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Finding Joy in Practice Again

In 2018, after 14 years with Kaiser Permanente, I joined Iora Primary Care. Already, this change is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. My wife and two daughters regularly comment on how I’m happier, less grouchy, and don’t get gloomy on Sunday nights anymore. I’ve always enjoyed going home from work, most recently to our little hobby farm on the river in Lyons CO, where we raise sheep, goats, chickens, bees and a new little pig. But now, surprisingly, I also look forward to going to work on a daily basis.

I came to Iora because of its mission to restore humanity to health care. I have been following Iora in the national press ever since the 2011 New Yorker “Hot Spotters” article (read it if you haven’t!).

I’ve long been a student of health systems and policy, working for a Master of Public Health and an MBA in health administration. I served on the Board of Directors for the Permanente Medical Group and as Chief of a large primary care practice and a cluster of primary care practices serving over 100,000 patients. I’ve worked as the Medical Director of Prevention, responsible for the wellness of over 600,000 patients. I never thought I would leave my previous career…until Iora arrived in Colorado.

When the Arvada clinic had an opening for Practice Medical Director, I applied. I was immediately impressed by the man who would become my boss, Doug Golding, a very bright and thoughtful leader. More importantly, I was sold on working with the team of Health Coaches, Operations Assistants, Nurses, Nurse Practitioners and Behavioral Health Specialists that interviewed me. They asked insightful questions that made it clear that culture and mission were valued at Iora. They were bright, kind and passionate about taking care of patients. It was clear that this was an opportunity to work with a team where each member contributed as much as they could to the care of patients. In past roles, decisions had to be funneled through doctors who become a bottleneck for care.

Over the past month, I’ve found that this team truly lives by the Iora values; courageously and passionately caring for our patients, treating them with empathy. The team works to improve every day, acting with the humility to ask tough questions and challenge each other to improve. They continue to inspire me and challenge me to be better, making sure that we always address the issues most important to our patients. The team helps me to be truly present in interactions with patients. They support me in my learning and they allow me to support and teach them. We learn from each other.

The culture is collaborative rather than competitive, supportive rather than critical. This is unlike anything I’ve experienced in health care before. I recently attended a meet and greet with some of our current patients. I asked many of them, “What do you think about Iora?” About half of them became tearful as they described how they were treated with kindness and respect in a way that made them feel important. There was not a single complaint about the team, but they did ask that I would consider staying for a long time. That won’t be a problem.

– Eric Harker, MD, MPH, MBA