Tim Skinner Retires from Profession
By Don Rainwater (Air Force Retired), National Executive Recruitment Consultant (HRRO), Veterans Health Administration, Washington, DC
Former ASPR President Tim SkinnerFor members who have been part of ASPR for many years, it’s difficult to think back on its beginnings and past annual meetings and not think of Tim Skinner. Tim has held several leadership roles including founding member, president and board member, and JASPR editor. As Tim heads into retirement, it’s fitting to pay tribute to him for all he’s done both for ASPR and the physician recruitment community. I had the honor to chat with Tim recently about his career, his thoughts on ASPR, and how physician recruitment has evolved.
Tim began recruiting physicians in the early 1980s, but only after some rather severe arm-twisting. At the time, he was the administrator for a teen health center, working with at-risk adolescents and their families and was employed by Lutheran Hospital in La Crosse, WI. His supervisor informed him that Lutheran and Gundersen Clinic were going to join forces to recruit family physicians to the region. His supervisor asked him to head up this effort and made it clear she wasn’t going to take “no” for an answer. Tim said he thought this was a terrible idea and a crazy job and he didn’t really get why anyone would want to do something like that. But, understanding the importance of keeping the boss happy, he accepted the challenge. While driving back home one evening after completing his first recruitment, he experienced an epiphany: He had just done more for one community by providing them with that one physician than anything he had taken on before. Soon, the system asked him to take over recruitment for all specialties, and he never looked back. He was finding great satisfaction in recruiting providers for the communities and people he served, thereby bettering their lives.
Tim shared that much of what he learned came from a contracted recruiter, Susan Esposito, whom he credits with teaching him everything he knows about physician recruitment. In the early days, networking was nearly impossible and there weren’t that many in-house physician recruiters around — he could only find about 50 nationwide. While attending a conference in Kansas City, he sought out and met with other recruiters and they began talking about the concept of helping each other, collaborating, and finding ways to further professional development. With the combined efforts of key partners such as Bill Norris, Laura Screeney, Jerry Hess and others, an “organization” began to form. Taking money out of their own pockets, they incorporated and began the difficult task of creating the backbone of what we know today as ASPR. In the early-to-mid ’80s, e-mail and the Internet were more novelties than accepted useful tools — so networking relied on telephone calls and personal meetings, which impacted the pace at which he and the other core pioneers could develop their ideas.
Growing from infancy, Tim describes ASPR as a “pretty loose organization in the late ’80s and early ’90s, going through adolescence and growing pains, maturing as it went.” He has seen the educational opportunities and training programs as the most significant changes and improvements within ASPR and has seen it become a more complex and organized entity than it was originally. With non-profit and for-profit recruiters, single and multiple-institution health systems, ASPR is a much more diverse organization — and that benefits everyone.
When asked about what he sees as the biggest challenges for ASPR and in-house physician recruiters, he said ASPR must, “remain inclusive and diverse while keeping it a safe harbor for in-house physician recruiters to exchange ideas and express themselves.” He sees the biggest challenges as “being able to provide services while communicating how they add value to their organizations, and to stay current with technology, sourcing methods, and social media.” Agility is the name of the game, according to Tim.
You don’t chat with a seasoned veteran without asking for some advice, so I asked him what advice he’d give to in-house physician recruiters. He encourages us to “really connect with others and be open to sharing.” He strongly encourages everyone to subscribe to ASPR Chat, saying, “There are some real nuggets of essential information coming through that medium and to not take advantage of it is a mistake.”
Anyone who knows Tim appreciates the way he makes each individual he encounters feel special, and that he truly cares about them as an individual. He credits that to his early years working with the at-risk adolescents and their families. As Randy Munson of the Wisconsin Office of Rural Health said, “Tim has pretty much been able to accomplish what an old saying says one cannot do, and that is to please all the people all the time. In one’s life, and if you are lucky, you meet a handful of people who you come to regard as the best there are. From a professional and personal perspective, Tim is one of my handful.”
Diane Collins of HealthPartners Medical Group in Minneapolis noted Tim’s wealth of knowledge and the way he has always been approachable, and that his “wonderful, although twisted, sense of humor brings laughter to an oftentimes very stressful job.”
As Tim heads into retirement, he jokes about driving around the country, doing good deeds, and finally being able to travel for leisure rather than for business as things he looks forward to doing. Tim is involved in his community, enjoys visiting family, remodeling, fishing and biking and he’s looking forward to having more time to do those things.
When asked if he had any parting words, he said he feels everyone “should work hard, play hard, and have more fun — it shouldn’t be all work all the time. No one went to their deathbed saying ‘I wish I had spent more time at the office’.” He closed by saying he “will always be grateful for the wonderful friends and colleagues he’s met over the years — it’s been a wonderful ride.”