FITNESS & WELL-BEING SPOTLIGHT
Before he started a medical billing company, DuvaSawko, Dr. Charles Duva practiced both emergency and family medicine. He was part of a physicians group that once owned Bert Fish Memorial Hospital when it was in DeLand in the 1980s. Duva spoke to The News-Journal about his experiences.
Why did your group of physicians purchase the hospital?
Financially, it was not doing well. At the time, I just went into private practice in DeLand as a family practitioner after practicing emergency medicine.
Within two months, this idea surfaced of buying Bert Fish. There was nine us, eight primary care physicians and a specialist in urology. We purchased it from the Bert Fish trust in 1983. We owned it for four years and made it financially stable.
Who was Bert Fish?
An attorney who lived in DeLand who had (a lot of real estate). He became an ambassador to Egypt (under President Franklin D. Roosevelt.) Medicine was his philanthropy. He built the hospital in New Smyrna Beach, too. He was a giver.
What changes did you make to the hospital that were new to the area?
We started the breast clinic with a mammography machine. We also brought in a plastic surgeon from Ormond Beach to do some post-mastectomy construction.
Why did you sell the hospital?
We were going to move it to where it is now in Orange City, but we needed a majority vote of our board and did not have (the votes).
Then we decided to put it up for sale. A number of hospital companies wanted to buy it.
The governor (Rick Scott) was working for (one of the hospital corporations) at the time. We had dinner together and spoke about it once. His offer was turned down.
We would have done very well (financially), but all of the (potential purchasers) were going to bring in physicians to staff the hospital. It would have been strong competition for the physicians in the community.
So we decided to take the high road and donated it to the local hospital authority.
Why did you stop practicing medicine?
On July 1, 1995, I got hit head-on on State Road A1A when I was on my motorcycle. That was the last day I practiced medicine. That was 20 years ago this past July.
For a year, I did not do anything. I rehabilitated myself.
I had a head injury, a broken hip. There were multiple fractures in my left foot and left lower leg, and rib fractures too.
Professionally, I went back to managing a physicians’ group.
I worked on a certificate in medical management from Tulane University and became the medical director for the Adventist (system) for five years on top of doing my leadership piece with an emergency medicine group (of physicians).
In 1998, we started this company (DuvaSawko) to do coding and billing services (for emergency medicine), primarily because others were not doing a very good job. Others asked us to do (billing) for them, too.
How is is business?
Today we bill over a billion dollars a year. We have clients in 11 states right now. We have 235 employees.
We have 30,000 square feet (of office space). By 2017, we’ll probably need another 20,000 square feet.
We have been very successful. We have never lost a client since we have been in business for 17 years. Not many people can say that about anything.
Do you miss practicing medicine?
I do, that’s what I was trained to do. It’s where my heart has been all my life. I love patient interaction. I love talking to people and helping them, but those are good attributes for business, too.
When you’re working with a client, they see you are interested in helping them and doing things right. At the same time, you have to have a clear mind with respect to business operations. You have to understand what you have to do and what you can’t do.
I run into a lot of doctors who say, “Gosh, I want to do what you do.”
I say, “it’s not as easy as you think it is.”
The grass is not always greener?
Exactly. There is still a lot of pressure and stress in this job because we have clients. We try to give them the best service we can, and with that comes stress and anxiety.
Fitness & Well-being Spotlight is a weekly feature profiling area residents who have made healthy habits a priority in their lives, or those dedicated to helping others make healthy lifestyle changes. If you would like to nominate someone for a profile, email email@example.com.
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