Ollie is a Medical Doctor. A doctor who wants to make a change - He details his experience within the healthcare sector from being a fly-on-the-wall in the operation theater at the clinic of his best friend’s dad’s, to a man who wants to push the healthcare system into the new age. Now living in Copenhagen, Ollie shares how his bedroom, even after his son was born, is his sanctuary.
RF: Your family are from Aarhus? Tell me a little bit about you, man. You were born there, you grew up there.
I was born in 1991 on the day before Christmas. It was kind of a strange story. I think my mother signed a contract for the house they were moving into, on the same night that she was giving birth. She was practically in the bath when she signed the papers.
RF: Oh wow!
A nice white house where my mom and dad lived with my older brother and then eventually me. We went to a very nice protected little school nearby where there were never any fights in the school or anything like that. It was a very protected place. So that was our understanding of the world. A place in harmony where everybody's so nice to each other. Then you start at high school and that's when you start mixing with other kids from different schools and neighborhoods and realize what life is all about. You realize that you've lived in a small protected bubble. You've seen the world through rose tinted glasses and you haven't really experienced anything.
RF: Right, okay.
At some point at the start of my childhood my mom and dad got divorced. I don't even remember them being together, really. When I was finishing middle school my mother moved to London and she asked me if I wanted to come over for a year just to learn English. I went on to stay in London for about three to four years. I finished high school and went back to Aarhus to live with my dad. I knew by then that I wanted to go to uni but I didn't know what to study.
RF: I mean, how could you? You're just a kid at that age.
But people expect you to know. They expect you to have a plan. I knew I wanted to go to uni as I was always quite into academia, but I didn't know exactly what to study. At that time one of my best friend's dad, who is a plastic surgeon, had a clinic at a hospital. I told him that I didn't really know what to do, but that I had thought of going into medicine. And that's when he said, "You can come with me if you want. I can show you what it's like to be a doctor. I don't know if it's for you, but you can check it out.”
And I was just like, "Yeah, why not?" So a couple of days later I parked my car outside his hospital and I walked in and I was just this 19-year-old kid who didn’t know what to do. I went to his office and he was like, "Okay man, we're going right into surgery."
RF: No way!
I was like, "Oh, no. I'm here." But he threw some clothes at me, "Put this on." And continued, "Okay, so here's the deal. This woman was born with breasts that were way too big for her. So we need to reduce her breasts because she's got back pain." I was like, "Wow, we're doing that? We're removing breast tissue?" Suddenly I was standing there in this completely sterile gown inside an operating theater. And he was basically telling me how he wanted to basically flip the breast inside out and then scrape off all the fat tissue. I was just standing there. I mean, my jaw dropped and I was like, "This is fucking insane."
RF: That’s an insane first day at work story!
By the time I was done I went out and sat in my car and I was just looking at the steering wheel and was like, "Fuck, okay, this is it. I've got to do this. This makes so much sense to me."
RF: No way!
Yep, then I turned on the ignition and I drove straight down to this college thing where there was a student counselor. I knocked on his door and went, "Listen, I want to go into medical school. These are my papers. These are my credentials. How do I do that?" And he went, "You didn't study the right subjects to go into medical school. But we offer those courses so you can start tomorrow, and then you can be done in a few months."
I went, "Great." I quit my job and started right away. Six months later I had the right credentials and applied to medical school in Copenhagen where I studied for almost seven years, and now I am a certified doctor.
RF: That’s insane man… and that’s where you met your girlfriend?
Yeah. Well and ever since we started seeing each other, we haven't had a single night where we haven't slept together in the same bed. After being together for six years, we both finished medical school and bought this flat. And after a couple of months we were like, "Why don't we have a kid, this is perfect timing."
RF: It feels like everything is really well planned out with you.
Medical school for me, was just seven and a half years of fucking about in this weird cloud. I can't really put a time on anything that happened. It's just this one big sludge. The day you finish, the hamster wheel starts rolling, and then you can account for everything that's happened ever since.
RF: I'm interested to know, what's important to you?
