Bryce Gartland, MD, was working as a full-time hospitalist at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta when hospital administrators first started asking him to take on administrative roles, such as clinical site director or medical director of care coordination.
Today, Dr. Gartland is hospital group president and cochief of clinical operations for Emory Healthcare, with responsibility for overall performance and achievement across all 11 Emory hospitals. In that role, he keeps his eyes open for similar talent and leadership potential in younger physicians.
Following internal medicine residency at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, Dr. Gartland moved into a traditional private practice setting in Beverly Hills. “Two years later, my wife and I decided to move back to my home town of Atlanta. This was 2005 and hospital medicine was a nascent movement in health care. I was intrigued, and Emory had a strong hospitalist program based in a major academic medical setting, which has since grown from approximately 20 physicians to over 120 across seven hospitals,” he said.
Senior leaders at Emory recognized something in Dr. Gartland and more administrative offers were forthcoming.
“After a year of practicing at Emory, the system’s chief financial officer knocked on my door to ask if I would be interested in becoming medical director for care coordination. This role afforded me tremendous opportunities to get involved in clinical/administrative activities at Emory – utilization review, hospice and palliative care, transitions of care, interface with managed care organizations. The role was very rewarding. In some ways, I became a kind of chief translator at the hospital for anything clinical that also had financial implications,” he recalled.
“Then we went through a reorganization and I was offered the opportunity to step into the chief operating officer position at Emory University Hospital. Shortly thereafter, there was leadership turnover within the division of hospital medicine and I was asked by the CEO of Emory Healthcare and chair of the department of medicine to serve as section head for hospital medicine.” Dr. Gartland wore both of those hats for about 2 years, later becoming the CEO of Emory University Hospital and two other facilities within the system. He was appointed to his current position as hospital group president and cochief of clinical operations for Emory Healthcare in 2018.
Consumed with administrative responsibilities, he largely had to step away from patient care, although with mixed emotions.
“Over the years, I worked hard to maintain a strong clinical role, but the reality is that if you are not delivering patient care routinely, it’s difficult to practice at the highest level of current medical practice,” he said. Nonetheless, Dr. Gartland tries to keep a hand in patient care by routinely rounding with hospitalist teams and attending care conferences.
Fixing the larger health care system
“I am a huge supporter of more physicians becoming actively engaged in administrative positions in health care. They are key to helping us best fix the larger health care system,” Dr. Gartland said. “However, we’ve all seen clinicians drafted into administrative positions who were not great administrators. One needs to be bilingual in both medicine and business. While some skills, such as strong communication, may cross over, it’s important to recognize that clinical strength and success do not necessarily equate to administrative achievement.”