One of my favorite pastimes is to listen to interviews on podcasts like the Tim Ferris Show (of The 4-Hour Workweek fame). I also like to read written interviews such as the recent one by Physician on Fire with Jim Collins. After starting this blog, I began to wonder if an interview might be of interest to my readers.

One of the subgroups of my audience is physicians who are just starting or considering a career in management. I therefore decided to add interviews that I think will help them navigate their careers.

microphone interview

The interviews will be with seasoned executives in a variety of settings. To start, I will focus on my guests' background, education and experience. I will be inquiring into their opinions' about advanced degrees. And I will always include a question about their advice to emerging physician leaders.

I am thankful to Jeremy Blanchard for agreeing to participate in my first interview. I met Jeremy when we participated in the final step of the Certified Physician Executive Program in 2012. The final step in that process occurred during a three-and-a-half-day in-person evaluation that included working together in small groups. We have kept in touch ever since. I think you will enjoy reading about his leadership journey.

– John Jurica

Presenting: Jeremy Blanchard, MD, MMM, CPE, FACP, FCCP

Please provide our readers with a little background about yourself.

Since I was a boy I wanted to be a doctor. My neck was injured using forceps at delivery. Following my second neck surgery, at ten years of age, I was cared for by a wonderful physical therapist. His empathetic manner of interaction hooked me on being a physician (I thought at that time he was a doctor).jeremy blanchard interview

I attended the University of Montana for my undergraduate degree. I received a bachelor of science degree in zoology with a premedical emphasis. I was accepted at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine on an Army Health Professions Scholarship.

I graduated from UNM and completed my internal medicine residency at Madigan Army Medical Center, Tacoma, Washington. I served two years as a general internist at Fort Carson, Colorado Springs, Colorado, with a deployment to Haiti. When I finished my critical care fellowship at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, I stayed on as an attending and later became the assistant chief of the critical care fellowship.

I also attended as a junior attending in the Neurological ICU at Johns Hopkins and helped run a neurotrauma research center at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research; I investigated traumatic head injury. During the four years post fellowship, I did mostly surgical and neurological intensive care.

I enjoyed teaching (winning the James J. Leonard Award for Excellence in Teaching Internal Medicine), research, and the clinical care of critically ill patients and their families.

What was the first position you took that involved work beyond clinical practice?

fort carson interviewWhen I was at Fort Carson, I was assigned two significant leadership positions. The first was the intensive care unit medical director. With that role I began my training in management of policies, protocols and politics. Although it was only a two-year stint, the learning curve was steep with the challenges of managing multiple providers with wide breadths of skill level in the competencies of caring for critically ill patients. We used education, protocols and policies to try to establish a consistent level of care.

The second leadership role was that of a battalion surgeon for the 52nd Engineers, Combat Heavy. With my deployment to Haiti I was assigned two battalions in country and had to develop preventive medicine plans, public health plans and triage/care protocols. I also had a steep learning curve when it came to managing people, including workplace relationships, dereliction of duty, media training, evaluations and the logistics of stocking and managing supplies. In the end, I was unaware of the quality of leadership training I was receiving.

What factors led you to seek a non-clinical job in management?

I have always been interested in supporting and managing change. Like many leaders, I held leadership roles in high school and college. But my most significant decision, moving me from a clinician to a formal leader, happened in 2006; I was a hospital employed intensivist and a colleague of mine was forcefully influencing our critical care team to head in a direction I found unacceptable. Secondarily, I sought the formal leadership role and in the end was required to ask that colleague to leave our practice.

The situation was of such a serious nature that I was granted a restraining order against my colleague and his physician spouse. It led to team fragmentation. I see this moment as one of the most significant developments in my career. I dealt with the situation and the aftermath with recognized professionalism and grace. It was there I adopted one of my favorite quotes: “Adversity doesn’t build character, it reveals it.” Barry Melrose, ESPN Hockey Analyst.

