Interview with Dr. Randall (Randy) Cook

Dr. Randall (Randy) Cook explains to us why coaching is so essential for health care leaders. His father was a coach. He has been coached. And now he is coaching others.

Randy is a respected clinician, educator, and organizational leader. He holds board certifications from the American Board of Surgery and the American Board of Preventive Medicine. He is certified by the American Professional Wound Care Association and the American Board of Wound Management.

Randy has succeeded in multiple practice settings from solo practitioner to single-specialty group to large multispecialty clinic. During those clinical years, he served as Chairman of the Department of Surgery, President of the Medical Staff, and Trustee for Jackson Hospital in Montgomery, Alabama. More recently, he was the medical director of the Jackson Wound & Hyperbaric Medicine Center.

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Why Coaching Is So Essential for Healthcare Leaders 

The many years of clinical, managerial, and leadership experience have provided Randy with invaluable insight into medicine and medical practice management. Randy integrates his clinical, management, and leadership experiences in his current role as Senior Executive Physician Coach at MD Coaches.

The object of the game… is to help them discover where their their strengths are, and to figure out ways to exploit those.

In this interview, Randy describes his clinical career and transition to coach and podcaster. He also explains his approach to coaching and why coaching is so essential for practicing physicians and physician leaders.

Prescription for Success Podcast

You absolutely must listen to the Prescription for Success Podcast. Each week, Randy interviews interesting guests who address important topics affecting the very nature of healthcare and medical practice.

And if you’d like to get a FREE copy of the REPORT from Randy and MDCoaches that I mentioned during our discussion (Nine Decisive Actions You Can Take Today to Be a Better Physician and Leader), simply go to

[And, within the next few weeks, I will be a guest on an episode of Randy's show. – JJ]


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Transcription - PNC Podcast Episode 197

Top Reasons Why Coaching Is So Essential for Healthcare Leaders

John: Today we have a fine example of one of my doctor podcast network colleagues who's also a senior executive physician coach. I want to hear a lot about that. Dr. Randy Cook, welcome to the PNC podcast.

Dr. Randy Cook: Thank you so much for inviting me. It's a great pleasure to meet with a fellow podcaster.

John: It is fun, but then I always end up comparing myself to other people like, "Oh, this podcaster does this so much better than me, or they've got a better voice than me". But it's great to talk to other podcast hosts and I'm really happy to have you here. And I think it'll be fun.

Dr. Randy Cook: I bet it will be. I'm looking forward to it.

John: And I know that particularly from listening to your episodes because you're an excellent interviewer who seems very inquisitive, very interested.

Dr. Randy Cook: I'm nosy.

John: Yeah. Tell us how did you acquire those skills?

Dr. Randy Cook: Believe it or not, by the time I got into my early teens, I was pretty sure that I was going to go to medical school. And when I turned 16, I had the opportunity to go to work in a small market radio station in East Central Alabama. And I found it to be very agreeable. I liked the work. It was a lot of fun for a lot of reasons. And briefly, I thought, "Well, maybe this might be something that I could do". I even kind of had an interest in sports broadcasting, but I had the presence of mind to kind of look around at other people in the business. And most of them, the great, great, great majority of them were kind of having a hard time making ends meet. And I thought, "Well, this was a nice youthful endeavor, a time for me to get busy and get trained to do something that'll make a living for me". So, that's the story.

John: Excellent. Because I thought I heard in one of your episodes where I read somewhere that you had some experience in radio, but when I went to your LinkedIn profile and I started looking around, I couldn't find any proof of it.

Dr. Randy Cook: Oh, it's way back. And interestingly, the oddest things happened. There is a Facebook group that I'm a member of called "Forgotten Alabama". And people put up pictures of these old broken-down homes and caving in churches and graveyards and things of that nature. And one day I'm thumbing through there and I looked and I saw the crumbling down radio station where I used to work. It's funny.

John: Very funny, very interesting that that would show up on a Facebook page.

Dr. Randy Cook: I know.

John: All right. Well, we want to hear more about what happened after the radio experience in terms of briefly your education and then what you did, primarily clinically, and then segue into what you're doing in more recent years.

Dr. Randy Cook: Well, I'm going to abbreviate that as best as I can. We're talking about 44 years' worth of work here. I grew up in the small town south in an area similar to where I live now and moved to the big city of Birmingham to get my undergraduate education and also medical school. I got my MD at what is now the University of Alabama at Birmingham. And I knew early on that I wanted to go into surgery and decided to do my residency at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta for no other reason than I thought it would be a cool place to be. It's kind of a smallish town as well. And I thought, "Gee, it might be nice to be able to go and see the masters". And I actually worked in the first state station out there for three consecutive years at the masters. So that was really cool.

