Commitment to the mission is critical for active duty and veteran military, and the military professionals who make up Envision Healthcare are committed to our mission of improving life in our communities one moment at a time. In recognition of their efforts, we are proud to share the stories of some of Envision Healthcare’s many talented and dedicated military professionals.
Someone famously said, “It’s not what you know but who you know.” The career paths of four clinicians who are grooming the next generation of emergency medicine physicians have been enriched by both factors. Over the last 30 years, their careers have intertwined and now all four work for Envision Physician Services.
How Their Careers Began
William Dalsey, M.D., FACEP, Director of Emergency Medicine at Community Medical Center, Toms River, N.J., joined the U.S. Air Force in the 1980s to take advantage of the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP), which awards qualifying students with full tuition and a stipend in exchange for their military service. During his 14 years of service, he developed a joint Air Force-Army emergency medicine residency, trained military personnel in field medical support, and managed disaster planning and casualties for Operation Just Cause in Panama. He also was tapped to run the emergency department at Wilford Hall Medical Center at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, a Level 1 Trauma Center.
In high school, Michael Gerardi, M.D., FAAP, FACEP, Chair of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at Morristown Medical Center, Morristown, N.J., earned an ROTC Air Force scholarship. ROTC, however, could limit career paths, such as the desire to become a physician. He learned of the HPSP program and that if he committed to the Air Force for 12 years (active duty and reserves), it would pay for medical school. So, like most of the men in his family, he became a commissioned officer. Like Dr. Dalsey, Dr. Gerardi supported Operation Just Cause, helping with biochemical preparedness and casualty triage. He also served as an F-16 squadron flight surgeon with the Air National Guard, taking care of pilots and their crew.
Becoming a physician was not the first career choice for Kevin McGann, D.O., Medical Director of Envision Physician Services’ Envoy program, formerly known as TIVA Healthcare, for the South Regional Support Center. He studied aerospace engineering in college at 16 years old. He planned to first become a fighter pilot in the Air Force, then transfer into another position to apply his engineering degree. However, due to military budget cuts, the number of spots in the pilot training program was cut in half and he didn’t get into the program. He put academics on hold and enlisted in the Air Force instead, although he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. He was assigned as a medic, which eventually led to a career as a physician after serving as a paramedic in the Philadelphia Fire Department. He also served as a flight surgeon.
Stephen Mitchell, M.D., FACEP, Medical Director of Envision Physician Services’ Envoy physician travel team, enlisted in the Air Force at age 16, spending seven years in the service before becoming a sheriff’s deputy in Florida. He then decided to go to medical school, becoming a flight surgeon during his residency.
Four Careers Collide
In 1989 during his final rotation in medical school, Dr. Gerardi decided he’d rather complete a residency in emergency medicine instead of internal medicine-pediatrics. Switching programs, however, wasn’t possible so he completed the 4-year civilian program. When preparing to come on active duty, the Air Force wasn’t sure how to fulfill Dr. Gerardi’s dream of practicing emergency medicine. Someone suggested that he contact Dr. Dalsey, who was recruiting faculty for his new EM residency program at Wilford Hall. Dr. Dalsey hired him to teach emergency medicine, which was a new, temporary pathway to becoming certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine.
“Bill saw my potential in EM and pulled strings to launch my career in emergency medicine,” Dr. Gerardi explained. “I owe my professional career to him.”
Ten years later when Dr. Dalsey was looking for an emergency medicine opportunity in New Jersey, Dr. Gerardi was part of the team that hired him, returning the favor.
Dr. McGann was working as a paramedic at Kelly Air Force Base in 1988 when he met Dr. Dalsey at Wilford Hall.
“I thought he was gruff and abrupt,” Dr. McGann remembers with a laugh. “He was a major and I was an enlisted airman; I was grossly outranked.” About four years later, their paths crossed again in Philadelphia, where Dr. Dalsey was the director of the emergency department at Einstein Medical Center and Dr. McGann was a fire department paramedic.
Dr. Mitchell also shares a history with Drs. Dalsey and McGann. He met Dr. McGann at a medical conference, where the two struck up a conversation. They realized they both had served the country as flight surgeons. And, Dr. Mitchell trained under Dr. Dalsey at Einstein Medical Center.
Drs. Mitchell and McGann shared the same circle of friends in Philadelphia but the two lost touch when Dr. Mitchell moved back to Florida to practice. Ten years later, both physicians applied to Envision Physician Services’ Envoy program.
“It all came back full circle,” said Dr. McGann, who deployed to the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm and was called up again after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, deploying to Kuwait. “Our lives were intertwined for nearly 20 years. Talk about a small world.”
Impact on Patient Care
When asked how his military experience has impacted his medical career, Dr. Mitchell said, “In the military, you learn the art of discipline, how to manage ‘big picture’ tasks and how to work as a team. It pushes you to a higher level of performance.” Through his experience, he learned the importance of fail-safes, stop checks and standards, concepts that also apply to patient care.
Dr. McGann agreed. “I learned to follow procedures and use checklists in the service and I think that limits bias and prejudice in my clinical practice. I treat every patient the same way regardless of gender, culture or ethnicity.”
For Dr. Dalsey, his experience in the Air Force provided the leadership skills that accelerated his civilian career. “It was a unique experience. I got to be a leader at a young age, which opened up other opportunities.”
“I learned to make things happen with very little resources, to respect structure and to value missions so much larger than oneself, like healthcare,” Dr. Gerardi added. “My military experience profoundly impacted how I treat and serve patients.”
Envision Physician Services seeks clinicians with military experience for leadership and staff positions in a variety of specialties – including emergency medicine.
“Emergency medicine and military service are very similar: Your mission in both is to be ready and responsible for anything that comes your way,” explained Dr. Gerardi. “With Envision, you know that you have a team that you can trust and that will support you.”
Serving Their Communities
Dr. Gerardi, a former president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, is a member of the Coalition on Psychiatric Emergencies, a group of emergency medicine, psychiatry and patient advocacy leaders focused on improving the treatment of psychiatric emergencies. Locally, he serves as chairman of the board of the United Way of Northern New Jersey.
Dr. Dalsey volunteers with Christmas in July to repair dilapidated houses in his Pennsylvania community. He and his wife are active in their church and collect food and toys for local nonprofit organizations.
Dr. Mitchell who served on the board of PARC, an organization that supports people with intellectual and developmental disabilities based in St. Petersburg, Florida, was active on the local school board and has mentored pre-med students.
He’s also still active in the Air Force Reserve - with Envision Physician Services’ leadership supporting his commitment to service through flexible scheduling.
“Envision has been overly accommodating to make sure that I can participate in Reserve activities,” said Dr. Mitchell.