How University of Rochester Medical Center's associate CMIO juggles administrative work, being a physician

The motivating environment of an academic medical center led Justin Mazzillo, MD, to leave Texas after his residency and join the University of Rochester (N.Y.) Medical Center. 

"Training physicians who are going to be our care takers one day is very motivating and is one of the reasons I have pursued a career in academic medicine. Additionally, I feel fortunate to have benefited from a great education in both medical school and residency and being in academics is a great way to pay it forward." Dr. Mazzillo told Becker's Hospital Review

"I think that's what gives me the long-term motivation to continue to work so hard at what I do," he went on to say. "While taking direct care of patient is rewarding, being able to teach and train physicians has allowed me to make a difference on a larger scale."

Along with working in an academic medical center, Dr. Mazzillo looked for supportive leadership before planting roots. He credits the support at the University of Rochester Medical Center for allowing him to rise through the ranks. 

Below, Dr. Mazzillo details his various roles at the University of Rochester Medical Center as well as advice for younger physicians looking to take on more leadership roles. 

Editor’s note: Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length. 

Question: On the University of Rochester Medical Center's website it lists your position as the Clinical Informaticist and Documentation Officer. I’ve never heard of this position. Can you detail it a little?  

Justin Mazzillo: I have a few positions, with the most significant one being associate CMIO. The clinical informaticist and documentation officer role involves the work I do for the department of emergency medicine. So, that encompasses EHR optimization for our ED module, making improvements to our documentation to ensure we are compliant and capture appropriate reimbursement, generating data to support operations, research, and quality assurance/quality improvement.

The two roles overlap a lot because they encompass similar work, on different scales. At meetings, I'm often representing the ED as the clinical informaticist and documentation officer as well as fulfilling my role as associate CMIO. There is a lot of overlap, but at times I am serving different stakeholders.  At the end of the day, our organization and our patients are the biggest stakeholders.  

Q: How does your role as associate CMIO work with the CIO?

JM: As you know, being a CMIO or associate CMIO, you are really the bridge between IT and operations as well the clinicians. So naturally, you work with the CIO, as well as other senior leaders. There are times when I work more closely with the him than others. For example, a couple years ago, we went through a restructuring of our governance. As you can imagine, I was working very closely with the CIO on assisting him in that process. But on a day to day basis I work more closely with a team of outstanding IT professionals that all report up through him. Health IT is definitely a team sport and I couldn’t do my job without their hard work and dedication.

Q: How has being a physician influenced your role? 

JM: The most consistent thing we hear from our providers is that they want tools that allow them to take good care of their patients. Being a practicing physician allows you to better understand their needs and develop optimal solutions. Just as important, it allows you to utilize the solutions you’ve implemented to really see how well they are or aren’t working.  

Q: How do you balance being a practicing physician and your administrative duties?

I have a pretty good balance between clinical and administrative work. I am much heavier on the administrative side, something that just evolved over time. You have to be very focused and efficient in just about every part of your life to be able to juggle both. Sometimes it’s hard to balance it all but feel it’s important to carve out at least some time to work clinically for the reasons I mentioned above.   

Q: What advice would you give physicians looking to take on leadership roles?  

JM: First, I would say never stop being a student. Pick an area and learn everything you can about it. For informatics, I found online courses to take, started listening to podcasts and learned a lot through social media. Additionally, having strong mentors who were generous with their knowledge and time has been invaluable. Last and most important, make sure your family is on board with your plans. Being in a leadership position is a bigger commitment than many realize and having your families support and understanding is critical. But while leadership is a tough job, it can be very rewarding. Getting a thank you email or being stopped in the hallway by another clinician helps keep me going.


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