Monday, August 1, 2022. As I sit at my desk this morning, I’m celebrating ten years as the Executive Director of the Northwest Osteopathic Medical Foundation. While I was employed by the Boy Scouts of America for over 26 years, their policy was to move you to the state and position that would best serve the agency, and those moves were frequent. This is the first time I’ve ever held the same position for 10 years, and I’m taking this opportunity to reflect on my decade-long journey.
- When I came to work 10 years ago, there were about 2,200 active osteopathic physicians in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington State. Today, that number is reaching or has surpassed 5,000. That’s amazing growth, especially when you think about all the physicians that have retired over the past 10 years.
- On that first day, we had osteopathic medical students in Lebanon, Yakima, Renton, and Portland, but no graduates from any of these programs. We probably have over 2,000 graduate osteopathic physicians from these programs today and from the school added in Boise.
- Although the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, full implementation didn’t occur until 2014 and the effects of the greatest overhaul of the US healthcare system, combined with a global pandemic, have kept the practice of medicine and medical education in almost constant flux for a more than a decade.
- Over the past decade, the Foundation has invested about 3 million dollars into programs that support osteopathic medical students, residents, and practicing physicians as well as the general public, especially pre-med students. Over those same years, we had grown our investment portfolio by over 1.5 million dollars before this last market downturn.
- We have provided 102 scholarships to 89 osteopathic medical students; we raised the minimum scholarship from $2,500 to $10,000; implemented two new “diversity in medicine” scholarships; and involved over 80 DOs, MDs, DPMs, and PhDs in the process of selecting those students.
- We had 42 people serve on our Board of Directors under the leadership of 6 Presidents.
- We have awarded 32 Founders Awards to osteopathic physicians and supporting organizations for their contribution to the profession.
- We have published our weekly “Cup of Coffee” osteopathic wellness blog for 272 straight weeks.
- We have attended over 100 state association conferences and CME workshops, White Coat Ceremonies, Graduations, new student orientations, University President inductions, student fun runs, donor recognition events, residency visits, campus ribbon cuttings, AOA, OMED, AAO, NAOME, National Association of Osteopathic Foundations meetings, and public health events.
- We brought coffee and donuts to every AOA accredited residency program in our five-state region and provided hands-on OMM seminars for many of them.
- We have hosted “Talk with a Rural Doc” seminars; “The Feminine Touch – The Struggle for Equality in Medicine” screenings with panel discussions; and nightly “coffee house” events for those students struggling in the early days of the pandemic.
- We have been honored to be guest speakers at Rotary Clubs, Women’s groups, and graduation ceremonies, and served our immediate community frequently with a focus on children.
- We have had nine NW graduates of the Osteopathic Health Policy Fellowship, with 3 in the 2022-23 class and 2 more accepted into the 2023-24 class.
I can’t take the credit for these accomplishments. This has truly been a team effort. Everything we have accomplished is because of the efforts of hundreds like you that have given your time, talents, and treasure to our mission to promote and support the unique qualities of osteopathic medicine in the Northwest. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for everything.
No one expects you to know everything on day one. I brought over 26 years of experience in not-for-profit leadership and management to the office that first day, but my understanding of healthcare and medical education left much to be desired.
- Ten years ago; I knew there were two schools of osteopathic medicine in the country. My great uncle had graduated from the school in Chicago which was why our family preferred an osteopathic physician whenever that was an option. And in the early 1990s, shortly after arriving in Ontario as a new Endowment Director for the local Boy Scout office, I got an appointment to meet Dr. Philip Pumerantz, President of Western University/College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific in Pomona, CA. I told him I was trying to meet the most influential leaders in the area. He was completely unimpressed until I mentioned my great-uncle was a DO, and he was kind enough to not only meet with me but give me a campus tour.
- I’ve often said that I got lucky in my interview that no one ask me about medical residents. My best answer at the time would have been, based on the TV show Grey’s Anatomy, they were some kind of beginner physicians obligated to live in the bowels of a hospital; never slept, and lived on coffee and granola bars. The entire concept of GME, specialties, and residency programs was unknown to me.
- A.T. Still who?
- I needed to learn an almost completely new language as my healthcare vocabulary didn’t extend much beyond “physician, patient, and co-pay.” I remember being in Yakima for my first White Coat ceremony at PNWU and looking at the program. I saw that someone with the initials OMSI was going to be speaking. I turned to Linda and said, “they must work at OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry)”.
- As someone with a BA degree more than two and a half decades in the past, I was initially quite intimidated standing in a group of physicians and university professors. At our very first reception at COMP-NW, I was so flustered when I introduced Linda to the group, that I called her by my ex-wife’s name! Over time, I came to realize that physicians are people too and that my wife has more compassion than I deserve.
I started my first career in September 1985 and can still remember the few critical things I learned in my first weeks on the job that made such a huge impact over the next 26 years. The same is true with my second career. I’d like to share two of them that occurred in less than 5 days on the job.
- I was living and working in NYC when I was hired for this position and did my interviews via Skype. So when I arrived at the office on day one, I had not met a single person from the interview team or the Board of Directors. But Al Turner, DO took me to lunch on that first day. No one, except for A.T., is more “osteopathic physician” than Al. He listened, answered a lot of questions, and gave me a gift that set me up for success in my new career. He handed me a copy of “The DO” by Norman Gevitz and encouraged me to read it, which I did over the next several evenings. This historical perspective on medicine in America and osteopathic medicine, in particular, gave me the foundation I was lacking and made my transition into this new career so much easier than it would have been otherwise. Al has become both mentor and friend and one of the best people to come into my life.
- The second career-shaping and honestly life-shaping event happened at COMP-NW’s second White Coat ceremony, my fourth day on the job. Linda and I were invited as “special guests” for the event, and we were overwhelmed by the warm welcome we received. During her remarks to the incoming students, Paula Crone DO, Assistant Dean at the time, said something profound. I may not have it word for word, but having just heard her speak at the 12th COMP-NW White Coat ceremony a couple of days ago, I’m sure I have it close. “I can’t tell you what the practice of medicine will be like when you get there, but I can tell you this for certain: the world will always need competent and compassionate physicians.”
Dr. Turner gave me the foundation with the past: Dr. Crone a vision for the future. All before my first Monday in the office.
Dr. Crone’s words extend far beyond the incoming medical student. These are challenging times and we have some difficult years ahead of us. Each of us, regardless of what we do, needs to make every effort to do it with competence and compassion. I’ve tried to bring this message to work every day, take it home every night, and add it to everything beyond my family and career. I promise to make that same effort for as long as I’m honored to serve in this position.
It’s time to grab that next cup of coffee and start my second decade with this wonderful organization. Let’s make it a great day!