"On the Job With ..." is a weekly feature of Sunday Inc. Reporter Jim West talks with Doug Patten of Phoebe Putney Memorial Hosptial for today's feature.
Q. If you were fresh out of school, what would you first do in searching for a job?
A. I encourage students to study what they're passionate about. It may or may not lead to a job. I tell then, though, "be aware that you're actually going to have to find a job." If someone studies what they're passionate about -- art, history or whatever it is -- they're going to be happier at what they do. My son majored in philosophy and religion at school, and right now he's working as a fry chef. What he studied has nothing to do with that, but he does manage to incorporate what he learned to make him better at what he does. Pretty soon, though, he'll be moving to Los Angeles to pursue his dream of working in the film industry.
Q. What was your first job?
A. Mowing lawns. When I was eight years old I used my own money I'd saved from my allowance to buy a lawn mower, and then I started a lawn-mowing service. My dad would take me and my mower to different neighborhoods and then he'd pick me up later.
Q. What did you buy when you got your first paycheck?
A. I don't remember any one thing. I liked playing baseball a lot and so I'm sure I bought some things like bats and balls. That kind of stuff.
Q. Who was your mentor or role model in your current job?
A. Dr. Gerald Berenson talked to me about being a physician -- not just a research technician. Even when I thought for a period of time I would never be a doctor, he pushed me to stick with it. Plus, I got to live in New Orleans.
Q. How has the recession affected your business?
A. It's definitely affected things. A lot of health care is funded by Medicare and Medicaid. As tax revenues are affected by the recession, it puts pressure on the funding of these programs. Even people with private insurance plans are hard pressed to come up with the deductibles and co-payments early on.
Q. If you could turn back the clock on one aspect of technology (email, internet, cell phones, etc.,) what would it be?
A. I think email is the one aspect of my life that's gotten out of control. Things get buried under piles of messages and some of them are missed. It's curious because one of the things I enjoy the most is Twitter. There's no pressure, no implication you need to respond. You can just enjoy it. If I don't pay attention to it for three days or so, nobody cares.
Q. Finish this question: I am up and going by . . . ?
A. I'm up by 5:30, feeding my wife's horses and checking on things at the barn. I'm at the hospital by 6:30 or 7.
Q. What's your favorite hobby or activity outside of work?
A. My wife would say "work." I do enjoy working outside, especially yard work and outside chores. Yes, it's hard to break a habit. My absolute favorite outdoor activity is snow skiing, but we can't do that very often.
Q. If you could take back one business decision in your career, what would it be?
A. To manage my own stock portfolio in the late 90's. I thought I was a genius. Everyone back then thought they were smart enough to do that. I was just riding the same wave as everyone else.
Q. What's the best thing about your job?
A. I get to help create what I hope is a system which will provide the best possible care in the safest possible environment. I get to work with teams of nurses, doctors and non-clinicians who help create that environment.
Q. What is the worst thing about your job?
A. That I don't get to practice medicine anymore. It's been 7 years, 2 months and 26 days now that I haven't been able to. Up to that time I was a "real" doctor.
Q. What is the most beneficial course you took in school?
A. Curiously, my business and economics classes. I took them before I knew I would be a doctor. I was an accounting major then.
Q. What would be your dream job?
A. I'm in it. If I weren't doing this I'd be back practicing general surgery somewhere -- preferably at a small community hospital somewhere, like Cordele, where I used to practice.
Q. Finish this sentence: "On the first anniversary of my retirement I see myself . . ."
A. In another country, probably. I'll be doing something different, somewhere else. I don't know exactly what. It could be doing medical missionary work. I might be helping make sure people have enough food and water to get along.
Q. What is the one trait a business leader cannot be without?
A. Compassion for the people they're leading.
Q. What do you see as Albany's biggest economic challenge?
A. We've got to be sure that our children receive the best possible education in order to break the cycle of poverty.
Q. What are the biggest changes you've seen in your business over the past several years?
A. The technology we have now is making things better and safer than ever, but it's created a challenge, and that is to not let the technology come between the patient and the doctor. There's a lot of healing that's dependent on that relationship.
Q. What was the best vacation you ever took?
A. The last one. We went snow skiing at Big Sky in Montana.
Q. Any parting words of wisdom?
A. Living and working in the Albany area has been professionally gratifying and personally satisfying. Albany is the biggest little town I've ever lived in.