Interview with Jana Baker
Atlanta Gastroenterology Associates
We are excited to recognize Jana Baker as the Healthcare Services Team Practice Manager of the Month. Jana has spent nearly seven years with Atlanta Gastroenterology Associates (AGA) where she has been an integral part of the management team in building one of the region’s pre-eminent gastroenterology groups.
Jana was initially hired by AGA as their Operations Manager, a position she held for only a year before being promoted to the role of Practice Administrator, for this 73-physician/38 office/9 endoscopy center gastroenterology practice. Her responsibilities include daily management of a staff of twelve direct reports and oversight of a practice-wide staff numbering 400. Jana oversees all departments including human resources, IT, finance, office operations, endoscopy center operations, patient quality, customer service, and compliance.
We had a chance to sit down recently with Jana to explore what makes her work enjoyable and how she approaches management.
What do you enjoy about your job?
To keep it simple, Jana said, “I like working with people – patients, physicians, team members.” And, she particularly loves helping the practice grow. When Jana joined the practice, doctors “42” and “43” had recently joined. This growth, almost 100% by physician-count since Jana joined the practice, presents her and AGA with unique challenges. However, it is the challenge of problem solving and improving processes to make them more efficient which gives Jana so much professional satisfaction.
What is your greatest accomplishment in your current job?
Being a champion for change is at the top of Jana’s list of professional accomplishments. Jana likes the challenge presented when encouraging people to move outside of their comfort zones. She does this by shepherding her team and practice through the change process whether that be implementing a new electronic medical record system, restructuring a department, or rolling out a new service. Jana states, “I want others to see that change brings opportunity and that we can better ourselves and the practice by taking a positive approach to change.”
What were you doing prior to your current job?
Prior to joining AGA, Jana spent five years at a healthcare consulting firm focused on helping large, academic medical centers improve their revenue cycle and make the most efficient use of their inpatient beds. She began as an associate before being promoted to senior associate and finally to manager. Jana gained valuable experience learning how to work with hospital executives and she honed her people skills while working with numerous project teams. Every six-to-nine months, Jana found herself on a new project team with new managers and new team members. She learned how to develop staff by stretching them with opportunities that were partially in and out of their comfort zones.
Jana learned how to balance the objectives of the big picture while learning how to adapt to new managers and team members frequently. She had fifteen different managers and directors in five years, with many associates reporting to her during this period. She helped her associates with their struggles and discovered what motivated them. She filed away, from each manager, the elements of their management style she liked and didn’t like and incorporated them into her personal management style. Jana found she most admired the managers who focused on taking care of people as a first priority.
What 3 tips can you offer your colleagues about being a successful practice manager?
- Prioritize people—patients, physicians, your team.
- Seek first to understand. Take the time to understand the issue and to understand the background. When you do this, you are in the best position to figure out how to proceed.
- Trust your gut and don’t be afraid to make decisions. I’ve learned over time that if I hesitate to make a decision, it is because I haven’t yet settled on the best decision for moving forward. So, I seek other angles of problem solving or call upon others for support until I arrive at a decision that feels right.
Who gave you advice about being successful and what was his/her advice to you?
“My most influential mentor was my grandmother. After my grandfather’s sudden death, my grandmother was thrust into running a business and raising a family at a time when both were uncommon. She was strong, independent, and caring. I admired that she took advantage of the opportunity to travel and experience the world first-hand,” stated Jana. Her house was less than a few miles from Jana’s and her grandmother was always there for her. Jana learned about being determined, persevering, and taking care of her responsibilities from her grandmother – traits which she uses every day in her professional career with AGA.
What hobbies or special interests do you have?
Jana loves giving her young son new experiences and opening his eyes to the world. He has already traveled to 13 different states in his first 18 months. In addition, Jana has recently started to play tennis and is enjoying getting back into team activities through ALTA and USTA.
Dr. Steven Morris, M.D.