On the Job with Richard Bowe

Photo by Barry Levine

Photo by Barry Levine

Q. What was your first job?

A. As a kid, I had multiple jobs including shoveling snow, microfilming records, being a newspaper delivery boy and working at a five and dime as a stockboy/"whatever they needed me to do" boy. I guess I've always needed to keep busy. I also taught Medical Terminology, worked as a Utilization Review clerk, did coding and abstracting of medical records and worked in the medical records department as a file clerk all part time while I was in medical school.

Q. What was the first thing you spent money on when you received your first ever paycheck?

A. I don't remember, something age appropriate for an 11-year-old boy, I guess.

Q. What's the single most effective technique you found over the past two years for keeping employees motivated?

A. In my position, I don't see the physicians and other people with whom I work as employees. I see us all as teammates working toward a common goal. We all have our unique and individual responsibilities and talents, and all are important in achieving the desired outcome. I think honesty and transparency with colleagues works wonders for establishing trust, credibility and developing a sense of team.

Q. What led you to your current position? Why did you want to operate your own business?

A. As far as my practice of anesthesia, I have wanted to be a physician for as long as I can remember. The idea of being able to help someone or comfort someone or have a positive impact on someone's life -- what better calling can there be? The opportunity to serve society in a meaningful way has always drawn me.

Having helped run our private practice (Albany Anesthesia Associates) for many years uncovered an interest in the business side of medicine as well. I was offered a part-time position as a Senior VP of the physician group with Phoebe and saw this as an opportunity to help structure a group of respected physicians, serving our community and our patients, into an organization that would provide physicians the chance to have input into how the group was run. I saw this as a challenge to get physicians engaged in the group, and leverage their knowledge and good ideas to create a sustainable group that would continue to address the healthcare needs of our region. Helping ensure that future generations of patients and physicians have a healthcare system there to support their needs provides some internal satisfaction for me.

Q. Do you have a role model or mentor in your career?

A. Many people have had significant impacts on me. I think we are all the product of our experiences. How we use those experiences determines who we become. My father is an anesthesiologist and someone who I admire. I think there is no way to escape the fact that he has had a significant impact, even if it's just the genes (my older brother is an anesthesiologist also). My mother is one of the most caring, kind people you would ever meet. She always looks for the good in people and situations. I can only hope that she has had an influence on me. My wife, Carol, and I have known each other for 35 years. She will have to take some of the blame for who I am too.

Q. What is the biggest lesson you as a business leader learned from the recent recession?

A. Lesson from the recession ... hmm, let me think. The challenge in a recession is to be as efficient as possible so as to be able to meet the care needs of the patients in the region regardless of their ability to pay. The only thing physicians have to give is their time, knowledge and skill. Disease doesn't know what a recession is, and a physician has to be fairly compensated for their services. The efficiency portion allows a physician to meet the needs of the patient without completely sacrificing the physician's quality of life. I guess the lesson is that it's never the wrong time to make sure you're working productively and efficiently.

Q. If you could turn the clock back on one aspect of technology - examples e-mail, automated phone systems, cell phones, PDAs, etc. - what would you most like to see go away?

A. While my Blackberry allows me to be connected everywhere, I know that it creates an intrusion when I'm not working. As a result, it seems like I'm always working. I couldn't do both of my jobs without it, though.

Q. What is your favorite work-related gadget?

A. My favorite work-related gadget is all the advancements in monitoring technology in the Operating Room. The American Society of Anesthesiologists has led the way in patient safety over the last four or more decades. As a result, we have leveraged technology to create a safe patient environment in the OR. Why, when I was going through training...... Well, I won't go there.

Q. What is your favorite tradition?

A. My favorite tradition has to be Christmas Eve when we gather the family together after church and have what we call "snack supper." Our girls will sometimes have friends over or out of town guests will be there. We have all the usual foods for our family. It just always feels like home when we do that. I guess, no, I know, I'm a creature of habit and like the "known."

Q. What was the last book you read? Do you have things you read daily or regularly?

A. I'm currently reading two books. The first is Dead or Alive by Tom Clancy. I know it may be weird, but I like all of the technical components he puts in his book. The second book I'm reading caused me some ridicule from our younger daughter, Hannah. We recently completed a 2,000-mile trek to visit colleges in the Southeast. While in the bookstore at UVa, I purchased a book titled Evidence Based Medicine and the Practice of Anesthesia. She asked, "Dad! Why would you buy an anesthesia book on vacation?" I said, "That's just me."

