Choosing a partner wisely: Derms look at more than just resume

October 21, 2005

A common analogy in the medical business today is that a group practice is like a marriage. Medical partners often spend more time together than many married couples, and may have as much financial intertwining as most spouses.

So when a dermatologist considers engaging a partner for the practice, what does he or she look for? On Call talked to dermatologists around the country about what characteristics they consider the most important.

Complementary skills

Teddy D. Pan, M.D., in Newton, Mass., says, "I sub-specialize in dermatopathology, although I want to do more dermatology beyond that, but I would want someone who had specialized training that I didn't have."

In Fridley, Minn., Steven E. Prawer, M.D., says that his large group of 15 dermatologists looks for sub-specialists as they are needed.

"If we're looking at a Mohs surgeon, or we're looking for a dermatopathologist, or we may be looking for someone for clinical research section, then we will look at those qualifications," he says.

It's personal

But while a partner search may focus on a special interest area, that's not the most important thing any of the dermatologists interviewed say they look for in a new associate. Instead, each cited a more personal characteristic.

"It's important that I feel that I connect with them, that I can see myself working with them," Dr. Dacko explains. "I want them to be hardworking, interested and motivated, but I also want to like them. The person should be personable, friendly and interested, not someone who is cold."

Dr. Dacko, a member of a group of six dermatologists, says, "If they have excellent business acumen and are excellent at diagnosing things, but can't talk to you or to the patients, then they aren't going to work well with the staff. You need someone who has a good rapport with everyone."

After leaving an academic practice in New England, Elizabeth J. Callahan, M.D., opened her solo private practice in University Park on the west coast of Florida less than a year ago. She hadn't planned to hire another dermatologist for a few years, but the rapid growth of the practice has already spurred her to think about whom she will need to fill that slot.

"Things like medical knowledge, background, training and similar approach to medicine are all very important, along with having patients treated the same way I would treat patients," she says. "But on a personal level, I think communication is the most important thing.

"You might not always agree, but you have to have the ability to sit down and communicate with your partner and discuss the issues. That's critical to the functioning of your business," she says.

"There is nothing more destructive to a business then when partners don't get along. It's destructive to the framework of the business and to how the employees feel about their jobs and their job security. Ultimately, if the partners aren't getting along, the patients will pick that up - and that's not good for a practice."

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