Traveling full circle – Dr. Amy VanBlaricom

Every day, OBHG’s clinical and operational leadership teams support our hospitalists in their programs. The medical director of operations, regional vice president of operations, and director of hospital operations work to help ensure that programs run smoothly and facilitate hospitalists’ success.

Our MDOs focus on clinical leadership, hospital relationships, new program starts and business development support. They help ensure the clinical teams are delivering quality programs that achieve both OBHG’s and the hospital’s clinical and operational objectives.

Dr. Amy VanBlaricom is the MDO for OBHG’s Region 1, which includes Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington.

How long have you worked with OBHG and how have you seen the organization evolve?

I was on the committee at Hoag Hospital [in California] that brought OBHG to that hospital around 2009. This was during the time when the Swain brothers were giving the program presentations themselves. I was in private practice and a few years later, I opted to drop OB from my private practice and become a hospitalist in 2014. I was a hospitalist at Hoag for about a year.

I later made the decision to go all-in as a hospitalist and became a site director at the new OBHG program at Rancho Springs Medical Center. That was a very busy program and our services were necessary! In 2015, my husband was recruited to a great job in Seattle and I contacted OBHG, asking if there was anything I could do outside of California. I learned about the MDO position, and said, “Yes, please.”

I feel I have come full circle because Hoag Hospital was very early on in the OBHG company life. When I sat on the committee and the Swains came out to speak, the concept made so much sense. I saw where things were going in the field. I was so busy as a private practitioner and it took such a toll on me. It was very stressful: going to the hospital, constantly late at the office, and back to the hospital.

I saw the future of obstetrics: it was going to be a doctor in the hospital and a doctor in the office. And there was no reason why these two people couldn’t work together as a team and make it a near-seamless process for the patient. I feel like I’ve been with OBHG from the beginning even though I didn’t actually work for them back then. I saw the vision, that’s for sure; I drank the proverbial Kool-Aid. I was such a believer and didn’t want to give up obstetrics, but I needed a change in how my career was going. 

What lessons has working in your current field taught you?

I have learned how to be a much better diplomat in communication – working with strong personalities and strong opinions. The communication style in this [MDO] position is different and you have to leave your ego at the door, which at times can be difficult. Now I’ve learned how to leave my ego behind and make the right thing happen for the patient, for the private physician, for the hospital, and for the nursing staff—considering all of the personalities involved in the sphere of the patient. 

What are important ways that you can support our clinicians on the ground?

I can support them by being their advocate with the hospital administration and with the OBHG “mothership.” We need to make sure that we as a company don’t lose sight of how critical our clinicians are to our success. I can also help to build the leadership acumen of the site director so that they can function day-to-day as the advocate for our hospitalists. I am also available to assist when the site director needs that extra help with the hospital, communication with the private practice community, or any site-specific negotiations.

What do you love the most about what you do?

I really have grown to enjoy my post as an MDO. I have a strong background in academic medicine, which involves administration. I didn’t realize that I missed that aspect until I came into the MDO role.

As an MDO, I feel like I can influence the quality of care and quality of physician engagement so much more than I imagined. I feel like I can make a broader impact, not only in the direction of women’s healthcare, but also with the quality of women’s healthcare we provide. I can make a difference through the influence I have over my programs, the education of my site directors, and the leadership development of site directors. All of those things that we do as MDOs make such a big difference in quality and engagement.

For me it’s extremely professionally fulfilling, much more than I imagined.

What is a challenge for you in your work?

One of the biggest challenges is working remotely. I must be very organized in how I approach my day because there are so many things going on: the pull of a clinical shift, OBHG corporate responsibilities, and my individual program responsibilities. Keeping all of those organized so I can maintain a high level of communication can be challenging.

If you don’t go into an office, arriving in the morning and checking out in the afternoon, it becomes very easy for your job to take over your entire world. Keeping organized, doing everything I need to do, and maintaining my relationships while keeping the work-life balance is a constant battle.

Please tell us about your background.

I was born in Minnesota and moved to Florida when I was seven years old. I grew up in Florida and went to college in the Southeast and to University of Florida Medical School. I majored in math as an undergraduate, which is not a typical course of study for physicians. When I wanted to become an OB/GYN, I wanted to explore other areas of the country and moved to Seattle for residency at the University of Washington. I’ve been a West Coaster ever since.

After residency, I stayed on as faculty at University of Washington for 10 years. I was associate residency program director, director of women’s clinic, and directed the residency OB/GYN clinic. I was involved in education and simulation and helped create the simulation program at the university. I had both of my children while I was pushing for promotion in academics. In the end, I did get the promotion, but I had a two-year-old and a four-year-old and was working much more than I wanted. I was traveling, giving lectures, giving grand rounds, and demonstrating a simulation program across the country. It was brutal.

A friend from residency had always offered me the opportunity to join her in private practice. So, I took her up on the offer and the whole family moved to California. That is where I first encountered OBHG at Hoag Hospital. This is the third phase of my career after 10 years in academics and 10 years in private practice. 

It’s so great that as a woman in OB/GYN, a busy clinical field, you can reinvent yourself and mold your career in such a way that it fits your life. Each of those periods in my life have made such a big difference in the next one.

As hospitalists, we can also fulfill the need to help others that we all have when we come out of medical school—without letting your career swallow you whole.

What are your hobbies outside of work?

I like just about anything that involves being outdoors: hiking, trail running, and skiing. I’ve been a runner my whole life and usually run one or two half-marathons a year.   

I love the sun and because of the long, gray Pacific Northwest winters, we plan sunny winter vacations. I envision my husband and I retiring to a cabin in the mountains—except it must have online access because he’s so connected.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I’ve known that I wanted to be a doctor since I was 10 years old. My parents were doubtful, but I never wavered.

What would be your second career?

A host of a Travel Channel show. I love to travel and think those hosts are very lucky to have the chance to experience all the people, cultures, and food.

What is something that people might not know about you?

I was in a TV reality show. Back in 2001, I was filmed for several weeks at work and home for several episodes of a Lifetime series called “Women Docs.”

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