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Larry Dean, MD, is a cardiologist at the Heart Institute at UW Medical Center – Montlake and Northwest and a professor of Medicine and Surgery at the UW School of Medicine. He has been with UW Medicine for 22 years. 

Dean is the first medical director of Clinical Products and Smart Innovation (CPSI) — chairing a multidisciplinary committee that oversees clinician and nurse-led groups that evaluate products, technologies and purchased services from vendors. The CPSI program is dedicated to purchasing items that bring value to patient care and ensuring that quality is consistently maintained or improved when it comes to their decisions. They also help eliminate unnecessary items that don’t bring enough value to the table for what they cost. This has been a very successful program, in large part, due to the participation of the people who use the products.  

In addition, Dean has a food blog called The Eating Places that captures his passion for dining out. Read on to find out more about Dean and his two different but surprisingly complementary passions — medicine and food.

Why did you get into cardiology?

When I was in internal medicine training, I realized that it was too broad of a subject for me and that my brain needed to focus on one area. Plus, I had always been relatively good at doing procedures and using my hands. And at that time, cardiology was becoming a very vibrant specialty — not that it wasn’t before then — but we were starting to try to manage heart attacks more aggressively. I decided to subspecialize in the new field of coronary balloon angioplasty. At that time, there was no such thing as a training program in what is now called interventional cardiology so I spent the last year of my fellowship working with an interventional cardiologist. 

What is your role at UW Medicine?

I came back to Seattle to be the first director of the cardiovascular service line, then called the Regional Heart Center, now called the Heart Institute. When I came back, it wasn’t to put stents in people or do internal cardiology, it was to be involved in the business aspects of medicine, which I had been involved in at my prior institution. And that’s also how I got into the CPSI program. With my background at the Regional Heart Center and my work in interventional cardiology, which uses medical equipment that costs a lot of money, I had the right background and was offered the CPSI medical director job.   

What do you want people to know about the CPSI program?

Essentially our committee evaluates products, technologies and purchased services. It’s important to know that the CPSI program is centered around people who do procedures. We have eight core groups. One is nursing-led. The others are physician-led, and our supply chain colleagues are also involved to help with the process and give us information. But the supply chain isn’t telling people what to use, so it’s the engagement of the people using the product that drives things, which is unique. Unfortunately, we can’t have committees that have hundreds of people on them. But I think you get better buy-in when you engage the people who are actually using the tools and technology. In addition, when you sit down with the vendor community, and you have a conversation with them with a physician at the table, who says, “I think this is a fair price” — that engagement and our physicians and clinicians’ willingness to participate has been key to the success of the program. The program was started to address the growing cost of providing services to the patients we serve. It has had a significant impact over the four years it has been in place. That said, there is always the opportunity to improve the prices of the products we use to care for our patients.  

What is one thing that would surprise people about your job?

The distributed nature of my practice. Again, there’s taking care of patients. Then there’s the business aspects of medicine, and outreach — what I’m currently doing at the Heart Institute — and then there is the CPSI program where I’m trying to improve or decrease the prices of the things that we purchase. 

What do you find the most inspiring about your work?

I’ve been in academic medicine for over 35 years, so working with trainees has resonated with me and has been part of what has kept me here. I’ve also continued to be involved in the clinical aspects of medicine and interventional cardiology because that is a constantly changing dynamic. We started off with balloon angioplasty and then we had stents. Then, a few years ago, we started doing transcatheter aortic valve replacement which is a way to replace the aortic valve without open heart surgery. I finally got tired of being on call, so I no longer do any of this type of work, but it’s the constant exposure to new things that motivates me. 

The CPSI program has also provided another opportunity within the business aspects of medicine to start something that we’ve never had before. 

What is the story behind your food blog?

I’ve always been interested in different cuisines. I’ve done a lot of travel throughout my career all over the world, and when I go to new places, I like to try different things. I had a Facebook page about food, and somebody said I should start a blog. Developing a blog was a little bit of a challenge because I’d never done that before and I like challenges. I’m also from the south, and in the south, we like to tell stories — so the story was appealing. The problem is I start eating at all these places, and I get so far behind on the blog that I’m constantly trying to catch up. It takes up a fair amount of time, so whatever spare minute I have here and there, I will fiddle around with the blog.  

I often get asked, “Hey, what’s your favorite restaurant right now?” Having people use you as a resource is a lot of fun as well. 

What’s your favorite place to eat in Seattle?

Well, I never have a favorite place, but there are a couple of restaurants I enjoyed eating at recently. One is a place called Tomo, which is in White Center. The second is Communion.  

I also love unexpected finds. For example, Bow, Washington. It’s near Bellingham and it’s basically two streets that come together. There’s a place called Cob + Cork which is in an old gas station. I love being surprised and finding unique and wonderful cuisine in very small places where you wouldn’t think to look. 

Is there anything else that people might be surprised to learn about you?

I’m also an avid road bicyclist and participate in long-distance cycling, such as riding from here to Portland, Seattle to Vancouver and from Vancouver to Whistler — just to mention a few. To do these types of rides requires a lot of time spent on a bicycle, so I usually ride over 2,000 miles a year. 

Note: Any information or opinions shared in this article are personal views, and do not represent those of the University of Washington or UW Medicine in any way, shape, or form.