Many roads lead to the consulting profession. For established professionals, the field represents an opportunity to share the expertise they’ve gained over the course of a career. For others, consulting is the first stop after graduate school.
But few consultants take as circuitous a route as the one that Mark Maydew followed. “It’s a little goofy,” the New Mexico native says of the series of circumstances that led him to a career in consulting. Except it doesn’t sound that goofy when he describes it. Atypical, maybe. But Mark’s journey through healthcare has been driven by his desire to help people, leading him from night-shift ER tech to clinic manager and ultimately to a position from which he can effect large-scale change in the industry.
Change of Plans
Mark’s healthcare career began when his academic career ended, which happened earlier than he’d intended. “When I first went to college, everyone told me to go to business school,” he says of his time at the University of New Mexico. “I hated it. I didn’t see a way to apply that knowledge in a way that inspired me, and the thought of sitting behind a desk doing the same quarterly reports for the rest of my career just didn’t sit well with me.”
So Mark left school and planned to become a firefighter, which required him to take a basic emergency medical technician (EMT) course. Finding he enjoyed EMT work, Mark put his firefighting ambitions on hold and pursued a more advanced certification.
It was during those days of racing to emergency scenes, splinting broken bones, and administering CPR that Mark discovered something he hadn’t found in business school – a sense of purpose. “I got great satisfaction, personally and professionally, from helping people and making them feel better,” he says. Life as a first responder offered the sense of urgency and unpredictability he expected never to find in an office setting.
With his newfound passion for emergency medicine, Mark enrolled in a paramedic certification program through Central New Mexico Community College, which he paid for by working nights in a hospital ER. When a group of physicians from the hospital opened their own urgent care center (UCC), they asked Mark to join them as a paramedic – an opportunity that would lead to an unexpected career change.
Back to School
At many new business ventures, particularly small ones, employees tend to wear multiple hats. So it was for Mark, who found himself not only helping patients as the UCC’s lead paramedic but also performing an increasing number of administrative duties. Eventually he transitioned to the position of clinical operations manager, responsible for overseeing inventory, staffing, training, and the day-to-day flow of the clinic. He even served as project manager for the opening of a second clinic. “Once I got into management, I realized there were gaps in my knowledge base. That’s when business school started to seem kind of interesting,” he says.
Mark returned to the University of New Mexico and graduated with a bachelor of business administration degree. But by the time he’d finished, the UCC had been sold to a health system, leaving him with a choice: work for the health system as a paramedic, with the possibility of someday moving into a management position, or continue with school and get further involved with the administrative side of healthcare.
Opting for the latter, Mark earned an MBA in finance from Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas. But instead of pursuing a job in healthcare administration, he decided to try healthcare consulting. “After working as a paramedic, I had gotten used to variety in my work and not knowing exactly what to expect on a given day. So that was the attraction to consulting. It’s a fast-paced, make-a-decision, diagnose-a-problem, try-to-fix-it, think-on-your-feet kind of job.”
Mark first became acquainted with ECG during a recruiting event at SMU. “John Whitham [ECG Principal and a leader of the firm’s Healthcare IT practice] was there as the firm representative and gave a talk. Afterward I told him, ‘Look, I don’t have your standard consulting pedigree, but I want to be a healthcare consultant. I want to help organizations find a better way to deliver care to patients.’”
His pitch worked. Mark joined ECG as an intern, and was later offered a full-time position. Since then he has worked on a number of IT, interim management, and operations improvement projects.
Importantly, Mark’s clinical experience has been an advantage in his consulting roles. “It’s benefited me in every engagement I’ve had so far,” he says. “Having spent my whole career working closely with physicians, I’m familiar with how they think. If I’m doing an EHR implementation, I know how the new technology will affect existing work flows because I understand how the typical physician navigates a patient visit. Or if I’m in an interim management position, providers are willing to trust my judgment, knowing that I have worked in a clinic before. I can think though the impact that any change is going to have on the front-line staff, the patients, and the delivery of care.”
Making a Contribution
In a very real sense, healthcare consulting is a continuation of the work Mark did back when he was an EMT. It might not involve ambulances or ERs, but he doesn’t think it’s terribly far removed from care delivery. “A big draw for me with ECG is that most of our work is done with provider organizations, so at the end of the day, the work we do still helps the patient,” he explains. “When I was a paramedic, I could help one person at a time. As a consultant, working with these large organizations, I can make positive change on a much bigger scale.”