Conversations with members of the Harvard and Radcliffe Class of 1992.
Hosted by Will Bachman.

Episode: 81

Alex Choi, Anesthesiologist, Politician and Mental Health Advocate

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Show notes

Alex Choi has been involved in various professional pursuits since graduating from Harvard. He joined a consulting company and worked as a research associate before moving back home to Indiana to pursue medical school. Alex obtained a master’s in biology and physiology to secure admission to Indiana University School of Medicine. He met his wife in the second year of med school and they have two children. After medical school, Choi joined a private practice in Indianapolis, where he became the managing partner and president of the Anesthesia Consultants of Indianapolis. Alex also received a master’s in public health and policy management, which helped him become more involved in public policy issues. He was the physician leader for the division at IU Health until last year when he stepped down to go into pre-retirement. 

Alex left IU Health and joined another surgery center practice and was asked to be the Indiana Medical Director for the organization. He has been involved in various organizations, including the national society and state societies of organized medicine. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder over a decade ago and has since recovered from it. This inspired Alex to partner with people who formed the Zionsville Alliance for Mental Wellness Exam, a nonprofit that helps people navigate the mental health network system. He talks about his experiences in police and has been involved in public policy, working on the transition team for governors and serving on the Zionsville Town Council. However, he decided not to run for reelection to focus on his family and watch his children grow up.


Misconceptions about Bipolar Disorder

Alex discusses the challenges and misconceptions about bipolar disorder, a mental health issue that is a spectrum. He emphasizes the importance of not stigmatizing anyone with bipolar disorder or any mental health issues. Alex shares his own experiences with rapidly cycling episodes of mania and depression, which can last months, weeks, or months. He emphasizes the need for support networks and the importance of understanding that bipolar disorder is a chronic illness that can be overcome with the right therapy, support, and medications. He has been open about his journey and has used his town council status to put messages out about mental health treatment for mental health disorders. His openness has encouraged others to seek help. 

A Governor’s Role in Healthcare

Alex has also worked on the healthcare transition team for two different governors and a new mayor. In the governors’ case, he helped determine healthcare priorities for the state, discussing data and determining priorities. He had a one-sheet agenda and an open forum for discussing these topics. In the mayor’s role, he became involved in the town’s finances, overseeing the town’s finances and overseeing the city’s budget.

The governor oversees the Department of Health and public health systems, which are interconnected and heavily influenced by Medicaid. In Indiana, the Medicaid system is administered by the governor’s office through the Family and Social Services Administration, providing a safety net for those suffering from chronic illnesses or those unable to afford health care due to income or special status. As an unpaid lobbyist, Alex was involved in lobbying state representatives and advocating for better health care in Indiana. He ran for a state representative in a caucus election in 2015. Alex talks about why he wanted to be a state legislator and his efforts in that area, including pushing for the licensure of anesthesiologist assistants, a group of advanced providers, and establishing a program that graduates 24 anesthesiologist assistants annually to address shortages and anesthesia in the state. He talks about medical liability insurance in Indiana, and lobbying from the Trial Lawyers Association which led to increased limits on liability insurance costs. Despite these challenges, Alex believes that the state has made progress in improving healthcare policies and addressing the challenges faced by physicians and patients in Indiana.


Expanding the Potential of Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants

Alex discusses the potential of nurse practitioners and physician assistants to perform additional procedures that current regulations prohibit. He acknowledges that these areas vary from state to state, and medical schools and residencies must adhere to strict guidelines. However, he believes that there is higher variability in what is taught in medical schools and residencies, which can lead to a lack of qualified clinicians. He believes that medical schools and residencies will continue to train physicians to more complex procedures and specialties, leading to a shortage of doctors for certain procedures or patient types. As a result, physicians will need to push towards greater involvement from nurses and physician assistants but also ensure proper oversight. 


