Leader spotlight: Doug Griffin

Time with his family doctor as a child led to a medical degree and eventually leadership.

Doug Griffin

Doug Griffin, M.D., is vice president/medical officer of Sanford Fargo.

Tell us about your early life and education.

My early years were spent in the Tri-cities area of eastern Washington State. When I started high school, my father got a job with Medtronic, and we moved to the Minneapolis suburb of Plymouth, Minnesota.

I had some health problems as a child and spent a lot of time with our family doctor. I liked him and what he did, so that got me thinking about a career in medicine.

My college undergraduate years were at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, and then I attended medical school at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. They had a two-year program for people who wanted to practice medicine in small towns and rural areas. My last two years of medical school were at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

I did a three-year residency in family medicine in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, from 1986 to 1989 where I served as chief resident, and I spent time at Sioux Valley (now Sanford Health), McKennan Hospital (now Avera) and the VA.

How did you come to Sanford Health?

My first medical practice was in Montevideo, a town of about 5,600 people in southwest Minnesota. I was there for nine years and then moved to Alexandria, Minnesota, in 1998 to practice at Broadway Medical Center, where I served as chair of the physician group.

In 2012, Broadway Medical Clinic merged with Sanford Health. At that time, I was given a position on the Board of Governors (BOG) and eventually the BOG executive committee. In 2015, when Dr. Jim Volk was promoted to vice president of the clinic, I was promoted to vice president/medical officer.

What are you current roles and responsibilities as vice president/medical officer?

I work closely with the office of professional practice regarding a variety of regulatory aspects such as credentialing and peer review. I provide medical support to the risk management, patient relations and quality management teams. I sit on the enterprise Quality Cabinet, liaison with the vice president of nursing and support services, Brittany Montecuollo, and I provide support to physicians on a variety of clinical issues.

Ninety-nine percent of the time I do administrative work, but I try to fit in a day or two each month to teach in the residency or see same-day patients at one of the family medicine clinics. I actually saw patients yesterday.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love the diversity of my job as medical officer. I was a generalist in my practice, so I like the ability to interact with the whole scope of medical services from primary care to subspecialists. As leaders, we don’t provide care at the bedside, but the decisions we make can and do have an impact in a significant way, and it’s gratifying when we see good outcomes.

What are you most proud of in your work at Sanford Health?

Shortly after I started in this role and as part of the Quality Cabinet, Dr. Allison Suttle asked me to lead our enterprise work on controlled substances, particularly opioids. I chaired the controlled substances stewardship committee with Bob Biberdorf, the enterprise head of pharmacy, until he retired last year. Our goal was to ensure patients were safe and well-treated and physicians were educated in how to treat patients while being good stewards in the use of opioids. It was a big project and we were able to successfully reduce the use of controlled substances by our patients by 24 percent in just over a year. I was very pleased with the outcome.

Overall, I really enjoy quality work. Kudos to our quality team, who are boots on the ground in providing direction and support for improving performance. I feel great pride in that. We still have a ways to go, but I feel like we’re turning the corner and seeing real improvement.

I don’t know what the next big issue will be with physicians, but I look forward to working with them and continuing to provide support and encouragement.

Do you have a message for Sanford Health employees?

I am impressed daily by the skill and dedication of our employees and the passion they have for their work. I was recently able to round (talk) with physicians and staff in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) and observe how they interact, provide care and function together as a well-oiled machine. We can be so proud of that.

Health care is hard work, and it can be tough -– life and death -– so it’s really important for people to take care of themselves. I always give people permission to get rest and spend time with family because I know they’ll be a better caregiver for it.

Tell us about your family life and interests/hobbies.

My wife, Mary, and I have five grown children and we have three grandchildren, ages 4 months, 2 and 4. Our free time revolves around family, and we like to help out with the grandkids when we can.

Our favorite times are spent at our lake home in Alexandria, Minnesota. We utilize it year-round and find it very relaxing. Most of the kids live in the area, so we are able to get together often.

Mary and I like to exercise and run. We’ve run marathons in the past, and the last two years we’ve run the Fargo half marathon together.

I also love to read, and I use audiobooks quite a bit when traveling or doing chores around the house so I can get my reading in.

Any closing thoughts?

I really enjoy the team aspect of heath care. Your team is who you work with, and for me, it’s a great privilege and honor to be part of this team in Fargo.

Posted In Faces of Sanford Health

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