Hospitalist is Michigan medical society's Woman Physician of the Year

Carole Montgomery, ACP Member, has been a hospitalist since the early ’90s.

Carole Montgomery, ACP Member

Occupation: Medical director of Michigan Medical, P.C. (mmpc) Hospitalists, Spectrum Health Hospitals, Grand Rapids, Mich.


Age: 46.

Current residence: Ada, Mich.

Hometown: Birmingham, Mich.

Family: Married with three daughters, ages 10, 13, and 14.

Medical school: Michigan State University College of Human Medicine.

Residency: Butterworth Hospital, Grand Rapids.

Specialty: Internal medicine.

I became a hospitalist because: When I was in residency, an attending physician who functioned as a mentor suggested I should be a general internist in the hospital. I said there was no such thing, and he said, “So what? Let's create something.” That was in 1990. Initially, when we were thinking about creating the position, we asked some of the surgeons and anesthesiologists, “Would you think there would be enough work to keep an internist busy?”, and the resounding answer was no. We decided to do it anyway. I was the first hospitalist there, and now there are 20 of us in our group.

Hardest medical lesson learned: How to forgive my own mistakes.

Something I wished I'd learned in medical school: Early in my practice, I felt very conflicted about being in a for profit business. I would have liked to have learned that it is a business, and that that's OK.

Most rewarding aspect of my job: It depends on the day and what role I'm playing. Currently, I'm about 75% administrative and about 25% clinical. In my administrative role, the most rewarding aspect is being able to impact change that benefits so many more people than one patient at a time. But then I miss the instant gratification of impacting a patient at a time. That's what I still love about the clinical part of things, being able to go in and have that rewarding conversation with the patient or the family.

Most meaningful professional accomplishment: Growing our hospitalist division to the size that it is and performing at the level that we are.

Most meaningful non-medical accomplishment: Raising my kids.

Future goals: A lot of change in health care has happened over the last 10 years, and it may pale in comparison to the next 10 years. A future goal may be to be able to embrace that change and continue to make sure that whatever we change into continues to make sense for the patients and for the care that we deliver to the patients.

Career advice for hospitalists coming out of residency: Hospital medicine as a profession is at risk for developing a free-agent mentality, looking for the best deal. The discipline is at risk if we play too much into that. When we talk to new recruits, we try to emphasize that yes, the money's important, but on the other hand, it is very important to pay attention to the culture and collegiality of the group and the hospital in which you practice, because that's really where your sustaining job satisfaction is. If we reduce ourselves to looking for the next best paycheck, that's what leads to burnout.

Career advice for those starting up a hospitalist program: From a business and practicality standpoint, you need to be very clear about why the hospital wants a hospitalist program. To be successful, you're going to have to make sure that your program meets their needs.

Thoughts on women in medicine: I've been impressed with how much more equity I see in the way men and women professionals handle their personal lives. It's not just an automatic assumption that children are a woman's responsibility. I have a couple of male partners now who are part-time because of family reasons, and you wouldn't have seen that a few years ago. More women physicians, like myself, also have stay-at home husbands. I think equity in the home life has allowed more equality in the professional life as well.

Pet peeves: People who complain about problems but aren't willing to invest their time or emotion in helping to create a solution.

Favorite ways to spend free time: With my family. With my kids, who are all very active, especially at the ages they are. It's a blast to watch them grow up.

Books on your nightstand or most recent book read: The most recent book I read was called “Juggling Elephants,” about managing the work-life balance.

Biggest regret: I always try to live my life and take advantage of things so that I don't have big regrets.

If I weren't a physician, I would be: Something math or science-related, but more specifically than that I don't know. I don't have another dream job.