Your Practice Made Perfect

This podcast series provides support, protection, and advice for today’s medical professionals. Brought to you by SVMIC, a mutual insurance company that is 100% owned and governed by our policyholders.

Aug. 24, 2018

Episode 030: The Importance of Belonging

Dr. John Lytle, former President of the Arkansas Orthopaedic Society, discusses the importance of a physician's involvement in associations, membership groups, and committees. He talks to host Brian Fortenberry about being a part of the local community as well as taking care of other people in your profession.

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  • Transcript

    Speaker 1: You are listening to Your Practice Made Perfect; support, protection and advice for practicing medical professionals brought to you by SVMIC.


    Brian: Thanks for joining us today. I'm with Dr. John Lytle, a board certified orthopedic surgeon from Arkansas. I'm Brian Fortenberry, and we're going to be discussing the importance of physicians being involved in associations, membership groups and committees. Dr. Lytle, welcome.


    Dr. Lytle: Thank you. It's nice to be here.


    Brian: Now, you were involved in quite a few associations and groups. What are some of the ones you're involved in currently?


    Dr. Lytle: I'm term limited off a lot of these things. I've been in there a long time and as I began, actually before I even went to medical school, I was attending the Arkansas Medical Society meetings with my father. He pointed out to me the importance of belonging. It didn't take me long to realize that if you want to be in charge of your own destiny, you need to be present. Must be present to win. And that's important, because if you're a member of these things, then you can understand what's being done with you, for you and probably just as important to you. So, I'm a member of the Arkansas Medical Society. I've been on the Board of Trustees of the Arkansas Medical Society. I stayed on until I term limited off. I'm a member of the local Jefferson County Medical Society, if you will. I've been president of that organization. That's not a big, hard thing to be.


    The same thing exists in Tennessee, be it Shelby County, Davidson County or the beast in Bristol. You know, your local medical organizations are important and it's important to the Tennessee Medical Association, the TMA. But I've been a member of those at times, not currently because of my practice status and also a little bit of philosophy. I'm not a member of the AMA, but I have been. The American Medical Association. It represents everybody. I've found that in my particular status, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons represented me. I've been on the Board of Counselors. I spent nine years as an officer there, if you will, traveling with the academy, going to meetings where we were the policy making board for the academy.


    Locally, I think it's important to really be part of the community. As a physician, you are given the opportunity to be a civic leader. It is given to you with the graduation and completion of medical school and going to a small town and even a large metropolitan area, physicians hold a position, a respect. It's up to you to use that position. I encourage people to be members of the Chamber of Commerce, to be part of the city council, part of the governments of their local church, if you will. Be part of the community. I've been on the board of directors of organizations from Little League Baseball, Babe Ruth Baseball, YMCA and others in the town. Big Brothers and Big Sisters. Be a part of this. You have that ability because of your education. People understand that you have a place and understand how these things work. I encourage young physicians to use that. Take that. Nationally, if you want to influence the policy of how medicine is changing, involved, be part of it. That's sort of the start of where I was.


    Brian: It really sounds like a lot of these types of organizations, it's really about building relationships and relationships with cohorts of the same occupation, but not only that, like you said, relationships in the community, relationships outside the community and even developing relationships maybe even on a national level of some influence. How does that really translate to the day to day patient care? I think that would have a very big impact, because some of these people you might even be serving with say, like you said on a council at church, might very well be a patient that you've already developed a relationship with.


    Dr. Lytle: There's no question Brian. In the community, you become recognized part of that community. You can take that and embrace it and use it for good. The local bank, the local charitable organizations, the Southeast Arkansas Arts Center for example. All these people need volunteer leadership. You're given those opportunities. The Chamber of Commerce is a good one. Your basic interest in things that you want to do, it goes outside of that. Volunteer organizations is like Ducks Unlimited or other things like that. As a physician, you're looked at as a leader until you turn it down. But I would encourage you to take those opportunities and use them.


    Brian: I happen to know as well that you're on several committees within the SVMIC organization, on several leadership committees as well as the current sitting vice chair of the board of directors at SVMIC. Talk a little bit about that and what that allows you to do and how that allows you to have an impact in medical professional liability, and hopefully for the betterment of physician situations.


    Dr. Lytle: Those opportunities come from having a history and a background of service. I would never have been given the opportunity to serve with SVMIC had I not been involved locally, been recognized for the things that I was doing by the decision makers that say, hey, we want him to be part of our organization. I was given the opportunity to be on a committee of SVMIC in Arkansas, and I took that opportunity. I embraced my responsibilities and I was recognized that, hey, he's somebody who will do the homework and do the background, and so from that I was invited to join the board of directors. And while on the board of directors, I volunteered and my myself available to do the extra steps if you will, to do more than just show up. And it's good or bad if which way you look at it, but then you get asked to do more.


    Brian: Well certainly, when you're successful and you are a good steward of taking care of a company, it's advantageous certainly to the company and through that networking, you're able to get these opportunities, but probably in a lot of organizations, it's not only the giving, you're getting as well. You're getting more from the network, but you're also getting a lot of information and getting a lot of things that are probably going to be helpful and impactful. Correct?


    Dr. Lytle: That is exactly true. I cannot explain the depth of understanding of how our medical legal system works without my time at SVMIC. That has helped me more than I can ever pay back. There is no question about that. And the same goes for your local hospital. Being on committees, there is a responsibility as a physician, I mean we have to serve on some really, really hard committees. Credentialing committee. Over a period of years in a career, you will probably serve on every committee in the hospital and if you don't, you're not doing your share. And you should be, because it is vitally important that physicians monitor, take care and be part of other physicians. You know, eventually you'll be chief of staff of the hospital for example, or given the chance. Make yourself available to do things like this. It's very rewarding and it's helping your other physicians. When you do all those things, give back to your school for example. One of the things that I've been honored with, and it truly is an obligation because it takes a lot of time, but I've been honored to ask to be on the selection committee for the medical school.


    Brian: Wow.


    Dr. Lytle: And it's really a lot of hard work.


    Brian: Sure.


    Dr. Lytle: Looking at college kids and their files and figuring out who needs to be our next physicians, but it's very gratifying. And so I think that if you adopt a attitude of, I've got a lot to give back in this service idea, it's worth it.


    Brian: So Dr. Lytle, how would you mentor, say there is a new physician that maybe has just come to town. How would you tell them is the best way to get involved and to network and to get involved in the community?


    Dr. Lytle: Well you go to your position of comfort and start small, but just literally number one show up and go. When someone sees you at an event, be it a local chamber of commerce fish fry, take your circle of people that you know and add to it gradually as you go. I know that when I first moved to town, not that he was the most important person in my life, but certainly a trusted advisor, my accountant told me that I needed to go and socialize at different places and be seen and let people know that hey, he's in town and he lives in town and he's part of the town and part of the community. I think the Chamber of Commerce is an easy place. They're always looking for civic minded people to work and do things. Be part of the easy stuff. Little League Baseball, the Boys club, Girls Club, the YMCA. All these organizations are town, Big Brothers and Big Sisters. They always need responsible people who are willing to go the extra mile. As physicians, we're always asked to participate in the Relay for Life and health organizations. The Diabetes Association, Walk for Life. So there's always medical side that you can get involved in.


    Brian: Sure.


    Dr. Lytle: Number one is just take somebody that you know and trust and start small and go from that, but make yourself available.


    Brian: So it can be a medical society, but it could also be your children's PTA group or something of that nature, where you're getting plugged in with those individuals that you're, for lack of better term, doing life with.


    Dr. Lytle: Absolutely.


    Brian: So Dr. Lytle, you mentioned that one of your early mentors was your accountant. You've been in school and you're coming out of school and you've really been involved with a group, you've been involved with peers, and now you're starting all over and it's all new. The city, the community, the people, and you had this one individual in your life reach out to you to help you. What impact did that make and help you in networking, not only back then, but as you've looked through your practice over the years, all the way to today, what impact did that have for you?


    Dr. Lytle: There's no question, the professionals that you deal with. In this case, it was an accountant and he introduced me to the lawyer who set up my professional corporation and did the legal work for my office, meaning the contract for the lease and things like that. But he quickly introduced me to this circle of professionals and encouraged me to socialize in areas that I would rub shoulders in a light way with other like minded, civic minded professionals who needed to get to know things and they needed a new orthopedic surgeon. I needed an accountant, I needed a lawyer, I needed a banker. All those things are additive and almost exponential, because the more of these people you meet, the more you learn. I learned about how these people affected me and how I affected them and what all that meant to me personally, not for my practice or anything, but when I go home and balance my own checkbook and make sure I paid my own taxes, those are the important things, but they offered me the chance to meet so many other people and it just goes upstream from there.


    Brian: So you would say that some of those connections that you made early on, you still have some of those same connections years and years later then?


    Dr. Lytle: Absolutely that. But not only that same small group, but that group has grown much larger of the connections around the state, around the country that we deal with. And now I'm asked to be allowed to help solve problems and work through other problems. In medicine and specifically with medical liability. Suddenly we're talking to lawyers. It's so strange to us about issues that are very uncomfortable sometimes. Yet you're asked to give opinions about different situations that don't necessarily affect you, but that gives you another circle of influence. It's another opportunity to meet more people, and who are there coming to get your opinion. And so all those things add in and increases your chance to learn and your chance to be a person of influence.


    Brian: When it comes to medical societies you've been a part of, or an organization that has been involved in the circle of your career, how has some of those very early encounters been helpful to today?


    Dr. Lytle: Well, I was a little bit different don't forget, is that I sought them out from the very beginning. I literally joined the medical society day one was a medical student member, if you will. And so I've always been part of it because I realized how important it was to be a participant in how things are done with you, for you and most importantly to you. If you're a participant, you can alter that set of events to some degree, hopefully on your and others’ behalf.


    Brian: Not to put you on the spot, but can you remember maybe a specific situation that you were involved in a society or a group that was able to change something that was going to happen to you?


    Dr. Lytle: Yes. Oh, in many different areas. One, I was asked to be on the by-laws committee of the Medical Society and then I was asked to be the chairman of that committee and we rewrote the by-laws so that we could be a more inclusive organization, so that it will be easier to have the membership effect the change. In other words, every member got a vote, not just the board of trustees. The same way at our local hospital. As chief of staff of the hospital, we were faced with updating the policy and procedure manual. Well, we needed to rewrite the medical staff by-laws. We did that under my watch and that's an important document that you have to work through and make sure that it is all-inclusive and benefit the medical staff. That means lots of lawyers involved, lots of hospital administrators involved, and lots of your peers and other physicians involved. It makes you think, we're working here for our profession and our peers.


    Brian: Also, when you're a part of these types of groups and organizations, there is a lot of education that's involved as well, keeping you up to date on the latest procedures or the latest approach to something or medications. I imagine in these organizations it's almost like a continuing education thing that is just over and over again as well.


    Dr. Lytle: Exactly right. It does not stop, and you leave by far the beneficiary of the outcome of this situation. I gained more than I gave quite frequently.


    Brian: What would you say to those physicians that say, you know, I really would love to be a part of my local medical society, or I would really love to be a part of the city council, but I'm just, as a physician, I'm just too busy. I just don't have the time to do it. What would you say to those physicians?


    Dr. Lytle: Well, it's kind of like what people tell me about exercising now, isn't it? You could make time.


    Brian: That is very true and I think from all that you said that it would be incredibly beneficial not only in the short term, but in the long term as well.


    Dr. Lytle: There's no question.


    Brian: Thank you very much for your time.


    Dr. Lytle: Thank you for having me.


    Speaker 1: Thank you for listening to this episode of "Your Practice Made Perfect" with your host Bryan Fortenberry. Listen to more episodes, subscribe to the podcast and find show notes at The contents of this podcast are intended for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Policyholders are urged to consult with their personal attorney for legal advice, as specific legal requirements may vary from state to state and change over time.

The contents of this Podcast are intended for educational/informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Policyholders are urged to consult with their personal attorney for legal advice, as specific legal requirements may vary from state to state and/or change over time. All names have been changed to protect privacy.

About our Guest

Dr. John Lytle

John O. Lytle is Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of State Volunteer Mutual Insurance Company. As an active committee member of SVMIC for the past 15 years and a director for 12, he was voted Vice Chair of the Board in May 2015. An Orthopaedic Surgeon, John founded the South Arkansas Orthopaedic Center and practiced in Pine Bluff, AR since 1988. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and his treatment specialties include arthroscopic surgery, Joint Replacement, sports medicine, trauma and fractures of the Pelvis and Acetabulum. John received his Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Arkansas for Medical Science in 1982. John has traveled extensively, including a Fellowship at Centre Medico-Chirugical de la Porte de Choisy in Paris, and is bilingual. He greatly enjoys baseball, hunting, fishing, flying and farming. He and his wife, Kim, have been married for 28 years and have a daughter, 22, and a son, 20. They live in Pine Bluff, Arkansas when not seeking world-wide adventure.

About our Host

Brian Fortenberry is Assistant Vice President of Underwriting at SVMIC where he assists in evaluating risk for the company and assisting policyholders with underwriting issues. He has been involved with medical professional liability insurance since 2007. Prior to his work at SVMIC, Brian worked in the clinical side of medicine and in broadcast media.