for the potential survival of the baby. But I will be very honest. I will also tell them what are the potential chances of survival, but I will make them have hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst at the same time.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (29m 36s):
And also they need to be able, it’s all about relationships, right? And so, as I discuss in my book, it’s really hard to have a relationship with a doctor who’s really up there and I’m down here. You’re able to be the expert in the room, but also be the friend in the business as I call it. And you come in with a big smile. And I think it’s really important to establish that. And parents believe that they’re really, they have no purpose. You know, they’re kind of pushed aside. Sure. And the doctors and nurses take over the preemie. So, you know, breaking that ice, trying to form that relationship with them. And as you said, say, you know, we’re in this together, I think is one of the things that I say is that all I can promise you is I’ll treat him or her as if she’s my own.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (30m 19s):
And whatever advice I give you or whatever I do, I would do to my own son or daughter. And I think that’s really important, but when the baby’s not critically ill and you admit a baby who just need some observation or is kind of sick, you use humor very well to start that relationship. Somebody could be coming from any country in the world. And I know it’s a joke, but you do that very frequently. I, so
Dr. Gregor Alexander (30m 47s):
I do, I ask them, I ask them where they are from, you know, and, and I ask them where they are from and where they had been. We could always say, reach a commonality. And, and that also makes them very comfortable. They’re realizing that we have some common background, even if we don’t have a common background or where we are from geographically, but where we are either spiritually or personally, et cetera, and make them realize that there is a human being behind the doctor. There is a human being like anybody else with a lot of virtues or few virtues in a lot of shortcomings, but I make them realize that I’m a human being, but a human being that has great experience has some knowledge, but tremendous heart and passion.
Dr. Gregor Alexander (31m 34s):
And I will give to that baby and that family 100% plus of myself, every single breath, every single drop of blood, I will provide in the care of that baby. And if we don’t succeed, we still did our best. One of the experiences that I have is after being more than 40 years in, in this city, when I get stopped by family is outside in, in the street, in the, in the city. I need to be very careful when somebody comes with a smile and tells me Dr. Alexander, so good to see you. You take care of my little Johnny or my little Mary, because one time, and I asked him, how’s Johnny or Mary doing.
Dr. Gregor Alexander (32m 16s):
And they said she passed away. Or he passed away. It’s just make me believe that even though that child, we, we lost that child in the process. They still realize that we give every single thing possible to save that life with the best quality of life. So that’s very important to me. I always believe that through our profession, I always said, we are becoming emotional billionaires. We are emotional billionaires. We’re leaving this world a better place. We are lucky that we are physicians. We are lucky, super lucky that we are neonatologist because which of a specialty will guarantee more than 90% survival, more than 80 to 90% good quality of life for the rest of the life.
Dr. Gregor Alexander (33m 1s):
And we are fortunate. I always said, if I will be financially billionaire, I will pay to work in the neonatal unit because it’s so rewarding.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (33m 10s):
Yeah. And you said a couple drop the mic things right there too. The one thing that you said was really find that commonality, and I truly believe that’s the key to any relationship. And, you know, Tony Robbins used to say, people relate to people that are like them. And then people go, oh my goodness, what is he talking about? But he follows up with that. And he says, when you could find commonality and I believe, and he believes in, you’ve done this, how many Babies, 45,000 Babies, you could find commonality in. Anyone doesn’t matter where they’re from, what color their skin is or what country they’re from, what they speak. But you just have to look, you know, you could walk into a room and find a book or as neonatologist, the mother’s not always at the bedside.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (33m 52s):
So we call them on the phone every day to give them an update. Sometimes I’ll call a new mother and she has a 973 area code bang, right? Yeah. That’s New Jersey.
Dr. Gregor Alexander (34m 2s):
Dr. Anthony Orsini (34m 3s):
So if the baby’s not critically ill, the first thing that I say to her, you’re from New Jersey, you know, I’m from New Jersey, you know, the old joke is what exit, right. But you hear it in their voice, right. Gregor like, oh my goodness, he’s one of us. So it’s so important to find commonality. So that was really, that hit me really hard when you said that. But the other thing is too, it really is an honor and a privilege. And I think most doctors, no matter what fields feel that way, and most doctors and nurses give every ounce of blood. But I think that sometimes we think that the patient assumes that. But when you say it, like you do that, it’s an honor to take care of. They, they might not know That, you know, there’s an image of them as a doctor and with a white coat and who’s not feeling, but just by saying it, I think that’s the take home advice that I think this episode has gone to leave with the people is that find commonality, but say what you really believe.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (34m 59s):
And I think we just forget to do that.
Dr. Gregor Alexander (35m 1s):
So I believe so. I think the new generations of people or physicians, nurses, or health professionals need to realize that if they go to that in that field, they have to be passionate. And it’s not how much, you know, it’s how much you care and they have to be able to deliver both of them equally. Good.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (35m 18s):
Yes. Excellent. So that’s great advice. Let’s move on to what you’re doing now. You just got back from Dominican Republic. You told me a little bit about Haiti. Share that with us. And then I wanna talk about your book.
