Interview with Dr. Robert Applebaum

On this episode of the PNC podcast, Dr. Robert Applebaum joins me to discuss the transition into his nonclinical niche as a physician advisor after many years of clinical practice.

Rob’s training was in cardiovascular and thoracic surgery. He spent decades working in private practice, then as a hospital employed physician. He is the first guest I’ve had on the podcast that I have worked with in real life.

When we met, I was the chief medical officer. And he was the director of the open-heart program at our hospital. Now Rob is a physician advisor focusing on utilization management, quality improvement and clinical documentation.

Our Sponsor

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Burnout and Fatigue

Cardiac surgeons spend much of their time in an operating room. The hours-long cases were beginning to take a physical toll on Rob. So, too, were the middle-of-the-night phone calls. Clinical practice was becoming less satisfying and more stressful. Even the complicated cases he used to enjoy were becoming a stressor that began to foster feelings of burnout.


Transitioning into a Nonclinical Niche

As a clinician, Rob was always interested in quality initiatives. And he attended several lectures by the American Association for Physician Leadership that promoted his interest in hospital management. Eventually, that led to his completing an MBA, an experience he discusses during our interview.

When his hospital contact ended, Rob decided to leverage his experience in quality improvement and management. He landed his current nonclinical niche job as a physician advisor in a different hospital where he was on staff. After a bit of adjustment and on-the-job learning, he came to find his current role very rewarding.

I like to be involved with quality. I like the interaction with the physicians and teaching them the rules of the road that aren't really taught in medical school. And I like learning them myself.

Dr. Robert Applebaum

Physician Advisors

Some of Rob’s responsibilities as a physician advisor include:

  • Tracking hospital-acquired conditions and patient-safety indicators;
  • Helping prepare protocols to reduce readmissions;
  • Explaining to physicians how to properly document patient care; and,
  • Helping medical staff understand Medicare rules and regulations.

Regarding his work in utilization management, Rob helps to educate attending physicians so they and the hospital can receive the appropriate compensation while patients receive the proper care. It’s all about making sure the hospital runs as efficiently as possible in this nonclinical niche.

Preparing for a Career Change

For physicians interested in making the transition from clinical practice to nonclinical work, Rob has two pieces of advice based on his personal experience.

  1. Give yourself several months to think it over.
  2. For managerial positions, strongly consider pursuing a business degree, since they are becoming a prerequisite.

Experience can sometimes make up for a lack of the degree, but an MBA can be very helpful in a hospital leadership position. It does, however, require an investment of your time and money, so it’s best to consider your decision carefully before making that commitment.

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Links for today's episode:

Thanks to our sponsor…

Thanks to the UT Physician Executive MBA program for sponsoring the show. It’s an outstanding, highly rated, MBA program designed for working physicians. It might be just what you need to prepare for that joyful, well-paying career. You can find out more at

I hope to see you next time on the PNC Podcast.

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Podcast Editing & Production Services are provided by Oscar Hamilton.


The opinions expressed here are mine and my guest’s. While the information provided on the podcast is true and accurate to the best of my knowledge, there is no express or implied guarantee that using the methods discussed here will lead to success in your career, life or business. 

Many of the links that I refer you to, and that you’ll find in the show notes, are affiliate links. That means that I receive a payment from the seller if you purchase the affiliate item using my link. Doing so has no effect on the price you are charged. And I only promote products and services that I believe are of high quality and will be useful to you, that I have personally used or am very familiar with.

The information presented on this blog and related podcast is for entertainment and/or informational purposes only. It should not be construed as medical, legal, tax, or emotional advice. If you take action on the information provided on the blog or podcast, it is at your own risk. Always consult an attorney, accountant, career counsellor, or other professional before making any major decisions about your career. 

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