MegAnne Townsend has been a staff physician recruiter for less than three years, but it seems that she’s been preparing for the role for most of her life. The road she has taken, however, has been anything but typical. Growing up as the daughter of a physician in Guymon, Oklahoma, she learned firsthand about the life of a doctor’s family in a town of about 12,000 people. So it’s no surprise that she ended up at White River Health System (WRHS) in the Batesville/Mountain View, Arkansas area, a small town locale.
But she took the scenic route to get there, starting with a degree in fashion merchandising and home economics from Oklahoma State. Her career progression took her as far away as San Francisco, working in chocolate (including a stint with Godiva), as a regional franchising consultant, and as a pharmaceutical rep. About 15 years ago, she met her husband, hospital administrator Stan Townsend of Stone County Medical Center, and she “retired,” spending her days taking care of her aging parents and in-laws. Because her family members had multiple health concerns, MegAnne became their advocate, speaking with doctors of various specialties on a regular basis.
As a physician’s daughter, administrator’s wife, and patients’ advocate, she found physicians to be fun, entertaining, and interesting, and her forthright, honest, and respectful communication style worked well for her. So when a physician recruiter position opened up at White River Health System, the parent of Stone County Medical Center and White River Medical Center, she gave it a try.
That honest style has worked well, as MegAnne was named a finalist in the 2015 Staff Physician Recruiter of the Year awards. When she recruits new physicians to two hospitals, she is an enthusiastic fan of her chosen hometown, but she doesn’t build false expectations. “It’s all in the screening process,” she says. “If candidates are looking for Starbucks, I tell them they won’t find it here.” But she takes the time to find out what the candidates do like. MegAnne promotes the area’s good schools, comfortable and affordable way of life, and outdoor attractions.
She gets to know the individual and family, and fancy dinners at the country club are not typical. Instead, she finds fellow fishermen for the anglers, and other Chicago natives if, for example, the candidate comes from Chicago.
One recruit’s wife was interested in becoming a physician assistant, so MegAnne set her up with a PA student from a local school.
“In rural communities,” she adds, “you start the retention process and bridge building at the first contact.”
MegAnne’s efforts have increased physician placements from about four per year to one or more new physicians each month. She’s been able to introduce new service lines to the two hospitals she staffs, including rheumatology and vascular surgery. She credits WRHS CEO Gary Bebow with making it possible for her to work from home, allowing her the freedom to host candidates in her home and be available to potential providers at virtually any time. “It allows me to get the jump on the competition,” MegAnne says.
She was nominated for the award by a physician who remembers the warm welcome he and his wife received from the first visit. “We arrived back at the hotel (after a long day of interviewing and touring the town) and there was a picnic basket waiting for us with a coffee mug, a bird-watching kit complete with binoculars, refreshments and treats so that we would have something to snack on while traveling back home. This amazing gesture was so thoughtful that it immediately touched our hearts and we knew that Batesville was the place for us.
"As much as we love the hospital and the community, MegAnne is the reason that we chose to relocate to Arkansas.”
The Staff Physician Recruiter of the Year program is designed to recognize those in the profession who make outstanding contributions to healthcare through their work. Recruiters are nominated by hospital administrators, physicians, and fellow staff recruiters from across the U.S. Nominations are reviewed by an independent panel that selects 10 finalists and one overall winner based on the individuals’ dedication to the in-house physician recruitment field. The award is sponsored by Jackson and Coker, the oldest and one of the most prominent physician recruiting firms in the U.S., serving hospitals and facilities nationwide. To learn more about Jackson & Coker and the Staff Physician Recruiter of the Year awards, click here.