Running a Political Campaign

Alex talks about what he learned when running a campaign, which involves getting people to believe in oneself and their views. He found it challenging to run for office due to his full-time job and campaigning, but also appreciated the support of his family and friends. During his campaign, he faced opposition from the General Assembly, which passed one of the harshest anti-abortion laws after the DODDS decision. He had to navigate the public reaction and find a balance between advocating for pro-choice and expressing different views within a party. 


Influential Harvard Professors and Courses

Alex shares his personal and professional experiences with several courses and professors. He attended a church near his freshman year and was an usher. While there, he found the sermons of Professor Gomes helpful and realized the importance of his involvement in student lives. 



04:46 Bipolar disorder, treatment, and advocacy

12:14 Mental health treatment and government policy

18:52 Healthcare policy and legislation in Indiana

31:34 Medical professional scope of practice and campaign lessons learned

39:03 Mental health, politics, and career with former Indiana state senate candidate







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Alex Choi, Will Bachman


Will Bachman  00:02

Hello, and welcome to the 92 Report. I’m your host will Bachman. And I’m excited to be here today with classmate Alex joy. Alex, welcome to the show.


Alex Choi  00:11

Thank you well for having me on.


Will Bachman  00:13

So Alex, tell me about your journey since graduating from Harvard.


Alex Choi  00:19

Yeah, so I followed the route of many of our classmates when I graduated from Harvard and, and joined a consulting company, I was a research associate for them. And I did that for about a year before I realized that that wasn’t my calling. And so I decided to move back home to Indiana, which is where I’d spent pretty much most of my life and try my hand at trying to get into medical school. In the process, I got a master’s in biology and a master’s in physiology to kind of shore up the prerequisites and manage to get into the one medical school that I applied to Indiana University School of Medicine. And I did that because I thought, well, I’m either gonna get in or I’m not. And if I don’t, then I will go back to the business world that I was in before. So I was fortunate enough to gain admission. And one of the great things about being at the School of Medicine being at IU was that I met my wife there in second year of med school. And she and I just celebrated our 25 years together and we have two delightful children, high school sophomore girl and a eighth grade boy, and they both go to the community school here, an excellent school. So I was fortunate enough to share my journey through medical school and the rest of my medical career with wonderful woman. And, and we and after medical school, I matched into anesthesia residency at the same school at IU School of Medicine. Did my did my four years of anesthesia residency and my wife was in general surgery residency and then a minimally invasive surgery bariatric fellowship. So we both went down the path of the surgical subspecialties. And then, after I finished residency, I joined a private practice here in the Indianapolis area, while my wife finished her residency and, and it was a great practice, it gave me a lot of opportunities. And eventually after about six years in the practice, I became the managing partner and president of the practice, called the anesthesia consultants of Indianapolis has a really great experience that group of really great partners that were that encouraged me to step up and learn more about the business side of medicine. And I took the opportunity and really enjoyed it. In the process of medical school and residency, I also received a master’s in public health and policy management that helped kind of forge the way for me to get more involved in that and, and as I’ll talk about later, and public policy issues. So I did that and was the managing partner for 11 years after which we sold our practice to our health system, IU Health. And I stayed on as the physician leader for the division up until the end of last year when I stepped down to kind of go into what