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American Academy of Emergency Medicine

Dresnick buys bankrupt PhyAmerica

December 04, 2003
Subject: Dresnick buys bankrupt PhyAmerica

I wholeheartedly agree with Dr. McNamara's posting ("Q: Where do these millions of dollars come from that fuel these deals? A: From the profit off the professional efforts of AAEM and ACEP members."). I used to work for Sterling and made a whopping $70 to $75 per hour, with no health insurance, dental insurance, optical insurance, sick pay, personal days, retirement, unemployment insurance, life insurance, or other benefits. As an "independent contractor" I didn't just pay the Social Security contribution that everyone else pays; I paid the portion normally contributed by the employer. I knew there was a lot of money in emergency medicine (not that I reaped much of it), but $212 million? So that is where the lion's share went--to one person. OK, this is America, and the profit motive isn't iniquitous. Nevertheless, it still rankles me. Why? Because I think that profit should be commensurate with job performance. Perhaps some elements of Sterling were well-run, but the part of it that I was familiar with was not, in my opinion. I used to quip that the name "Sterling" wasn't apropos. In truth, I am bending over backward to be kind to Sterling. If I said what I truly think about it, I could fill many pages with blistering criticism.

I worked dozens of jobs in my life before I became a doctor, sometimes working for myself, and sometimes working for others, and until I worked for Sterling I never encountered a company that I thought was loathsome. I've worked for other ER bosses/corporations that were good to superb. But not Sterling--or at least the segment of it that I saw.

I graduated in the top 1% of my class in medical school, the director of my residency program once commented that I was the smartest resident they ever had, and one of my former bosses told me that I was the smartest doctor he ever met. I am NOT mentioning this to brag; I'm mentioning it to segue into a rhetorical question: why should I, and other members of this list who are highly educated professionals, have to take orders from corporate bosses with less aptitude and less education? I am not referring to Dr. Dresnick, but rather to some simpletons who worked for Sterling.

Considering my experience with Sterling, when I see Dresnick become a multimillionaire, I wonder if the American economic system is truly rewarding excellence, or if it just allows for undeserved profiteering. I don't know if he had anything to do with hiring and supervising the goofballs who earned my ire, but if he did, then I think he may have received a fortune for presiding over a corporation that was, in my experience, anything but sterling.

Kevin Pezzi, MD