Jasen Gundersen, MD, MBA, CPE, SFHM, didn’t take the straightest path to HM. First, as he entered University of Connecticut School of Medicine in Farmington, he thought he’d be an emergency medicine physician. Then he thought about being a rural primary care physician. To that end, he did his residency in family medicine at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester.
And yet, somehow, he became a hospitalist.
“I found that I liked spending all my time in the hospital. I could spend all my time with patients and deal with higher-acuity issues,” says Dr. Gundersen, president of TeamHealth Hospital Medicine in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “I found that I’d rather deal with acute and more complicated [cases] in the hospital setting than work in an office setting. I like the pace of working in an acute care setting.”
The move to HM, and later to an administrative role, shocked some of his friends and colleagues. But in medical school, the nature of emergency room crises became clear: For a cardiac case, the cardiologist would take over. For a surgical issue, surgeons rolled in.
“I found that if I was going to be doing primary care for folks, which is what happens in a lot of emergency rooms, I didn’t want to do it in a quick, in-and-out setting, where you don’t really get to know the patient,” he says.
Now, Dr. Gundersen is bringing his off-the-beaten path career insights to Team Hospitalist. He’s one of six new members of the volunteer editorial advisory board of The Hospitalist.
Question: Was there a mentor who pushed you to HM?
Answer: It just kind of happened. I liked working in the hospital. I was really excited about my weeks in the hospital and when I was in the office, I was thinking about working in the hospital.
Q: How did HM help prepare you for your current position, in terms of growing and building a business?
A: It’s a rapidly growing field. The timing was perfect for me to be in the field and have a background in hospital medicine and grow in a leadership role. I think my background of knowing hospitals made it easier to be a HM leader, but along the way I had hospital leadership roles. The experience working in the hospital, as a hospitalist, touching all aspects of patient care, really set me up well for a leadership role in a hospital. That was a springboard for me, managing doctors, to step into the role I have now with TeamHealth.
Q: What do you miss most about clinical work, given that you spend most of your time now in business development?
A: The simplicity of it, compared to the complicated aspects of running a huge company. It’s nice to be able to just go in and be a doctor sometimes. You know, talk to patients about their illness, work through the systems, and just be a doc. Not thinking about fixing something and managing people.
Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
A: Be honest. Always be honest. That’s be honest with yourself about what your abilities are, where your limitations are, and what your goals are and why you have them. And then be honest with all the people you work with about what you can do and can’t do. That is probably the most important thing. If you are a hospitalist and want to be a leader, be honest with yourself [about] why you want to do it. Is it because you enjoy it? Is it because you think you are going to have more time or make more money? Are you capable of handling the stress of being a leader?
Q: What is the worst piece of advice you’ve ever received?
A: I don’t know, probably because I just ignored it.
Q: Where do you see the field in five to 10 years?
A: I think the field of hospital medicine needs to be cautious of the pace [at which] we are growing, and some of the limitations and demands we have been trying to put on it. I think we need to embrace the growth and embrace what people are asking us to do. I think the role of hospitalists will get bigger and bigger. I think what has really happened is that we have transitioned into two types of physicians in general, and I think that is because of the hospitalist movement. Medical staffs will be made up of outpatient physicians and inpatient physicians.
Q: Any concerns about that growth?
A: I think we need to be cautious as we grow that we don’t overspecialize the hospital and that we realize that what has allowed us to grow is our flexibility. The ‘scope creep’ of what we cover and what we do is going to continue, and we’re going to have to work with it and seize that opportunity.
Richard Quinn is a freelance writer in New Jersey.