Focus on Physician Leadership: Get to Know Ted Herwig, MD
June 11, 2018
Why are you part of NEQCA?
I’ve been in practice on Cape Cod since 1990. When I arrived here, there was no forum for all the primary care docs to come together. Some docs didn’t admit, and the hospital medical staff meetings were focused on hospital care and hospital business. I was one of the people who wanted to bring all our PCPs together to focus on what matters to providers working ‘in the trenches’ each day. That was the beginning of Cape Physicians LLC, our Local Care Organization (LCO). Cape Physicians is the only place we can come together to talk, problem-solve, support one another, and help each other survive (logistically, financially and emotionally). In NEQCA, I feel like I really found my people – my tribe: folks who are passionate about the value of primary care and are working for our common good. If it weren’t for NEQCA’s support and contracts, I think our solo and small practices would all be out of business.
You’ve been actively involved in leadership roles at your LCO and at NEQCA for many years, including serving in multiple board and committee assignments. What motivates you to lead?
I love being a physician, and I really believe I have the best job in the world. My job is to take care of my people. My LCO and NEQCA enable me to do both of these things, so I don’t need much more motivation than that. For me, the reward is being able to work on important things with people who understand and appreciate you and make you feel valued.
You previously served as Chair of NEQCA’s Board of Trustees and you currently Chair the Funds Flow Committee. Which role is more challenging?
I found the Board Chairmanship more challenging because of the scope. I had to work hard to learn more about the entire healthcare landscape and to understand the needs of multiple constituencies and the nuances of some very complex and technical issues. It was exciting, challenging and humbling. My job was to keep things moving along, facilitate conversations, translate clinical concerns to Management and Network concerns to clinicians in the field. I felt like a guest conductor at the BSO, letting our talented leaders and consultants have their solo turns, and making sure everyone was working toward the best performance. On the Funds Flow Committee, the scope of our work is narrower, and I’m enjoying the chance to go deeper and immerse myself in the complexity of contracting and aligning funds flow with optimal performance.
Which other leaders in our network have inspired you?
During my time with NEQCA, I’ve had the privilege to work with lots of great people. Among those that really stand out are former Tufts Medical Center President and CEO Ellen Zane and former NEQCA President and CEO Jeff Lasker. I admire Ellen for talking straight, being clear and setting bold goals. She wasn’t afraid to say, “This is going to be hard, but we need to do it, and I have confidence that we can get it done.” And when we achieved the goal, she’d say, “Good for you. Good job. I’m proud of you.” I find myself saying the same things to my patients when they’ve made an important and positive change. Jeff was a master preparer, and I admire him for his ability to see and think several steps ahead and prevent surprises. Both are very transparent people and both place a high value on personal relationships.
Are there experiences you’ve had with patients that have caused you to change the way you work with them?
Conversations with patients about issues like weight problems, drinking and smoking are always tough. I have a 75-year old patient who smokes like a chimney and drinks like a fish. At a recent visit, I greeted her, sat down, and asked how she was doing. “Still drinking and smoking,” she replied. There it was! No beating around the bush. It actually made our conversation easier. Thus, I’ve become more forthright and matter-of-fact in talking with and advising my patients. I’ve learned that patients expect to talk with their doctors about difficult things, and when we don’t have those conversations, we’re not doing our jobs.
Understanding that most surveyed physicians say they would not recommend medicine as a career path for their own children, what advice do you have for young people interested in practicing medicine?
Follow your passion. This profession provides an opportunity like no other to make a difference in peoples’ lives. I saw 18 patients yesterday, and I know for sure that I made a difference for at least 15. How great is that? Of course medicine is changing; the whole world is. But we continue to have the opportunity to help people every day.
When you’re not seeing patients or traveling back and forth to meetings ‘off-Cape’ what do you like to do for fun?
My wife and I play Scrabble or cribbage together every night after dinner. I love photography and scuba diving. And we like to travel, especially to Maine.
Read other Focus on Physician Leadership interviews in this series:
Get to Know Eric Silverman, MD (December 2018)
Get to Know Kelli Kennedy, MD (September 2018)
Get to Know Pratiksha Patel, MD (March 2018)
Get to Know Dan Driscoll, MD (November 2017)