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eDocTalk article

After one year as a chief medical officer…

July 2013

Lewis Low, M.D.

A few weeks ago I had my one-year performance review with my boss, Legacy CEO George Brown, M.D. I went into the conversation wondering if, given that George is a gastroenterologist, it would be better or worse than my recent colonoscopy. Well, I’m still here, and as with my colonoscopy, I was able to eat afterwards within an hour, so I’m glad things went well.

I’ve been thinking lately about the last year and reflecting on the experiences I’ve had as I’ve learned what it means to have three jobs –– to be an intensivist as well as a senior vice president and a chief medical officer (CMO).

I’m grateful to be able to still work shifts in the ICU each month both to maintain the skills I've spent the last 22 years developing, and also to keep grounded and connected to the work of taking care of patients, which is truly the basis for all that we do at every level of this organization. It is my pleasure to work with such dedicated clinical staff.

Learning curve

But I am also grateful for the new experiences I’ve had in the last year. I have enjoyed a big learning curve in what it means to be an executive leader of one of the largest corporations in Oregon. It’s been challenging and stimulating as I’ve spent the past year learning about care transformation, finance, human resources and how to sit in a board room for four straight hours.

I’ve also had to learn patience because things work a lot slower on the administrative side than they do in the ICU. It takes time in an organization as large as Legacy to get the buy-in necessary to make directional changes. However, being the CMO has proven to be even more rewarding than I expected. I find that almost without exception, our medical staffs work tirelessly to take care of our patients. Similarly, Legacy’s senior leadership team truly cares about the patients we serve and is committed to doing the right thing. And despite my trepidation about my first review, George really is as genuine and engaging behind the scenes as he is in front of large groups of people.

Two worlds

On the surface, my three roles may seem very different. Despite the seeming gulf between the two worlds of administration and clinical care, we share a common aim. The reality is that we’re all trying to do the same thing –– take good care of patients and figure out how to excel in a changing health care environment. Administrators and clinicians bring different strengths, talents and perspectives to the table, and these different worlds complement each other.

Having spent the last year learning to navigate multiple roles, I would like to see more physicians help bridge that gulf by embracing leadership opportunities. It is absolutely crucial to stay involved. For those of you who are interested and willing, I encourage you to continue to strengthen your partnership with Legacy by getting involved, staying informed and continuing the dialogue that we’ve started over the last year.

As always, please send me any questions, concerns or ideas.


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