Practice Leader, Practice Operations and Regulatory Compliance, Lattimore Black Morgan & Cain
Growing up in Memphis, Donna Gilley thought she would be a physician. She wanted a career in healthcare and was a good student so medical school seemed like a logical choice. That changed, though, after working for an internist during college.
"I found that I really enjoyed the business side of medicine," she said. "Needless to say, I never went to medical school. Instead, I followed my heart to business but stayed involved in the healthcare industry. This has allowed me the best of both worlds."
Today, Gilley brings a wealth of experience in medical operations and financial consulting to the table. Although she didn't become a physician, providers are her favorite clients. "When you connect their clinical background and the reimbursement piece of their practice and show them how that relates to getting paid for doing what they love, it's very rewarding."
As the LBMC leader for both practice operations and regulatory compliance, Gilley spends a significant portion of her professional life trying to unwind red tape and assist clients in understanding the latest laws and requirements. "Legislators fail to understand that operational changes are not easily implemented," she said of translating rules into real world settings.
"The daily regulatory changes can be grueling," Gilley continued. "There are constant modifications … and often, when changes are made 'final' … it all changes again."
With a barrage of new regulations and requirements tied to healthcare reform and meaningful use of electronic health records, Gilley said it's no surprise many physicians and practice managers feel frustrated. Just as a family practitioner might call in a specialist to assess a patient, Gilley and her team bring that same focused knowledge of the regulatory landscape to providers.
"The relationships you build with clients are so rewarding," she noted. "Helping them find solutions to the consistent issues allows them to sleep at night and gain peace of mind. The clients make it worth all the hard work."
Of course, all work and no play would make Donna a dull girl. Certainly that isn't a label those who enjoy her generous spirit and fun sense of humor would ever attach to Gilley. She loves to surround herself with friends and family — including husband, Tom Constable; son, Chris Gilley; and parents Mitch and Mary Mitchell. The family loves to snow ski. "Our favorite location is the south side of Tahoe at Heavenly." International travel is another draw. "Experiencing new places, cultures and food is always fun," she said. "I even zip lined a few weeks ago in Puerto Rico … what a blast!"
Another pastime she enjoys, both on the job and off, is reading. She laughingly calls herself "a nerd" but added that trait comes in handy when digging through a stack of new healthcare reform documents.
Today, when so much is in flux, a piece of advice Gilley often passes along seems more applicable than ever. "Get comfortable with change and learn to adapt," she counsels. Gilley also advocates finding your voice and making it heard. "Speak up during public comment periods when regulatory decisions are being made … be visible and vocal."
Gilley's high school AP biology teacher, an early mentor, had a phrase written on his board that has stuck with her. "It said, 'ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.'" The underlying theme that 'history repeats itself' is one Gilley has seen come true in work and life. "While change is inevitable, if we examine new and modern concepts closely, we usually find that they are reconstituted versions of former ideas."
As practices and hospitals navigate new and uncertain territory, it's nice to have a guide who is willing to sift through the unknown in search of the recognizable.