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A Physician’s Perspective: Working at the University of Tennessee Medical Center

 Dr. Randal Dabbs (left) and Dr. Lynn Massingale (right) at TeamHealth event.

Recently, we spoke with Dr. Lynn Massingale, TeamHealth co-founder and Chairman of the Board, along with Dr. Randal Dabbs, TeamHealth co-founder and President of Practice Development, about their experience as emergency medicine physicians at the University of Tennessee Medical Center (UTMC). We wanted to learn why they believe it is a great place to practice medicine, from the patients and families who seek care there as well as the community it serves.

TeamHealth: Tell us how you first became affiliated with UTMC during your career.

Dr. Massingale: I’m originally from East Tennessee and wanted to get back to the area. I came back to finish my last year of medical school and to begin my residency.

Dr. Dabbs: I grew up in a very small town in Middle Tennessee and thought Memphis was just too big so I wanted to return to the clean waters and mountains of East Tennessee. I loved the University of Tennessee and knew UTMC was a great training environment.

TeamHealth: UTMC was one of the first two hospitals of TeamHealth, and continues to be a flagship partner today. Why has this partnership been successful for nearly 40 years?

Dr. Dabbs: There has always been great relationships between the leadership of TeamHealth and the leaders of UTMC. We’ve had some great facility medical directors (FMDs) regional medical directors (RMDs) and physicians at this facility. I still attend emergency department and medical staff meetings as well as serve on the Board of Visitors for the graduate school. We know their leaders personally, and know their success is based on the success of the emergency department. At TeamHealth, we take UTMC and their goals very seriously and very personally.

Dr. Massingale: TeamHealth has a very solid and candid relationship with UTMC. Like TeamHealth, UTMC is very mission-driven. They talk about their mission a lot, including education, and we think many of our objectives are aligned.

TeamHealth: How did UTMC contribute to your development as an emergency physician?

Dr. Massingale: I started working in the emergency department (ED) after my internship. It was a very busy environment but had great seasoned nurses, and the attending physicians and residents allowed me to continue my medical education. That environment enabled me to learn and grow to be the best physician possible.

Dr. Dabbs: My time at UTMC was crucial to my development as an emergency physician. I did a family medicine residency and started moonlighting during my first year. I had an unbelievable support system during my residency program. I was able to ask questions and gain direction and had great contacts with other clinical programs, like OB/GYN and oral surgery, which allowed me to become more comfortable when I was working as an emergency physician in a rural community.

TeamHealth: What makes UTMC a special place?

Dr. Dabbs: I literally grew up and cut my teeth at UTMC, so I have a strong sentimental feeling towards the medical center. It fostered my development with quality and caring faculty and an unbelievable medical education. I also served as the Chief of Emergency Services there for 20 years and it was a tremendous experience.

Dr. Massingale: It is an innovative place where leaders and teams are very open to trying new things. I think that says a lot about the facility and its leadership. There are a lot of fresh ideas and innovative solutions that come out of UTMC.

TeamHealth: What skills or traits are required to practice at UTMC?

Dr. Massingale: To be a successful emergency physician at any hospital, you have to juggle a lot of balls and be comfortable with that. You must be able to keep many patients, charts and all priorities straight. Early on I was the greenest guy in town, and there could be strong egos in an academic system, so I learned when to push back, and when to ask for help and listen. You have to know “when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em.” Particularly early in your career, it is important to learn when to stand your ground and when to cooperate. You have to have some conviction and develop political skills.

Dr. Dabbs: You run wide open from the moment you get there. There’s no slack time. Your brain is on full go all the time. You have to shift gears quickly based on the levels of adrenaline. You may go from a cardiac arrest to a sprained ankle, so you must be able to react based on the needs of the patient. UTMC is a tertiary care center, so you’ll get many serious patients as well as lower acuity ones. There’s more and more critical patients at UTMC because it is the regions only Level I trauma center. It has always been a place that supported the community, and as physicians, we’re privileged to treat patients seeking care from all walks of life.

TeamHealth: UTMC is located in the heart of Knoxville! Could you tell us why you enjoy living in East Tennessee, and specifically in Knoxville?

Dr. Dabbs: There are four things I love about Knoxville and East Tennessee. First, people are kind and caring, and you can’t buy that—it’s just our culture. Second, this area has some of the best school systems in the south. The schools have high ratings and Knox County’s commitment to their students produces great outcomes academically. Third, the crime rate is low and it is one of the safest cities of its size. Fourth is the seasonality — it’s wonderful to live somewhere you can experience all four seasons, and being in the back yard of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. You have so many outdoor activity choices that aren’t available in other parts of the country.

Dr. Massingale: I would echo all of that, and add that the cost of living here is very reasonable. Also, the state of Tennessee has no state income tax.

TeamHealth: If you could share one piece of advice for a physician considering working at UTMC, what would it be?

Dr. Dabbs: My advice to those considering working at UTMC is be prepared to utilize all of your skills. You will be required to use everything you’ve learned, plus you will learn even more from the attendings and residents. It is not a place for the weak of heart, mind or spirit. It’s an emergency room utopia. If you want a challenge and like teaching and sharing your knowledge with medical students, residents and advanced practice clinicians, this is the place for you.

Dr. Massingale: UTMC is a high-profile hospital in the community and a high-profile partner at TeamHealth. It is a great place to learn and share your ideas. UTMC is also a great place that will allow you to grow professionally as a physician and within the TeamHealth organization. If you want to be a great doctor and know you can have great influence both here in the community and region we serve, then UTMC is a terrific location to work.

Join our team at University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville, Tennessee to experience a team that truly supports you and recognizes the impact in providing excellent patient care. Continue your career at a location that has influenced the growth of TeamHealth.