On May 22, 2014 the University of Louisville Residents’ Business seminar was the last group I would address as President of the Greater Louisville Medical Society. It went something like this…
I didn’t have a course like this when I was a resident.
I wish I had.
Somewhere between respiratory acidosis and cardiac preload, learning to read a spreadsheet could have been worked in.
But it wasn’t.
You’re very fortunate that your university is enlightened and generous enough to offer this course for you.
Today, with healthcare taking up about 20% of our nation’s GDP, there are many non-medical types grasping for our nation’s healthcare steering wheel.
Soon you will be finishing your residencies.
You’ll board the healthcare industry train.
You can either be a passenger or a driver.
It’s your choice.
As I prepared for today’s seminar, I thought about what I would say to myself if I could time travel back fifteen years to when I was sitting where you are now, finishing my residency.
I would tell myself that there are three balls I will have to juggle.
The first ball is your “clinical” ball. Thus far, keeping this ball in the air has been the primary focus of medical school and residency training. Patients’ needs must be met. Your patients must be well.
The second ball is your “family” ball. You’re not on this journey alone. Your loved ones and close friends depend upon you as much as you depend upon them. Lose their support and the stress of being a physician can be overwhelming. Your family must be well.
The third ball is your “self” ball. Do not neglect your own health, outside interests, passions, talents, or loves. Your self must be well.
The best way to keep these balls in the air is by juggling them yourself. Don’t delegate that job. Even though most of you will be employed, avoid dependence by becoming as comfortable in boardrooms as you are in operating rooms. You must not ignore the business of medicine.
(A letter arrives. It is from the future. It reads…)
Dear 2014 Me,
I’m writing you from the year 2025. Physicians are no longer considered necessary. They just get in the way. Healthcare is a mess. It’s all based on metrics. Everything is quantified and graded. There is no creativity. No innovation. No flexibility. No passion. No compassion. But at least we get to go home when the whistle blows at three p.m.
This does not have to be our default future. We can do better. But only if we have physicians willing to lead. And physician leaders now must understand the business of medicine, or else medicine will be nothing more than a business. We must be in boardrooms and wrestle back control of the steering wheel.
(Another letter from the future arrives…)
Dear 2014 Me,
I’m writing you from the year 2025. Physicians are the essential driving force in medicine. Metrics are used to add structure to the art of medicine, not to govern or discipline. The patient-physician relationship is secure and flourishing. Creativity, innovation, and compassion fuel our passions. I don’t know what you told those residents back in 2014, but it must have worked. Thank them for me and for all of us.
Someone here must have listened. Someone decided to fill the vacuum created by the lack of physician business leadership. Someone stepped up and took firm grasp of the steering wheel guiding our nation’s healthcare. Someone refused to accept our default future.
Who was it?