Q. I'm up and going by? And what is your morning routine?

A. I'm up and going by 6 and out of the house by 6:15. I'm at the hospital by 6:30. I get my (operating) room set up for my first case, check the gas machine, turn on the monitors, get my drugs drawn up and ready. I like the planning and preparedness and predictability, as much as possible. Then I go to the pre-op area and check for my patient. We are usually in the room by 7:15-7:45 (depending on the procedure and the surgeon preference) and then it's off and running. I wasn't really a morning person, but medical school and anesthesia forced me out of bed early. I like having long days and not wasting time sleeping.

Q. What famous person would you like to meet, and Why?

A. Like most people, I think, I would like to meet Christ. Just to be in His presence would be indescribable! Just to feel His presence. I would have a million questions to ask. As patient and understanding as He is, I imagine at some point I would hear Him say "Next!"

Q. Favorite hobbies or activity outside work?

A. I absolutely love relaxing at the beach with my family. The sound of the waves, the warm breeze, the slow pace. I also truly enjoy playing golf with my friends. Although my game has deteriorated significantly, I always enjoy the companionship and company of my friends. I'm also a big fan of "Saturday Night Live." I started watching the initial season when I was in high school and have continued ever since -- through the good and the bad.

Q. If you could take back one business decision you made in your career, what would it be?

A. I guess I'm not smart enough to know the answer to this question. It would probably be the timing of the sale of some stock. But every opportunity is a chance to learn, and I think we sometimes learn more from mistakes than getting it right. So all in all, I'm pretty happy with where I am. I wouldn't be the same if my road was different.

Q. Best thing about your job?

A. There is no one best thing. I love taking care of patients. I love using my brain and my hands; the combination of intellectual stimulation and technical skill is great for me. I can't imagine there is a better group of physicians to work with than those in my group. I have never thought "I really don't want to go to work today." I have sometimes thought I would love another hour of sleep, though.

The same is true for my administrative job. I really enjoy all my colleagues and the daily challenges that I face that are outside of my sphere of formal training. The intellectual challenges really keep me thinking (and hopefully growing). I enjoy working with a large group of intelligent, motivated people who keep me learning just to keep up with them.

Q. Worst thing about your job?

A. The worst thing about my anesthesia job is to see suffering and fear and pain and anxiety. But all those things also contribute to the best part about the opportunity to really make a difference and have a positive impact on the patients and their families. Oh, and being on call is not so great. The hours can be long and exhausting sometimes -- and I'm not getting any younger. In my administrative job, the worst thing is to feel as though I have disappointed a physician somehow. I try to overlap the needs of the physicians and the needs of the Health System as much as possible. Sometimes bureaucracy is quite an obstacle.

Q. The most beneficial course I took in school was?

A. Medical Physiology. It's how it all works. With a good background and understanding of physiology, you can figure so many things out, including the effect of diseases. It is truly amazing how we are made and how we work.

Q. What would be your dream job if you were able to pick a position outside your current career path?

A. I really can't imagine anything better than my anesthesia job and my group. Not being from the South originally, my wife and I discussed returning to the Midwest many times during the first 10 years or so. My fellow anesthesiologists and our practice were a huge reason we stayed. I can't imagine it better anywhere else. My administrative job has allowed me the opportunity to branch out and grow, but anesthesia is my first career love.

Q. Finish this thought; "on the first anniversary of my retirement, I see myself...

A. Playing golf, enjoying friends, being at the beach and going out to dinner with my wife.

Q. What is the one trait a strong business leader cannot afford to be without?

A. Integrity. There is no substitute for honesty and integrity. Compassion and patience would be close contenders, though.

Q. What kind of music might I find on your list of most played on your iPod?

A. I'm eclectic in my tastes. I like Adult Contemporary (Five for Fighting, The Fray, Bruno Mars, Barenaked Ladies, Christina Perri, James Blunt, Plain White Ts, The Script, Train ) I also like older stuff (Chicago, Simon and Garfunkel, Carpenters [don't laugh!], the Eagles, Blood Sweat and Tears). I really enjoy listening to Jazz (classic jazz, Dixieland, and contemporary jazz) and have grown to actually enjoy a little Country music as well (Lady Antebellum, The Band Perry, Sugarland).

Q. What do you think is the biggest change Albany will see in the next 10 years?

A. I hope we see a continued growth toward all aspects of our community working together for our regional development.

Q. What was the best vacation you've ever taken? Why?

A. A trip to Hawaii is probably my best vacation. It was my best because it was a trip with my family and a surprise for our girls. We spent 10 days seeing the sights and having fun together. It's the farthest I have traveled.