Chad Jackson knows that he will not cure cancer.
When he admits this, his voice changes from that of the inspiring football coach with the frame to match to an introspective, self-described Star Wars geek who finds peace tinkering with machine parts.
While Jackson says that he will not cure cancer, it does not mean that that is not his ultimate goal. His role will not be direct though—more like a piece of a larger puzzle that needs to be put together—like a game.
Games are the business that Jackson is in now—the type of games that provide an entertaining way for doctors to focus on skills that improve their patient care. There were more than 1,400 health-care professionals who played one of the GAMEs (Games that Augment Medical Education) Jackson created for CHEST 2016.
Watching this program grow from a single exercise and an activity on an iPad to a full blown arcade, including Pulmonary Adventures in the Temple of Gloom and Whack-A-Doc, has been both a victory for Jackson and motivation to create more.
The GAMEs are meant to be fun, but they have a purpose. Whack-A-Doc looks and plays like Whack-A-Mole, while teaching people the COPD guidelines, which Jackson likens to memorizing a phonebook. Taking something that physicians fret about and turning it into a game has been a niche that plays to Jackson’s interests.
The GAMEs at CHEST are more than just a spoonful of sugar to help an unlikeable activity go down, the activities use entertainment to help the clinicians memorize the subject matter of the activity. Jackson knows this because he also has a degree in education even if he remains an engineer at heart.
He grew up in Kansas, a place so Americana that it’s Superman’s adopted home. Like Superman, Jackson wanted to own the skies, and he started with a 400-piece model airplane set his father purchased for him before he turned 10. His career as a tinkerer had begun. If a part did not fit, he heated and reshaped it. What if he wanted to create a robot like R2-D2? A motorized remote control tank base and a trashcan cover worked well enough, at least, to startle his mother countless times.
“I wanted to be a Disney Imagineer,” Jackson says. “If you dream it. You can do it.”
He had the dreaming down. The next step was learning how to build what his imagination came up with. He studied aerospace engineering at the University of Kansas but found that following the career paths of other engineers meant chasing jobs or the next major project.
Seeking to establish a career, Jackson to found his calling in Respiratory Therapy through personal tragedy in his family. Lung cancer claimed his grandmother before she turned 53. His mother succumbed to lung cancer at 56, and his brother at the age of 34.
He found a passion for something that gave his career purpose beyond the work by helping doctors extend the lives of their patients. It would take some convincing on their end though to translate Jackson’s vision and passion into an actionable educational activity.
This is Part One in our conversation with Chad Jackson. Read Part Two next.
Note: Whack-a-DOC (COPD) is Supported in part by an independent educational grant from AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals LP. and an independent medical education grant from Sunovion Pharmaceuticals Inc.