I think it all boils down to making a big impact somewhere. When you see your life, there are many options. I think what everybody wants to do is to be something of importance to someone and make a difference somewhere, to have some kind of impact in life. I don't know exactly how I'm going to do that, but I think that's the light that shines away from me. I know it's a very privileged thing to say, but I would love for my job to be more than just a means to an end. I would love for the thing you’re working towards to be something bigger than just a paycheck to finance your everyday costs.
RF: How do you find out what it is you want to build?
I don't know. It's difficult, but I get haunted by the idea of working in a clinical ward for the rest of my life, or being a GP and having the same 2,500 patients for the rest of my life. I can see why it may be very cool in the short run, but to do it for the rest of your life. That scares me. It should be rewarding in more ways than that.
RF: Have you thought about what it could be that you could do if you don't follow this path?
I would like to build a company. I'd like to do a startup offering some kind of medical service and changing the way that we offer healthcare. I think there are some things that could be optimized, and I would like to be part of that. I would like to be one of the people who rethinks the way we do things.
RF: If we are talking about building things and being creative. I’m curious to know what you think creativity is and how it might manifest in your life outside of what you do in your day to day nine to five job?
Well, to start with my nine to five job. I think creativity is a very interesting thing in the operating theater. If we could just discuss that concept, because there's not a lot of space for creativity when you're doing a routine surgery, which is what 95% of the surgeries are.
But when you do a cancer surgery, then you probably have a scan from the patient and you have all the diagnostic work. You probably know exactly what type and where the tumor is. But when you open the patient up, let's say it's in the abdomen, you don't know exactly what that tumor is going to look like. Maybe the tumor has grown into the organs next to it, and that's when creativity finds its way to the operating theater. Those are the coolest operations in my opinion. And I'm overcome by an interest in pursuing spontaneous actions and creativity in standing on your feet. So cancer surgery is something that I've always been very drawn towards for that reason. It spurs creativity.
RF: That’s a type of creativity that’s a life or death outcome, it’s so crazy to me. How about outside the operating theater?
In my day to day life I like to find creativity in the small things. On your way home from work when you realize there's nothing in the fridge. Dinner has to be on the table in an hour so you go to the supermarket. That's when creativity kicks in. It's difficult for me to conceptualize. But that's creativity on a day to day basis.
RF: I'm just interested because creativity can mean so many things to different people.
We're not really being educated to be creative. We're always part of a team, part of a club, part of a society, part of an organization. The creative people that you're referring to here are always singular entities, which is not something that we are, especially not in Denmark. Basically you're not supposed to think you are yourself.
RF: You can't be an individual, stick out?
We're not very individualistic in Denmark in general. Here, we are homogenous and we find a lot of comfort in being like other people. And often you find yourself in a room with a lot of people that remind you of yourself, which is not always a good thing.
RF: Do you feel like a lot of people think the same way you're feeling?
Yeah. I have this feeling that in 20 years, you're going to find out that a lot of the people that you're with now are going to be in exactly the same place as you. I would love for it to be much more confusing and going in all sorts of different directions.
RF: Has the way you thought about your life changed by having a kid and COVID?
To tell you the truth. I haven't been affected a lot by COVID. We had the child during the summer of 2020 when we had the big second lockdown here and everything was at a standstill. But it was the perfect time because our lives were in complete lockdown anyway. We weren't going out. We didn’t see our friends. We were all at home at that point, trying to survive our little lives. It also meant that I could have a lot of really nice hours seeing my son when he was very little. Hours that most people don't get to spend with their kids because they have to go back to work, to put food on the table. So the timing was perfect, we weren't missing out on anything anyway.
RF: I am interested in the context of where we are, I never really set foot around here. So I'm interested, how did you come to live here? Why did you pick this place to buy?
We didn't really care that much about exactly where we were going to go. We wanted to live in the city, but we didn't want to live in the central part of the city. There are many cool areas around Copenhagen. We weren't picky. We just wanted to find something that we liked, and we wanted to have something that had a nice big room like this.
RF: It's fucking big, it's nice.
