Many technically skilled professionals—including computer programmers, stockbrokers, or hospitalists—aspire to the executive suite.
The burgeoning field of hospital medicine offers especially enticing rewards for business-minded doctors, inducing frontline leaders to trade the white coat for wing tips and a shot at the top.
The pinnacle can be stratospheric. Adam Singer, MD, CEO of California-based IPC-The Hospitalist Company, traded his white coat for the so-called C suite. He has since filed an initial public offering that should produce $105 million for IPC’s stakeholders.
There’s also lots of room for hospitalists with more modest executive aspirations. The skills acquired by good hospitalists—thoroughness, the ability to solve complex problems, critical thinking, strong motivation, sound work ethic, and teamwork—serve physician executives well. Some physicians back into the executive suite once they realize they’re attracted to the business end of medicine. Those are the clinicians who volunteer to do the group’s scheduling or find that they enjoy negotiating contracts with new hires and payers. Others pursue a personal road map to the C suite.
The biggest decision facing a hospitalist with managerial aspirations is whether to relinquish patient care.
“For most of your career you must remain active clinically, even though your time is disjointed because you’re intensely needed in both clinical and administrative areas,” says Andrew Urbach, MD, medical director of clinical excellence and service at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. He manages both by constantly adapting. His time had been evenly split between clinical and administrative duties until July, when he cut back on his clinical duties. He now spends one week every quarter as a hospitalist and a half-day a week at the clinic. “It’s difficult balancing both, and reaching the highest level of excellence in two areas is demanding,” he says. “But the best hospitalist managers continue to see patients to maintain credibility with their peers.”
Stacy Goldsholl, MD, president of Knoxville, Tenn.-based Team Health, Hospital Medicine Division, was a staff hospitalist who ceded clinical work for a managerial career. After a three-year stint as a hospitalist with Covenant HealthCare’s hospital medicine program at Covenant Medical Center in Saginaw, Mich., her mentors recruited her to “jump around the country starting hospitalist programs during 2004 and 2005,” she says. “I was in the right place at the right time, and I had the confidence to move my agenda in a diplomatic way and with humor.”