John: That's nice.

Dr. Randy Cook: Unlike a lot of really successful people, I have never been a long-term planner. When I entered my fifth year of residency, I really didn't have a plan about what I was going to do. And one of the former faculty members at the medical college of Georgia on the surgery faculty had left about the time I started my chief residency and within about six weeks or eight weeks, I think he called me and he said, "I'm in Clearwater, Florida. I'm in a place where I've got more business than I can do. Big multi-specialty group. The partners want me to bring on another surgeon right away and I can hold it down until you can get here if you can give me your commitment right now". So that was it. That was how I lined up my first clinical practice.

And I kind of did things in reverse order. I started life in a gigantic multi-specialty group. I won't even begin to go into the details because it just takes too long, but I decided to move back home to Alabama. I joined a small surgical group, which dissolved after about five years. And then I found myself as a solo practitioner, during the last years of my surgical life. And then I was asked by a hospital administrator to consider opening a wound care center and hyperbaric medicine center in our hospital.

And it was a good time to do that for a lot of reasons. I needed to get out of the emergency room call and so forth. But I started a really intensive reeducation process. A lot of people that go into these wound care clinics will go to a one-week course and they just pick up the paycheck. But I got really serious about it, I got involved in management and got involved in wound care education. I got board certified in hyperbaric medicine. And that was what I did for the last years of my practice.

John: It sounds less intense than a surgical out of residency type of practice, but still extremely important in clinical and using many of your surgical skills.

Dr. Randy Cook: It was much less intense than surgery and from the standpoint of the day-to-day urgency, but the professional satisfaction was just profound. Whereas in surgery, you meet patients, you do an operation on, you get them through it, and then they're gone. They're out of your life forever. But chronic wound care is quite the opposite of that. You see people week after week after week, sometimes for years. And it was profoundly satisfying. I'm really glad I had an opportunity to do that.

John: Yeah. That sounds like the kind of things that an internist or family doctor does is part of their practice in terms of just a long-term relationship and you really get to know people. But ultimately you had to leave or you chose to leave that and you've been doing some other things and I'm really interested in how you became involved as a coach with MD coaches and then how that tied into the podcast.

Dr. Randy Cook: Well, like everything else in my life, as I mentioned before, I'm not much of a planner. I hadn't really intended to retire quite so early. I was not that early. I was 67 years old, but frankly, I just got mad and quit. And I didn't have any plan other than to do what retired people do. I had met Rhonda Crowe, who is the CEO of MD Coaches several years before. My wound center was under the management of a big company called Healogics. I was on their teaching faculty for many years instructing these people that were coming to learn how to be wound care specialists. And so, we knew each other through that professional connection.

And I guess about seven or eight or nine months before I made that decision that I was going to pull the plug, Rhonda called me out of the blue and said, "I'm starting this coaching company and I want to publicize it with a podcast. And I know you have a history in radio. Would you consider doing that?" And my response was "Rhonda, do you know that my radio experience was concurrent with the invention of the vacuum tubes?" She said, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know that, but this is what I want to do".

So, that's how both of those things came to be. She was looking for people that she thought would be qualified coaches. And she thought that if for no other reason, my 44 years of experience might qualify me for that. And she thought I'd be good for the podcast. So, we did it.

John: So, what's the experience been? Let's start with the coaching and then we'll get to the podcast.

Dr. Randy Cook: Well, the coaching is still, very much, in the startup phase, and involves a significant amount of additional education. It's not something that I think a person can do just because they think they might be a good mentor confidant or whatever. There are some things to be learned about coaching. And so, I enrolled in a course that I could do remotely and got myself certified as a coach.

We have hired two additional physician coaches as well. And we were about to hire a fourth. What we need now are more clients. It's still very much in the startup phase, but it is a very satisfying way to kind of take advantage of the experience that you've accumulated in the past and see if you can enrich somebody else's life with the benefit of your experience.

John: Now, I've talked to many coaches over the years, and physician coaching has become a very popular nonclinical job or career. But of course, there are different types of coaching. I kind of get the idea that MD Coaches is focusing more on the leadership, executive. I mean, there's definitely a huge need for executive coaches. They've been around for years and are the most really aggressive CEOs and CFOs. They use coaching quite a bit, but physicians don't typically. But I would say it's important and particularly the physician leaders could use coaching in many circumstances. And so, I want your opinion on that in your experience and what you've learned on that.

Dr. Randy Cook: Yeah, I think you're exactly right. I'm trying not to sound too arrogant. I think a person like me is in a really unique position to help new physicians understand the feeling of incredible frustration that they have, and they do. All this talk that we hear about burnout is there I think because of the world that they thought that they were coming into, the healing arts turns out to be nothing like what they're experiencing. And it is absolutely clear to me that the reason for that is, whereas the situation that existed when I started my practice, was that, if you were hospital connected or hospital-based in any way if there was a decision to be made, even remotely clinical, the administrators came to the physicians and said, "What should we do?" And the physician spoke. And then that became the policy.

