As part of a new series on the maturing of the emergency physician career, EPM’s Fitzgerald Alcindor sat down with EP-turned-administrator Barry Rosenthal, chairman of EM at Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, New York.
EPM: How long have you been practicing emergency medicine?
Barry Rosenthal: Nearly 25 years. I trained in internal medicine and began moonlighting in an ED in 1988; I became a full time attending in 1991.
EPM: How did you climb the ladder to your current position? Was it always your ultimate goal, to become a chairman?
Rosenthal: For many years I was very satisfied with my career as an ED attending. I enjoyed the ED I worked in, didn’t mind working weekends and 12-hour overnights, and thought that I would continue that role until I retired. I became assistant director and became more involved in ED operations while maintaining the same clinical. My ultimate goal at that time was to retire after many years of a rewarding career as an EP. By 2003, the changes in landscape of healthcare were beginning to affect my ED, and it became clear to me that there was going to be a change in management of my department. I then made what turned out to be a wise decision…I went back to school. To better position myself to be considered for director of the ED I was already working in, and in case I would need to find a job elsewhere, I entered the Executive MPH program at Columbia University and received a degree in Health Policy and Management. That program gave me management skills that led an interim medical director role at my current hospital and, ultimately, the chairmanship of the department.
EPM: What was the key to you making a successful transition from clinical to mainly administrative?
Rosenthal: The key was advanced education, and that included learning to speak the language of hospital administrators and understand their challenges. The transition for me from clinical to administrative was smooth, in large part due to the support I received from the hospital administration and my fellow department chairmen.
EPM: What advice would you give to fellow EPs who might be interested in a similar career transition within EM?
Rosenthal: Going back to school is not an option for everyone, so get as involved as you can with your hospital – not just the ED. Represent the ED on hospital committees, get to know your hospital administrators and make sure they know you. Get involved with your ED state or national ACEP committees that address management issues. Read about management and leadership in general. Learn to see the ED as others see it. Learn to embrace problems and complaints, tackling them head on. Don’t be defensive! Don’t lose your EM skills and remain a solid clinician.
EPM: What do you like the most and what do you like the least about the transition to administrative work?
Rosenthal: I miss the 3-4 days off I had weekly, but I don’t miss working weekends and overnights. I like being responsible for solving problems; I don’t like problems I can’t solve. I enjoy leading my group of terrific doctors, PAs and NPs.
EPM: Any final thoughts?
Rosenthal: To transition from a clinical role to an administrative one, view the changing healthcare landscape as a challenge. Don’t stay set in your ways – continue learning and be willing to embrace change. If you move into an administrative role, remain active clinically and don’t lose sight of the challenges facing your colleagues in the department.