NARATH CARLILE, MED '09, MPH
An Alumnus Answers the Call to Heal Patients and Systems
Grew up: South Africa and Canada.
Education: York University '94 (BS in Computer Science); Geisel School of Medicine '09 (MD); Harvard School of Public Health '13 (MPH).
Residencies: Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston-Internal Medicine; Global Health and Social Equity.
Formative experiences during medical school: Led two quality improvement initiatives at Muhumbili National Hospital in Tanzania; assisted with the creation of the Open School, a learning community within the Institute for Healthcare Improvement; and collaborated on research to model complex physiological systems in infants—a modeling tool he now uses to transform healthcare organizations.
Where Some people see problems in healthcare, Narath Carlile, MED '09, MPH, sees systems—systems that either promote or inhibit the best care possible.
"The core part of our calling as physicians is to heal," says Carlile, an internist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and an instructor in medical informatics and innovation at Harvard Medical School. "To do that effectively, you have to address the patient holistically. We cannot just attend to their medical problems but must also address genetic, behavioral, and social factors if we are going to truly heal. For me, this grounding in systems thinking started here at Dartmouth and connected me to a community of incredible people who are boldly trying to heal the world."
Listen, Learn, and Work Together
It didn't take long for Carlile to make his own impact. As a medical student, he traveled to Tanzania—one of Geisel's global health partner locations—to observe clinical rounds within the national hospital. Then, with the guidance of his mentor, Lisa Adams, MED '90, director of Geisel's Center for Health Equity, he shared his observations with Tanzanian physicians, who advised Carlile on which quality improvement projects to tackle.
"Dartmouth's approach to global health is not to just go somewhere and fix things," explains Carlile. "The guidance is to go, think, learn, discuss, and then work together with locals to decide what is most important and what will be most needed and most impactful."
Carlile spearheaded two quality improvement projects at the 1,500-bed Muhumbili National Hospital—one high-tech and one low-tech. He built an open-source, cell phone-based paging system that made it possible for physicians in the hospital to reliably and quickly get critical results from the hospital lab, and he led a hand hygiene initiative for the entire hospital.
"In medicine, it's often the simple things, done consistently, that have the biggest outcomes," says Carlile.
The Complete Physician
Throughout residency and now in his career, Carlile has continued to lead quality improvement initiatives, both domestically and internationally. In addition to his primary care practice and teaching responsibilities, Carlile serves as chief medical officer for a healthcare start-up, Act.md. The company's digital platform creates a way for patients, families, and care teams to communicate more easily and securely using social networking and project management strategies. Carlile believes this approach could transform primary care, chronic disease management, and disease prevention—in part, by tapping into the latent potential of peer-to-peer support and caregiving at the community level.
Carlile's ability to study and improve systems, to use the very best evidence-based approaches, to collaborate with diverse teams, and to keep patients' needs and values at the center of care are what make him a shining example of "the complete physician." And he sees the same qualities in the Geisel medical students and recent graduates whom he oversees at Brigham and Women's.
"Geisel medical students have excellent medical knowledge and clinical skills. But they also have this ability to think of a bigger perspective, to think more holistically about the patient, and that makes them a delight to work with," says Carlile.
It's an approach to medicine that he honed at Dartmouth, and it continues to define a Geisel medical education.
"Dartmouth helped me fulfill the things which I held closest to me," adds Carlile, "caring directly for patients and being prepared to think about systems as a whole and to work to make things better for the community as a whole. That's something I only dreamed of doing as I entered medical school."