St. Mary’s Healthcare in Amsterdam appoints van Roekens chief medical officer – Reuters
AMSTERDAM — A veteran emergency department doctor took over as chief medical officer of St. Mary’s Healthcare on Monday, with plans for a collaborative leadership role at Montgomery County’s only hospital.
Dr Craig van Roekens, 60, joined the hospital’s medical staff last September as the health team’s emergency department manager after serving in the same role at Glens Falls Hospital . In early 2022, he became a hospitalist director at St. Mary’s.
He now succeeds Dr. William Mayer, who retired after a long tenure as a member of St. Mary’s medical staff, the last eight years as CMO.
Van Roekens and his wife, Patty, live in Orange County and are parents to 21-year-old triplets.
He grew up in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Massachusetts, the son of an information technology manager and a school reading specialist. He hopes to embody the analytical skills of his father’s computer work and the compassion of his mother’s schoolwork, but the inspiration to become a doctor came from neither.
Nor does it come from the missionary work in Africa carried out by his great-great-grandfather, a Belgian doctor.
Rather, it came from his grandmother, a nurse, and her collection of medical drawings.
“She’d take home Frank Netter’s illustrations of all the drugs [salesmen] and I was seeing them at a young age,” van Roekens said. “She made me want to become a doctor.”
As a young doctor, he emerged from the emergency medicine residency program at Johns Hopkins Hospital into a medical community struggling with the HIV epidemic and adapting to the rise of the HMO health insurance model. .
Van Roekens went on to earn a master’s degree in business administration and public health from UC Berkeley.
In the decades that followed, he served as chief medical officer for a group of New York City physicians, but more often worked in a caregiver role than in an administrative role.
He will lead a team of more than 80 physicians at St. Mary’s Healthcare, which averages about 5,000 hospitalizations and 90,000 outpatient visits annually.
On Tuesday, van Roekens discussed his career and his new position with this newspaper. The interview has been edited in places for clarity and brevity.
You obtained management diplomas after your medical training; have you always aspired to a management position?
“A colleague of mine from Hopkins said, ‘Look, you have to learn about this, you have to learn about the field of medicine. And I decided to pursue MBA and MPH in a combined program. I have always wanted to provide health care on a broader level, but I also want to ensure that health care remains centered on the patient and their needs, and does not neglect the people who provide care. I think physicians should lead health care and that goes hand in hand with the whole team approach. But it can’t be insurance companies that run health care, it can’t be the latest trend.
Will you continue to work as a doctor as a doctor now that you are CMO?
” It’s difficult. We’ll see. It’s a demanding job and I want to make sure I give it all the attention it needs. Over the next few months, I will still be doing some clinical work, but at some point I will have to change settings. So I think ultimately I’m going to have to let that go, and it’s hard for a doctor – it’s very immediately and immensely rewarding to make a difference in saving someone’s life. But I would like that to happen through the work that I do to make it easier for other doctors, other nurses to do the same thing.
Do you feel like you’re trading one type of stress for another?
“Stress is a good thing. Stress is what keeps me alive and going. So I like a little stress. Without any stress, we get no change or improvement. I seek the stress with which we can make positive changes. I’m sure there will be days that are more rewarding than others – it comes with the territory.
Is it more difficult to be judged by the work of others rather than by oneself after having worked so long as a doctor?
“I don’t think so. In fact, I take great pleasure when someone does something well at any level. We never want anyone to fail. There will be misfires, that’s part of the condition. Our job is to try to recognize when there are failures, what we can do to improve it, how we can work together to solve some of these things. COVID is a perfect example of this: every day, every week, we had a slight change in some of the protocols when it first happened. We learned from some of those initial missteps, and many people are part of that learning curve, at the governments, regulators, the people who provide this care and the families and patients who have been affected by it.
What lessons are you and the hospital learning from COVID, America’s worst public health crisis in a century?
“I think there are a few lessons. First, collaboration is important. I had doctors working in different places, some I knew, some I didn’t know, and we were using all kinds of communication, in real time, about hey, how do you handle that in city ? There’s a lot of things that COVID has brought about, including hybrid working, including telemedicine, and it’s given us a lot of opportunities to continue some of those efforts. Geez, humility is certainly a lesson, because just when we think we have it all figured out, things have changed a bit. As a leader, I don’t want to be dictatorial, I want us to be exploratory and thoughtful about how we solve problems. I think it is important.
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