July 1997 Bulletin

Doctor shares a lifetime of experience

Tells young physicians how to select first practice

Robert N. Richards Sr., MD, a semiretired orthopaedic surgeon in Chambersburg, Pa., uses his 44 years of experience in practice to help young physicians get off to a good start. About 15 years ago, Dr. Richards, and R.L. Bennett, vice president of Sofamor Danek, began to share their knowledge about practice management issues with residents nearing the end of their programs. They viewed it as a way to fill a void in young physicians' education and at the same time, a way to give something back to the medical community. Edgar G. Dawson, MD, recently has been added to the faculty as a lecturer. Dr. Richards focuses on guidelines for selecting a practice site and the type of practice.

Statistics show that 50 percent of all partnerships fail during the first year and 50 percent of young physicians leave their first practice within the second or third year, says Robert N. Richards Sr., MD, "primarily because they didn't have clear, specific goals and they joined a practice for the wrong reason. Usually, it is the practice that offered the most money. Then they leave for entirely different reasons."

Dr. Richards recommends that all residents completing a program should ask themselves the following questions:

Dr. Richards recommends that all physicians planning to join a group make a two- or three-day visit to the practice. "Visit patients in the examining room with one of the partners, talk to the business manager and staff up front, and go to the OR room with one of the partners and talk to the OR supervisor," he said. "Talk to the personnel in the anesthesia and X-ray departments, in ER and the hospital administrator. Try to get a handle on the type of practice and how well it is being run and evaluate the chemistry of the organization.

"You are going to spend more time in this environment than you will at home-it has to be comfortable."

He also urges the physicians to ask a lot of questions, including, "what will my duties be, how will I get partners, what will my starting salary be, when will I become a partner, what will it cost to join the group and did anyone ever leave this group and why."A candid dinner with the spouses and partners also is recommended to evaluate living conditions, social activities and the compatibility of the group.

"Life After Orthopaedic Practice: Preparing for a Change in Direction," will be presented by the Academy this fall.The 1 ½-day course will be offered Oct. 18-19 at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, Amelia Island, Fla., and Nov. 1-2 at the Pointe Hilton Resort on South Mountain, Phoenix, Ariz.The course will concentrate on the psychological elements and the many options available to orthopaedic surgeons, said Merrill A. Ritter, MD, co-chairman of the continuing medical education course. "We'll have presentations on how to mentally prepare yourself for retirement," he said. "Retiring from a career in medicine is tough, and we'll describe some ways to make it easier. We'll also discuss alternative careers and activities."For more information about the "Life After Orthopaedic Practice" course, contact the Academy's customer service department at (800) 626-6726.

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