February 6, 2019

Profiles of 2018-2020 Democratic Group Practice Section Officers

Rob Thomas MD
Chair | Minneapolis, MN

I trained in emergency medicine at Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) in Minneapolis MN from 1999-2002.  I thoroughly enjoyed what the Twin Cities had to offer while in residency, so I decided to stay.  I had the fortune to join Emergency Physicians Professional Association (EPPA), an independent democratic group in Minneapolis/St. Paul, which has existed continuously since 1969.   Currently, EPPA partners with 11 hospitals in 5 health systems in MN to provide care for their emergency patients.  We also own and operate 3 free standing acute care clinics that treat 75,000 patients per year.  (Our acute care clinics are functionally Emergency Departments, however, state law prohibits the use of the term free standing Emergency Department unless you are owned and operated by an accredited hospital.)  Collectively, our group treats over 550,000 emergency patients per year.  We accomplish this with 220 physicians and 70 Advanced Practice Clinicians.

Since joining EPPA in 2002, I have held the offices of recruiting director, scribe director, medical director, and I currently have been serving as president for the last 5 years.  I am passionate about my independent emergency physician group.  I believe that the independent physician and their independent groups are the means by which we will preserve the future well being of emergency medicine physicians in our country.

I look forward to leading and providing value to independent emergency physician groups through the Democratic Group Practice Section of ACEP. 

Chair-Elect | Freeport, Maine

Although my family roots go deep in Maine, the fact that I grew up in the foothills of Connecticut means that I can never be a true Mainer.  While at Brown University pursuing a Political Science degree, I fell in love with Emergency Medicine when I decided to become a Wilderness EMT.  Somewhat late to the pre-med game, I finished up those prerequisites at the University of Colorado while also working Search and Rescue.  After half a year in Central America learning Spanish, volunteering and traveling, I attended medical school at the University of Connecticut.

Upon completion of my Emergency Medicine Residency in Tucson, Arizona, my wife and I moved to Freeport, Maine in 2000.  I started work as an employed physician with Central Maine Medical Center.  CMMC was just embarking on a hub and spoke arrangement between the system’s trauma center and 3 small rural hospitals.  In 2005, I joined a high performing community hospital nearby, Mid Coast Hospital, eventually becoming the Medical Director.  In 2009, we amicably split from the multispecialty group we were a part of and formed the only private EM group in Maine – BlueWater Emergency Partners.

When I’m not working, I try to enjoy all that Maine has to offer with my wife and two teenage sons – fly fishing, road/mountain/fat biking, boating, hiking, skiing etc.

BlueWater currently staffs and manages 5 Emergency Departments and a Walk In Center. Our 35 physicians and 20 APPs together see about 85,000 patients annually.  We pride ourselves in our collaborative outlook on patient care, often working very closely with hospitals and specialists to find ways to deliver greater value to patients, the medical staff and employers alike.  We’ve adopted Thom Mayer’s approach of taking great care of patients and of those that take care of them (the physicians, APPs, RNs et al.).

There are a number of titles I’ve accumulated over the years – BlueWater CEO, President of the Medical staff, Department Chair etc.  I’ve also been serving on the ACEP Reimbursement Committee and President of the Maine Chapter of ACEP.

As I look forward to the next two years as chair-elect, I look forward to helping Rob increase membership and help independent groups to see in what ways we can collaborate and improve the strength of all of us.

Sergio Hernandez MD FACEP
Secretary/Newsletter Editor | Los Angeles, CA

Growing up in a quiet desert farm community in California was a big change from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles.  I grew up in one of the poorest communities in the country and despite the challenges, it led me to my passion for Emergency Medicine. Throughout medical school in San Francisco and residency at Harbor UCLA I knew I wanted to work with underserved communities, the challenge was how and in what capacity.  In search for an answer, I was introduced to the Vituity management fellowship and with the training I received my journey was clear, I wanted to build a department that I could be proud of and serve the people that needed it most. 

In 2012, I began my work at St. Vincent Medical Center in Los Angeles and after helping the hospital successfully open to 911 receiving capable, I moved on to my current position at Citrus Valley Health Partners. I’ve spent the last three years as medical director to the three hospital campuses that comprise Citrus Valley, helping the system achieve all throughput, financial and consumer satisfaction goals within a two-year time frame.. The largest campus has a greater than 50% Medicaid rate and is one of the most underserved communities in Los Angeles.  I have been honored with the Vituity Excellence in Leadership Award, Vituity Site of the Year (2017) and ACEP Community Emergency Medicine Excellence Award (2018).  The true merit has been in working everyday shifts and being able to give back to families in the community.

Family is ultimately what brought me to Los Angeles.  My wife is a Family Medicine physician and my two sons (4 and 5) are just starting their primary education.  In my spare time my hobbies include beekeeping, salsa dancing and the occasional triathlon.   It is my honor to serve this committee and all its members.  Please let me know if you would like to share any articles on areas that would interest other democratic groups. 

Michael L Becker MD FACEP FAAEM
Immediate Past Chair | Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Originally from the Chicago suburbs I trained at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan.  Perhaps because I come from a family of small business owners; I knew I wanted to work in a group in which I could control my own destiny and be something more than just an employee.  I wanted the opportunity to vote on staffing patterns, clinical protocols, department leaders as well as the opportunity for leadership.  I wanted my group to have transparency— including clinical metrics like patients per hour, CMS metrics, patient experience and charges per hour. 

I joined ERMED, a democratic group in Milwaukee, Wisconsin right out of residency.  If you told me in high school that I’d end up working in Milwaukee and vacationing in Wyoming (I love to ski Jackson Hole) I wouldn’t have believed it.   The job that brought me to Milwaukee has helped me grow as a person and physician in my decade of practice.  I have also enjoyed the beer, bratwurst, cycling and cross country skiing that Milwaukee has to offer.  

Our group, ERMED, is a democratic group since 1984 staffing three hospitals within the Aurora Healthcare System.  We see approximately 110, 000 patients per year total and pride ourselves in patient experience and partnering with Aurora Healthcare on clinical pathways including sepsis, heart failure and frequent users of the ED and in formal medical staff positions such as medical staff president, quality officer, smart chart safety officer, and peer review chairs. 

I have served our group as associate medical director, medical director, and hospital quality officer for our largest site.  While no longer the medical director at Aurora St. Luke’s I now serve as the treasurer, co-chair of the group’s hiring committee, as well as various hospital committees.

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