Laughs and Gratitude From Dr. Glaucomflecken aka Will Flanary | 2024 ATS


Hundreds linked up to have their picture taken with Will Flanary, M.D., an ophthalmlogist in Portland, Oregon, and a hugely popular social media comedian after his talk yesterday during the open ceremony of the 2024 American Thoracic Society (ATS) International Conference in San Diego .

Will Flanary, famous as a social media comedian who goes by the name of Dr. Glaucomflecken, stitched together self-deprecating humor, jokes about residency, funny observations about medicine and healthcare with serious commentary about his sudden cardiac arrest and the value of research yesterday in his talk at the opening ceremony of the 2024 American Thoracic Society (ATS) International Conference in San Diego.

Flanary, who has millions of followers on TikTok and YouTube, ventures beyond humor based on insider observations about medical training and send-ups of medical specialists into biting satire that approximates Jon Stewart as he takes on insurance companies, pharmaceutical benefit managers and pharmaceutical companies.

Yesterday, he stuck mainly with stories and jokes about his two bouts with testicular cancer and an episode of sudden cardiac arrest in his sleep on May 11, 2020 ,that he survived partly because his wife, Kristin Flanary, administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation for 10 minutes until an ambulance arrived. Flanary made a plea for considering the impact that major medical events have “on people around the patient.’

“For an outside-of-hospital cardiac arrest it is usually a loved one that responds. That has an effect on people. That is traumatic. We ask people to do chest compressions. We should also be giving support to people who do them,” Flanary said in a serious vein.

Of his wife he said, “As grateful as I am for the people who took care of me in the ICU, I am just as grateful for those who showed her some compassion along the way."

But Flanary, who also performs live shows, had plenty of jokes and commentary — about residency, discovering his testicular cancer, banking his sperm and recovery and treatment from sudden cardiac arrest. Full-throated laughter rolled out easily and often from the audience of several thousand in one of the cavernous ballrooms of the San Diego Convention Center, and hundreds of Glaucomflecken fans lined up to have their picture taken with Flanary at reception after his talk.

Flanary congratulated the audience: “You finally got an ophthalmologist to come in on a Saturday.”

He told a story about an attending telling him to him start an ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) protocol when he was on an intensive care unit rotation as an intern at a community hospital. “I hung up the phone, I walked into the physician workroom, I took a deep breath, and I googled, ‘What is ECMO?’”

He introduced himself to people in the audience who maybe haven’t seen his Dr. Glaucomflecken videos: “What I do is I dress up as different specialties in medicine and record myself, alone, in my bedroom. What do you do for work?”

He said his first case of testicular cancer when he was a medical student was caught early and had an orchidectomy: “I was a little off balance, but I was fine”

He said learned two things when four years after that diagnosis he felt a lump in his other testicle when he was a senior resident at the University of Iowa.

“Number one, I was part of the lucky less than 1% of people with testicular cancer who have a primary cancer in the other testicle. It is extraordinarily rare.

“The other thing I learned is that I am really good at finding my own testicular cancer. Could be a second career for me, which would be weird thing to do as an ophthalmologist. Although it is all just balls.”

He compared the wearable cardioverter defibrillator he wore after his sudden cardiac arrest to an “electric bra.”

“But I was a good patient. I will wear this bra as long as you need me to and now I know how amazing it feels to take a bra off at the end of a long day.”

Flanary said he did stand-up comedy when he was in high school in Houston, and he showed a picture of the Laff Stop comedy club where he performed. But rather than pursue a career in comedy, he said he took the easier route and became a doctor.

Flanary shared some observations about comedy and the appetite for it in healthcare and medical circumstances: “When we are faced with things in life that are beyond our control, humor allows us to take that thing and reassert control over it. You turn it into yours again. You present to others with humor. You share a laugh about it. That is why it is such a valuable coping mechanism, why so many people in healthcare over the past few years have been using a lot of humor, myself included, just to try to get through.”

Flanary touched only briefly on the business side of healthcare. Like many patients, he said he received multiple bills after hospitalizations related to his cardiac arrest.

“It is extremely confusing. It was confusing for me, and I am a whole-assed physician. You can imagine what it is like for our patients. That is what we are putting people through in this country, when they are trying to recover from whatever they were in the hospital with. We are making them do this, that in my opinion, is often worse than the actual recovery from whatever illness they have.”

Flanary said he believes that healthcare professionals should “advocate for positive change in the healthcare system,” but he ended with an expression of gratitude for the pulmonary and other kinds of research that many people in the audience do.

“I don’t know why you do what you do. I barely understand what a p value is. But I know it [research] is important.”

Flanary continued, “As someone who has along the way benefited from the research that has brought the medical field to where it is today I personally want to say thank you for the work that you do.”

Related Content
© 2024 MJH Life Sciences

All rights reserved.