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Physician Spotlight: Transforming Primary Care

June 26, 2024
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Physician Spotlight: Rachael Kermis, MD

“It’s a pretty cool thing to be a part of,” says Rachael Kermis, MD, family medicine physician and System Medical Director of Ochsner 65 Plus. “It” being Ochsner 65 Plus, Ochsner’s new primary care experience for people aged 65 and older.

“Ever since I was three years old, I wanted to be a doctor. I even had tiny blue scrubs. But somewhere along the way, I became so disenchanted with how we had to practice,” says Dr.Kermis. “And then COVID came along, and I almost quit! I thought, ‘This is not what I signed up for. This is not what brings me joy.’”

Realizing that passion alone wouldn’t make her case for the necessary and dramatic redesign of primary care, Dr. Kermis decided to pursue, and has since graduated with, a Master of Science in Healthcare Policy and Leadership from Cornell University, and an MBA fromCornell Johnson Graduate School of Management. “The education and experience I gained through these programs are helping me make smarter financial and strategic recommendations to enhance our care delivery models. Plus, it’s positive step in my career,” says Dr. Kermis.

Bringing the Joy Back for Physicians

Like most physicians, Dr. Kermis chose family medicine because she wanted form a relationship with her patients. She wanted to be there to celebrate the wins and be a source of strength, comfort and expertise when they faced a challenging health diagnosis or decisions.

“In the typical fee-for-service model, that was not my experience at all,” says Dr. Kermis. “Instead,I found myself rushing in and out of exam rooms just to meet a quota. No matter how much I rushed, there was still never had enough time to do everything that was expected of me,” says Dr. Kermis.

In July 2022, Dr.Kermis began the degree program at Cornell to gain the experience that would help her transform the way physician were practicing medicine. During that time, her mentor—Kenny Cole, MD, System VP of Clinical Improvement, and an internal medicine physician at Ochsner Health—helped her rediscover her passion for healthcare. Dr. Kermis joined Ochsner Health in November 2022, where she helped create and lead a value-based Employee Total Care Program. After a second wave of COVID-19, she realized she needed to take a step back from patient care if she wanted to create her desired impact on the healthcare system.

Fast forward a couple years and Dr. Kermis is living her dream. Working alongside her mentor, she’s helping restore the joy of practicing medicine for physicians through her work at Ochsner 65 Plus. “In this role, I am able to help create an environment where doctors can spend time getting to know their patients and reconnecting with that sense of purpose that initially drove them to primary care,” says Dr.Kermis. “It’s a unique model of team-based care that is comprehensive, coordinated, and continuous. Something the fee-for-service models failed to accomplish.”

Born inBuffalo, New York, Dr. Kermis says she has always disliked the cold, so she’s happy to spend most of her time in steamy Louisiana. She also loves to travel, so getting to explore new places as part of her job is a fun perk. Having already been to all 50 states, she’s ready to set some new travel goals.

At home, Dr.Kermis enjoys making personalized crafts—like t-shirts and water bottles—for her friends and family.

As a physician, she’s reinvigorated by the opportunities she’s found within Ochsner 65 Plus and has great optimism for the future of healthcare. She has one helpful piece of advice for fellow physicians at any point in their careers. “Take time to remember, and even write down, those amazing moments when you’ve made a difference in someone’s life,” she says. “We’re all going to have bad days, but always keeping those moments in your mind will prevent you from getting burnt out.”

Are you interested in sharing your story to be featured in an upcoming newsletter? Know someone who is? Email carlie.boudreaux@ochsner.org.

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