Dr. Gregor Alexander (35m 30s):
Yep. This is stage of my life. I’m doing mission trips. I just went with the mission of hope. That is a Christian organization that is helping the people of Haiti, Dominican Republican used to help Guatamala, but the political situation is difficult over there. And I basically provided healthcare for Babies and children. My hope is that I will be able to go inside of the hospitals because right now this mission is involved in the outpatient care of Babies and children. But I want to improve the quality of care for the Neo and the neonatal intensive care unit, bring equipment, upgrade their facility and maybe transfer Babies that may need to come to the states, to our hospitals here, to our facilities.
Dr. Gregor Alexander (36m 18s):
I’m going to a foundation meeting of this organization tomorrow for a few days. And hopefully later on, I’m going to go to St. Lucia to work at the Neonatal unit there. Also, I’m looking into doing some locals positions all over the country because I’m not done. I’m very passionate about caring for babies. They’re the fountain of life for me. I know people are tired of me saying that, but they are, you know, I miss them. And then I’m writing a book. You know, I’m writing a book about my life. That hopefully will be an inspiration, not only for people who are in medical field, but for people that come to this country and have a dream in one want to succeed.
Dr. Gregor Alexander (36m 59s):
Because I fulfilled my dreams from the moment that I was dropping the donut place, a full of, of passion and, and dreams about becoming a, a physician, becoming a neonatologist to this stage and, and to have a working in a place that took care of 45,000 Babies just reminds. And the staff that I work with them, you, my colleagues, all the nurses, respiratory therapy and the rest that will stay as their Babies and families, the rest of my life. So that’s going to be my plan and yes, I’m starting to write a autobiography with that purpose, hopefully will be done by next year.
Dr. Gregor Alexander (37m 40s):
And we’ll see what happens.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (37m 42s):
Well, I can’t wait to read it because I know so much, but I’m sure there’s more in there. You’re working with the same person that worked with me on my book. And I think it’s gonna be a fantastic book, but Gregor jokes that I’m his older brother. That’s probably because he’s in better shape than I, I know 20 years younger, but you know, Gregor is going around, running all over the place. And my hip is bothering me. I’m sitting here right now, my back hurt, but Gregor has still got a lot of good things to do with his life. And I, you’re not done treating Babies and that’s amazing, but it’s certainly been a purposeful life and a life that I think people could aspire too. So this has been better than I could imagined, I think is gonna be amazing inspiration to a lot of people.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (38m 24s):
One of the things I could say about Gregor that I didn’t mention before is that Gregor has taken care of grandmothers, mothers, and grandchildren at this point. And he is truly a legend around here. And there’s so many people who, whose families that you’ve touched. So thank you for sharing your story with us. Thank you for driving out here to be in studio so I can see your face. Just thank you so much for being here.
Dr. Gregor Alexander (38m 48s):
Oh, it’s a pleasure and honor Tony and I admire you. I think you taught me so much when you’re talking about Difficult Conversations. I thought that I knew how to talk to the families, but you’re the master and you’re the master, not only based on experience because it’s because of your heart, you have a huge heart and the families of Babies that are right now in the neonatal unit that will be at the neonatal unit are very lucky to have you.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (39m 14s):
Thank you. Okay. Everyone, you hear that Gregor said he learned something from me, so that’s amazing. You just made my whole day. So thank you so much, Gregor. If you like this podcast, please go ahead and hit, subscribe or follow and go ahead and download all previous episodes. The show notes will be available. If you wanna get in touch with Gregor, what’s the best way for someone to get in touch with That? You know,
Dr. Gregor Alexander (39m 35s):
I will just email G.Alexander@outlook.com.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (39m 42s):
And I will put that in the show notes, please go ahead and hit download. And again, this has been amazing. And the next week we’re gonna have another amazing guest. So thanks again, Gregor. I appreciate it.
Dr. Gregor Alexander (39m 52s):
My pleasure. Thank you for having me
Dr. Anthony Orsini (39m 55s):
Well before we leave, I want to thank you for listening to this episode of Difficult Conversations: Lessons I learned as an ICU Physician, and I want to thank The Finley Project for being such an amazing organization. Please, everyone who’s listening to this episode, go ahead, visit The Finley Project.org. See the amazing things they’re doing. I’ve seen this organization literally save the lives of mothers who lost infants. So to find out more, go to The Finley Project.org. Thank you. And I will see you again on Tuesday.
Announcer (40m 25s):
If you enjoyed this podcast, please hit the subscribe button and leave a comment and review. To contact Dr. Orsini and his team, or to suggest guests for future podcast visit us at The Orsini Way.Com. The comments and opinions of the interviewer and guests on this are their own and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs and opinions of their present and past employers and institutions.
Dr. Anthony Orsini
Dr. Gregor Alexander
For More Information: