Winter 2024

Members & Publications


Dr. Farah Hussain Interviews AAPM&R President-Elect, Dr. Scott Laker


1. How do you prepare for change in transition points in your career professionally and/or personally?


It’s an interesting question. I’ve changed roles and responsibilities several times over my career and each one has required growing my skillset. Most recently, I took a role as the Associate Dean of Clinical Affairs at the University of Colorado which is largely focused on the clinic operations of our School of Medicine and its cognate departments and divisions.  In approaching these decisions, I try to make sure that I’m making change from a place of “running towards” great opportunities and not “running from” something I just don’t like. I want to align my career with things I enjoy doing and in environments that I can positively impact.  All that being said, every change that I’ve made in my career has come with a certain amount of anxiety and uncertainty. My experience has been that you will always be given a few months of grace to get your bearings in a new role, but you have to work hard to make the most of that time. Over the years, I’ve gotten better at using that energy positively to get oriented, develop new relationships, and address my knowledge gaps. I do a lot of reading on the topics that I need to learn, both clinically and administratively. That means digging in to project management, revenue cycle, contracting, quality, safety, and clinic operations. We also implement lots of new state and federal healthcare legislation, so I’ve spent lot of time in conversations with the University of Colorado’s legal and risk management teams. I like to reach out to other people that have similar roles locally or nationally to learn from their experiences (good and bad).  I’ve found these colleagues are extremely generous with their time and shared their experiences in ways that have helped me immensely. There are physiatrists doing incredible things all across the country, with the job or role that you’ve always dreamed of, and they have been absolutely happy to help whenever I’ve asked.


    2. When faced with a difficult change, what helped you get through that period?

    That’s a great question.  I’ve been really lucky in my life that I have some fantastic mentors (Stan Herring, Stu Weinstein, Venu Akuthota, and Bill Sullivan come to mind) and dozens of role models who I’ve met through the AAPMR that have been tremendous resources for me professionally and personally. I’ll reach out to them whenever I’m a little stuck in my own head about an upcoming change or unexpected circumstances when I need an outside opinion or a broader context. When I get caught in the weeds or stuck not knowing the way forward, I try to get back to the reasons why we do what we do.  For me, it’s making a contribution to my community, positively impacting patients, growing as a person, and being a good husband, and father to my twin daughters. When things are particularly sticky at work, I spend some time being grateful to be in a position to make positive change, to help people and to make an even bigger impact in my roles. That is harder than it sounds sometimes, but I find that writing out what I’m already grateful for keeps me focused in the right head space.

    3. Describe a time in your career when you were forced out of your comfort zone and it resulted in a positive outcome?

    We’ve had some situations where other leaders and non-clinical partners have left the University and left a tremendous vacuum of work to be done. I’ve had to step into some of those gaps to keep projects and operations running smoothly, despite a relative lack of experience in those domains. Those opportunities have been eye-opening about the complexity of the operations that happen to make clinics run smoothly and how much I was taking for granted about the behind-the-scenes work that our staff does. I’ve been able to learn how patients are scheduled across a state-wide health care organization, how charity care is managed, how provider and staff safety are optimized on and off our main campus, and learned the intricacies of contracting and operating room access. At this point, I almost look forward to the type of pinch-hitting opportunities. It’s almost always the biggest area for growth for me in my current roles. I feel strongly that physiatrists are well positioned to be physician leaders, and I’ve found that my specialty background has been a major contributor to any success I’ve had as a member and leader of our teams.

    4. How have you learned to better counsel your patients with the increased expectations of your new role (medical student to resident or to senior resident, senior resident to fellow or attending, etc.

    Honestly, it has been particularly difficult and I can’t say I have it right where I want yet. I love all the parts of academic medicine, the patient care, teaching, mentoring, writing, learning, and lecturing. I really enjoy clinical care and wish I were more available for my patients, especially as our clinic access has become challenging. I’ve worked very closely with our clinic staff, my partners, and our superb nurse practitioner, Taylor Bashore, on how to manage expectations and clinic availability. Taylor has been a critical part of my clinic for several years now, and I rely on her to be available to our patients, even when I’m not able to be in clinic. I’ve maintained one day a week of resident or fellow teaching, which I deeply treasure.  I love being a part of the residency environment and get just as much from them as I hope I give them as a teacher. As I’ve decreased my bedside teaching, I’ve made myself more available to our residents in my role as Program Director, as a lecturer, mentor, and sponsor for resident projects (Global Health and formal Quality Improvement platforms come to mind). It’s not a perfect balance and I’m not sure it ever will be, but I want to enjoy these experiences and make the most of the finite time I have with patients, residents, and colleagues.