People We Admire #3 Jan Richter

In this series, I want to introduce my personal heroes who deserve recognition and inspire you to do right by the world, even though it sometimes feels like our efforts might not make even the smallest difference. Believe me, they all do. Happy reading!

Jan Richter is a doctor, business owner, first-aid trainer and author of LinkedIn articles that are educative, hit the nail on the head and, most importantly, really fun to read. He is also a long-time friend, collaborator and supporter of our foundation and a wonderful human being. How do so many talents and activities fit into his week and still leave him some time for his family and an occasional beer or two? What were the biggest lessons he learned in his medical practice and in which obscure location did he and his wife meet? Find out this, and much more, in the interview. 

In your LinkedIn profile, the #LepšíLékař (#BetterDoctor) hashtag caught my attention. What does it mean for you to be a better doctor? Have you set any goals that will make you one?

Allow me to add a bit to this, as I think it's very important. My profile says: "On the way to be a #BetterDoctor." I don't wish to nit-pick, but I wanted to highlight that it is, indeed, a journey. I don’t think that there is a particular goal I can reach that will magically turn me into a better doctor.

I am convinced, however, that a better doctor should, first of all, treat their patients with great respect. Whenever I am in my office tending to a patient, I think to myself: " Honzo, how would you want to be treated if you swapped places with them?" After all, good communication makes up 70% of a doctor’s good impression. 

A better doctor never stops studying and educates themselves not only in the field of medicine, but also in soft skills. A better doctor is incorporating modern technology into their practice, which is why I am working on digitizing our ECGs, learning to work with the ultrasound and wish to deploy AI to discover hospital infections. I also use AI to evaluate some ECGs.

A better doctor can save a person's life in times of illness, and the very best doctor makes sure that the illness does not occur in the first place.

In 2015, you and your wife founded the Učíme první pomoc (We teach first aid) company. How is it doing and what do you consider the most important milestones in its existence?

When it comes to the financial side of things, we have grown every year so far, except for the covid years. Last year we had a record turnover. There have been two substantial milestones on our journey. The first one was hiring an operations
manager who makes the business run smoothly and doesn't require my wife or me to be as involved. The second milestone was definitely when we managed to pay off all the debt and got into green numbers. At one moment, we suddenly discovered that buying a new mobile phone, electronics or an expensive vacation every year does not really fulfil us; and we started donating a part of the profit to charity every year.

Last year, we donated a total of 100,000 CZK. The majority went to help Ukraine in the form of medical supplies, medicine, disinfectants and other necessities, and 20,000 CZK was donated to the children's hospice – Dům pro Julii (House for Julia). After all, you were the ones who connected us with the hospice, for which I want to thank you.

In the midst of the pandemic, you started working in the Nemocnice Milosrdných Bratří (Hospital of the Merciful Brothers) in Brno. Did the pandemic change you in any way? Have you learned anything new about yourself?

Before the pandemic, I worked as a head doctor in a small pharmaceutical company producing medicine from blood plasma. There were definitely moments that I would consider stressful and on the verge of crisis in that environment, but it was always about money. None of this compares to a typical day in the ER. This is where life is at stake every single moment, be it the pandemic or not.

How do you take care of your mental well-being after a hard day in the hospital?

Every day, I come back home to my wife and our little Agátka. An occasional pub visit with my friends is, of course, equally as important. I like to ski in the winter and cycle in the summer. 

Jan Richter and his family
Jan Richter and his family

You must have experienced situations in your practice that are forever written in your memory. Is there a positive experience that stands out which you could share with us?

There are many such situations, but as doctors, we have a very dark sense of humour, so I would rather not share them. However, I can perhaps mention one. This one time, I went to a room with three patients for a morning visit. According to the schedule, though, only two patients were supposed to be in. I examined them all and then went to ask the nurses if we happened to have a newcomer. They did not know of any new patients and did not see or hear of the third person. So, I went back to see this "stranger" elderly patient, who very confidently claimed that she was at home and not in the hospital. She tore off her name bracelet and introduced herself to me with three different names. In the end, we called all the LTC departments and found out that a patient was
missing from the C ward.

What were your student days like and what advice would you give to medical students today?

My student days were beautiful, after all, it was in the autopsy room that I met my wife. However, the studies were demanding and we learned thousands of pages of material that we will never use in practice and, on the contrary, we were never
taught the practical things. I would advise students to apply for extracurricular internships and see the realities of the job, but this piece of advice probably applies in general to all fields.

If you weren't a doctor, what career path would you choose?

I am a very ambitious person. Before I decided to go back to medicine, I used to manage 12 doctors and countless non-medical staff.

I would probably choose a fast-growing environment with great scalability, transparent corporate culture and soft spot for charity, ideally in Brno. I think I might go for a fintech company. :D

Is there a particular field of healthcare you consider often overlooked and deserving of more attention - one whose innovations would significantly contribute to improving the overall situation of the national healthcare?

In our country, it is certainly prevention. I would put the prevention of cardiovascular disease in the first place, as it is terribly neglected and thousands of people walk around with undiagnosed high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol. I don't even need to mention oncology prevention.

What is currently the biggest challenge for you, work-wise?

It is, without a doubt, my work-life balance. According to my work schedule alone, I spend 240-260 hours a month at the hospital, plus teaching first aid, managing the company or writing articles on LinkedIn, which takes up another 40 hours. As you can see, I am not too successful yet.

What do you consider to be your greatest professional success and what was, on the contrary, the greatest lesson learned for you?

I will perhaps answer a little more in general. Thanks to my entrepreneurship, I have adopted a different mindset than most of my colleagues. For me, every problem has a solution, and every problem is an opportunity.

If I don't have a radiologist available in the ER at night, I learn to work with ultrasound. If there is no neurologist available, I sign up for a neurology internship. All this then makes me, bit by bit, a better doctor. One that I myself would like to have.

I learn a different lesson every day. I consider it important to admit my mistakes, which is not really usual in our industry.

To sum up, I see my greatest success in the fact that I am always "hungry" for improvement, growing and using my professional lessons learned to do better next time.

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