Like many physicians, Larry Holder, MD, FACP, FHM, entered the medical profession with the desire to make a difference. After completing a fellowship in hematology and oncology in 1988, he joined Cancer Care Specialists of Central Illinois, a community oncology practice based in Decatur, and anticipated a lengthy career in which he would contribute to significant breakthroughs in cancer treatment.
After 12 years, however, he changed direction.
“I had become a bit disillusioned and realized we weren’t making big impacts, especially on the more common cancers,” he says. “I also got very attached to my patients, and in oncology, that’s not always a good thing. It became very trying emotionally.”
Dr. Holder spent the next five years practicing internal medicine at Community Health Improvement Center in Decatur. In 2005, he joined the hospitalist program at Decatur Memorial Hospital. Last year, he became medical director of hospitalist services, chief medical informatics officer (CMIO), and medical director of information systems.
Although he has found a new niche, his philosophy remains the same.
“Everything I do comes down to the fact I still love taking care of patients,” says Dr. Holder, one of six new members of Team Hospitalist. “That’s why I became a doctor. It’s very rewarding, and I never want to give that up.”
As a physician, I still find [clinical work] extremely rewarding. As medical director, I need to be in the trenches to know what the hospitalists are going through and what problems they are having. As CMIO, it’s very important that I use the system I’m in charge of trying to optimize.
Question: You left oncology partly because you became attached to your patients. Does that approach help you as a hospitalist?
Answer: Definitely. I try to teach younger hospitalists the value of developing a rapport with patients. I enjoy building that emotional or intellectual attachment. I’m a big believer in the human aspect of what we do, and it’s one of the aspects of my job I love the most.
Q: Did you join Decatur Memorial with aspirations of leading its hospitalist program?
A: No. My plan was to focus on giving good patient care, get involved on the quality side, and become the CMIO for the hospital. When the medical director role opened up, it seemed to be sitting there waiting to be filled. I structured it so I could continue to see patients and split my administrative time between being the medical director of the hospitalists and being the CMIO.
Q: Why is it so important for you to still see patients?
A: As a physician, I still find it extremely rewarding. As medical director, I need to be in the trenches to know what the hospitalists are going through and what problems they are having. As CMIO, it’s very important that I use the system I’m in charge of trying to optimize.
Q: What advice would you give to a physician who is about to become leader of a program?
A: You need to anticipate growth. I was caught off guard by how fast our program continued to grow, and how quickly we reached the point where we needed more hospitalists. In retrospect, I should have immediately started looking to recruit. I also was not prepared for the financial aspect. If you don’t have a financial background, I would very quickly get training in that area.
Q: What is your biggest challenge as medical director?
A: Getting others in the hospital to accept change, even when all indications are it’s for the better.