Women in Business: Dr. Andrea Klemes, Chief Medical Officer, MDVIP

03/24/2015 09:39 am ET | Updated May 24, 2015

Dr. Andrea Klemes is the Chief Medical Officer of MDVIP. She also serves as the executive and organizational leader of MDVIP's Medical Advisory Board that supports quality and innovation in the delivery of the healthcare model drawing expertise from the affiliated physicians. Dr. Klemes oversees MDVIP's impressive outcomes data and research including hospital utilization and readmission statistics, quality of disease management in the MDVIP network and the ability to identify high-risk patients and intervene early. She is instrumental in the adoption of the Electronic Health Record use in MDVIP-affiliated practices and the creation of the data warehouse. Dr. Klemes is board certified in internal medicine and endocrinology and a fellow of the American College of Endocrinology. Dr. Klemes received her medical degree from the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine. She completed an internal medicine residency at Cabrini Medical Center in Manhattan, New York and an Endocrine and Metabolism Fellowship at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta. Prior to joining MDVIP, Dr. Klemes worked at Procter & Gamble in the areas of personal healthcare, women's health and digestive wellness and served as North American Medical Director for bone health. She spent 10 years in private practice specializing in endocrinology and metabolism in Tallahassee, Florida. In addition, Dr. Klemes held leadership roles with the American Medical Association, Florida Medical Association and as Medical Director of the Diabetes Center in Tallahassee and Panama City, Florida, as well as Chief of the Department of Medicine at Tallahassee Community Hospital. She has been a consultant and frequent lecturer and has completed broad clinical research in diabetes and osteoporosis and published extensively.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
The experiences that I have had definitely shaped the way I lead today. With each new career choice, from having owned my own private practice, to having worked for the largest consumer goods company in the world, to currently working for the largest network of primary care physicians in the world, I have gained new knowledge which I am able to employ. When I moved into pharmaceuticals after 10 years in private practice as a physician so I could help more people and affect more change, I was able to parlay my knowledge as a physician into a stronger understanding of Osteoporosis. It was very gratifying to be working in the Osteoporosis field as medications were being developed for the first time ever to combat a disease that will affect 1 in 2 women over the age of 50.

Now I am at MDVIP, a nationwide network of over 700 doctors focused on personalized preventive care. I bring to the role my experience in a clinical practice, in research and publishing and most importantly in working with patients and physicians. In addition, I tap into the insider expertise I gained while leading my local medical society, statewide committees, and a medical staff of a hospital. The culmination of my past experiences gives me a unique viewpoint from which I can help guide an innovative company focused on improving health.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at MDVIP?
Working as a physician in my own practice has given me a knowledge base and understanding of the day-to-day difficulties and joys of being a physician. I understand what it takes to run an office from a business standpoint as well as what makes a practice successful from a patient's viewpoint. That knowledge along with my experience in the corporate world allows me to think strategically and determine what will be the best for our network of doctors and their patients.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at MDVIP?
Charting the positive effects the MDVIP model has on patients is definitely a highlight. I have worked on several published studies about the MDVIP network that have shown that our wellness program has identified thousands more patients at risk for disease than would have been identified by traditional means. The network has fewer hospitalizations, readmissions and ER visits and this all saves the healthcare system hundreds of millions of dollars a year. In addition, our doctors take better control of chronic conditions with patients having better control of their blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol than published benchmarks.

Challenges are common in healthcare today. Having enough time for the patient and physician to work through issues is a huge one. Without time and a deep relationship it is hard to get to the root of many causes of disease. That is one of the reasons why I feel that the MDVIP model is so effective - our doctors have the time and deep relationships with their patients and that allows them affect change.

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in the medical industry?
As with most professions, it is easier today than it was 30 years ago when I was starting in medical school. Now half of the classes are women. I would want them to know they can have it all, the successful career, with or without the family and successful marriage. I would say go for whatever interests you whether it be OB/GYN, family practice or neurosurgery. There are successful women in every field who can help mentor. Find one and absorb her guidance. Decide what is most important in life to you - is it a title, money, patient gratification, grandkids - and what would signify having attained your goal. Then work towards that goal.

What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
Be true to yourself. As the only woman in many instances I can be left out at times. If I want to be one of the guys, then I have to be willing to always be treated that way. If I do want to be treated like a woman, then I can't be one of the guys and have to realize I will occasionally be left out.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I have a VERY supportive husband and a village to help support me. There are times I have to learn to delegate and realize I cannot be everywhere all the time. If you are realistic about what you can do and can't do it is very helpful. . The best advice I can give to anyone is realizing that you can have it all but you can't do it all yourself.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
One of the biggest issues for men and women in the workplace is understanding the basic differences between the sexes and then learning how to correctly navigate those differences. For example, when women listen they nod their head as if to say" I am listening". Men only nod their head if they are agreeing. Understanding both non-verbal and verbal differences can foster better communication and understanding.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
The trajectory of my career and the fact that I staddled two worlds - the business and the medical has made it hard for me to find a mentor for both sides of my life. As a result, I have sought out mentors in separate aspects of my life, business, family, and medicine to help me but have not been fortunate to have one strong mentor who could guide me in all the areas of my life. The future female doctors of today have a much better opportunity to find a female mentor who has followed a similar career path as mine.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I was in college when Sandra Day O'Connor was appointed to the Supreme Court. I remember wondering what it must be like to be the first female Supreme Court Justice entering the sanctity of that all male world. As the only woman on my leadership team I draw from her experience as I suspect that there are several parallels between us. Her quote "Yes, I will bring the understanding of a woman to the court, but I doubt that alone will affect my decisions. I think the important thing about my appointment is not that I will decide cases as a woman, but that I am a woman who will get to decide cases." What an incredibly applicable thought for not only myself but for all women breaking into previously hallowed male territory. I bring the understanding of a woman to our leadership team, and I am a woman who gets to be a part of the decision making process for this company.

A first for women in medicine was when Nancy Dickey who was elected the first president of the American Medical Association (AMA). The first time I met Nancy I was struck by her energy and enthusiasm for the AMA and helping people. Being involved in medical politics, practicing medicine and having a family is very hard to juggle, yet she managed it all and found time to be a role model for younger female physicians like myself.

What do you want MDVIP to accomplish in the next year?
I would like MDVIP to further extend the successes that we have already had. We have already accomplished lowering hospital admission rates, and have a greater ability to catch and possibly prevent illness through our extensive wellness program resulting in healthier patients. Now we must look to see what else can be done to improve our model so that we improve patient's health even further and extend lives while preserving the quality of life.