Welcome to my second interview with a successful physician executive and leader. This time, I interview Lawrence Earl, MD. Larry made the transition early in his career from practicing clinician to medical director and then owner/CEO of his own urgent care company.
He later sold his practice to Concentra, a large provider of urgent care and occupational medicine services that is very well-known in the urgent care arena. I know the company because when I was looking to leave my position as hospital CMO, one of the companies that interviewed me was Concentra.
The company was in the process of buying up and integrating urgent care networks. Concentra itself was acquired by Humana in 2010. It was sold by Humana to a private equity fund in 2015.
I was intrigued by Dr. Earl’s story after I became medical director of an urgent care center in 2014. I began hearing about education provided by UrgentCareMentor in 2015. I started to read the blog posts and other free content.
Dr. Earl’s company appeared to be the only online provider of occupational medicine, workers compensation and urgent care education. His material is actionable and more sophisticated than material being provided by some of the urgent care associations.
Then, in 2016, I started this blog and immersed myself in the world of physician bloggers and the technologies and tools used to create and monetize a blog or website. And, trust me, it is no simple feat to create an online presence, especially one that produces regular education and training that physicians are willing to pay for.
Larry impressed me because he is one of a small and elite cadre of physician entrepreneurs that have been able to thrive in this world of bloggers, webmasters and producers of online courses and ebooks. This group includes bloggers such as James Dahle (White Coat Investor) and consultants and coaches like Dike Drummond (The Happy MD), Helane Fronek (Doctors Coaching Doctors), Michelle Mudge-Riley (Physicians Helping Physicians) and Philippa Kennealy (Physician’s Odyssey Program and The Entrepreneurial MD).
So, let’s get to the interview…
Presenting Lawrence Earl, MD, of UrgentCareMentor
Please provide our readers with a little background about yourself.
I entered the “Target MD” 7-year combined program between the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the Medical College of Wisconsin with an undergraduate degree in Medical Science.
I was a surgical resident at the Swedish Hospital program in Seattle, but realized that the surgical life wasn’t for me. I thought I might like to pursue an ER career, but there were no such residencies in Seattle at the time, so instead I started working in some of the first urgent care centers in the country.
Well, I fell in love with urgent care and never looked back.
When my wife and I started having babies we moved to my native New Jersey where I worked in a busy urgent care center (Immediate Medical Care Center or IMCC) for about 3 years.
The owner, my mentor, taught me all about the “patient experience” a decade before it became “a thing.” Delivering service beyond expectation. Delighting patients with our accessibility, efficiency and integrity.
But something was missing for me. It was a great practice but no opportunity to move ahead and the owner wasn’t looking to expand to new locations.
What was the first position you took that involved work beyond clinical practice?
A head hunter called me one day about an opportunity to become medical director for a growing group of 6 centers. The CEO, an orthopedist, was familiar with IMCC and our patient-centric focus, something he had not been able to achieve in most of their existing centers. And he wanted me to bring that to his organization. I signed on.
This was predominantly administrative, 80-90%, and allowed me to learn the “business side” of medicine, working directly with the CEO, CFO, billing managers, sales VP, etc.
I hired and trained dozens of doctors, fired a few, built new centers, did budgets, expanded services, helped with acquisitions, started a workers compensation PPO, among many other responsibilities.
We grew to 14 centers in 3 states and the group was sold in the mid 1990’s to Coastal Healthcare, a NASDAQ listed physician management company – so I was even involved in the “dog and pony” shows for prospective buyers.
[VPE – This sounds like the kind of work experience that could really fan the flames of the budding entrepreneur’s passions.]
What factors led you to seek a non-clinical job in management?
I never felt satisfied if I wasn’t able to make improvements and create growth and new opportunities.
What other jobs did you do between the first non-clinical job and your current job?
After that first group was sold, I bought two “IMCC” urgent care centers. One was the center I had left to become the medical director, mostly urgent care; the other was a former partner’s, predominantly occupational medicine, and I ran those for 16 years. We expanded to have corporate clinics, a travel clinic and 5 DOT [Department of Transportation] exam clinics.
That was sold to Concentra in 2010. I consulted for them for a year, mostly training ER docs in newly acquired centers to do occupational medicine, as well as quality audits and operations consulting.
What is your current title? What are your primary responsibilities in that role?
Today I run Urgentcarementor.com, online training and consulting for urgent care, occupational medicine, DOT Examiners and primary care practices.
Please describe your current business. How does working as an entrepreneur compare with work in a corporate setting?
Most of my work is now online or on the phone, so can be done from home or anywhere. I do sometimes make client site visits.
[VPE – What impressed me was Larry’s ability to take the work that he had done for IMCC, Concentra, and his other previous practices and transition into an Internet-based education and consulting company. Creating and running an independent business takes all of the skills of the physician executive, and then some.]
Would you advise a physician thinking about a career in management to pursue a business degree?
Yes. My experience was unusual in being able to learn business and management by my previously mentioned urgent care group medical directorship, then by running my own multi-site practice for many years.
If I was starting today, I’d want to pursue an MBA or similar business training.
What advice would you give to a young practicing physician thinking about making the transition to a leadership (management, administrative or executive) position?
As above, seek management training in healthcare administration
What do you like best about your current position?
I really enjoy teaching what I’ve learned, and what I continue to learn, about running private practices. I like that I fill a niche in the occmed and commercial driver areas that isn’t covered well in other arenas. And that I have complete freedom to work where, when and how I choose.
What would you have done differently knowing what you know now, to prepare for your career, if anything?
Seek formal management education as a younger physician.
Any other comments or advice you would like to give to readers on this subject?
Managing doctors is tough business. NPs and PAs aren’t much easier. They are all valuable and scarce and they (we) know it. Leadership for these professionals involves clear communication of organizational goals, setting expectations of provider responsibilities and practices to achieve those goals, listening to and addressing provider concerns, building consensus, measuring outcomes, and using management principles to reward positive outcomes. It also requires us to correct outliers, including disciplinary procedures when provider behavior cannot be aligned with corporate goals.
[VPE – Larry pretty much sums up the crux of leading and managing physicians, or any staff for that matter. His list of skills could be the learning objectives of a core curriculum for the executive physician!]
I want to thank Larry for agreeing to be interviewed. I learned much about Larry that I didn't know! I am inspired by his ability to move from clinician and employee, to manager and leader, business owner and Internet entrepreneur.
I hope his story inspires you to explore your possible career opportunities. Working in “the trenches” in clinical medicine is a noble profession. And it can also serve as a springboard to many other fulfilling possibilities.
If you work in Urgent Care or know someone who does, I would definitely check out the educational material at UrgentCareMentor. You can join for free and take advantage of all of the free content. If you'd like to look at the latest premium content, it can be found at Occupational Medicine for Urgent Care.
If you have any follow-up questions, use the Comments to ask those and I will send them to Larry and report back in a future post. And if you have suggestions for future interviews, let me know.
If you haven't read them already, you may want review what I have written about seeking a non-clinical career:
- Is It Time for a Non-Clinical Career?
- Options for a Non-Clinical Career
- Does an Executive Salary Stand Up to a Clinical Salary?
You might also enjoy looking at these 30 Physician-Authored Blogs to see how others are approaching the online world of blogging.
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Thanks so much!