Imagine being a high school student reading urinalysis, operating X-ray machines, and learning how to suture. Your credentials? Nothing but a CPR certification. Talk about being thrown into the deep end. Although this scenario sounds strange, it was Dr. Adam Mandel’s reality. It ignited the passion that led Dr. Mandel to practice medicine, and eventually, pick up locum tenens assignments through Interim Physicians.
One of the Dr. Mandel family’s close friends was the surgeon responsible for establishing the first urgent care model in San Diego, California, and he took Dr. Mandel under his wing.
“He was a strong influence in my life. Since nothing like this had been done in San Diego before, there weren’t a lot of regulatory bodies watching what he was doing,” explains Dr. Mandel. “So, even though I had zero training, and I learned a lot from him at a young age.”
Dr. Mandel credits his late mentor for his unconventional career introduction.
“I was very lucky to have that experience with him, even though sometimes I think he only kept me around so he could embarrass me in front of his patients,” he joked.
Highway to the ER
During medical school, Dr. Mandel recalls one of his first emergency medicine rotations in a small, community-based ER just outside of Atlanta, Georgia. Because of the hospital’s size, he was lucky enough to work one-on-one with his attending physician.
“I remember arriving for my first shift, and I hear this roaring outside. In saunters this dude with long, scraggly hair and these huge boots because he just rolled up on his motorcycle,” Dr. Mandel says with a smile. “That was my attending! And when he found out I was the med student, he tells me OK, so here’s the deal, you can do anything you want in this ER, but if you’re gonna kill a patient, you’ve gotta give me 10 minutes to make the paperwork look good,” Dr. Mandel laughs.
Dr. Mandel honed his skills throughout medical school; he even ventured into critical care work and assisted in the ER during his surgery rotations. After graduating with honors in 1994, he had his pick of emergency medicine residencies, ultimately choosing Baystate Medical in Springfield, Massachusetts, which was affiliated with Tufts Medical School. There, he joined a highly competitive program with just six slots in the residency class.
The Massachusetts medical environment provided countless opportunities. His class attended statewide research meetings, Dr. Mandel sat on the state branch of the American College of Emergency Medicine, and he took a six-week elective at UMass to become an EMS resident flying their helicopters.
All that networking paid off – once he completed residency in 1997, Dr. Mandel’s contact at the American College of Emergency Physicians offered him his first job.
The Roaming Physician
For eight years, Dr. Mandel worked full-time with an urban patient population just south of Boston. He continued to gain experience outside of his scheduled shifts.
“While working full-time, I picked up some shifts at the hospital where I did my residency, and I continued to fly the helicopter from time to time,” he says. “This wasn’t true locums, but it was definitely outside of my regular job.
“I didn’t need the extra work, but I had a lot of fun seeing a variety of people. I get tired of being in one spot all the time.”
Outside of his professional career, he started a family and became an active scuba diver. Although he had spent a lot of time diving off the coast of Massachusetts, Dr. Mandel accepted a medical director position at a small ER just outside of Charleston, South Carolina.
After a year and a half, Dr. Mandel wanted to move back to Massachusetts. However, it was 2008, and the real estate market had different plans. It was impossible to buy or sell a house, he says. That’s when he was “bitten by the travel bug” and began taking assignments in Massachusetts as a travel doc.
The constant back and forth wasn’t sustainable for his family, so Dr. Mandel returned home to Charleston. That’s when he got his official introduction to locum tenens (and eventually, Interim Physicians).
At first, Dr. Mandel worked locums independently by cobbling together his own schedule across a few hospitals for about six shifts a month.
“One of my colleagues in Charleston was a partner at a hospital, but he did locum work on the side. He mentioned that he worked with this great locum tenens recruiter named Joey Bradshaw,” says Dr. Mandel. “That was in 2008, and the rest is history. Interim is the only agency I’ve ever worked with.”
Early on, Joey agreed to let Dr. Mandel manage his own work around Charleston. He located assignments in other parts of South Carolina that were still commutable, plus Massachusetts and Missouri, the other two states where Dr. Mandel holds licenses.
After a few years, a full-time slot at an excellent hospital in Charleston opened. Dr. Mandel pursued the partnership track. But his locum journey did not stop there.
“During those 14 years as a partner, I continued picking up gigs because I’m a workaholic idiot—and that’s quotable,” he laughs. “But on a serious note, I prefer the variety of different trauma cases and patients of all ages. That’s the primary reason I continued to pick up locums.”
Joey also set Dr. Mandel up at a hospital in Martha’s Vineyard—his favorite locums assignment.
The Perks of Staying with Interim
Martha’s Vineyard wasn’t the only thing Interim hit out of the park for Dr. Mandel. Recently, the travel team helped Dr. Mandel safely navigate New England’s frequent weather curveballs so he could return home on time.
“I have the best travel story,” says Dr. Mandel. “I was headed back to Charleston and my main flight was canceled, so the travel team hooked me up with another flight, then that flight got canceled. And as my travel coordinator is booking Plan C, I’m on the phone with her feeling like some high-powered individual racing between terminals with my schedule being handled for me. I never would have gotten home on time on my own—those three flight changes all happened in the span of about 30 minutes!”
Dr. Mandel offered his advice for physicians considering locum tenens and encourages pursuing the non-traditional path in medicine.
“It’s a great way to get out of your comfort zone and see how medicine is practiced in different places,” he says. “In Missouri, I treated hard-working farm folk who practically had to have their arm fall off before they’d come to the ER. Right now, I’m working in a hospital where 70% of my patient population speaks Spanish exclusively, and they’re incredibly grateful for anything that you do. Locums has been a great experience for that variation.”