14 Jun Physician Spotlight: Don Jansen, MD, VPMA at Elkhart General Hospital
Early in his tenure at Elkhart General Hospital as vice president of Medical Staff Affairs, Don Jansen, MD, sat down with the Beacon Journal of Clinical Excellence to share more about his path in medicine, challenges facing physicians today and his vision of success in his new role.
Q: What led you to become a physician?
A: When I was 19 years old I had the opportunity to participate in a four-month cultural exchange program in the West Indies. I worked on a short development project but realized I just didn’t have any skills. And I guess at 19, that’s natural. But it just really hit home.
I decided that I wanted some skill that I would be able to take with me wherever I went. And I thought medicine was the perfect opportunity and I think probably it probably fit my nature. Whether you’re a doc, a nurse or a respiratory therapist, you find something that you identify with. I never thought about it prior to that time, or that I could even do it. I think it was a wake-up call — if everybody else can do this, you can. Why not?
Q: What have been some of the milestones in your career path?
A: I was trained in western Canada and I worked in an inner-city clinic for three years. Later on, my wife, who has a French-Canadian background, wanted our children to have a bilingual education so we moved to eastern Canada where I worked in a rural practice.
Looking back, I naïvely took on more than I should have, initially in areas where services were underprovided. They tended to be quite forgiving of newcomers. Specialty support was limited. There was little interest in inner-city work at that time. And in the rural area, support was primarily from the few colleagues with whom we shared call and worked with at the hospital. I think self-sufficiency develops. But this can be at the expense of excellence, which really comes from teamwork and an accumulating institutional experience. Technology has blown this up with the ubiquitous availability of Internet information. Telehealth exchanges, too, have opened up rural locations and sites that are isolated or where provider care is limited.
As the children got a bit older, we wanted to tie into some of the colleges here in the states. An opportunity arose, and we came down and I continued my work as a family doc.
I’ve had the opportunity to work with different universities — the University of Alberta when I worked in family practice, the University of McGill and the University of West Virginia. And then, even later, I was doing administrative work at the University of Pittsburgh. So those experiences have been really exciting, a real opportunity for me to see a lot of different ways that people do things.
What has most surprised me is the variety of opportunities I’ve experienced.
Q: How would you characterize the biggest challenges facing physicians today?
A: I think the biggest challenge for docs is managing time and responsibilities and staying on top of the knowledge and technology available in their fields. At the same time, you want to make sure you’re giving the best care available and maintaining a relationship and attachment to people. I think that’s the challenge for physicians and for all health care workers in whatever field they are in.
Q: What would you say your goal is in working with medical staff members at Elkhart General Hospital?
A: The medical staff members set a great example here — they are very collegial and they slow down to discuss matters and I think that’s a great place to begin. My challenge is to understand what is on their plates and to work with both the physicians and the administrative team to set priorities and help things along.
The traditional role of the VPMA was to do the credentialing — the identifying and verification of physicians. While that still remains a core function, so much of it now relates to setting the stage and helping the health care team really deliver great quality care. I think the best way to do that is to be very respectful of the resources you have and to build on those.
This hospital has a great supportive network of community docs and the specialists here at the hospital — it’s wonderful. I’m very appreciative to have the opportunity and to have a good place to work. Work should be satisfying. If not, part of my job is to find out what we can do to make it better.
Q: What does success look like to you in your role as VPMA at Elkhart General Hospital?
A: Communicating effectively, sharing a common vision of excellent clinical outcomes with the medical staff and capturing some innovation that improves care and service.
About Don Jansen, MD
Before coming to Beacon Health System, Dr. Jansen served as medical director of Care Management at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Mercy. In addition to his outstanding clinical background, his work included critical transformation efforts in care coordination, health information management and readmission rate reduction.
Before his time at UPMC Mercy, Dr. Jansen served as vice president of Medical Affairs at Shenandoah Memorial Hospital where he led the organization’s telemedicine efforts. In addition, he served as vice president of Medical Affairs at City Hospital (University of West Virginia).
He received his medical degree and completed his family practice residency at the University of Alberta, Edmonton. Dr. Jansen has served on a number of committees and has collaborated with such organizations as The Advisory Board and The Joint Commission.