A conversation with Bart Grelinger

12/23/2012 12:18 AM

08/08/2014 10:13 AM

Bart Grelinger, a neurologist and the new president of the Medical Society of Sedgwick County, has a need for speed.

“I rode motorcycles before I could drive a car,” said Grelinger, who’s also president of a motorcycle club called The Dark Horse Gang.

“It’s physicians and lawyers and people who just want to get out of town and relax and find some respite, find some margin … I try to refresh myself from medicine so I have a lot of outside activities,” Grelinger said.

He owns four motorcycles: a Harley Screamin’ Eagle Road King, a Harley XR1000, a 1941 Harley Knucklehead and a BMW R90S, along with other bikes he’s in the process of rebuilding.

The fourth-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do also runs marathons.

“Being Dr. Grelinger is not as fun as being Bart. It absorbs a lot of who I am. To fulfill that role, you have to find ways to re-energize,” Grelinger said.

Since 2005, Grelinger has owned Neurology Consultants of Kansas with three other physicians. Prior to that, he was part of Internal Medicine Associates, which was absorbed by Preferred Medical Associates/Via Christi, he said.

Grelinger was born in Wichita but grew up in Beloit. He attended Newman College, now Newman University, and the University of Kansas School of Medicine. His residency and fellowship were at the University of Colorado.

Did you always want to be a doctor?

For as long as I remember. … Why I went into neurology, in a nutshell, is that everything below the neck fuels the furnace and turns the pages, but what really makes us special is between our ears. The rest is parts. … I thought I was going to be a psychiatrist at one time, and it didn’t take me too long to decide the real way to help was to go at it from a biologic standpoint, and neurology became kind of the ultimate field. It’s the last uncharted area. …

I grew up in a family that is quite invested in medicine. My father was an anesthetist, my mother was a nurse, my older sister is a nurse. A very service-oriented family.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

The patients. What makes medicine special is the physician and patient relationship. I love meeting new people. I see maybe six new patients a day. Meeting them and getting to share a little bit in their life. …

Ask me the part I like the least is, we have all this stuff now between us and that physician/patient relationship. I find it frustrating. When I walk out of a room it takes me at least 10 to 12 minutes to finish a chart. I got all these buttons I’ve got to push and I’ve got to push them in the right order or the government’s not happy.

I don’t mind all those things, but it interferes. It inserts the wrong thing. We’ve become part of a technical era which is limiting our ability to strengthen that relationship with our patients. Because that’s where rubber hits the road, that’s what makes us special as a profession.

Why is that relationship special?

When I was younger, because my family was in medicine, I knew several physicians and they always had this aura of respect and trust around them by their title alone.

I never understood why that was the case. I still don’t understand why, but it’s necessary because you meet a patient and inside 10 or 15 minutes, especially in a hospital setting, you’re discussing life and death issues.

Most relationships will take hours, days, months to build real trust. In the medical profession, we don’t get that luxury. We have to do our best to earn that with every relationship with our patients and we have to give back to the community.

More than being physicians, I think we are expected to be leaders for health literacy, advocacy for health-related issues, health education and all those things. By doing those things, I think we continue to earn that level of trust.

Are you excited to be a leader in the Medical Society?

We have a wonderful medical society. We probably have one of the most active county medical societies in the whole country. (Executive director) Jon Rosell is clearly a great captain of the ship down there. We’ve got several collaborative efforts under way, and with those initiatives, we’re going to be able to find best practices. We can learn from each other and improve practices, which will cut costs and improve patient care.

What’s going to be the biggest challenge for physicians in 2013?

It will be an interesting year in medicine, no doubt. The next year is going to have lots of challenges. The Medical Society is going to be busy following health care reform, and the Affordable Care Act is going to continue to move forward, continue to change care, how we’re going to get paid in Kansas.

If Obama did anything positive in my eyes, he kicked the ball. For too many years we sat there and knew medicine was going out of control. It was too expensive, we didn’t have enough quality measures involved, and he stepped up and kicked the ball. The game is in play now. I don’t necessarily agree with the way he kicked it, but it’s in motion and I think that’s positive.

The Medical Society will monitor that closely with the Kansas Medical Society, and as we begin to understand all of the ramifications we’ll be getting that out to all of the membership and take their concerns back to the state to get it back to the government.

What are some of your goals for 2013?

One of my goals next year is helping physicians find a little more respite. It’s hard to stay recharged and come in and do the best at what we do if you don’t find a way to unwind and move away from the doctor part of what we do. … I think too many things are pulling us away from what makes us physicians, and the Affordable Care Act and all those things are forcing us to get stuck in our own little spheres. That’s not what we want.

What we need to do is focus on the patient, and the rest will take care of itself. Back off, give the Medical Society your concerns and let them play the bigger picture and become involved.

I’d like to get physicians refocused on what makes us tick – not computers, not electronic medical records. Those things are important, but physicians are losing control of where medicine is going.

I want people to get involved, I want people to get refreshed and find the respite they need because the role of the physician is going to be tested now.

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