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Gainfully Employed

Physician finds time for patients, practice issues
By Scott Warner

Michael Hanak, MD, is among the estimated 60% of fully employed physicians. And he’s making the most of it. The 35-year-old board-certified family physician sees patients at Rush University Medical Center where he is one of more than 500 physician employees. Dr. Hanak also serves as an assistant professor at Rush Medical College, mentors students, and is a board member of the Illinois Academy of Family Physicians. These are only a few of the endeavors he has committed himself to, and he credits his role as an employed physician in allowing him the time to be so usefully engaged. “Thirty years ago physicians worked 80-90 hours a week as private practitioners. Now, many employed physicians can work 30-40 hours a week and have more time to be involved in other health-care related activities, and spend more time with their family.”

He also praises employed physician status for offering doctors a steady salary and not having to deal with some of the more tedious and unsteady business aspects of medicine. But Dr. Hanak points out that there is a price for being employed. In return for security, physicians give up a level of autonomy. “They may have to see a certain number of patients, spend hours on electronic health records, have their practice patterns monitored, and be unable to hire their own staff,” he says. ”The ‘art’ of medicine sometimes fades in an effort to check boxes and get through payor and government-driven quality initiatives,” he adds.

And, he says, more employed physicians are experiencing burnout. While he commends his Rush practice for being physician administered and sensitive to physicians’ needs (“No one is telling me I can’t order another test”), he is concerned about the growing number of employed physician practices that are administered by non-physicians. “There’s no question that there will be ongoing scope of practice concerns.” He urges his colleagues to contact the Chicago Medical Society and the Illinois State Medical Society for guidance if such issues arise.

Despite the pressures, Dr. Hanak says he loves being a doctor and comforting his patients. He says that even as a child, he knew he wanted to become a doctor. Growing up in the blue-collar town of Linden, Michigan, near Flint, he was encouraged to follow his dream. His mother Teresa taught kindergarten, and his father Al sold automotive parts. He has a brother involved in the family business and another brother and sister who work in marketing in Chicago. When he was in high school, he did volunteer work at his local hospital, and shadowed his beloved family physician.

When he enrolled in college, it was a straight trajectory to medical school. He was admitted into the Medical Scholars Program at Michigan State University, which would automatically enroll him in the school’s College of Human Medicine upon earning his BS in human biology. This select undergraduate process also gave him the chance to study the humanities, and do more than “just keeping my nose in a book.” He minored in music therapy, and spent a semester in London.

Today, one way he facilitates his caring relationship with patients is by being involved with hospital leadership. He currently co-chairs the quality committee of the employed medical group at Rush, which reviews standardized processes for care.

On a personal note, Dr. Hanak is in a happy “medical marriage.” His wife of two years, Neive, is a fertility nurse at Northwestern, and the couple dote on their 6-month old daughter, Sloane.

Dr. Hanak’s Career Highlights

After graduating from medical school at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Dr. Michael Hanak served his residency in family medicine at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, through the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is an assistant professor at Rush Medical College, and last year served as the national chair of the AMA Young Physicians Section. Currently he serves on the ISMS Council on Membership and Advocacy, and is chair of the CMS Continuing Medical Education Committee.

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