You can hear it in his voice. When Anthony Dorsch starts as executive director of UW Physicians, he brings much more than his 16 years of financial and operational expertise in physician-led medical groups. He also brings tremendous enthusiasm for UW Medicine’s mission and unique combination of research, teaching and patient care.
Dorsch begins his new position on July 16. In a recent interview, he talked about his career, family and love of the outdoors.
Q: Why did you go into healthcare?
A: As a boy growing up in a small town in Central Oregon, I was frequently stopped by people because I looked like my grandfather. He was a doctor in the town, and they shared stories about how he helped them and sometimes saved their lives. It was remarkable to hear about his impact, and I wanted to do something similar for my community.
How I would do this was still uncertain when I graduated from Willamette University with a dual major in philosophy and speech communication. I was leaning towards law school, but I still felt the pull of healthcare. I decided to volunteer at a hospital, and soon afterwards, I was hired to work for a group of urgent care centers.
During a weekend of soul searching on the Oregon coast with my wife, Heather Aften, I realized that healthcare administration would give me the opportunity to use my skills for meaningful work. I enjoy organizing systems, defining more efficient processes and leading high-performance teams.
For the past 16 years, I have held financial leadership positions — most recently at CHI-Franciscan Health and previously at Providence Health & Services, including nearly six years as the chief financial officer for Providence in Alaska. I also teach a seminar in healthcare finance as part of the UW Executive MHA program. This is very meaningful to me since I graduated from the UW MHA and MBA programs.
Q: What are your responsibilities at UW Physicians?
A: I will be the administrative operational leader of our faculty practice plan working in partnership with UWP President Dr. Tim Dellit in support of the clinical practice activities of our members. My administrative areas of responsibility within UWP will include finance, human resources, information technology, project management and revenue cycle. An important area of focus will be supporting our UWP staff during the future employment transition while continuing the high performing business operations of the practice plan. In addition to being accountable for these areas, I will be collaborating with leaders across UW Medicine on shared activities such as the Northwest Hospital/UW Medical Center integration project and partnering with hospital billing colleagues. I also look forward to participating in the strategic planning process.
I will be part of the leadership team with Dr. Dellit and Mark Green, vice dean for administration and finance. I look forward to working with them and the other talented leaders and staff in UWP. I also want to develop strong relationships with our board of trustees and my new colleagues throughout UW Medicine.
Q: How would you describe your leadership style?
A: I focus on developing relationships and building teams. I believe that we can accomplish more as a team than as individuals. It is also important to me to foster teams that are innovative. Effective teams can be created to achieve short-term, mid-term and long-term objectives. I am a big believer in continuous quality improvement through Kaizen, Lean and Six Sigma.
As a faculty member in the UW Executive MHA program, I try to make finance fun. Students work together and learn the importance of creating PowerPoint or Prezi presentations that clearly communicate complex financial information. My goal is that they leave the class with a financial toolkit and that they know when and how to use each tool in the kit.
Q: How do you spend your time when you are not at work?
A: Heather and I have been married for almost 23 years. She is from Salem and a graduate of the University of Oregon, so the Husky/Duck rivalry is alive and well in our house. Our son, Hance, is in high school, and our daughter, Lily, is in middle school.
Our family motto is, “Get out and play, every day.” When we lived in Alaska, we were featured in a video series with this tagline as part of the state’s Healthy Futures program.
We are avid cross-country skiers, and even our two Labradoodles like to ski with us. Hance is now on a Junior Nordic Race Team, Momentum Northwest, which gives us the opportunity to travel to ski races in Washington, Oregon and Canada.
Heather has run six marathons and finished the Boston Marathon about 15 minutes before the tragic bombing. One of my proudest moments is running the Anchorage Marathon with her. Like other athletic challenges, marathons are such a life lesson in training, pacing and having the tenacity to push through when you hit the wall. If you know your strengths and weaknesses and if you know the strengths and weaknesses of your team, you can do a better job of helping each other out.
In the summer, we love to be in the mountains hiking and enjoying nature.
Q: What would be your dream vacation?
A: We have our hearts set on a family vacation in Finland for cross-country skiing.