A common stereotype heard when discussing academic medicine or even academia in general is that there are far too many administrators. The attitude says they don’t understand what it really takes to practice medicine effectively and efficiently or that they are only interested in profit. I think we all know that this is a largely unfair characterization, especially when we think of the actual, human individuals on our teams. As with any prejudice, it often wilts in the face of real-world examples. But in certain moments, perhaps when we encounter roadblocks in a busy day, it can be easy to map our frustrations onto a category of people. I wanted to recognize the contributions of our administrators and other support staff, and how they are just as critical to our delivery of care, education, and discovery as any other team member. Some are ensuring your clinic’s slots stay filled when a patient cancels an appointment or that the bill for your time and effort are sent to the right organization and then paid, while others are making sure that the NIH receives the proper documentation to fund our grant application and keep our grant running, and still others help make sure our class is scheduled and filled and evaluations are gathered so that you know if your lesson plan is as effective as you designed it to be. All of UI Health Care, including the Department of Internal Medicine, is deeply reliant on the hard work, long hours, and thoughtfulness of our administrative team.
Each of our divisions within the department is managed by a dynamic pairing of a Division Director and a Division Administrator. The department relies on these duos to oversee the day-to-day operations of their physician faculty, other clinicians, and those conducting research. Recruitment, staffing, setting of budgets, tracking data, forecasting, and adjusting based on changing conditions—all of that is handled best by the people who are as close as possible to that work and to those performing it. We are fortunate to have a deep well of experience in the administration of our divisions. And that institutional memory has served us well especially over the last few years.
Two of those Division Administrators who have shown creativity and responsiveness to their divisions’ specific needs are Danielle Allen, who works both with the Divisions of Immunology and of Endocrinology and Metabolism, and Kristin Goedken, who works in the Division of General Internal Medicine and has recently been named Associate Clinical Department Administrator. I asked them both to give me a couple examples of recent innovations that have improved their faculty’s working lives. Allen and Goedken both have worked on improvements to recruitment, streamlining the hiring process and, in Allen’s case, successfully focusing on hiring more advanced practice providers who have increased patient access, reduced wait times, and relieved an overburdened faculty. Allen also reports that she has begun working more closely with our partners in the UI Center for Advancement to align donor intent with the division’s needs. Philanthropy remains an important component of our department’s health.
Our administrators also help facilitate better communication. Sometimes unexpected absences come up and it can be difficult to know just who needs to be notified, especially in an emergency. Goedken and GIM Division Coordinator Jamie Paul established a group email distribution list for time-off requests that ensures in part that things like last-minute clinical changes can be quickly addressed. Goedken also led an effort with Amy McDonald and JT Kosier to allow primary care clinicians to “split-bill” annual preventative visits during which other medical conditions were discussed. This ensured the clinician was accurately documenting what occurred during the encounter, both for their own records as well as those of the institution.
In our missions of education or research, we are fortunate to have dedicated administrators as well. A good example of their contribution in education is the just-completed interview season for our residency program. Creating Zoom rooms, moving candidates and interviewers in and out at just the right time, keeping everything on track; it is impressive to watch. Without Cindy Batzkiel, Abbey Gilpin, Denise Floerchinger, and our many Fellowship Coordinators, our training programs would collapse under a mound of applications, ACGME surveys, and progress reports, among so much else that keeps them all accredited and Iowa the top choice of the best young physicians in the country.
In research, examples of dedicated expert administrators abound. Every grant-funded project and every approved grant application in this department happens because Lori Bassler and her staff of administrators stand ready to help. Their expertise and ability to navigate a complicated web of requirements for each grant, from application through completion, is an invaluable and essential part of the department’s research mission. We all know that they, and the rest of the department administrative staff, are also here to fulfill a mission: to clear a path for faculty to fulfill their missions. We are all grateful for their knowledge of policies and procedures and their patient insistence on doing things the right way so we can sustain this work for many decades to come.