Goals, Patient-Centered Decisions Drive Hospitalist Julianna Lindsey


It is very rewarding to me to be able to come into a hospital and put processes in place, then actually see the risk-adjusted mortality rates improve. One of my teams’ biggest wins was taking over an HM program in a hospital with a mortality rate of 4, and seeing that mortality rate cut literally in half within six months.

Growing up on a farm in rural Kentucky could have led to a career in the family business for Julianna Lindsey, MD, MBA, FHM. Except she knew at an early age that she wanted to be a doctor.

“My family physician was very influential on my decision to become a physician,” she says. “[He] mentored and encouraged me from a young age; it was very powerful for me.”

Dr. Lindsey earned bachelor’s degrees in biomedical science from the University of South Alabama and biochemistry from Western Kentucky University. She graduated from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and completed her internal-medicine residency at the University of Kentucky. In 2011, she earned her master’s in business administration from the University of Tennessee.

Immediately following residency, she worked for the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Lexington, Ky., as an ED physician. In 2002, she latched on to a career in HM when she and her husband, a gastroenterologist, relocated to Knoxville, Tenn. She recently launched a startup company, Synergy Surgicalists, with two orthopedic surgeons, and also provides process-improvement and leadership-development consulting.

She says she was told early in her career to know your goals and stay focused.

“That has been the guiding light for me throughout my career,” says Dr. Lindsey, one of nine new Team Hospitalist members, The Hospitalist’s volunteer editorial advisory group. “My goal is to make medical care better and safer for hospitalized patients. We increasingly need to figure out how to do that with fewer and fewer resources. Regardless, we can never move backward on delivering better and safer care to patients.”

Question: How did you decide to become a hospitalist?

Answer: I have always been drawn to the practice of acute-care medicine. I enjoy taking care of patients and their families in their times of need. From the purely diagnostic standpoint, I very much enjoy the critical decision-making required in the diagnosis and treatment of the acutely ill patient.

Q: What do you like most about working as a hospitalist?

A: I enjoy the opportunity to “dig in” and positively affect processes and patient outcomes throughout hospitals.

Q: What do you dislike most?

A: Fighting the “scope creep” that is continually pushing on us as hospitalists. Hospitalists are constantly being asked to admit patients whose problems are outside the scope of our practice as medically trained physicians. A few examples of this include acute surgical abdomens, intracranial hemorrhages, and blunt-trauma cases.

Q: What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in HM in your career?

A: The explosion of hospitalist programs throughout the country. Hospitalists programs are now even being built by payors and long-term-care facilities.

Q: For group leaders, why is it important for you to continue seeing patients?

A: In order to improve upon a process, you must know the process; to truly know the process, you must live the process. If you are not at the bedside delivering care to patients, there will be a disconnect between you, as a leader, and your physicians, who are at the bedside delivering care.

Q: What are your interests outside of patient care?

A: I believe the success—or failure—of a hospital, physician group, corporation, etc. is directly related to leadership. I enjoy leadership development because I see that as “mission critical” to the success of delivering better and safer patient care in any health-care system. As physicians, most of us never receive meaningful leadership training, yet are expected to come out of residency ready to lead. I enjoy providing physicians the tools to lead effectively. It makes the careers of physician leaders more fulfilling, as well as the careers of those physicians who are “following.”

Q: What is your biggest professional challenge?

A: Continuing to provide better and safer patient care with diminishing resources.

Q: What is your biggest professional reward?

A: Making a difference in the lives of patients. It is very rewarding to me to be able to come into a hospital and put processes in place, then actually see the risk-adjusted mortality rates improve. One of my teams’ biggest wins was taking over an HM program in a hospital with a mortality rate of 4, and seeing that mortality rate cut literally in half within six months.

Q: When you aren’t working, what is important to you?

A: My husband and children are the most important aspect of my life. My husband is a gastroenterologist; we have been married for 13 years. We have two healthy, happy kiddos ages 8 and 10.

Q: What’s next professionally? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

A: I am partnering with two orthopedic surgeons in a startup company, Synergy Surgicalists. Our company mirrors the hospitalist model utilizing general and orthopedic surgeons. It’s very exciting to have the opportunity to bring value to hospitals and patients on a larger scale. Also, for the immediate future, I have accepted the role of interim executive medical director for hospital medicine for University of Texas Southwestern and Parkland hospitals. We are completely restructuring those programs in preparation for moving into two beautiful new (and very large) hospitals. I’m very excited about working with a truly excellent group of physicians and leaders while we are recruiting a permanent executive director and expanding our ranks.

Q: If you weren’t a doctor, what would you be doing right now?

A: I cannot imagine not being a physician. I suppose if pressed, I imagine I would have landed somewhere in the financial industry. I am also a musician, but have a hard time seeing myself employed in that industry.

Q: What’s the best book you’ve read recently?

A: “Widow Walk” by Gerard LaSalle. He is a physician author who pens a beautiful story. It’s just an enjoyable read of American historical fiction set in the Pacific Northwest.

Q: How many Apple products do you interface with in a given week?

A: Sadly, I interface with 11 (11!) different Apple products in any given week. (Even sadder: I just came into an iPod Shuffle, so I’m up to 12 … )

Q: What’s next in your Netflix queue?

A: “Fringe,” Season 2, Episode 19.

Richard Quinn is a freelance writer in New Jersey.

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