Preventive care should be a right. Everyone should be able to get all vaccinations and preventive care without a copay.
Asa part of my interview series with leaders in healthcare, I had the pleasure to interview Theresa Rohr-Kirchgraber, MD. Dr. Rohr-Kirchgraber is an internist and adolescent medicine physician. She is the executive director of the IU National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health and president of the American Medical Women’s Association 2015–2016.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Dr. Rohr-Kirchgraber! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Asa first generation college student, I thought I was doing pretty well just by going to college. Luckily, I participated in an AHEC program in high school where I worked in a local nursing home. I had no idea about medicine but the program opened my mind to health care as an option.
To help pay the bills in college I got a job at a local hospital and eventually was an admitting clerk in the emergency room. Great exposure and good people to work with. When I discussed the possibility of nursing they pushed me to think higher. They challenged me to consider becoming a physician and without them, I would never have had the courage to pursue medicine.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
As the ED of the IUNCOE, we hold a program for our women legislators in the state. We are able to discuss the needs in the state for women and the possible options to change our health grade from a D! By volunteering at a free clinic, we have plenty of stories for our legislators!
Can you tell our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the healthcare field?
As the ED of IUNCOE and past president of AMWA, I advocate for women physicians as well as women in the community. We recognize that women physicians earn less than their male counterparts and are sorely lacking in the healthcare leadership arena. We have to improve these statistics and our program on Negotiating the Divide: Gender and Salary as well as our discussion to groups on Leveling the Playing Field: Gender Equity in Healthcare are making an impact.
What makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We take our program not only to physicians and physician groups, but to the community. Once you recognize that sex and gender have an impact in health and disease but also in the way transportation is created, clothes are made, and devices are designed, you realize the impact.
Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to and/or see in the healthcare industry? How do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo? Which “pain point” is this trying to address?
We are pushing for gender equity in all areas. We push to include leaders from a diverse background.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Working hard is not enough!
Early on in my career, I thought that if I just worked hard, people would notice and you would get promoted, encouraged, recognized…not so.
- Keep your debt low.
The amount of debt that is accrued impacts your decision on which specialty one choses.
- You need a tribe
Having support around you is a necessity. Being with AMWA has been a life safer. Just complaining about things with your friends is helpful, but being able to do something about it, now that is living!
- A supportive spouse is worth everything.
Luckily, I have one of the best. But have seen friends for whom, they sacrificed only to be on the receiving end of slop. Be very careful to select your mate as one who supports you in all of your pursuits.
- Medicine is a passion, not just a career.
You can never think of this as just a job. It goes so much beyond the exam room. Did not realize how much more I can accomplish as a physician. Should have gotten started sooner.
Let’s jump to the main focus of our interview. According to this study cited by Newsweek, the US healthcare system is ranked as the worst among high income nations. This seems shocking. Can you share with us 3–5 reasons why you think the US is ranked so poorly?
While there is care for those who have insurance, many still do not and our public health system is not set up to be able to provide care.
Because insurance is attached to an employer, it is harder to leave your job and many take the leap of faith that while you are between jobs, you won’t get ill.
Prevention does not pay! It is hard to get reimbursed for things that are preventive care. The insurer calls the shots and we cannot get coverage for things that could change lives like discussing nutrition or quitting smoking.
Even if some have insurance the co pays and hidden fees are so high that many delay their care. We pay for expensive care but not for primary care.
As an internist, I frequently have to consider more than 4–5 disease processes at the same time, but my reimbursement is minimal compared to a specialist that only has to deal with one problem in the same amount of time.
You are a “healthcare insider”. Can you share 5 changes that need to be made to improve the overall US healthcare system? Please share a story or example for each.
- Preventive care should be a right. Everyone should be able to get all vaccinations and preventive care without a copay.
- Medical School education should be paid for by an exchange program. Serve in a low income high need area and get your loans repaid.
- We need more residency slots in this country! We have 250 first year slots in IN and over 500 medical students who graduate. They leave and don’t come back.
- Primary Care is one of the biggest needs but the reimbursement is horrible.
Thank you! It’s great to suggest changes, but what specific steps would need to be taken to implement your ideas? What can individuals, corporations, communities and leaders do to help?
We need more fabulous physicians who are not saddled with loans. Provide scholarships to students.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better healthcare leader? Can you explain why you like them?
- Women Don’t Ask
- Invisible women in a data driven world
- NEJM podcast
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!