Dr. Val Arkoosh is an Anesthesiologist by training and a current candidate for Congress in the Pennsylvania 13th Congressional District. We recently had the chance to speak to Dr. Val to get her thoughts on being a doctor and being a candidate.
Why did you decide to leave full time clinical practice at Jefferson and go to into administration?
The position I left Jefferson to take was a pretty exciting one.
You might remember that Allegheny opened this hospital for women. It was PCOM’s old hospital on City Ave.
And they opened it up and reconfigured I to be a hospital for women. So they moved all the OB GYN, gyn onc ,breast surgery, most women’s services from Hahmemann and Medical College of Pennsylvania to that new hospital for women on City Ave. So that was actually the position that I left for.
Anesthesiologist Valerie Arkoosh, MD
Looking back were you satisfied with your new position?
That was just a really great opportunity for me to really focus on women’s health as well as take on additional leadership and administrative responsibilities in the department.
How soon after you took your position did the hospital close?
After I had been there for 18 months, so I had really exqusite timing.
After the closing what did you do?
It was about 6 months after the system came out of bankruptcy in the spring of 1999 that I took over as Chair of the entire department of Hahnemann and MCP. I had academic responsibility for St Christopher’s as well, although I didn’t have budgetary authority at St Chris.
Why did you decide to stay in a health system that was so troubled financially?
Number one, I was very committed to the faculty I had recruited and the programs I was involved in bu ilding and that we had worked on in that hospital for women. I didn’t want to abandon people.
I also thought it was a really interesting opportunity to be in the midst of a system that was emerging from bankruptcy. I was actually able to draw on my economic background quiet extensively.
And, I was very curious to see how the partnership between the medical school which at that point was under the umbrella of Drexel – how that relationship would work with Tenet, which was the for profit owner of the hospitals coming out of bankruptcy.
Why did you end up resigning and leaving the Drexel system in the summer of 2004?
Two things happened.
When you are Chair in a troubled system and challenged system you get a very deep understanding of some of the problems in our healthcare system kinda writ large.
And at the same time my patients …. were just falling through the cracks in our community – lack of a job that paid a living wage, poor educational opportunities, and private health insurance companies that routinely discriminated against women with preexisting conditions.
I decided that I wanted to have a better understanding of the policy side if the equation. So, I stepped down so I could go back to school.
I went over to Penn in a part time clinical position with part time clinical duties so I could start school, which I did at Johns Hopkins in 2005 to get my Masters in Public Health. And, I focused on US health policy in that master’s training.
What would you say was your biggest area of growth during your two Chair jobs at Drexel?
The most important thing was learning how to both manage and lead – and they are two different skills in some ways – during very complicated and uncertain times.
We had weeks during the bankruptcy where we did not know if hospital doors were going to be locked when we came in the morning.
There was a day at City Avenue hospital where we were doing about 12-15 deliveries a day at that point and we only had 10 epidural trays left in the hospital. So, you are realizing that you may not have adequate supplies to take care of your patients.
It was a pretty tumultuous time and I really learned so much from that.
Disclosure – the interviewer is a former colleague and longtime supporter and admirer of Dr. Arkoosh’s endeavors, starting with the many liver transplants done jointly in the middle of the night up to her current Congressional campaign.