What has happened in the evolution, over the last four and a half decades since I began my practice is the physicians have become employees and people that go to business school, see employees as not an asset, but as overhit.

And as we all know, the value of a physician, particularly in hospital practice has come under great scrutiny. If the physicians are widgets and the physician widgets costs 100 Bitcoin or whatever you want to name per year, and they provide a service that creates revenue, but then along comes a nurse practitioner that you can get for far less Bitcoin. And even though they may not be as productive, their overhead is so much lower that they seem like a very attractive alternative. Well, this is the world that we live in. And in addition to that, there are countless other areas of clinical decision-making that should be made by physicians that are not simply because the people in the C-suite feel that it's their job and their privilege because of their position to make those decisions.

Well, my opinion, and I think I reflect the opinion of those who work with me at MD Coaches, is that we need to reassert our authority and make these people understand the areas where they should remain silent and have some respect for the wisdom of acquired clinical experience. So that's what we're trying to create. And that is by coaching particularly young physicians, help them understand to speak the language of business, and become more persuasive in their efforts to make medical care better for the patient.

John: Well, I think you're right on what you're doing and the goal of that whole process, because I was a CMO for 15 years at a hospital setting, and I watched it if you go back far enough up the half of the hospitals in the US were owned by physicians. That was in the 1950s, and over time that went away because it became complex, it got expensive and you've had all these changes.

But I think you're right and I observed this quite a bit is that physicians were no longer looked at as the professional. Just that part of it, they are looked at more as an employee, as a commodity. And I think some of these people that were running the organizations, that are running the organizations don't really understand the risk that they're getting into putting non-physicians making decisions about patients that can go wrong in a minute. So, we haven't seen that, although I've personally seen the increase in lawsuits against nurse practitioners and PAs, so there was a period of time when that didn't happen.

Dr. Randy Cook: I think we're going to see a lot more of that, no question. But in the meantime, the other thing that I would like to see recognized is that it is critically important with respect to the ethical responsibility that we have as physicians that patients receive the best care that they can possibly receive. And there is just not any conceivable way that a non-medically trained CEO of any sort can make those decisions without input from a fully medically trained individual. And we at MD Coaches want to make those people available.

John: Yes. And I think it's very doable, very doable. And as physicians recognize they need to get involved. They need to take some of those leadership positions. It's been demonstrated that the quality is better with organizations that have more physicians in leadership positions, but a lot of us aren't ready to do that. And if you can help foster that in physicians who have the other skills it's going to work out great in the long run.

Dr. Randy Cook: Well, we certainly hope so. And one of the things that I've noticed particularly over the last 10 to 15 years is that we find that there are physicians coming into putative leadership roles, but they don't really advocate for the physicians. They come to their physician colleagues and they say, "Well, now you just don't understand, this is a business. We've got to do it this way". And we just can't have that. The responsibility is too profound. The ethics are well-established and we need to be there for the patients.

John: Yeah. And I think that those skills can be learned, how to be an advocate for the patients yet still maintain your position as a member of a senior executive team and just make the whole situation better.

Dr. Randy Cook: That's what we're trying to do.

John: So now this organization that you're with had the wisdom to say, "You know what? We need to get the word out somehow". Well, we could write about it, we could do a blog or a newsletter, but a podcast sounds a lot more fun.

Dr. Randy Cook: Well, it has been for me.

John: And really, it's becoming a very popular platform. So, yeah. What do you think about that?

Dr. Randy Cook: I'm having a lot of fun with it. I like to pick people's brains and we have had just amazingly interesting people. Obviously, over a lengthy career, I've had the opportunity to sit around in doctor's lounges and have conversations with physicians all my life. And of course, they do all have an uninteresting story to tell. And if you enlarge the pool that you select from, you find that you can have some just amazing conversations.

My vocabulary betrays me when I try to talk about the kinds of individuals that we've had on the show. Mustafa was a kid that grew up in Lebanon during the Civil War. He walked to school every day with people being shot before his eyes and being run over by tanks and those kinds of things. He came to this country, he had just enough money in his pocket to get from Tel Aviv to New York City. He did not speak a word of English. And the day after he arrived, he was on the streets of New York selling umbrellas. And he completely sold out his inventory and it wasn't even raining and he couldn't speak a word of English.

John: That's crazy.

Dr. Randy Cook: This guy is now a world-renowned interventional cardiologist. And there's just story after story like that, that takes my breath away.

