Innovative community investment key to future

by Martin Willoughby

Published: May 30,2010

Tags: Martin Willoughby, MBJ column

As we look for ways to grow Mississippi’s economic base and create more jobs, we have a great opportunity before us right now. The University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) currently is recommending that the size of each medical class be increased from 120 students per class to 165 and to expand graduate medical education positions from 102 to 175 per year. The overall goal would be to place over 929 new UMMC-trained physicians into Mississippi communities by 2025.  Adding these physicians would create more than 15,000 jobs with a payroll of $570 million. The overall economic impact would be $1.5 billion.  This is an incredible opportunity to not only positively impact Mississippi’s economy, but also proactively address Mississippi’s overall health issues, particularly in rural communities. 

Dr. James Ervin, a Crystal Springs, Mississippi (pop. 5,950) native, is a UMMC graduate that has returned to his hometown and made a big impact in the local community.  Ervin began his medical practice in 1989 in Vicksburg and worked in Amory before moving back to Crystal Springs in 1997 to open a family practice clinic and be a part of Methodist Healthcare Systems.  In 2004, he acquired his practice from HMA and now operates as Family Medical Clinic of Crystal Springs. His wife Joan is the practice manager and they employ eight fulltime employees with seasonal part time employees.  He is also active in the community serving in various leadership positions and financial supporting many local organizations. 

Like any other entrepreneur, Dr. Ervin operates in a competitive environment and has to deal with a range of issues including building a great team of employees, investing in the right technology, and dealing with a changing regulatory and financial landscape for his business.  Dr. Ervin brings a very innovative approach to his practice that is noteworthy not only for other physicians, but also other entrepreneurs.  He has great focus and knows that his core service offering is providing quality healthcare and being accessible for patients in need.  He noted “it does not do any good if you provide great medical care if you are not available when people need it.” 

Dr. Ervin does a great job of understanding his business from the patient (customer) perspective.  He knows that none of us like to sit around and wait in for hours in sterile waiting rooms.  His goal is to have patients in and out within an hour.  His clinic routinely conducts time studies to measure their progress in meeting this goal.  They also have been tracking the demand for acute care so they can adjust their hours and staffing accordingly. In order to get feedback and optimize the patient experience cycle, they also do patient surveys. Really listening to the voice of customer is a significant advantage for any business.  All of his innovative thought and hard work has paid off.  Dr. Ervin has a thriving solo practice with a loyal client base. This has yielded financial returns that have significantly exceeded his compensation if he had remained as a physician employee. 

While every physician may not be as innovative and entrepreneurial as Dr. Ervin, it is exciting to think about the impact that those 929 additional physicians that UMMC is proposing to train over the next 15 years will have on Mississippi communities.  I believe this is actually a tremendous time of opportunity for physicians and Mississippi between the aging population and the changes from healthcare reform, the demand for medical services will be huge in the next decade.  Innovative and entrepreneurially minded physicians will have tremendous opportunities to “do well by doing good.”  While expanding our facilities and training at UMMC will require investment, this seems to be one of the smartest investments we can make for a win-win economic boom as well as helping raise health standards for our citizens around the state. 

  

Martin Willoughby is a business lawyer in Jackson. He can be reached at mew@msbusinesslaw.com.

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