This experience hardwired my leadership focus, commitment and openness to learning. I recognized important change is seldom free and requires engagement, respect, accountability, courage and kindness. That ICU team rose to become truly excellent – no nurse turnover in 2008, ranked number one on APACHE Outcomes scoring of quality and cost (compared with 137 other like ICUs) and adopted a cultural paradigm shift focused on preserving the wellness of our critically ill patients.

What is your current title? What are your primary responsibilities in that role?

My current title is the chief medical officer (CMO) of The Language of Caring, LLC. The Language of Caring is a well-renowned consulting firm that specializes in helping everyone in healthcare communicate effectively – with empathy, engagement, mindfulness, and compassion. We work with people in hospitals, systems, medical practices and the like – all with the purpose of improving the patient, family, physician and staff experience.

The CMO role is a newly created role. I have four major responsibilities which include: innovation/growth, infrastructure development, product development and client relationship development. All my work is done in a collaborative team approach.

What other jobs did you do between the first non-clinical job and your current job?

I have served in multiple leadership positions of varying types and levels of responsibility. They include:

• Assistant Chief, Walter Reed Army Medical Center’s critical care fellowship
• Member, Washington DC Chapter Board of Directors, Society of Critical Care Medicine
• Chair, Uniformed Services Chapter, Society of Critical Care Medicine
• Assistant Professor, Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences (USUHS)
• Deputy Director, Critical Care Division, USUHS
• Medical Director, Intensive Care Unit, Kadlec Regional Medical Center
• Medical Director, Intensivist Program, Kadlec Regional Medical Center*
• Chair, Physician Governing Board, Kadlec Regional Medical Center*
• Medical Director, Hospitalist Program, Kadlec Regional Medical Center
• President-elect, Kadlec Regional Medical Center Medical Staff, (first employed physician to take that role)
• CEO and founder, Joy of Life Tool**
• VP of Quality and Medical Affairs, PeaceHealth St Joseph Medical Center*
• VP of Quality and Medical Affairs, North West Region, PeaceHealth*
• CMO, St James Healthcare, Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health
• CMO, The Language of Caring, LLC*
• Chair, CMO Committee, Montana Medical Association*

[JJ – an impressive list! – *each of these was a newly established position – ** no longer available]

When and where did you acquire your business/management degree?

I received my Masters in Medical Management (MMM) with an emphasis in entrepreneurialism from the University of Southern California (USC), Marshall School of Business, in 2011, and was awarded Beta Gamma Sigma.


How helpful has your management degree been in your current work?

Extremely helpful from at least 3 different perspectives:

  • Managerial and business knowledge: I gained much greater understanding of how to management quality improvement, much-needed insight into strategy, healthcare finances, human resources/people management, media interactions and statistics.
  • Leadership: When I attended my MMM I had never served in an executive role. Up to that point my leadership style was more dictatorial than I would like to admit. The leadership training, focus and practice helped me learn other leadership styles, essential to my future career endeavors. Because of this, and iterative experiences, my preferred leadership style is that of a servant leader (still a work in progress).
  • Entrepreneurialism: Up until attending my MMM I had not identified my thought process, approach to problems and interests as entrepreneur and intrapreneur in nature.

To summarize, the training and exposure I had in my master’s, especially leadership and entrepreneurism, continue to be huge influencers of my success, enthusiasm and joy of work. The managerial skills were very important and I would not have advanced and gained credibility as an executive without them.

How would you describe the experience with the following aspects of your graduate school degree?

Quality of instruction:

The professors at USC were incredible. They provided the best educational experience of my formal education life. Big callouts would go to Tom O’Malia (entrepreneurism), Merle Hopkins (finance), Dave Logan (business and social relations), Dolores Conway (statistics), etc. They were truly fabulous. Although my colleagues in attendance would have to be recognized as well, I learned so much from them.

Flexibility of the schedule:

The MMM at USC was great. We did four in-residence sessions and the rest was on-line. The in-residence was not flexible, but the on-line allowed us to complete our work at our convenience.


The faculty loved interacting with us and was always available, interested in helping us. The curriculum was challenging, but this was eased by their investment in us and their desire for us to be successful.

