Andrew French, MD, is the only member of his family to pursue a career in health care. At age 38, he’s already achieved a great deal, having been an emergency room physician and now the medical director of a busy emergency department that is also part of a major trauma center.
A big part of what he loves about the field is the ample room in which to take on new challenges and grow professionally. French is doing just that through the MBA in Health Administration program at CU Denver’s Business School, recognized by U.S. News and World Report as a top-25 graduate program in health services administration.
‘Amazed by my professors’
“I’ve been really amazed by all the professors I’ve had,” he said, adding that he’s been especially influenced by Heather Haugen and Mike Moran. “I’m not only impressed by all my professors’ ability to deliver content, but their real-world experience in their areas of expertise.”
Just over two years into the program, French fits classes in between his job as Medical Director of the Adult Emergency Department at Denver Health, and a busy home life raising, along with wife Joy, two young children.
The art and discipline of investigating – whether it be a patient’s illness or the complexities of a health care records system – are endlessly fascinating for French. In college, he worked as a medical scribe, filling out documentation as he followed emergency room doctors from patient to patient. “That’s where I fell in love with emergency medicine, and that passion continued to grow when I was in medical school (University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston),” he said. “Then I was lucky enough to get a residency spot here at Denver Health.”
He enjoys the challenges encountered on an hourly, if not minute-to-minute, basis by emergency department physicians. “The variety is very attractive, being able to care for these kinds of patients – from newborns to 100-year-olds – and treat so many types of illness,” French said. Caring for ER patients is unique in that they are “undifferentiated;” they arrive with both an unknown medical history and an unestablished rapport with the care providers. That puts a physician’s empathic and investigative skills in high gear, simultaneously treating the patient’s urgent condition while allaying their anxiety about being in the ER.
‘Helping me grow’
Four years ago, French transitioned from emergency department physician into an administrative role in the Adult Emergency Department. He’s found that, whether it be health care technology, accounting or leadership, the MBA in Health Administration program relates to his administrative duties. “Everything I’ve taken so far in the CU Denver Business School has had a direct correlation with my real-life experiences,” he said. “I feel like it’s helping me grow and expand the non-clinical side of what I do.”
French aspires to continue to develop his leadership skills and expand his overall contribution – be it on local, regional or national levels – to health care. The sector represents the largest industry in the United States, so it’s essential for any administrator to understand what goes into health care policy. CU Denver’s MBA in Health Administration program includes classes on both domestic and international health policy. “It’s an important base of understanding to have if you want to create change,” French said.
The physician and administrator enjoys being the only representative of his specific career in his MBA classes. “That’s actually been a great experience – of not being surrounded by people who are doing exactly what I’m doing,” he said. “It gives me a different outlook and new ways of seeing things.”
French, who was named to the Denver Business Journal’s 2017 class of “40 under 40” leaders, contributes to the community by volunteering for Access Opportunity and Greenhouse Scholars. The nonprofits provide mentorship and career advising for high school and college students (Greenhouse is a college-level program) who are high-potential students from low-income families. “What they do speaks to me in terms of giving back,” he said.
‘Love what I do’
It’s no surprise that French has found his way into leadership roles considering that he watched his parents succeed in managerial positions. His father is a fire chief while his mother is a supervisor for a telecommunications company.
He couldn’t be happier about blazing a path into health care in his family. “I love what I do,” he said. “I absolutely love it and couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”
When French has a free moment between his job and school, he loves spending time with his wife and children, who are ages 7 and 4. “To me, they’re the best entertainment I could ever imagine,” he said.