By Chris Motola
President of Monroe County Medical Society finishing his practice at Highland to become a regional dean at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine
Q: How did you become president of the Monroe County Medical Society?
A: I’d been working at an academic practice in the University of Rochester Medical Center since my residence and fellowship. Over the years, I took on a quality officer role — there’s a great quality collaborative that’s been happening out of the medical society since the late ‘90s where they go through and update a lot of guidelines on many different conditions. I’d been involved with them on a couple of reviews of different disease states. I was really impressed with the process and the organization. Typically, a lot of the hospital systems don’t have docs involved as much with the medical society, because a lot of the benefits related to malpractice are covered by the hospital systems. But I felt like it provides a huge benefit for someone with my interests. And I said I’d like to continue to be involved. I got into the process of being elected in as secretary and working my way up. My time got pushed ahead because our current would-be president had to resign to be part of her practice. So I had to pivot and make that work. We’ve all had to make a lot of substantial changes since this has come out.
Q: Coming in late, what do you want to be able to hand off to your successor?
A: I’m more or less doing a fresh term. I just didn’t have that one year to really learn the ropes the same. I was the treasurer to the secretary, but I didn’t get that one year to go to the advocacy days and be front and center at the major leadership meetings. That said, I’m picking it up. The past-president has been super helpful. Back to your point, I think the things we’re continuing to work on is continuing to grow the medical society. Continue to share the story of the value it brings members. And also to really focus in on reinvigorating those quality initiatives and work committees and other important work that we were doing pre-COVID that took a backseat during the pandemic. We’re trying to really reengage the different health systems and insurers. Within that there’s a more attention-focused project that we’re working on with adolescents and doing a better job of screening them for depression and anxiety and getting them the resources to address that. That’s a segment of our community that’s really suffered from increased depression and anxiety. And, quite frankly, it needed work even before the pandemic. So it made sense to leverage that.
Q: How close to “normal” do you think we are now? Not in terms of the pathology of COVID-19 itself, but in terms of the system functioning at pre-pandemic levels?
A: That’s a really good question. I would say the answer is we’re in more of a new normal in that we’re never going to return to the way things were. For example, telemedicine using video visits and updates to our technology that allow us to use that as a way to reach our patients. It really exponentially increased in a way that needed to happen during the pandemic. Now there continue to be these waves of strains. My practice and other practices have ways that we’re continuing to work through the strains, but we’re doing all of the other things that need to happen within an inpatient and outpatient setting, in hospital systems. So I think we’ve sort of had to pivot, alter resources. The normalcy part has been difficult mostly because of the ongoing inability to fill all of our team positions. So there’s been that Great Resignation where there continues to be a lot of openings for medical assistants, secretarial and even some nursing positions. We’re hopeful we can fill those to try to get back to all the things we were doing beforehand.
Q: You’re a D.O. as opposed to an M.D. How does your osteopathic training affect your approach to leadership and your administrative philosophy, if it does?
A: I am; thank you for noticing. I’d like to think I bring that holistic approach into administrative work. I try to look at all aspects of problems and situations in a way to keep a mind-body connection in mind. I think, really, I can attribute my training to being very comfortable hands-on medicine but also just being comfortable being with people, asking questions and listening, taking the time to understand things. It’s something I’ve always tried to take outside the exam room and into other roles I’ve had.
Q: How do you balance this role with your practice?
A: I’m actually in the process of finishing my current role in my practice. I’m taking on a dean role at the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine [in Erie, Pennsylvania] at the end of November. I’ll still be located regionally. I’ll be a regional dean. So I am undergoing a fairly big transition, saying goodbye to patients and preparing to take oversight of upwards of 150 third- and fourth-year osteopathic medical students.
Q: Are D.O. schools graduating more students to keep up with demand for doctors?
A: Last I checked less than 10% of all trained U.S. physicians are osteopaths. But there are pockets of the country that are becoming more heavy. I think with the satellite campus in Elmira, and the mothership campus in Erie, it’s picking up in the region. And you also see a lot of osteopathic physicians coming up through M.D. residencies. I’m excited about this group of students because a lot of them are New York state residents, and many are even from the Finger Lakes. So they’re choosing to stay local for their schooling and residencies, so I think you’re going to start seeing a lot more osteopaths in Upstate New York over the next five to 10 years as they complete their training.
Name: Mathew J. Devine, D.O. Position: Medical director at Highland Family Medicine; president of the Monroe County Medical Society; associate professor in the department of family medicine at the University of Rochester; soon to be regional dean at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine in Erie, Pennsylvania Hometown: Rochester, NY Education: Medical degree from Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (2004); residency in family medicine at Highland Hospital (2005 –2008); fellowship at Highland Hospital (2008–2009) Affiliations: Strong Memorial Hospital; Highland Hospital Organizations: Society of Teachers of Family Medicine; American Academy of Family Physicians; Medical Society of the State of New York; Monroe County Medical Society Family: Wife, two daughters Hobbies: Hiking, swimming, biking, skiing