Overall value:

This degree was priceless for me. Without it I would have been limited and not successful as a physician executive.

Would you advise a physician thinking about a career in management to pursue a business degree? If so, which degree do you think is most appropriate (the MBA or MMM)?

I would advise a physician interested in a career in management and leadership to pursue a graduate degree in business. I think either degree is excellent. I personally like mine, the MMM, because I am interested in healthcare, not other businesses; healthcare is in many ways a unique business model and I wanted to be able to delve into these differences.

I also wanted my classmates to be other physicians, I felt I would learn a great deal from them. Lastly, I was interested in the entrepreneurism and the program married my two needs. I do not have strong feelings over which degree is better, I think that is based on the interests of the party who is seeking this education.

You are a certified physician executive (CPE) through the CCMM. Do you find that the CPE is beneficial?

I find the CPE beneficial in a couple of ways.

  • It formally recognizes my competencies as a physician executive.
  • In some healthcare arenas, board certification is required to work for the institution in question. The CPE is a board certification and can meet that requirement. As my clinical board ends, I find this valuable.

What advice would you give to a young practicing physician considering making the transition to a management, administrative or executive position?

My advice would be to seek a professional coach in this transition. A key to this approach is the physician interviewing the coach to assure a compatibility. I have had four professional coaches during my leadership journey. All have been paid for by the institution and all negotiated by me. Two have had set “curriculums.” This doesn’t work well for me.

Also, I firmly believe in the Hogan Assessment over StrengthsFinder, Myers-Briggs, etc. I like the Hogan Assessment because it identifies my strengths which overplayed “derail” my effectiveness.

The second most important thing is, do a deep dive into the culture to assure you will be comfortable there. I have failed at this on one occasion and it was extremely painful.

I wrote an article published in the January 2017 Physician Leadership Journal regarding the successful transition from a clinician to a physician executive.

What do you like best about your current position?

I love ending each day feeling fulfilled, like “today I worked towards making a difference, making the world a better place for my colleagues and patients.” In my institutional CMO roles I found I did not have as much fulfillment as I had hoped. A lot of my work was managing fires and political issues.

I am good at this, so there was plenty of success, but when I measured how many days of fulfillment I had for every 10 days of work, I only had three. I wanted eight. Now I have that. The Language of Caring programs make a demonstrable difference and I am excited to be a contributor to that outcome.

Do you have any regrets regarding your career choices?

None. I have loved, or at the worst learned, every step of the way. I feel like I have made a difference and maintained my integrity and positive outlook. The professional journey has been my focus. This is extremely helpful, because destinations are never as much fun as the journey.

Where I will end up, I have no idea. And I am good with that. The Language of Caring has been the best job I have had so far. I say this for 3 reasons:

  1. I feel the work is important, and the tools are effective,
  2. I love the people I work with and for – they are kind, competent and wonderful, and
  3. I am continually learning and feel like a valued member of the team.

Any other comments or advice you would like to give to readers?

  • Recognize life is a journey. The power is in the questions rather than the answers. What I mean by this is, enjoy your journey, be present and you will find the best opportunity for fulfillment. I like questions over answers, because that is how I learn and see the world from a different perspective; this is a new recognition for me, but very powerful.
  • Always assume good intent, this allows you to enter conversations and interactions with the nonverbal expression that assures the best chance of a positive ending.
  • Be kind and still recognize not every good person is right for every good program. When I have asked folks to leave their present position, I do so recognizing this is not the right role for them, and if they stay they will not be fulfilled and it is likely the team will not successfully achieve their potential.
  • I am still learning this one: “There is limited air time in all conversations and meetings, the more you consume the less you learn from others.”
  • Vulnerability is a strength, insecurity is a malignancy for effective leadership. Have fun and be the best version of yourself!

Wrap Up

I really want to thank Jeremy for agreeing to be interviewed. I learned much about Jeremy that I did not know!

If you have any follow-up questions, use the Comments to ask those and I will send them to Jeremy and report back in a future post. And if you have suggestions for future interviews, let me know.

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Thanks so much and see you in the next post!