AMDA, the Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine, gathers annually to discuss the hot topics in long-term care, present new research and bond around the shared experiences that make work in long-term care deeply rewarding and endlessly complex.
At this year’s conference, held last month in Orlando, Dr. Mary Evans, Golden Living’s Compliance Executive Physician, among a few other roles, was elected to AMDA’s Board of Directors as representative from the State Presidents’ Council. While this is a prestigious honor, Dr. Evans is no stranger to professional service. She just relinquished a five year run as president of the Virginia chapter of AMDA and completed her second two-year term on AMDA’s Foundation Board of Directors. If that weren’t enough, she’s currently serving her fourth term on the AMDA program committee, the committee responsible for planning the conference. She’ll be the first to tell you, “I just won’t go away.”
Dr. Evans doesn’t take on these roles to pad her resume. A quick glance at her CV will paint a picture of a driven, Mayo-trained physician with an impressive list of roles and accolades. Like an impressionist painting, you must step back to see the full picture. Dr. Evans certainly is driven and has worked for every rung on the ladder, but she finds her fulfillment working collaboratively with the team – other doctors, nurses, medical directors – to reach consensus, effect change and elevate the care physicians give. “You can’t have tunnel vision in patient care,” she cautions.
“We have to care about people,” she goes on. “What we need to do at AMDA is support the doctors trying to take care of people. We need to work together and follow AMDA’s strategic plan and reach out to the government agencies to make sure they understand the needs of our patients.”
Dr. Evans also is known for her passion helping colleagues advance and carve out their own unique path in medicine. During the AMDA conference, Dr. Evans shared a stage with five of the industry’s most respected physicians, who happen to be female, to talk about “Enhancing Leadership for Women in Post-Acute Care.” Dr. Evans used the time to tell her personal story. Fellow speaker Suzanne Gillespie, MD, RD, CMD, summed up the roundtable best with the opening to her presentation.
“Putting together this session wasn’t necessarily about women, but about the importance of the network of colleagues and having some awareness of people’s journey in their professions and how they’ve developed certain skills and roles,” said Dr. Gillespie. Leadership takes on a variety of professions. As Mary and Heidi so richly shared with us in their journeys, there are straight lines, and there are forked turns. They each have lessons for us.”
The story Dr. Evans tells is certainly forked. She didn’t take a direct path to long-term care medicine and thinks it’s beneficial for other women to know the prescribed path for physicians isn’t the only option.
“If someone had told me 20 years ago that I was going to be a corporate medical director and a compliance person in one of the largest long-term care companies in the country I would say they were out of their minds,” Dr. Evans muses. “There wasn’t that path when I got out of medical school. My point to these ladies was, ‘If you aren’t happy in your position and the schedule isn’t working out or you’re not happy then look for something else.’ There are so many possibilities within medicine that are not the traditional paths. Look for something you’re really passionate about.”
The road to Dr. Evans’ passion, long-term care, began with OB-GYN. She trained as an OB-GYN and spent eight years practicing before the daily demands of three children and long nights of patient care led her to take a two year hiatus from medical practice to focus on family. After much needed time to reflect and be a mom, she found herself longing to jump back into medicine, but the demands and rigor of a traditional practice hadn’t changed. The break begged the question that many professional women ask themselves after taking time to care for children, “What’s next?”
Providence stepped in to answer the question for Dr. Evans. She and the family packed up and moved because Dr. Evans’ husband, also a physician, accepted a position as the head of Geriatrics at the University of Virginia. He suggested that his wife to be the Associate Medical Director at his hospice. Encouraged by more predictable hours and a chance to explore new territory, Dr. Evans became certified in hospice and palliative medicine and accepted the role. Quickly she realized she loved the work and decided to open a long-term care practice. The unexpected opportunity delivered the intersection of zealous work and family flexibility.
A few years later, she was recruited by Golden Living to be a Regional Medical Director. The rest, as they say, is history. In her seven years with the company she’s maintained her long-term care practice while holding various roles and providing leadership on several special projects. As a need arises, such as wound care or compliance, Dr. Evans is thrilled to get whatever certification or training is needed to step into a new role. Today she works on the compliance team as Compliance Executive Physician, charged with complying with the corporate integrity agreement, and also oversees the wound care program for the Atlanta area facilities.
She still has one child at home and two away at college, so she is able to lean in more to her work at Golden Living. “There’s always that struggle of wanting to work, wanting to be really good at what you do without wanting to neglect your family,” Dr. Evans says.
Chief Medical Director for Golden Living, Dr. Michael Yao says, “Dr. Evans has been a great leader in many roles for Golden Living. She has also worked on special projects for Golden Living, providing physician leadership, education, and subject matter expertise on antipsychotic reduction, cardiac and pulmonary care. She has been a key member of the Regional Medical Director team, collaborating on strategic directions for the Medical Directors while being an advisor and mentor to Medical Directors in the Southeast. Additionally, she has worked closely with our clinical team to enhance and standardize wound care.”
Dr. Yao mentions yet another passion project for Dr. Evans – Antipsychotic medication reduction. “I’ve been on the antipsychotic bandwagon for 15 years, “she says. “My husband and I have been campaigning against the use of antipsychotics and spoken to anyone who will listen.”
A project led by Dr. Yao, Dr. Evans is a champion for the campaign to reduce antipsychotic medications within the long-term care industry. She’s focused on seeing a cultural shift that encourages alternative methods to calm agitated patients. She’s an advocate for music therapy and appropriate activities, especially within dementia care. “You need to have a committed facility and create a complete culture change,” she says. “Approach people like human beings not problems to solve. Meet people where they are in their journey.” Overall, she believes changing the mindset relies on the internal collaboration.
Dr. Evans has a difficult time containing her excitement when she speaks of her “soul sister” Amy Conoly, the new Vice President of Quality of Life for Golden Living and a dementia care specialist. Dr. Evans and Connelly have found a fast friendship and mutual understanding of the steps to reduce dependence on antipsychotics on patients. They are aligned on an approach and expect to see great results in the future.
Actually, Dr. Evans feels like she has several soul sisters at Golden Living. She is fired up about the whole leadership team and is proud to see an abundance of female leadership, meaningful activities and a team approach that leads to improved quality of life for patients. “It’s the amazing teams on the ground driving change. I’m so proud of the work they’re doing.”
Just recently Dr. Evans’s father passed away. She received the news the day before she had a planned trip to Atlanta for work with the wound care team. The first thing she did was message her team, including Wanda Prince, Vice President of Clinical Operations at Golden Living, to let her know she wouldn’t be able to make the trip. “She immediately called me to check and see how I was doing,” recalls Dr. Evans. “Boom, just like that she was there. I think the world of her. She’s always very supportive.”
Relationships like what she’s found at Golden Living are the kind of supportive, professional affinities between female colleagues that Dr. Evans spoke of in her AMDA presentation. She says surrounding yourself with nurturing allies is how you enhance leadership opportunities for women. “It took me many years to realize the value of those women friendships. I didn’t learn that lesson until I had the many women role models that helped bring me along. Don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself and tell your truth. Don’t limit yourself to just what you think you can do in your career.”
Dr. Evans is one of three females elected this year to the AMDA board of directors. Incidentally, all three women consider each other to be friends and colleagues in equal measure. She is optimistic about what they will be able to accomplish working together.
Dr. Yao expects great things to come from the board seat as well. “We at Golden Living have been particularly proud to hear that she has been elected to the Board of Directors of AMDA, where her combination of clinical experience and organizational leadership will be of major benefit to all LTC medical directors in the U.S.,” he says.