If you have 100 square meters, how do you want to distribute them? You need two bedrooms and a bathroom and what do you do with the rest of it? Our idea was, let's find something where we have everything. The rooms where we spend our conversation hours, let's maximize that space and then let’s have the smallest amount of space in the bedrooms and in the bathrooms. We've just been in this little cocoon of an apartment, building our family and we’ve loved it.
RF: What about this neighborhood, what can you tell me about it?
This is a part of Copenhagen where there's a lot of nightlife, there’s the theater and then there are some of the biggest nightclubs around here. On a Friday and Saturday night, there's going to be a lot of people out on the street. But when you walk around the historical center at eight o'clock on a Sunday morning, there's nobody except for maybe some people who are cleaning the road after the parties and the street florist who’s always up very early.
You'll walk around and see the lights hitting the buildings differently because it's Sunday morning. The smell is different. When I think of the scent of Copenhagen, that's what I think about. The streets are empty, the shops are closed, the buildings are just standing and the history is very evident.
RF: I really love that, those moments when you really get to take in your city whilst nobody is around makes it so special. Right? At this point, I'm curious to know how you would describe your relationship to your bedroom at this moment in time because it used to be quite a serene place? And then it got disrupted?
Yeah, well the bedroom before having a kid was very tranquil. Nobody wakes you up at night. You get to sleep. It's perfectly quiet. It's always very, very peaceful. It's your safe space, you're off duty. You can just detach and turn off your phone. You're just out for a while, but not when you have a kid anymore. The bed is no longer a complete safe zone. It's something you don't really realize. But then when you have a kid, suddenly you find yourself being woken up a lot of times during the night, if your kid wakes up, you are woken up. It's very stressful. So it changes in that sense. You are kind of on duty when you have a child.
RF: It's just the reality of the situation, right?
Well, it's still kind of a sanctuary. The terms have just changed a little bit.
I mean... There are two primary tenants, but then there's a sublet. Somebody comes in and suddenly has an interest in the place.
RF: That's funny, man. How do you currently spend your time in your bedroom? Is it purely functional or there's moments when you are relaxing in it.
You don't just sleep in your bedroom, right? It's more than that. It's also where you have very intimate and physical contact with your partner. There are a lot of endorphins you get in the bedroom and that gives it a special vibe. I mean, not just having sex, but also just lying there with your partner and falling asleep in each other's arms. I think that must release a ton of endorphins and must do a lot of good stuff for you when you feel that connection with somebody else.
RF: Lovely, man. I'm curious, if you have anything that is sentimental to you in your home?
I really like chairs. I have a thing for chairs. I think it all started with, I inherited that chair from my grandfather who, when he passed away, was sharing all the furniture.
RF: This? Yeah. I find it comfy.
You can see that there's a stab wound in the leather, which was a story where they had a nanny once and her boyfriend came over while she was babysitting the kids. I think she rejected him or something. She broke up with him and to punish her, he went in and stabbed that chair. But I'm dreading the day that I'm going to have to change the leather on that because it's cracked and very old. I really like the pattern and also the story that comes with it, and also seeing my own son sitting in that chair watching TV. I think my grandfather would have absolutely loved to see that because that's what his kids were doing as well. So it's the third generation of that chair with that leather. And yeah, the chair that's in my bedroom is my favorite chair of all chairs.
RF: Tell me about that.
I've always really, really wanted that chair. It's called The Chair, which there's a reason for it. It's the first. It's just the most beautiful chair from any angle. It's made by a designer called Hans Wegner. And the first televised TV debate with Kennedy and with Nixon, they were sitting on that chair.
RF: Oh, wow!
I always wanted it and one day there was a perfect one in an auction. And I just, I looked at it. I was like, okay, this is outside of my price range and-
RF: But fuck it…
No. I mean, I wasn't, I wasn't in a position where I could buy it.
It went way over the estimate. I was like, "Fuck, okay next time.". But then I get a phone call and it's my sister's husband who bought it and he didn't want it in his flat. It was an investment so here it is!
Edited by Frederik Berg