Editor’s note: Together with SHM’s Physicians In Training Committee, The Hospitalist is publishing articles that can help guide medical students and residents to careers as hospitalists. This profile is intended to give perspective on one of the many career options in the HM movement. Please share this with the students and residents you know.
Chris LaChance, MD, attended medical school at the University of Rochester (N.Y.) and in 2003 completed his residency at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Mass. He’s been a hospitalist ever since. In 2011, he became an academic hospitalist and now spends most of his time working with residents. He plans a lifelong career in hospital medicine.
Colleagues at Baystate voted Dr. LaChance the 2011 Hospitalist of the Year. He’s received numerous resident teaching awards in his career.
Question: What influenced your decision to become a hospitalist?
Answer: I did a rotation in residency where I actually performed the function of a primary care doctor doing inpatient and primary care at the same time. I realized it didn’t allow me to practice in the way I wanted. I really wanted to focus on one aspect. I like the challenge of working in the hospital. I also was exposed to a few people practicing at the time.
Q: What steps in your career do you think were the most significant in leading you to where you are today?
A: My initial job was at a startup program, which didn’t seem to have a lot of buy-in from the docs. They were being taken advantage of; everyone wanted them to be everything to everyone, including the subspecialists and the surgeons. It wasn’t well established, so I left and came back to Baystate, where I trained.
Q: What drew you to teaching?
A: I initially practiced for six years in a nonacademic attending. To be an academic hospitalist, you need a firm base of expertise in the nonacademic side. It helps that I’m able to do the work and help the residents with their efficiency in the teaching aspect. The fact that I was able to spend so much time developing myself as a good clinician made me a better educator.
Now that I have a great deal of practical experience, I think it really enhances my teaching. I enjoy making the residents enthusiastic about the medical literature and applying what they learn to practice. Watching their progression from timid interns to confident, knowledgeable senior residents is particularly rewarding.
Q: I know you have a particular interest in evidence-based medicine and that it is a focus of your teaching. Can you explain why that is?
A: I am encouraging the residents to focus on practical, high-yield articles and to utilize technology to allow diagnoses that are effective in expanding their knowledge. Practice guidelines, review articles, and resources—reading for general knowledge and understanding has been lost for some. I am trying to make a culture change to bring this back to residents.
Q: Do you see this as a sustainable career? What makes it sustainable?
A: I think the fact that I have so many different roles keeps it interesting and fresh—and the fact that things are constantly changing. Being a hospitalist in a larger institution allows for those variant roles. I’m not the type of person who likes to do the same thing day after day. I like that I’m not confined to one space during the course of the day, and I don’t have to be confined to a timeline.