I call pre retirement. And so and then left IU Health and joined another practice that covers surgery centers. And that’s where I am now just finished my second day of work for this new practice, private practice and was fortunate enough to be asked to be the Indiana Medical Director for the for the organization. So it’s been a great leadership journey. I’ve been involved at our national society and our state societies, organized medicine and have had successes there in representing medicine and patients. And one of the things that I probably talk about is that, you know, I think a lot of us talk about the nonprofits that were involved in. One thing that struck me pretty hard through my life was that in the beginning, I didn’t know what was going on. But I was formally diagnosed with bipolar disorder. We’re a little over a decade ago and started getting treated for it probably about seven, eight years ago, and had done remarkably well. And I’ve been fortunate that it although it had been impactful in my life and had created some difficult situations that I was able to find treatment and be able to recover from that, that led to a couple of years ago, getting together with a couple of people in town, and forming a nonprofit called the Zionsville. Alliance for mental wellness exam well, for short, and what we’ve done with that is help try to create education, as well as the ability for us to help people who themselves or their loved one are in need of help navigate the the mental health network system, because it’s very hard when you’re going through this, to try to call a number of different providers and say, Do you have space, do you take my insurance, we do all that legwork for them and have a database that’s been created to help them in that journey and to be their navigator so that in their most difficult times, in one of their most difficult times that they don’t have to spend hours and hours, days of energy trying to find the right person for them or their loved one. So that’s been an incredible passion of mine over the last couple of years, and And to wrap it all up I, I was you know, I had some anxiety along with my bipolar disorder and, and, and had to deal with that for the last several years as well. But I also recently got diagnosed with ADHD on top of everything. So I keep adding more and more pharmaceuticals to my regimen here on a daily basis. But it looked like in in through a lot of therapy that I had bipolar, extending back to my early years at Harvard, which were, as with some some of us, full of ups and downs. And definitely I felt that through Harvard and through medical school and residency as well and just feel very fortunate to have been able to become to lead a successful life and have a have an intact marriage and children that don’t hate me. It just despite the mental health challenges that I’ve gone through. The last thing is that an interesting little twist is that once I started in private practice, I started realizing that we needed some changes in how healthcare was addressed in our state. And I got involved in public policy more working on the transition team for a couple of governors ran for office. on three separate occasions, I was successful, one of those times and now serve on the Zionsville Town Council. And this is my last year and I decided not to run for reelection to take a step back and, and make sure that I watched my kids grow up to high school. But, you know, one out of three times is a good batting average for any other team. So and I’ll continue to be politically involved. Last year ran a really State Senate race that I was pretty proud of. At two months in this was coming in against an incumbent in a district that leaned heavily in his favor. So we ran a really good campaign was able to mobilize a lot of people knock on a lot of doors and in two months before the election, I was 24% behind and and when the election actually rolled around I lost by 3%. So even though I wasn’t successful, I think a lot of people consider that a really good effort on my team’s part and I couldn’t I know that the 17 month I spent on the campaign were it was a disappointing in but but still proud of what my team and I were able to accomplish in that. So in a nutshell will that’s what I’ve been up to since finishing Harvard.


