Looking for laughs
Matthew Carroll, M.D., finds the fun in life and work
The choice of pediatrics over adult medicine was an easy one for Matthew Carroll, M.D. It came down to the one thing that all kids, whether they are sick or well, know and love—a good dose of fun!
“Kids are more fun,” Dr. Carroll said. “A kid could be going through horrible stuff and yet somehow they still manage to have a smile on their face, a positive attitude and they can still laugh. I know if I was going through even half of what they were going through, I would be crabby. I would be grumpy. I would certainly not be smiling or laughing, but that’s just the purity of pediatrics.”
Although his roles as a hospitalist and Cook Children’s associate chief quality officer are serious ones, Dr. Carroll likes to have a little fun of his own. That includes spending time with his wife and two young children. He also credits weekly racquetball games with fellow Cook Children’s physician Danny Rafati, M.D., as an outlet for both entertainment and exercise. Who’s the better player? It may depend on who you ask. “I would say me, but I’m probably lying,” Dr. Carroll said with a chuckle and a grin. “He probably beats me about 60% of the time, but even the games where I lose, they’re still close matches.”
Outside of the racquetball court, Dr. Carroll is laser-focused on health care quality and safety. Four years ago, he transitioned from a full-time hospitalist to associate chief quality officer. He still maintains some hospitalist clinical hours, but about 75% of his time is spent poring over quality measures and outcomes data, identifying systems that need improvement and working with others to promote quality and safety within their practices.
“High-quality, safe care is our product,” Dr. Carroll said. “It’s what we sell. It’s what we do. I think high-quality, safe care is to Cook Children’s as the search box is to Google, or the F-150 is to Ford. So it’s incredibly important in terms of how we support our physicians and staff in delivering high-quality care.”
Dr. Carroll’s role is to help make sure physicians and staff have the support they need to deliver that product. He regularly reviews clinical happenings to assess and learn from them, making sure they are safe for everyone looks to see what can be improved and what systems can be put in place as a safeguard for the future. These systems are more important than ever before, he says, because physicians and staff are stretched as thin as they’ve ever been.
“Part of why people work here is because they’re passionate about delivering high-quality and safe care to our patients, but at the same time, we’re all humans,” he said. “We are imperfect creatures working in an imperfect system. And so how do we construct and build systems that are able to anticipate the inevitable mistakes that are going to come with being human? How do we prevent those mistakes from reaching the patient?”
For Dr. Carroll, it all starts with listening.
“I think the more you listen to people, the more you learn, and the more others are willing to work with you,” he said.
His proudest achievement so far? The development of quality and safety education for physicians, which has now branched into other disciplines. He’s eager to give credit to the team that made it happen, which includes the Quality, Education, Legal, Pharmacy and Nursing departments.
During his early days of training at Baylor College of Medicine and then Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Dr. Carroll never imagined his medical career would take its current trajectory into administration and quality, but he loves the unexpected path he’s venturing and the people he’s working with along the way.
“I love what I do within the Quality department, but I am one small piece of a much larger department with everyone doing a fantastic job,” Dr. Carroll said. “I don’t want any of this to give the impression that it’s just me working out there on my own, doing all of this great stuff. It is a team effort, and I’m fortunate and lucky enough that I’m part of such a great team of dedicated people. That just makes it easy and fun.”
Several years ago, when the LEGO® model of Cook Children’s Medical Center was being renovated (and left unattended), Dr. Carroll placed two Lego doctors on one of the street corners. They are still there today, and Dr. Carroll loves to send his patients to look for them, giving them something fun to do while at the medical center.