The Beyond the Practice Interview Series has been created to give you an insight and advantage into the professional side of anesthesia through interviews conducted with leaders in the industry. Dr. Blomberg holds many titles including Regional Medical Director and National Education Director for Envision Physician Services. He is also the Chief of Anesthesiology for Memorial Healthcare System in Florida. As a leader and educator, it comes naturally for him to share his knowledge and experiences so you can grow in your career.
BagMask: To get us started, just tell me a little bit about Envision and your role within the company?
Dr. Blomberg: Envision Physician Services is a multispecialty medical group and it has more than 550 anesthesia programs all around the country. Overall, Envision is comprised of more than 25,000 physicians and advanced practitioners in multiple service lines, which really helps in bringing physicians together and breaking down any silos. There are many facilities and hospitals across the country where we have anesthesia contracts or other department contracts. This allows an integrated network to break down any silos between specialties.
One of the things I like to stress is that Envision Physician Services manages the contracts, but each group within the hospital manages their departments with support from the company. Every department has its own leadership structure in place and they have the ability to work with a hospital in a partnership to really ensure that our hospital partners are getting what they need, the services they need and the value that they need.
The role of the corporate leadership is to provide the resources on the ground, and that’s one of the biggest differences and the benefits of a large group practice – we have the ability to provide those resources. When I say resources, I don’t only mean financial resources, but quality metric resources, CME benefits, and the ability for people to grow and learn and lead.
I am currently a regional medical director, which means I support multiple facilities. I started as a staff anesthesiologist at a hospital in Hollywood, Florida, and from there I had the opportunity to grow, and one of the great benefits of Envision is that you have those opportunities. On the department side of our hospital, I became vice chief, then, after a couple of years, my chief was promoted to regional medical director, and then I became chief of our department.
I was chief for many years, and when my regional medical director was promoted to a vice president position, I moved into the role of regional medical director. I’ve continued to grow and expand my responsibilities. It also allowed me to improve my skills as an educator. I become an education director first locally. As that expanded, I took on the role of a national education director.
I’ll provide a little more background into our leadership structure. The facilities have an on-site medical director, who reports to me as the regional medical director. I report to a vice president who’s an anesthesiologist, and my vice president reports to a president who’s an anesthesiologist.
My primary role as regional medical director is to ensure there is a linkage between our national practice and our national initiatives, our national benchmarks and our national quality measures. That way I can ensure that all of my facilities on the ground and all my on-site medical directors have the resources they need to provide the highest quality of patient care.
BagMask: That’s an excellent description. I feel many anesthesia providers don’t really understand when they see somebody with your title exactly what your job entails. How does that title and role connect to an anesthesia provider working within a system?
Dr. Blomberg: My job is to provide the clinicians in all my facilities the resources and the support they need to advance their clinical and leadership skills. It’s my job to work with the site medical directors to identify those individuals, support them in leadership development and help make sure they have the ability to fulfill their goals and grow.
Then there is the hospital client side of the role. With all of the hospital partnerships I help support, I have to ensure that there’s a link from our site medical directors to me so that our clients feel they’re getting the value they deserve and the value that they need to be successful.
BagMask: One of the things you said was identifying that anesthesia provider who’s going to be able to take that next step from a staff position to a leadership role. How do you identify that person? What qualities are you looking for?
Dr. Blomberg: Fantastic question. Historically many leaders in medicine didn’t have leadership training. So how do they get picked? They were usually good physicians, good CRNAs, good CAAs, just good anesthesia clinicians. If they were good clinicians, people assumed, “Oh, they could be a leader.” That’s historically how it was done. There’s lots of research out there about leadership development that shows you that’s not necessarily a good method. First, somebody has to have an interest. We may have individuals that just don’t want to do it, they just want to be great clinicians. We have to identify the people who want to enhance those leadership skills.
They usually are the first or second to volunteer for initiatives, they’re usually the first to get on a committee at a hospital, they’re usually the first to respond to an email. So, you identify them, and then you ensure that the interactions in their day-to-day activities are professional.
A major component of being a leader is being a professional. That’s what the site medical directors look for in their team members. They’ll say, “Okay, this person has an interest in being a leader, has an interest in being on committees. How can I ensure that they have the resources to grow?”
Then, from there, we actually have Envision’s nationwide Emerging Leaders and Advance Leaders programs that we provide our clinicians who start to exhibit the attributes of a leader. We’ll enroll them in those leadership courses.
BagMask: Is the course a one-time program or are you constantly giving them more tools and resources to continually develop to go from one step to the next step?
