Dr. Greg Hendey, new chair of emergency medicine, on fresh ideas for hospital’s ‘front door’

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The emergency department has often been thought of as “the front door of the hospital.” A new key player in UCLA’s hospitality is Dr. Greg Hendey, who joined UCLA on June 15 as the inaugural chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine.

It has been something of a homecoming for Hendey, who completed an internship in medicine and residency in emergency medicine at UCLA 23 years ago, including a stint as chief resident in 1992-93. He went on to join the emergency medicine faculty of the UC San Francisco School of Medicine at its Fresno campus, becoming research director in 2000 and chief in 2012, responsible for one of the busiest emergency departments in the state.

At UCLA, Hendey oversees 80 full-time faculty at five UCLA-affiliated hospitals as well as three residency programs with 136 emergency medicine residents. An Indiana native who remains loyal to his undergraduate alma mater, Notre Dame, he earned a medical degree at Vanderbilt University. Hendey recently shared his thoughts about his return to UCLA and the future of emergency medicine.

Why did you choose emergency medicine over other medical specialties?

I’m the first doctor in my family, so I didn’t have a lot of pre-set ideas of what I was supposed to be when I grew up. In medical school, I liked nearly every rotation I did. Emergency medicine seemed like a great way for me to keep seeing all types of patients from all walks of life and a wide variety of medical problems.

What changes have you noticed in UCLA Health and the rest of campus since you were a medical intern and a resident?

In some ways everything has changed, and in other ways, nothing has changed. Of course, Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center is all new to me. The hospital I knew was the Center for Health Sciences, with the emergency department in the basement, before the new hospital was built. But the great, collaborative spirit of the place is very much the same, and today I’m working with many of the same doctors and nurses who were here when I came to UCLA as an intern in 1989.

A patient receives treatment in the emergency department at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. 

 

What is the future of emergency medicine, and how is UCLA adapting?

Medicine is rapidly changing from traditional fee-for-service to an accountable-care model, where health care networks are responsible for the overall care of large groups of patients. I believe the emergency department will become even more important as a hub for coordinating comprehensive outpatient care for patients who in the past have been managed as inpatients. We have also begun planning for a new triage process in the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center emergency department so that physicians see patients earlier and testing and treatment can begin much sooner. We hope to launch our new program by the end of this year.

Do you have other plans for the UCLA Department of Emergency Medicine?

We plan to collaborate with many other departments at UCLA to expand our research program and our teaching activities in the medical school. In fact, we have already begun working with the anesthesia, critical care and neurology departments to bring more National Institutes of Health research funding to UCLA and to offer state-of-the-art emergency care to our patients. I also hope to work more closely with our UCLA faculty at affiliated sites so that we can leverage their many talents. Our overall goal is very simple: to become the best department of emergency medicine in the country. UCLA deserves no less.

What’s the significance of emergency medicine being formally recognized as an academic department at UCLA?

While emergency medicine has existed at UCLA since the 1970’s, departmental status is critical because it gives us a seat at the table so that we can be truly involved and invested in planning for the future of the hospital and the medical school. I have been welcomed with open arms by all of the other department chairs, and it is going to be great to work with them.