Former baseball coach hits home run in hospital medicine

Mike Hawkins, FACP, champions the hospitalist model.


Michael M. Hawkins, FACP

Occupation: Cogent Healthcare Regional Medical Director, Southeast Region; practicing hospitalist.

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Age: 54.

Current residence: Meggett, S.C., on the Wadmalaw Sound.

Hometown: Columbia, S.C.

Family: Married, with three adult sons.

Medical school: Medical University of South Carolina.

Residency: New Hanover Regional Medical Center, affiliated with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Specialty: Internal medicine, hospitalist.

First job: Before medical school, I taught health and fitness, and was the head baseball coach at a junior college in Georgia for three years. After medical school and residency, I practiced in Walterboro, S.C., a town of about 13,000 people, with about 30,000 in the surrounding community, and only one other internist.

I became a hospitalist because: In residency, you train in a hospital. Then you're booted out into the real world and suddenly you're a general practitioner, spending only 10% of your time in the hospital. In 1996, I read Robert Wachter, MD's, original article about the hospitalist concept of care. I said to my wife, “This is me.” The next day I got a flyer from Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte, N.C., advertising a hospitalist opportunity. I ended up in Charlotte helping to develop one of the first hospitalist programs in the region. The hospitalist concept gave me the opportunity to do what I was trained to do.

On cultivating hospitalist programs: After a couple of years in Charlotte, the Walterboro hospital administrator asked me to return to start a program there. I moved back as the sole hospitalist, with the goal of adding hospitalists while working to get buy-in from the medical staff. It was like a war the first year, as some of the older, established doctors felt that this was no way to practice medicine. But once the program was up and running, we were able to grow it, and I was so passionate about the hospitalist model, I was asked by hospitals in surrounding regions to speak to their medical staffs. Along the way, I learned about Cogent, which gave me the opportunity to do this on a national level.

Career advice for those starting a hospitalist program: Get buy-in first. You have to present to the medical staff the value of what you have to offer, what you can do for them, how you could make their lives better.

Most rewarding aspect of my job: Working in the hospital, taking care of patients as part of a health care team.

Most meaningful professional accomplishment: I'm Governor-Elect for the South Carolina Chapter of the American College of Physicians. Being elected by my peers is rewarding because it shows they have confidence in me. I'm also proud of working as a regional medical director for Cogent.

Future goals: My goal is to continue in my present position at Cogent, and get better at it day by day until I'm put out to pasture.

Career advice for hospitalists coming out of residency: View yourselves as a part of a health care team. It's important to understand that others' opinions, actions and jobs count. Everybody who touches a patient—the orderly, nurse, pharmacist, administrator—has a role, and must work together to do what's in the best interest of the patient.

On receiving the 2008 James A. McFarland Award: I knew Dr. McFarland when I served on the Governor's Council of the South Carolina Chapter of the American College of Physicians. He was a wonderful man—insightful, thoughtful, well-respected by his peers, revered by his students and loved by his patients. So, when I see my name next to his on a plaque, this is pretty humbling. It's a high honor.

Personal heroes: Sir William Osler, for his work ethic and how he trained his residents, and Ted Williams, who was the best baseball player of all time.

Pet peeve: Doctors or nurses whining about how many patients they have to see. They should consider it an honor and privilege to take care of patients, and be glad that they have that business.

Favorite ways to spend free time: I love the outdoors, and I value fitness. I love to run, exercise, play golf, and go shrimping on my backyard dock. My wife calls me Forrest Gump.

Favorite author or poet: Pat Conroy—we're both Citadel grads.

Books on your nightstand or most recent book read: “Three Cups of Tea,” by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.

Biggest regret: That I didn't start this journey with medicine earlier. But it's a mixed regret, as I realize the great value being a teacher and a coach first had in helping me to be a better physician.