Dr. Blomberg: We have three courses within our company. We have the Emerging Leaders program, which is for new leaders or those in the very beginning stages. The yearlong program includes webinars, on-site training and multiple meetings throughout the year. Next, there’s the Advanced Leaders program, which is usually for individuals who are already leaders or have already been to the Emerging Leaders program and are taking the next step. Finally, there’s the Pillars program. The Pillars program is more of an advanced, one-time crash course in leadership. So we have all three of those options.
BagMask: That’s great. We have to develop more leaders. Too often in a hospital, a new CMO or CEO comes in and they don’t have enough knowledge of the OR. What I’ve noticed is that the successful groups and hospitals are the ones that have anesthesia providers involved in leadership. Is that something you have witnessed?
Dr. Blomberg: Of course. I think that there’s the old saying, “If you’re not eating at the table, you’re the dinner.” You really do need to have a seat at the table, especially in today’s perioperative environment. You can’t go to the C-suite and just say “we’re a great anesthesia department because we provide great clinical care.” That’s a non-starter. That’s a must, that’s the baseline.
A hospital will evaluate their anesthesia group based on the value they provide. It’s done by sitting on committees, rolling out initiatives, pathway initiatives, pre-admission testing initiatives, etc. You have to ask, “How can we sit at the table and help the hospital be successful?” That’s definitely the way of the future, and that’s what we need.
BagMask: I appreciate you sharing all that information. I would like to bring it back to you, and your story. What were those moments that took you from just being an anesthesiologist to saying, “I want to take the next step”. And how did you grab those opportunities and continue to move forward?
Dr. Blomberg: I was actually very fortunate. I grew up in South Florida and went to medical school at the University of Miami. I had a fantastic opportunity to do my residency at Brigham Women’s Hospital, at Harvard Medical School in Boston. That really afforded me the opportunity to grow. There’s a lot of leadership development in that department. There were a lot of courses and opportunities to learn and enhance my skills. In my last year, I was appointed chief resident of the anesthesia department.
That was my first real opportunity to be a medical leader and actually sit at the table and participate in high-level retreats and high-level committee meetings. I truly saw that physicians and clinicians have a voice and that voice needs to be heard. That’s why we need to be at the table.
From there, I moved back home to South Florida. I joined Memorial Regional Hospital, which is part of the Memorial Healthcare System in South Florida. As an anesthesiologist, I spent the first couple of years focused on providing great clinical care. But, I was the guy that wanted to be more involved. I volunteered to be on every committee, I worked on different initiatives and did things that were not even asked of me. I started a Grand Rounds program within the anesthesia department. And that showed my chief at the time that I wanted to take those next steps.
What was great is that my chief at the time knew that he had the support and the resources from the corporate level to enable me the opportunity to grow. My leaders were invested in me from the beginning. I showed that I wanted to grow. I showed that I wanted to add value to our group and the company. In return, they invested in me. They gave me the support. From there I became vice chief and then chief of the department to where I am now.
BagMask: That’s excellent. I know education is a very big part of your role and something that you are passionate about. I like to touch on something a little bit more personal, if you don’t mind sharing it with us. You are the founder of a program called D.R.I.V.E. Can you tell us about it?
Dr. Blomberg: I started a program called D.R.I.V.E., which is Driving Responsibly In Vehicles Education when I was in college. When I was in high school, I was involved in a very serious motor vehicle crash and sustained serious injuries, and was fortunate enough to recover from them. I had great support from family, friends, and clinicians. Fantastic support. From there I noticed in college, that when kids were in the car with me, they drove a little differently once they knew my story. So I said, “You know what? I have to share my story with people.”
I basically took my story on the road to high schools and colleges across the country. I was a typical high school kid who was captain of the track team. I always followed simple safety precautions, but for one split second, I was not wearing a seatbelt, and my life changed forever. The program became very successful, and to this day, I still give talks around the country to high schools and colleges about my story.
That goes back to Envision. With their support, I have the opportunity to still give back to the community on a more personal level.
BagMask: And that’s just a great story. I really appreciate you sharing it with us. Last question. What’s your hope for all the anesthesia job seekers and those wanting to develop as leaders?
Dr. Blomberg: I hope that our specialty continues to grow. My hope is that our specialty continues to have a seat at the table both at the local level and a national level. It’s imperative that our clinicians get involved in advocacy and it’s imperative that our clinicians get involved in the healthcare environment on a local level at their hospitals.
At the end of the day it’s about the patients, right? One day all of us are going to be a patient. We have to acknowledge that fact and we have to have engaged clinicians who want to move the needle forward for better patient care. The only way that people in the healthcare continue to move forward is not resting on your laurels but by continuing to grow.