When Bruce Flareau, M.D., wanted to build a health center for his family residency program with Morton Plant Mease Health Care, he pulled out a compass.
The resultant circle outlined a 10-minute drive from the Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater, Fla. Half the circle "fell in the water," Flareau says.
The other half encompassed an area where mammography screenings and pediatric immunization rates were low and emergency room utilization for inappropriate reasons was high.
That's the spot he chose for the Turley Family Health Center, a $6.5 million facility.
"What I said was I wanted every preventative health screening recommended under this roof, whether it be for colon cancer or cervical cancer," says Flareau, 39. "It's one-stop shopping for the patients that we serve."
Morton Plant Mease hired Flareau in 1994 to establish a family medicine residency program. Last year, the first group began its residency. Fourteen residents are in the program, which will have a capacity of eight residents in each of the three years.
Flareau joined Morton Plant Mease only four years out of his own residency program to create the family residency program. It was something that health system leaders had wanted to do before, but the timing wasn't right, he says.
Morton Plant Mease Health Care, a consortium of four community hospitals and ancillary service facilities in Pinellas County, Fla., has more than 1,200 physicians on staff. The system recently merged into BayCare, a system with 18 sponsoring and participating hospitals.
Flareau negotiated the affiliation of the residency with the University of South Florida College of Medicine. He worked with the Morton Plant Foundation and the foundation's board of directors to secure a multimillion dollar endowment for the residency.
In addition to being the residency's program director, Flareau is director of medical education for the health system, director of clinical research for Morton Plant Mease, chairs the research council and is involved with the institutional review boards of each hospital. Flareau practices two half days, and, on the days he's wearing his administrative hat, he triages patient care, renews prescriptions and answers questions.
Prior to his current activities, he completed an academic fellowship sponsored through Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, Fla., and the University of South Florida and a one-year academic fellowship at Duke University.
When he came to Morton Plant Mease, Flareau says he knew he would have to change a culture. "The health system was just poised to do this," he says. "We wanted to get involved in family practice because it would improve the health of our community. It was the right thing to do at the right time."
About two years before he joined Morton Plant Mease, Flareau says the healthcare climate changed and began placing more emphasis on primary care and the importance of good primary-care providers.
When they were putting together the three-year residency program, planners decided not to take transfers from other residency programs into the second year, even though that's usually permitted in residency programs. They wanted residents who would be dedicated to the program for three years, Flareau says.
During their first year, residents spend a half day a week at the center. The second year, they spend three half days a week. During their third year, they spend five half days each week at the center.
In his nomination of Flareau, Assistant Residency Program Director Thomas Johnson wrote that Flareau is "a consensus builder, yet he excels by combining a commitment to a team approach with 'the-buck-stops-here' decisiveness."
Johnson says he left his former job about 16 months ago to work with Flareau because he was impressed with Morton Plant Mease and the program.
"I think he's got very realistic views of healthcare economics. He has got a conscience, a social awareness that not everyone has," Johnson says.
Flareau doesn't like the term "clinic" because it "connotes an old style of medicine, an emergency center, a doc-in-the-box," Johnson says.
Flareau is the "perfect example of how to be both an elegant clinician and a tremendous executive," Johnson says. "I'm sure if he wanted to devote full time to being a clinician . . . everyone would be after him to have him take care of them."