Although Susanne DeMeester, M.D., FACEP, Director of the Observation Center at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor, MI., has been in leadership for less than a decade, her innovative approaches have already brought many big changes to her observation unit.

Taking over the leadership of the unit seven years ago and becoming a cardiology liaison soon after, she and physician partners implemented the HEART scoring system that St. Joseph Mercy Hospital cardiologists now use to classify major cardiac events. Along with fellow cardiologists, she also developed the “St. Joe’s AFib Algorithm” to identify low-risk patients and created a virtual clinic to more efficiently treat Atrial Fibrillation, which drastically reduced hospital admissions.   Results of these projects were studied with upcoming publications anticipated in the near future.

“The HEART scoring system was developed in the Netherlands in the early 2000s and is pretty simple,” Dr. DeMeester said. “It’s a point system that places patients into low, medium and high scores. With a broad variety of physicians, it’s a way to standardize our risk. Prior to the HEART scoring system, the United States was admitting many patients, which is costly and negatively impacts patient safety. We can now send home low risk patients.”

Dr. DeMeester credits Envision Physician Services with playing an important role in supporting her goals for the hospital. “I was encouraged by Envision to implement HEART scores from the beginning. They did audits and provided feedback on what I wanted to accomplish,” she said. “I don’t believe most groups, especially large groups, are so encouraging of innovation at the local level. Envision sees the benefits of opportunities like these, and I have always been supported by them.”

Dr. DeMeester’s leadership also extends past the day-to-day operations of the observation unit. She enjoys organizing annual social dinners with the cardiology group, which she says has made a lasting positive impact on their working environment. She also  launched an EM women’s night, where women clinicians get together for a exercise class and drinks.

Today half of our group are women — and all of them are moms.” As a mother of two, Dr. DeMeester believes that mothers are ideal hires because having to balance work and family helps prevent physician burnout. “

Of course, the most important aspect in preventing burnout is the physician group and its level of support for maintaining or achieving work-life balance. “Envision Physician Services is very flexible in terms of requesting time off for trips or vacations,” Dr. DeMeester said. She is planning a cross-country vacation with her husband and two children during the spring of 2018. “I don’t work clinically full-time, but I also receive compensation for research and other endeavors. My physician group definitely encourages work-life balance, which I appreciate because there are so many clinicians that don’t have that.”

Dr. Demeester believes that women in emergency medicine must be intentional about balancing what they want out of life at work and at home. “For women, it sometimes means not saying yes to every single opportunity unless it will bring you happiness and fulfillment. I just turned 40, so my goal has been to slow down a bit and make my leadership role about things that excite me.”

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