Why this CEO filmed his colonoscopy

Most people wouldn't jump at the opportunity to film their colonoscopy, but Georges Leconte, CEO of New York City-based NYC Health + Hospitals/Harlem, is an exception. 

Mr. Leconte decided to do just that when Joan Culpepper-Morgan, MD, chief of the division of gastroenterology at NYC Health + Hospitals/Harlem, and the health system's First Deputy Press Secretary Annais Morales presented the idea to him. The goal of the video was to de-stigmatize colonoscopies and to encourage people, especially Black men, to get screened.

Mr. Leconte and Dr. Culpepper-Morgan recently connected with Becker's to discuss Mr. Leconte's colonoscopy experience.

Note: Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Question: Were you nervous? Did you have any reservations? 

Georges Leconte: The one thing I said was, "Look, there's a certain level of dignity I'd like to keep," and I will say Dr. Culpepper-Morgan was really fantastic in saying, "I will make sure you keep your dignity." I said, "Okay, fine. We'll do this," but overall, quite honestly, the prep was really the hardest part. Other than that, there's really not much for me to do. Dr. Culpepper-Morgan did all the work. I just laid back.

Dr. Joan Culpepper-Morgan: He had a good nap. Luckily, he was a straightforward pull, and there were no surprises. But he did do his job, which was to take the prep material and that's it. It really is the worst part of the whole thing.

Q: Colorectal cancer is expected to cause about 52,550 deaths in 2023, according to the American Cancer Society. What barriers need to be removed to increase access to colon cancer screenings and shrink that number?

JCM: Number one, there has to be discussion with the primary care providers of our patients of color and our underserved in order for them to know that it's important. Most people will not believe that this is something that they have to do unless their doctor tells them that it's important to do. So that the average doctor needs to recommend [colonoscopies] to their patients.

The other thing is that I believe the patient has to have time to be able to discuss the risks, the benefits and the alternatives to colonoscopy. Because once you agree that you need to be screened, and again, medicine is better at prevention than it is at cure, so the sooner we get out in front of it, the better. But once you agree that you need to be screened, then you need to be able to have a conversation with someone about colonoscopy versus stool-based tests, what that means, when you have to come back and the follow up because it's a process. I think the problem is people don't have enough time. And of course, people have to have insurance. The more access we have to insurance for folks, the better, and the more likely they are [to get colonoscopies] because people don't want to be stuck with a bill. 

Q: You took the phrase "lead by example" to a whole new level. How can other healthcare leaders implement leading by example into their own leadership styles? 

GL: Well, I think if you're going to ask people to do things, you should be able to show that you're willing to do it itself. I was preaching, "Hey, colorectal cancer month, let's be aware of it!" and I thought this was the perfect time. I was due for one anyway so it's perfect timing, you know, the stars perfectly aligned. I had the right physician. I had the right publicist that sort of brought it up.

It's interesting because other CEOs have reached out to me and said, "Hey, I'm glad you did this. I'm getting mine done now or I just did mine, or I'm going to do mine." So it takes away the taboo for a lot of people or the uncomfortableness. Sometimes people will say, "I don't have time," but listen, if I can show you that I've made the time to be able to do it, you can too. So there really isn't much of an excuse. It's one of those cancers that are so curable, it can be prevented. Once it's caught early, you can cure it and prevent it so much. So that's why I really preach this. It's worthwhile. I've had colleagues that had colon cancer, and have had multiple bouts of colon cancer and to see what they've gone through. For me, that day of prep and two hours of the procedure itself, it's very much worth it.

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