Will Bachman  09:33

Well, that’s a pretty big nutshell of there’s a lot of areas to explore there. My goodness. So many directions. I want to go in probably many listeners, myself included here. You have a friend or know someone who suffers from bipolar and while it’s a tough disease, just seeing it from the outside. What should I do? What are some misconceptions about bipolar disorder? What should? What should? What should the rest of us know about that, that disorder that, you know that many of us might not know.


Alex Choi  10:13

So, as with most mental health issues, it’s a spectrum. You can be what is classified in the DSM five as being a type two bipolar or a type one, which is more severe. But in reality, it’s a spectrum. And no, no one bipolar person looks like another bipolar person. And just like, you don’t want to stigmatize anybody with mental health disorder, you don’t want to pigeonhole somebody with bipolar disorder, or any kind of mental health issues into a category of this is what they’re like, I happen to I read a lot when I was first diagnosed on the disease. And, and thought that I was, you know, I didn’t fit everything perfectly. And realize through a lot of therapy, that that’s usually the case, most of us don’t fit into the nice pack categories, and symptoms perfectly, I suffer from what’s called rapidly cycling, so a lot of lot of books and websites will tell you that you go through a period of mania, and then you could go through a period of depression, and those could last months, weeks or months. I’m one of those individuals that cycles through mania and depression fairly rapidly. Within a few days, I can push through one and the other go back and forth. I’m also somebody in this did, this was actually just recently, as I research more into it, and talk to my psychiatrists. I’m somebody who also suffers from mixed episodes. And that I can be, I can show symptoms of mania and depression at the same time. And that’s not fun to deal with. But I think the I think one of the things that people should be aware of is how much we rely on support networks, this is a really difficult disease to try to overcome by yourself. Because if you’re alone, that depression kicks in. So that flip side makes treatment of the disease of the illness much more difficult. I think people think that it would be a very difficult illness to get a hold of, and it is very difficult, and I don’t want to downplay it, but with the right therapy with the right support with the right medications, you you can lead a fairly successful life. And that’s what I try want to try to impress on people is that, you know, I was lucky, I didn’t have a whole lot of events that would completely derail me, my wake up call was in 2016. Actually, I can give you the exact date. It’s November 19 2016, when I got a DUI, but I realized that I really needed to get my illness under control. And, you know, self medicating with alcohol is one of those things. And you just have to know that there’s different ways that people deal with their disorder. For right or for wrong. And but one of the most important things is support from loved ones and family in this journey. And if it wasn’t for my wife and my two kids and the number of friends that supported me through this, because even though I was ashamed of my DUI, when I first got it, I realized that all this story needs to be told for a reason. So I’ve been very open and use my town council status to put messages out there to talk about in our meetings or during May, which is mental health awareness month, or through publications like our local paper about the importance of mental health treatment for mental health disorders. So it’s been a it’s been a blessing to be able to share that and I’ve had, you know, obviously when you do that you have people reaching back out to you, but it’s for the purpose of D stigmatizing and making sure people understand that this is a chronic illness. It’s not a choice that any of us made. And it’s not something that can’t be overcome. And it’s not something that should really annoy others. It’s something to be embraced and to be treated and to be supported.


Will Bachman  15:16

Well, I think it’s incredibly brave, that you’ve been so public about that. And probably, that openness has, I imagine has encouraged other people to, you know, to get help. So I really salute you for that. I want to ask you about some of your work as a transition team for governor. Tell me about that. What’s, what’s that? Like?


Alex Choi  15:45

That’s, that’s not as glamorous as it sounds.


Will Bachman  15:49

Sounds very glamorous. It sounds like yeah, binder. Like, you know, big governors room briefing, the governor and binders of materials, but what is it really like?


Alex Choi  16:02

It really is. You’re part of a team. So I was part of the healthcare transition team for two different governors. And I’m actually on the transition team for our new mayor that will be elected here in November as well. He’s running uncontested for a position that was vacated, that will be vacated at the end of the year, so he before our November election, we know that he’s going to be the mayor. So in, in the case of the governors, I had a little role in it in in those aspects of kind of helping to determine what are the health care priorities for the state. And in those discussions, going over data, and really trying to have discussions about what’s important and what’s not important in healthcare. And one of a couple of physicians that would show up there would participate. I mean, one of the other physicians, a long time ago that helped in this process, although he wasn’t part of the transition team was Dr. Jerome Adams, who is former Surgeon General, and happened to be a year behind me in residency. So we just all these kind of crossovers that happened, I would have never thought back then that he would be Surgeon General. But he, he really ascended into that role he was in the Health Commissioner before then. So it’s, it’s helping to determine some of the policies around what the priorities would be future. It was, you know, I had a one sheet agenda, and basically an open forum to discuss these things, while people took notes and, and created a briefing for the, for the governor. And, and the part about the mayor is that I’ve become very involved in the finance of our town. So I’m on the transition team, in a role of financially over overseeing, or kind of digging into the finances of our fire department, which is our largest outlay as far as expenses go for, for the town. So kind of going through with fine tooth comb of what we need, what we can get by without, and what are the additional services that we might want to provide. So happy to be on that transition team. And I think that’s I’m going to be more involved in that, obviously, than I was with either of the governors that that I helped. So just a lot of fun.