John: Yeah. They're very inspiring for sure. And it's just crazy what people can do if they set their mind to it. But physicians, I don't want to brag here or anything, I'm a physician.

Dr. Randy Cook: Go ahead.

John: Physicians are the most interesting people. You think you know what a physician is. Oh, someone who went to school, had everything paid for, and is just coasting now. And number one, people don't understand the stress that physicians are under, but they also don't understand all the varied backgrounds that people come from as they get into this career.

Dr. Randy Cook: Yeah. I've had that very same observation. In fact, I have commented on it in my blog from time to time, and that is people who don't live in the medical world have this idea that there is a particular personality type that populates the world of medicine. And it couldn't be further from the truth. There are as many different personality types as there are individuals, and they've all got a story to tell and I really get a kick out of telling it.

John: Well, I can tell when I listen, because you're very inquisitive. You have a lot of great questions and I can sense the history and radio coming out a bit in those interviews. So, I think it's great.

Dr. Randy Cook: Well, I can't even begin to say how grateful that I am, that I had something to fill the space when I walked away suddenly from my practice because, as I said, it came on quite a bit more suddenly than I had anticipated, but it's a great fit for me, I think. And I'm going to keep on doing it for a while.

John: Good, we're glad. So, it sounds like not only the podcast but working with MD Coaches has been fun, and building this coaching service is interesting and kind of keeping you motivated to get up every day and do that as well as everything else you might be doing when you're not doing that.

Dr. Randy Cook: That's exactly right. As I say, we are continuing to build our stable of coaches and attempting to build a base of clients. And we look forward, as rewarding as the conversations that I'm having with physicians in all different areas of practice. I'm really looking forward to maybe helping some young people turn this thing around. We have seen it kind of going south for a very long time. If I could live long enough and have enough of an influence to see that shift start to turn around, it would really be a terrifically rewarding experience for me. So that's what I intend to do.

John: That's great. Now I'm doing something I probably shouldn't do as a host and an interviewer. I want to go back to something earlier, but we're talking about coaching right now and the need for coaching for physicians. And as we spoke about earlier, this has been something that's commonly seen in business. A lot of CEOs and CEOs and others get regular executive-level coaching. So, I did promise myself I was going to ask you, in your opinion, what really are the benefits of that sort of coaching, whether to an executive that's not a physician or is a physician in your opinion?

Dr. Randy Cook: I am the son of a coach. My dad was an athletic coach. My big brother was an athletic coach. And I think what I've picked up from them is, if you're a coach, your job is not to tell your protege what to do, how to do, how to get things accomplished. Your job is to help them discover and understand and develop the skills that they already have. We've all got different skills. So, I think you're making a mistake if you go to a client and say, "Well, look, this is what you're going to have to do if you're going to be successful as an executive".

The object of the game, in my opinion, and it is strictly my opinion, is to help them discover where their strengths are and then figure out ways to exploit those and make the best of them. So, if you're talking about executive coaching, which is what we concentrate on specifically within the healthcare world, the idea is to help people who possibly never have even thought about what their executive skills might be, help them discover those skills, and show them or guide them in such a way that they make the best use of those skills.

And you do that in two ways, I think. One is simply by listening to what they have to say. And the other thing is something that we take advantage of, and that is specialized testing to evaluate individuals and find out more about what their personality type is like, where their strengths are, where their weaknesses are. So, specialized personality inventories that are specifically designed to help people be more successful in executive positions are something that we absolutely will be taking advantage of.

John: That sounds very similar to what my experience was. The executive team at the hospital I worked at, we all went through multiple personality tests individually, and then we'd share things as a group and it would help us to learn how to interact with one another differently. And the physicians need the same kind of training and coaching to bring them up to that level so they can have those conversations.

Dr. Randy Cook: Absolutely.

John: Well, this has been very interesting, Randy. I appreciate you being here today. We're going to run out of time, give us the name of the company and the link, the URL for that, if you would.

Dr. Randy Cook: Sure. The company is MD Coaches, which can be found at And I would just absolutely be thrilled to death if people would check into my podcast from time to time. We release one every Monday, it's called Prescription for Success, and the website is It can be followed on Apple podcasts or any of the usual platforms. We have new episodes every Monday. And we'd love to have more listeners. And if there's somebody out there that thinks they would like to be a guest or they know who would be a good guest, we'd love to hear from them as well. And I can be contacted at

John: Excellent. And I think people can also learn a little bit more about you if they like from looking at your LinkedIn profile.

Dr. Randy Cook: Yeah. I am on LinkedIn. We're on LinkedIn, we're on Facebook, all that stuff.

John: Okay. Well, thank you very much, Randy. I appreciate you being here today. And with that, I will say goodbye.

Dr. Randy Cook: Thanks so much, John. It's been great.


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