Innovator Spotlight – Donny W. Suh

Donny W. Suh, MD, FAAP, MBA, FACS

Donny W. Suh MD, FAAP, MBA, FACS LinkedIn

This month, we had the opportunity to speak with pediatric ophthalmologist, Dr. Donny Suh.

Dr. Suh, you have been innovating throughout your career, but how and why did you become an innovator?

I think that we are all innovators by nature. Ever since I got into medical school, I’ve known that medicine is a wonderful field, but there are also many obstacles. For instance, a lot of things we do are very repetitive, and the demand for physicians has actually increased over time, partially due to expanded access by parents through technology. This is ultimately positive, but can also lead to burnout. I think of innovation as a way to combat burnout.

You mentioned obstacles. How do you approach these on a day-to-day basis?

Whenever I run into a situation, I look at what I do and do not have control over. I think most of us tend to put most of our attention toward things that we cannot control. As innovators, we focus on what we do have control over, innovating and modifying as needed. By shifting energy toward what we can control, we make positive progress toward change, thus avoiding burnout.

We all have someone to thank for sparking our passion. I had many great innovators who never settled for the status quo. They always were looking for things to improve. One person is Dr. John Graether, my mentor and fellow innovator. He would create a surgical instrument to improve patient outcomes. Over time I have had the pleasure of obtaining 10 patents on different instruments, and I largely credit my innovative spark to Dr. Graether and other innovators that I’ve had the pleasure of working with.

How did you become connected to the Innovation Team at CHOC?

When I came to CHOC Children’s, it was a brand-new environment; I had to find people with similar missions, values, and individuals who want to make things better. That’s when I ran into Mi4, Debra Beauregard and Dr. Anthony Chang. I think of Dr. Chang as a friend who is inspirational. I feel very fortunate to have him as my colleague.

I was also able to connect with Dr. Sharief Taraman, another CHOC innovator. Dr. Taraman intrigues me because he is so energetic. He is always looking at obstacles as opportunities, and that is inspiring.

Dr. Suh, what do you think are some of the top qualities of an innovator?

A very good quality of innovators is being open-minded and always willing to learn. We never create things from scratch; we are making things that are present and making them better. We support, encourage, and motivate each other to help each other, and that is really powerful. That motivates me to continue innovating.

There aren’t too many hospitals that have a group like Mi4. I feel happy and honored to participate in innovation at CHOC. My goal is to continue to innovate and look for opportunities to provide better care with safer surgeries by making my job safer and more effective.

I am currently working on ergonomics. Trying to develop special glasses to encourage physicians to acquire better ergonomic posture. So, they can enjoy their surgical experience without the distraction of pain and suffering. I am excited to share these with my colleagues at CHOC.