Will Bachman  18:54

I don’t have any sense about just, I’m kind of ignorant about this, which is, but what sorts of decisions or does a governor have around health care policy? You know, so you hear a lot about, you know, the national level, Medicare, Medicaid and stuff, but like, what are the sort of even degrees of freedom that a governor would have in terms of thinking about things to prioritize?


Alex Choi  19:22

Well, one of the things is that one of the biggest costs for any state is their Medicaid system. So that’s that’s a large percent of it as a percentage of any state’s budget and almost always a and I can’t be sure, because I haven’t looked at other states but in Indiana, the Medicaid system is administrated by the governor’s office through what’s called the Family and Social Services Administration. So that huge system not just a pair system, but a safety net for Those suffering from very debilitating chronic illnesses or from or being unable to afford health care because of their income, or special status. So, so that that has a huge played into it. Also, his the governor oversees the Department of Health and Indiana. So public health systems, how it overlays the State Health System overlays with all the different county health systems and the things that they can offer. We just had a huge distribution of, of our resources, our financial resources in Indiana towards creating a better public health system in terms of shoring up it, providing money to the county health departments to shore up vaccinations and the other priorities that they need to explore. So too far reaching one is on healthcare policy, and the other is in the operational aspects of health care through Medicaid.


Will Bachman  21:19

Okay. I’m going to ask you now, maybe this is, I don’t know, out of line, but why in the world? Did you want to be a state senator, that sounds to me like, sitting, sitting through committee hearings? It just seems like that would be so boring to me. I’m sorry. It just sounds like Oh, my God, that would be you’d have to pay me so much to do that job. But what what is it that attracted you to that?


Alex Choi  21:51

So as I got involved in health care policy matters at the state level through the Indiana State Medical Association, I became more and more interested in the the things that legislatively, that that that our general assembly could do, in terms of the obviously the law laws that they pass, so So I became more of the State Medical Association’s in the house, unpaid lobbyist, as a physician,


Will Bachman  22:31

you were going lobbying state Yep, reps and


Alex Choi  22:37

not a formal lobbyists, because that carries some regulations and restrictions with it, but basically been down there constantly to try to promote better health care in Indiana, okay. And I started to realize that we can have a lot of effect as a for myself as a physician, and we’re fairly well respected in the General Assembly, especially if we’re balanced and looking at both sides of an issue. But, but I thought, you know, where the decisions are made is within the caucuses and within the general assembly itself. And so wanted to be a part of that policymaking process. And so that was the huge driver in my deciding to run, I ran for a state rep in a caucus election, back in 2015. Lost that because that was the first time I’d ever done anything like that. And that came in third out of five as a as a complete unknown candidate. So that was my first endeavor. And it really, it really got me interested in, you know, how the process works, how we make good laws and bad laws, and how we have unintended consequences from things because, you know, it’s it’s hard to consider all the ramifications of how this would affect the different stakeholders. And so, it really, I felt like needed somebody who is not just a clinician, like myself, but I’ve been very heavily involved in the business side of medicine as well, and how it operates on various different levels. So I thought I could add a different level of conversation to our legislature, and that kind of pushed me to run and it was it really was a product of you can’t complain about it if you’re not willing to do something about it.


Will Bachman  24:39

So give me some specifics. So you were down there, sort of semi lobbying as a physician. What are some specific things that you were trying to get changed in Indiana related to health care, like just give us some specifics and things that were making things suboptimal or difficult? For patients or for doctors.


