Jairy Hunter III, MD, MBA, SFHM, was restless and wondering if office-based practice was the right career choice for him. He’d already worked as an ED tech during medical school, as an emergency physician for a few years after that, and as a family practitioner for a little more than five years.
Lucky for him, hospital medicine was taking root in his neck of the woods.
“Looking back, I realize that, at that point, I was interested in doing something different, and in becoming a leader in a new setting,” says Dr. Hunter, one of the newest members of Team Hospitalist, the volunteer editorial advisory group for The Hospitalist.
More than a decade later, Dr. Hunter is doing what he loves—acting as the “go-to guy” for coordination of care. He’s gravitated toward a career in leadership, serving 10 years as medical director of a hospitalist group in his native Charleston, S.C. and, since September 2012, as associate executive medical director for case management and care transitions at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), also in Charleston. His titles include assistant professor in the department of family medicine at MUSC.
“We are the ‘details’ people,” he says. “The people who know how to get things done and maneuver efficiently through hospital systems.”
Question: What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in HM in your career?
Answer: Specialties like hospital medicine have become a sort of training ground for physicians in leadership. A lot of us were “thrust” into these positions, so to speak, with little background or training in how to be a leader. For example, I thought in order to be a physician leader, I had to work harder than everyone else, and I had to be the best doctor in the group. Let me tell you, most people will fail those tests almost every time! I think we are seeing many more hospitalists move into administrative roles along career paths like mine. It seems to be a natural fit, and I think that’s very exciting.
Q: What do you dislike most about the job?
A: The disjointed scheduling patterns that many programs have in place. I feel too many programs think it’s too hard to create scheduling formats that foster longevity. I also dislike the fact that some hospitalists are on their way to somewhere else, such as fellowship or other careers. They don’t involve themselves in making the hospital better, improving the patient experience, or taking ownership of the job as a group member.
Q: What’s the best advice you ever received?
A: Say “yes” as often as possible. That’s also the best advice I received when I became a dad.
Q: Why is it important for group leaders to continue seeing patients?
A: To maintain the sense of shared experience and to sustain credibility amongst your hospitalist and medical staff colleagues. In addition, medicine is our calling. We should never be so far away from it as to lose touch with patients and what we do best.
Q: Outside of patient care, what are your career interests?
A: I’m very interested in physicians in leadership. I recently changed from a large, for-profit entity to an academic medical center, so I’ve increased the amount of teaching from basically zero to about 25% of my time. I found that I really enjoy interacting with young physicians. My current role has responsibility for a number of administrative projects—specifically, several dealing with readmissions, EHR implementation, and collaborating with our outpatient physician affiliates. I find the business side of medicine interesting and surprisingly exciting, in that we are now challenged with figuring out how to maintain and improve quality care and efficient patient flow, while economic constraints are a reality.