We’ve all seen images from the media of an emergency department (ED) setting—fast-paced environments with physicians ready to attend to an injury, no matter how minor or severe, at a moment’s notice. But have you ever wondered who leads the ED physician and APC team? Dr. Ken Colaric, VP of Leadership Development & Medical Director-Onboarding at American Physician Partners breaks down the main responsibilities of this role and how APP provides ongoing support to its Medical Directors.


An Emergency Medicine Medical Director is responsible for monitoring quality of medical care, overseeing team member reviews, creating policies and procedures, and much more. He/she could also help manage patient care as well as being tasked with ensuring all medical team members are following hospital policies and goals. 

The management style at APP consists of a decentralized approach, allowing decisions related to each practice to be made at the local level and by the on-site Medical Director. “This model allows our Medical Directors to focus on building a team of individuals who work well together, support each other, and are highly focused on why we’re all here—to deliver quality patient care,” says Dr. Colaric. “From the ED perspective, the priorities are monitoring the time the patient arrives in the ED until seen by a healthcare provider and minimizing the length of stay time in the ED, both of which contribute to the patient’s satisfaction level.”

Though Medical Directors are highly experienced, APP makes it a priority to ensure they get off to a good start with our onboarding process. “Our Medical Directors attend a two-day orientation session at our Support Center in Brentwood, Tenn., where they have the opportunity to meet our CEO John Rutledge, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tony Briningstool, as well as every service line leader at the facility. We do this to allow our new Medical Directors the chance to start building relationships and learn what support is available to them,” Dr. Colaric explains. That support encompasses a broad range, including Human Resources and Payroll. “Support on educational documents, like chart documentation, EMTALA or HIPAA, is truly at their fingertips to ensure positive outcomes.”

For those who join APP as a Medical Director, training doesn’t end after onboarding. “Part of my role in leadership development is providing the tools for our Medical Directors to succeed. The transition from clinical care to leadership is significant. As clinicians, we spent much of our time in education learning about healthcare, but we don’t get a lot of education on business management or leadership. That’s why my role focuses on two areas:

  • Onboarding: After their two-day orientation session, our Medical Directors have an immense amount of knowledge around who to contact, how to contact them, and when, along with structural supporting documentation.
  • Ongoing Leadership Development: Because of COVID-19, our Leadership Development Academy conducts ongoing virtual book studies geared toward leadership where we convene to discuss the high points of each chapter. More importantly, we talk about ways to apply that knowledge to their respective organizations and teams.”
Additional opportunities to engage with clinical leadership and other Medical Directors are offered throughout the year, including a quarterly leadership huddle, regional leadership development institutes and annual leadership conference. The quarterly huddles are held via webinar and are focused on providing updates to the entire APP leadership team to ensure everyone is unified in the pursuit of excellence for patients, providers, and hospital partners while the regional leadership development institutes are focused on developing leadership skills, networking, and building relationships in the respective regions. The COVID-19 pandemic prevented the annual leadership conference from being held in 2020, but this meeting’s focus is to realign all APP leaders to ensure corporate leadership, Support Center leaders, regional Medical Directors, and Regional Vice Presidents are current on goals and objectives and to coordinate efforts to achieve excellence in the upcoming year.

The most successful Medical Directors are strong and skilled in communication, writing, problem-solving, and leadership. This role typically acts as a liaison between multiple stakeholders within the hospital system and helps open lines of communication to prevent siloing and maximize collaboration. For current physicians who have expressed interest in moving to a more leadership-focused role, plans are in motion to establish a leadership academy offering leadership management training before they move into that role.

Becoming a Medical Director brings tremendous responsibilities, but it’s important to remember why one started the journey. “This is a 24/7 job which requires the medical director to be available and responsive to the team, but to me, the reward is in seeing the people you’ve been blessed to be in charge of succeeding, be that clinically or emotionally. What fuels my flame is coaching clinicians, helping them find the learning opportunities in their mistakes, and seeing them try again.”

Dr. Colaric concludes, “Being a Medical Director isn’t about you—it’s about making your clinicians’ and department’s patient care the best it can be. If someone can buy into that notion, then they’ll have no issues adapting to APP’s culture where everything we do goes back to providing quality care and exceeding the expectations of our patients.”

To learn more about Medical Director opportunities at American Physician Partners, contact us today.