Alex Choi  25:02

So a couple of things. One thing that I’m really proud of as, as an anesthesiologist is bringing a new group of advanced providers into our state by pushing for the licensure of a group of a group called the anesthesiologist assistants. They are pretty much what you would think of as the anesthesia version of Physician Assistants. And so that required, it sounds like a simple thing, but it was a huge lift, and to get them licensed. And now we have a bustling program that graduates 24 anesthesiologist assistants a year to help shore up our shortages and anesthesia in this state. That program I was happy to be involved in and that started I think, about five years ago, four or five years ago. And it’s been wildly successful. The second thing is not so much what we accomplished in terms of what we promoted forward. But what we were able to keep from happening in the ANA back in the 70s War, we were hemorrhaging doctors left and right leaving for other states. Because well, I mean, to be perfectly honest, I love living here, but we are Indiana, and we don’t have lakes or mountains or oceans to attract people, we’ve got corn, and then if you like corn come to Indiana. But otherwise, you know, it’s really hard to get somebody here who isn’t a fan of fan of auto racing or the Colts. So So back in the 70s. They they passed a law on medical liability insurance that really kind of shored up what the limits are and made it a very physician friendly state to practice in and really not only retained physicians here, but attractive physicians here Well, a few years ago, we got hit with lobbying from the Trial Lawyers Association to to increase the limits, which was probably due time for that. But what they were asking for was really pretty high and would have created a non favorable position for physicians as far as their liability insurance costs go. And so we were able to push back and push back pretty heavily and get it to a reasonable level that I think both sides were happy with that we made some progress because in all honesty, we hadn’t moved the needle in 17 years. So it was in all fairness time to increase it a little bit, but not to the degree that they had want to that also was all these things sound like they they shouldn’t make sense and would be logical to do. But there are hours and hours and days of discussion and arguing and pulling hairs out and you know, having very directed discussions with each other and pretty heavy lifts overall. And and then the one of the things that we did recently was pass a this was a year and a half ago, pass a title misappropriation bill, which basically, as everybody is fond of putting more and more letters behind their name, making sure that people knew who what, who that who was taking care of them and what their credentials were, again, seemed like a very simple thing, because it’s not a turf war. It’s just basically making sure that patients understood who their caretaker who their provider was. But you would think that that would be a simple thing and a logical thing to pass. But he met with quite a bit of resistance from those that felt like they were going to be disadvantaged by, by that. So those are three of the more recent things that I was part of. But, you know, I’m actually kind of trying to help promote the efforts around legalization of medical marijuana right now. And I think that would be good for our state. And whether you fall on the side of being for or against that, it is something that’s inherent to a lot of patients. So I think it’s time for Indiana to fall in line with that and trying to be helpful in that. And so and, you know, we were involved in conversations during the HIV crisis down in the southeast part of our state and, and lobbying for funding for needle exchanges as well as for a additional funding for education and prevention. That was down in Scott County. And that was right. Gosh, I think it was about seven years ago that this happened, it was one of the largest outbreaks of HIV, and it was all, all due to the increase in heroin use down there. So yeah, a lot of different opportunities to help out and in various different aspects of healthcare, not just the actual taking care of patients, but also on the operational business side, and, and just public policy. It’s all that is really, I’m one of those odd people that finds all that interesting. And, you know, just to show you where my mind is, one of the things that I find really interesting, and I’ve been very involved in is Medicare reimbursement policies, which people would really pull out their hairs over, I just got back from a weekend of discussing that where we were, we talked for over four hours on how to pay for telemedicine. But all very interesting to me, I love it. And I’m glad that I don’t have a gazillion people that compete with me for this kind of space. Because it’s something I really enjoy. But it’s seemingly, it’s not something that most people enjoy, which is fine by me.


Will Bachman  31:34

Now, that work that you’ve done related to getting anesthesiologist assistants licensed sounds like an incredible accomplishment. I’ve seen, you know, in the press and blogs and so forth, talk about how there are other areas where nurse practitioners, physician’s assistants could do more, but the, you know, American Medical Association might, you know, lobby against it right and can’t blame them too much. You know, they have a monopoly over certain procedures, and they don’t want to get separate competition who who does, but are there other other areas where you think we should be, you know, opening up the ability of medical professionals like nurse practitioners or physician assistants and so forth to do additional kind of procedures that current regulations prohibit?


