Building a Career from the Ground Up: Meet Our Practice Administrator Patricia Stibbs

staff-patricia-stibbsAsk anyone here at PSCHR, and they’ll agree: our practice administrator Patricia Stibbs is an impressive person! We recently sat down with her to find out how she found herself managing a large plastic surgery practice, and we hope you enjoy her story as much as we did!

You are now the Practice Administrator at PSCHR. What brought you to this point in your career?

Ready for a bit of a long story? When I was very young, I helped a friend open and run an oral surgery office in the ‘80s. During that time, a dental assistant fainted during a procedure and I learned how to scrub in with the oral surgeon. Not only was it beneficial to the team, but I also started enjoying the clinical aspects.

I enjoyed it so much that I ended up applying for a tech position with a large orthopedic group. They were great teachers, and I ended up staying with them for about two years. After relocating to Tampa, I was working with another large group of surgeons when an opportunity opened up at Time Inc. I took a secretarial position just to get my foot in the door and within six months, I was working at Sports Illustrated.

What an exciting new opportunity! Tell us about your foray into magazines.

I ended up in a supervisory coordinator position for about six years before being chosen to work on the launch team for Entertainment Weekly. It was really cool to help in the birth of this publication and watch it grow from the ground up, to see our “baby” come to fruition. As far as I know, it is still one of the most successful launches in magazine history.

I worked with a consumer marketing director, Michael Loeb (son of Marshall Loeb who was the publisher for Fortune magazine), and he was a whirling dervish of creativity—the Tasmanian Devil in real life! He generated so much energy and passion that you wanted so much to be able to keep up with him and do great work. During meetings, people would just be hanging out all over the room, sitting on the floor, bouncing from idea to idea. It was an incredible creative energy.

But ultimately, as much as I loved what we were doing and the amazing people I worked with, I am simply not a corporate person. I am incredibly outspoken and avoid anything political as much as possible, which is just not a good fit for that type of industry. So when we relocated to Colorado, I found my way back into medicine and started running a rehab center.

How did you end up at PSCHR?

We moved (again!) and found ourselves back home in Virginia. I tried working for Old Dominion University in the research foundation, but it just wasn’t my thing and it was time for me to move on after a year. I had the bug to work in healthcare again, so I reached out and interviewed at PSCHR. The headhunter I worked with really wanted me in the position, though the group initially chose a friend of the previous administrator to fill the job. My headhunter was sure the person they chose wouldn’t work out and asked if they could call me when that happened. Sure enough, just a few months later, I got the call.

They offered me the spot in August of ’98, I started the end of that month, and I have been here ever since.

Tell us a little about your life at PSCHR

It feels like this position was built just for me: I have the opportunity to bring my marketing experience and the creativity I honed at Sports Illustrated and Entertainment Weekly in with the medical and business aspects. It was, and is, a perfect fit.

Over the years, the amount of autonomy I have from the physicians has grown incredibly. I can’t begin to describe how much I appreciate the trust they put in me—it’s a lot of responsibility, but I’m gratified to be trusted to that level. We are one big family!

I think anyone that manages a big group learns that you have to be quick on your feet, and you better have more than one plan because the chances of one thing working for everyone involved are slim. Part of my success is that I feel like I can do anything I put my mind to—well, except program my iPhone! That notwithstanding, if it’s something I’m passionate about, I can do it. I really think it’s just the confidence and the willingness to just give it a shot. One of the best things I ever learned was you don’t have to know everything; you just have to know where to find the answers.

PSCHR is my baby. I’m going to do whatever it takes to make this place work and protect it. Some of our staff call me “Mama Bear,” and it’s true!

How have you seen the plastic surgery industry change over the years?

Mostly, there’s been a huge transition I’ve seen in the acceptance of plastic surgery. And within the last 17 years, the clinical developments have been over the moon.

When I first came in, I thought, “This is Newport News, Virginia. How many people are really having plastic surgery?” That was my own ignorance, I’ll totally admit that. Then I became more aware of it, but it was still on the down low. Patients would say, “We want to come in the private entrance. We want to be in the private waiting room. I don’t want to bump into anybody I know in the lobby.” People were having stuff done, but they weren’t talking about it.

Then all of a sudden Extreme Makeover hit, and everybody was talking about it. That show proved that the average Dick or Jane can have cosmetic surgery, change their whole perception of themselves and give themselves confidence or fix that thing that always bothered them. That show presented it from the standpoint of what bothered that person, not “Oh, my husband wishes I had bigger boobs.” It showed the process from the standpoint of the individual, and we saw it. We saw the change. We saw the change in the people we were seeing, their attitudes.

What is something you’ve had to overcome throughout the years?

Not letting others, or myself, assume I am incapable of something because I was not traditionally educated. In the early days of my time at PSCHR, I met with the original managing partner of PSCHR (Dr. Schuler, who is no longer here) and the accountant, who was challenging my salary. When I asked him what I wasn’t doing, he couldn’t come up with an actual answer; it was simply that the previous administrator had an MBA.

Dr. Schuler sat by quietly throughout the discussion, and I think he knew something was coming. I remember looking right at the accountant and saying “You know what? I don’t have a degree. But I will challenge you that it’s not the only way to learn. Some learn in a classroom, and others learn by living it. I lived it. I had some of the best teachers in the world; I picked their brains, worked side by side with them, and I can put my experience up against any MBA.”

It’s frustrating when, like in that situation, someone discriminates over three letters. I’ve had to be better and do better because I’ve had to beat out people like the accountant in that thinking. Going back in time, I probably would go ahead and just do it just so I didn’t have to fight all along the way. In other ways, I’m Irish—I kind of like the fight! The above story was just one of those times where I hear, “You’re not good enough.” And I just have to tell myself and others, “Oh, wait a minute. Yes, I am!”

Any parting thoughts?

In any group dynamic, you have to be willing to stand up for yourself. Manage a group of men, particularly surgeons who are strong-willed individuals, you have to stand your ground and not take things personally. You may still lose the argument, but it’s always worth it to make your case. For me, going toe-to-toe with the group has meant that my opinion is respected. We’re now on equal footing.

If I could go back and teach myself one thing, it would be to not wear your heart on your sleeve. Don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t agree with you, or even if a superior barks at you. It’s critical to develop a tough hide, which can be difficult because making your way in the world puts you in a vulnerable position.

Also, own your mistakes and look at them as an opportunity to learn. You will get much more respect if you claim your mistakes and offer a solution. I’ve learned so much over the years, certainly from successes, but also from failures. Often a modified failure turns into a success.