General and trauma surgeon K. John Hartman got a sneak peek into private medical practice in Iowa during medical school.
Hartman, 43, was studying at the University of Iowa's College of Medicine when he began a rotation with fellow surgeons. He liked what he saw so much, those he learned from ended up becoming his partners at the Davenport Surgical Group, a practice employing seven surgeons, including Hartman.
I spent time with them and got to see what a private practice was like," said Hartman, who is also a medical officer in the Navy. "I got to get outside [of the classroom], see what the practice was like, and I just knew it would be a great place to be and come back to from the practice side of things."
Seven years later, Hartman still enjoys practicing medicine in his home state of Iowa.
For you, what is the best part of practicing medicine in the state of Iowa?
I'm from Boone [Iowa]. I did my undergraduate studies here at Cornell College, went to medical school at the University of Iowa, and then went to Wisconsin, to Gundersen Lutheran [Medical Foundation], for residency. A large part of practicing here was growing up here, having family here, and seeing an opportunity for a practice.
Through the program at medical school, I got to be involved in medicine outside of the walls of the school and that was a big factor.
From a practice standpoint, it's a very collegial state. You get to know the people you work with, people in other specialties and have opportunities to interact. You also have an opportunity to get involved. I'm 43 and I'm chair of the board of directors for Iowa Medical Society and in October, I'll become president of the Iowa chapter of the American College of Surgeons. I like being able to participate in those forums.
In terms of Iowa itself, it is a great place to raise your family and raise your kids. It's a safe place. When you've grown up here, you are used to extremes of the weather. It's nice having four distinct seasons.
So my family is here, my wife's family is here … but if it wasn't a great state to practice, [we] would have found another place to go.
And the cost of living here is very reasonable. Housing is affordable. Being in the Navy, I travel a lot so I get to see what it cost to live in other locations across the country, even for brief periods of time. It's just very reasonable here in Iowa.
What, if anything, would you change about the climate for physicians in Iowa?
The biggest thing — for me personally — would be to change the way malpractice works.
I faced a lawsuit right when I got back from my deployment to Germany. It is amazing to me how long it takes to get anything resolved. It ended up being settled as a nuisance lawsuit, but it took almost 3 ½ years to get to that point and I would have had eight more months before trial.
The impact on your life, it dragging out that long. Each week you get something in the mail to review talking about how horrible you are and discovery [materials] and have to go through multiple, multiple days and weeks of missing time out of practice to go and give depositions and do things like that.
[The state medical society has] tried to lobby the legislature to develop a meaningful tort reform whether it is a certificate of merit [to determine if there truly is a case], to help decrease the length of time before things are settled, or something else — limits on settlements, for example — to help the physician and the patient involved get to a state of closure and wrap things up. We haven't been able to achieve any of that in our legislature. We've come close, but it has not passed. For me, that is … probably the only problem I've had with practicing medicine here.
It's horrible and it takes forever to get resolved. It's hard to maintain your practice, as you are gone a lot and you simply can't be there for your patients. I don't think anyone [in the legislature] has a sense of that.
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