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The Cutting Edge - Where growth is the word

Cutting Edge Winter 2012

Where growth is the word

Date: January 1, 2012


On a mission to boost Surgery’s numbers at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center are Michele Mehrling, Thomas Magnuson and Mark Duncan.
On a mission to boost Surgery’s numbers at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center are Michele Mehrling, Thomas Magnuson and Mark Duncan.

Realistically, any one of the multiple goals set by leaders in the Department of Surgery at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center would seem a challenge. On a long list of priorities, for instance, building surgical volume ranks high. But there’s also the desire to increase the number of surgical residents, not to mention establishing several new centers and programs.

“Our vision,” says the medical center’s recently appointed chief of surgery, Thomas Magnuson, “is to get bigger and expand surgical volume.” 

To that end, Magnuson and the other two members of Bayview’s surgery leadership team—Vice Chair Mark Duncan and administrator Michele Mehrling—are doing everything they can. Perhaps most indicative of the high priority assigned to increasing the hospital’s surgical volume is the creation of Duncan’s new position, which was added specifically to target potential means of growing both referrals and programs—most notably for cancer (although several other new centers are also in the works).

 “For a department that’s growing and expanding, having this kind of coordinated effort takes more than one voice lobbying,” says Duncan, referring to his position and its role in the department’s mission. “I think that between Dr. Magnuson and myself, we have a lot of credibility because we’ve been here for some time, and we’ve each worked with so many of the other departments, such as medicine, nursing and administration. That makes an enormous difference when you’re trying to work through challenges and get things done.”

Mehrling, as well, has her own fair share of Hopkins and health care experience, having moved through the ranks after completing the JHU business of medicine MBA program as well as the JHM Leadership program. Given her background, it’s no surprise that Mehrling’s priorities lean toward the bottom line, not only in terms of revenue generation, but for the sake of the department and its patients.

“I think our number one initiative is to build our referral base,” Mehrling says.

Doing so requires not only building Bayview’s reputation as a surgical leader, but also ensuring that faculty and staff have the resources they need to be productive and successful. “You have to help feed them” through a steady stream of referrals and patients, Mehrling explains. “If we build our reputation by offering quality, efficient and service-oriented care, our referring physicians will send us another patient and another and another.”

Bayview is no stranger to growth or success. Surgical volumes have increased every year by 10 percent to 15 percent, and this year the department is up 15 percent from the same time last year. To continue that trend, Duncan is reaching out to local and regional physicians, particularly those with Johns Hopkins Community Physicians (JHCP), which, despite its Hopkins name, has historically referred patients to other local hospitals. Further, the department is encouraging its surgeons to hold clinics at JHCP community sites. “We’ve made progress with that,” Magnuson says. “We’ve also been introducing these physicians directly to our surgeons so that they can put a face to a name.”

Another aspect of the department’s growth is the introduction of several new programs, including a breast cancer center and a lung cancer center—both of which are currently in the works. Duncan is also lobbying to bring radiation oncology to the Bayview campus to improve the medical center’s ability to provide multidisciplinary and convenient care.

“We want to really make Hopkins the preferred provider for surgery services,” Duncan says. “Again, this means meeting with doctors in the community, understanding their needs and removing barriers for getting their patients in.”

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