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Transforming healthcare in our communities - Spring 2018

By Cecilia Jerome, MBA, Physician Recruiter, MidMichigan Health


It may be the ASPR vision statement, but it’s also the mantra that Laura Screeney, FASPR, strives to achieve on a daily basis, as a leader in the in-house physician recruitment industry.

Serving as the director of physician recruitment at NewYork- Presbyterian, can be a bit humbling at times. NewYork-Presbyterian has been ranked as New York’s No. 1 hospital for 16 consecutive years, according to the US News and World Report annual survey of Best Hospitals. “Recruiting physicians for an organization that is included in this prestigious honor role, and is supported by two prestigious medical school partners, Columbia University Medical Center and Weill Cornell Medicine, is truly a privilege and an honor,” Screeney said. “Expectations are high to recruit the most talented, dedicated physicians to provide the highest quality, most compassionate care and service to our patients, not only in New York, but nationally and around the world. Expectations are high because our patients and our communities deserve the best, and it is my job to make sure that I am delivering the best.”

Unlike many other careers, there was not an educational curriculum to become an in-house physician recruitment professional. Screeney’s first position in healthcare was with a large multi-specialty group practice in the patient services department. She was managing the department when the vice president of medical affairs (VPMA) asked her to serve in a role similar to a chief of staff. In this role, her main focus was to handle any New York State or New York City Department of Health patient complaints that were presented to the physician leader for research, review, and resolution. In some instances, this led to system changes and modifications that helped their providers and staff deliver a better patent experience. This exposure and training in medical group and hospital operations, within a multi-specialty integrated health system, set the foundation for her career in physician recruitment. Screeney learned a lot from the clinical team that taught her how to navigate a medical record, and the administrators who taught her about clinical operations; “the learning experience was incredible. This was an invaluable training ground which helped form an insider’s understanding of clinical operations which has helped me to become a true strategic partner and organizational leader in physician recruitment.” When a need for an additional physician arose, her VPMA suggested she travel to Boston to meet a fellow physician recruitment professional at an academic integrated health system in Cambridge for some hands-on training. Given the newness of our industry, Screeney soon discovered that her newest colleague had just a few weeks’ more experience than she.

As the relationship between the two of them grew, Screeney said, they started conversing with other in-house physician recruitment professionals throughout the country. Their goal was to compare notes and seek guidance and support. This group believed that education began with networking, and they soon discovered that conversations were taking place to develop a professional association: ASPR.

“We, as industry professionals, must continuously keep ourselves well informed on not only the healthcare landscape in our own backyards, but healthcare globally. Local, state and national government changes, immigration laws, ACGME programs, and so many other factors impact our roles in our communities and organizations. The more we understand the healthcare landscape, the better we can serve the clinical footprint in our communities.” Screeney said. She said that education was the primary goal for the development of ASPR. And, Screeney added, the countless volunteers and staff of ASPR have strived to provide cutting-edge educational material during conferences, in the Journal, through webinars, the benchmarking survey, and many other tools that provide our members with the education they need to help them serve as strategic physician recruitment partners within their own healthcare organizations. She cited a speaker who many years ago talked about a pending physician shortage, before it became the mantra of firms and in-house physician recruitment professionals nationwide. Screeney recalls two physicians, pioneers in inpatient medicine, presenting at an ASPR educational session on the new breed of inpatient physicians called “hospitalists.” These two physicians were the founders of the Society of Inpatient Physicians (now the Society of Hospital Medicine-SHM).

Screeney also talked about how in-house physician recruitment professionals immerse themselves in what they do, and how personal experiences can influence the direction in which they take a project.

She tells the story of “art imitating life” when she was a key member of a health system-wide strategic team that transformed a community hospital into an American College of Surgeons (ACS) verified trauma center.

“As we were in the staffing stage of development, my sister was the victim of a hit-and-run and the team at an ACS Level 1 verified trauma center saved her life. Now my own family was living a real-life trauma so, (unfortunately) we experienced first-hand how access to a trauma center can impact a patient, their families and an entire community,” Screeney said. Screeney was scheduled to escort a trauma/critical care candidate for an interview the morning after the accident. That candidate (who accepted the position, by the way) and many of the other recruits on this newly formed trauma/ critical care team supported her throughout this ordeal and remain friends to this day.

Screeney’s advice to physician recruitment professionals who are new to the industry: “Stay informed of current events and trends on both a local and national level, use the ASPR Benchmarking Survey data and other relevant industry resources to provide guidance and expertise on the physician and advanced practice provider recruitment landscape to your leadership. This will lead to a true strategic partnership within your own organizations.” She added that this applies to both her role as an industry leader in ASPR, as well as her role as the physician recruitment leader at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. This passion for a comprehensive educational curriculum has been part of Screeney’s continued volunteer support within ASPR. She has held many positions, including president, within the organization. Screeney currently serves as chair of the Content Strategy Advisory Panel. She said she wants to be certain there are a variety of sessions for all levels of experience within our industry. “We need to continue to offer cutting-edge education. We need to explore what’s going on in healthcare nationwide — policy, practice, governance — not limit our educational options to sourcing options (yes, we need that, too), but provide education and resources to explore the entire healthcare landscape, which has a huge impact on our profession.

“I don’t develop our business plans, but I need to know how to interpret them to understand the business strategy that supports the recruitment of a new provider. We have to prove ourselves as a true strategic business partner in this process.” Screeney said she is very proud of the work that our ASPR colleagues have accomplished by “transforming healthcare” in their own communities.

This year’s conference once again will provide an array of sessions for inhouse physician recruitment professionals in addition to the focused education toward fellowship certification. There also will be opportunities to network and learn what your colleagues are doing differently, and to share your frustrations and the joys of in-house physician recruitment!