Alex Choi  32:33

So it’s always a tough question, because these things vary from state to state. And it’s not something that the feds regulate at all, or by and large, don’t regulate. But it also, there’s also one of those issues that all medical schools fall under certain guidelines of teaching, and what in residencies as well, as far as the residency is falling under the ACGME. The American, I believe it stands for the American College of Graduate Medical Education. And so they have to adhere to very strict guidelines on on everything that’s taught every thing that everybody has to experience. I have met a lot of events, providers, like anesthesiologist assistants, and CRNAs, and nurse practitioners and PAs, who are incredible clinicians and providers. The some of the issues that I have, and people out there may disagree is that there is much higher variability in in from school to school of what they’re taught. So it, it tends to, you don’t know who is going to be a great clinician, and who’s going to be subpar, and possibly even dangerous because a clinician now you can say that about people graduating from medical school and residency, as well. But and there’s no hard data to prove that there’s not much variation amongst either, but it’s just knowing the different programs that I have that kind of opinion. Now, having said that, I think that what’s going to happen is that medical schools and residencies are going to continue to train physicians to a to more and more complex procedures, and, and specialties. And what’s going to happen is that we’re not going to have enough doctors to do some of the other procedures or take care of certain types of patients. And as physicians, were either going to be directing or overseeing supervising them or handling handling those patients that are much more complicated, we just don’t have the numbers in the physician community to address the increase in population, especially the increase in the aging population, the older population. So I think it’s going to just happen naturally that people are going to have to push towards a greater sense of involvement. But that doesn’t mean a greater sense of involvement without proper oversight. I think the training needs to be there, the training needs to be more uniform and solidified, and, and at a higher level, if we want to provide these opportunities for the advanced practice nurses and physician assistants and such. So I’m not against expanding a little bit of the scope, but it has to be done very carefully and also with proper oversight. But that, again, kind of flies against the the idea of expanding scope, because expanding scope indicates that you’re allowing for more independent practice, which I I am not heavily in favor of that. But I think everything can be done safely with the proper training. And physicians, I think all of us are just going to have to realize that we’re going to be pushed into more complicated care, and more of supervising advanced practice providers.


Will Bachman  36:43

What have you learned about running for office, you’ve run three times once successfully. What have you learned about, you know, mobilizing volunteers, getting them motivated to knock on doors for you? That’s an extraordinary thing to be able to get a bunch of people spinning their valuable time on your behalf. What have you learned about how to run a campaign?


Alex Choi  37:08

It is really humbling Well, it is. It’s getting people to believe in you whether to volunteer for you, or help you or to vote for you. It I have found that. I think that if it wasn’t for the process of running for office, that a lot of people would be involved in, in serving in the General Assembly’s of their states or nationally, elections are hard. And it really what I learned most of all, was how important my family is to the whole process. Without their support, I couldn’t have done it. But at the same time, it was hard on my family, for me to run for office, because not only did I have a full time job, but I had a second full time job, which was the campaign. And it became really onerous. And they just appreciated my family so much, as well as my friends, everybody who stepped up to help. It’s an incredible effort. You, it’s humbling because you you realize sometimes you realize a lot of times how people believe in you, or in some cases don’t believe in you. Just going door to door, it’s it’s incredible. So I think that’s also one of the best experiences was going door to door and hearing about the dreams and hopes and also the lives of the of the people that reside in my district. And just kind of the opportunities and challenges they they’ve had. It really has opened my eyes to a variety of different things and, and, and so I’ll be pretty open and frank when I ran for state senate. We had in the middle of my campaign, our General Assembly passed one of the harshest anti abortion laws after the DODDS decision. And for me as a Republican, that was a very hard thing for us to deal with in a campaign where the public reaction was even in a state like Indiana, which is a very Republican state it was fiercely oppositional to it. There was a lot of voices on both sides and you I’m one of two pro choice Republicans that ran for office last year, and trying to thread that needle between continuing to try to get my Republican friends to, in honestly, what we found out was that half of half of Republicans are pro choice and are almost that much. And so it was a very difficult process to go through during that time of campaigning, to try to let people know that that there are different sides, even within a party, that kind of the different challenges we go through in expressing our views. So that I found that that campaigning, I knew it wasn’t easy, but I didn’t realize how difficult it was going to be. It was a lot of work. And I in what happened was in and I told you, towards the beginning that I wasn’t seeking reelection for town council, and that had a lot to do with last year’s election and how much it took out of me that while my kids were in high school and middle school and had five years left at home, that I wasn’t willing to sacrifice and do another campaign. Municipal campaigns are on the odd year. So my reelection would have been this year, and on the tails of a 17 month. Campaign for State Senate, I did not want to run yet another campaign for town council and be away from my family during those during these wonderful years with them. So. So yeah,


