Q&A: Courtney Wilson, MD
It is said that if you need something done, ask a busy person. Courtney Wilson, MD, certainly qualifies. While serving on 12 hospital committees, running Asante Rogue Regional’s Emergency Department, heading up the emergency response to COVID-19 and seeing patients in the ED while raising two young children it only made sense to take on one more role: the hospital’s vice president of Medical Affairs.
Dr. Wilson started her new job on May 18, succeeding Scott Wilber, MD, who returned to his home state of Ohio. She oversees a medical staff of nearly 95 employed and affiliated providers. She is Asante’s first female VPMA, but not the first executive to go from the ED to the C suite. Dr. Wilber, Eric Loeliger, MD, the VMPA at ATRMC, and Chief Information Officer Lee Milligan, MD, all have backgrounds in emergency medicine.
Why is it that so many ED physicians end up in hospital leadership? I think part of it is that we are constantly interfacing with a bunch of different specialties — cardiovascular specialists, surgeons, intensivists and so on. We already have relationships with key players on the medical staff.
Also, emergency physicians are comfortable with leading a team and making difficult discusions. Those skills are needed in administration and in orchestrating teams.
Did you always want to be in management? When I started at Rogue nine years ago, the ED director said he thought I could be a good ED director, so I had that in my head. I had some experience in leadership as a chief resident and could see myself as someone who’s comfortable making decisions. But it wasn’t my grand plan to become the VMPA; it was really just an opportunity that presented itself.
What do you want to achieve in this new role?
My focus now is trying to right the ship. We have been sailing through a storm with COVID-19. Now the waters are calmed a bit, and I’m helping to get the boat upright. We’ll be looking at what have we learned from COVID-19? What was put on the back burner that needs our attention? How can we co-exist with COVID? It’s not going away, but we know we can’t continue to put the resources in that we have historically.
We need to continue working together as a system, so I’m looking forward to collaborating more with Dr. Loeliger and [AACH VPMA] Dr. Lee Shapley to figure out how our hospitals can support each other.
You graduated from Brown University with a degree in comparative literature. Why the switch to medicine? I decided I wanted to be a doctor when I was 16 and went to El Salvador as a Spanish interpreter on a medical mission. Brown doesn’t have a core curriculum so I was able to fulfill my pre-med requirements while studing comparative literature.
How did studing literature help your medical work? It helped make me a better doctor. We don’t talk enough about how important it is for physicians to be well rounded and have an understanding of things outside of science. Communication skills, writing skills, humanity, storytelling — that’s all influential in medicine.
How does storytelling relate to medicine? They say if you just listen to the patient they’ll tell you the diagnosis. If you go into medicine knowing that every patients has a story, and if you have the skill to extract that story, they’ll tell you what to look for. Sometimes it’s about understanding what that person needs on a human level. Maybe they just need connection. Maybe they’re just scared.”
You’re married to Dr. Peter Canning, Asante’s medical director of Informatics. Do you have a family? We have two boys who are going to be 6 and 8 next month. He’s been able to work from home a lot so he’s been the primary parent.
What do you do outside of work? We’re really outdoorsy. We like to camp, ski, hike and play chess with our kids. Peter and I also do ultramarathons.
How do you find time to do all that? Learning that work/life balance is a priority and a skill I’m still honing.
Courtney Wilson, MD
- Vice president of Medical Affairs, ARRMC
- ARRMC Emergency Services medical director
- Attending emergency physician, ARRMC and AACH
- Medical degree: Oregon Health & Science University
- Residency: University of Utah Affiliated Program (chief resident)
- BA: Comparative literature, Brown University
- Conversational and medical Spanish
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