Will Bachman  41:51

that is it sounds very, very challenging, it takes a real special person to be willing to put in 17 months of effort for for that kind of a job. So that’s really something


Alex Choi  42:06

what I keep telling people, I was doing it for the money, because if you are in the General Assembly, you get paid. You know, I believe it’s now up to $26,000 a year. So, and I being on Town Council, my town council salary is $5,000. So, you know, obviously, we’re doing it for power, influence and money.


Will Bachman  42:30

Wow. I want to ask you one question about anesthesiology, because I rarely do I get a quick chance to ask, my understanding is that sciences actually not really know how anesthesia works. Is that true? Or am I mistaken?


Alex Choi  42:50

That’s true. To some extent, we know how it disrupts certain channels and it but generally speaking, it’s still kind of a little bit of a puzzle. We just, we know from experience, or from using certain things and then having to reverse those how, how it affects the brain and neurons and receptors. But yeah, there is there is still a lot of question mark around how do these things actually permeate and disrupt the membranes of the, you know, we have hypotheses, but it’s, I think, very difficult to prove it at a molecular level. At least that’s what I knew when I finished my residency 18 years ago.


Will Bachman  43:44

All right. Now I want to turn to a question I ask all the guests, which is, are there any courses or professors you had at Harvard that continue to resonate with you, either some personal interest or some professional thing? Any courses or professors?


Alex Choi  44:02

There were several courses that I really took interest in that. So freshman year, I lived in Kennedy, Kennedy A, and so right next to the church, and would attend church there and was an usher for a little while there as well. But listening to the sermon of Professor gums over the years that helped me and I don’t think I realized until years later how much the conversations we would we would sometimes be invited every now and then to his residents to have coffee. But I don’t think I realized later until that those sermons and his involvement in student lives, what it is meant to me and what it meant to my just Hank being able to hang on and finish at Harvard because although there were a lot of joys at Harvard, it was also full of challenges for me, like I said, I didn’t know that at the time, but I was suffering through both mania and depression as part of bipolar disorder during that time made being in school very difficult. And I, I would have successes as well as dismal failures during that period.


Will Bachman  45:31

Yeah, Reverend gums is great. Such a such a loss when he passed away. Yes. Alex, if people want to follow up, maybe track your next campaign whenever that might be or just or just find you online? Where would you point them?


Alex Choi  45:51

You can find me on Facebook, Alexander. Choi, or you can find me on LinkedIn under the same name. I live. Yeah, I’ll be the easy one to find. I live in the Indianapolis Indiana area and I’m pretty sure I’m the only Alex Choi in Indiana that I know of.


Will Bachman  46:11

Okay, well, I’ll include those links in the show notes. I’ll okay. Like this was a great discussion. And, you know, thanks for being so open and willing to discuss, you know, the challenges being bipolar and the other mental health challenges you faced. And what incredible what an incredible journey you’ve had not just being a doctor and a leader of doctors but getting involved in public policy. Amazing.


Alex Choi  46:42

Well, thank you for having me on the show. I really appreciate the opportunity and and greetings to all my classmates out there