Member Spotlight: Chet Szerlag


AAIM Member Spotlight

Chet Szerlag

Chet Szerlag

Director - Finance, Administration & Operations
Department of Medicine
University of Illinois College of Medicine

How long have you been a member of AAIM?

I’ve been a member of the Alliance for four years, and joined AAIM when I began my current role with the Department of Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Describe your typical day.

As chief administrator of the largest department in the college of medicine, I oversee a large admin team that encompasses day-to-day management of budgets, physician practice management, revenue cycle, faculty appointments and credentialing, and grants and contracts management. Our information technology team helps ensure our desktop computer environment and departmental network has maximum uptime and connectivity with external systems.

A typical day is a busy admixture of planned and unplanned activities. Data analytics are a key focus and are used in various “dashboards” that monitor the pulse of key departmental processes. In contrast, impromptu team huddles are often called to troubleshoot and scope out emerging problems and issues.

What is your favorite part of the job?

Three aspects of my leadership role give me continual job satisfaction: effective team building, process improvement, and developing partnerships to broaden community outreach and access for our health care services. UIC is an important urban “safety net” hospital for Chicago, while also serving as a leading, nationally-ranked teaching and research institution.

Health care is a “team sport,” and I believe all health care leaders have a responsibility to create a work environment that enables employees to develop key skills, deploy data tools for decision making, and be able to delegate effectively to their teams.

Secondly, a focus on process improvement is a mission-critical priority for all businesses, but especially so for health care, which is a very labor-intensive business. A current project we are collaboratively working on both in the department and with Hospital IT is to streamline the revenue cycle through development of a computerized interface to eliminate the physical paper used for charge capture and recording. We have successfully developed a software solution, and we are in the final test stages.

Lastly it’s fulfilling to establish new partnerships that bring patients into the hospital system.

How has the AAIM membership been of value to you and your career?

I’m an individual who joins groups – a “joiner” – I have found it invaluable for professional growth and it is a core value of mine. In my role of managing a large department of medicine, I looked to Alliance membership to help plug me into -- and learn from -- a broad network of professionals who are experts in many areas. I have found Alliance publications to be of excellent quality, and my recent participation on the AAIM Communications Committee was a valuable experience.

What's your favorite moment of your career so far?

I especially enjoy new program launches, and while at University of Illinois, we‘ve had several new program launches, including a hospitalist program to reduce re-admissions, a telemedicine program for state correctional facilities, and a specialty care program for an FQHC partnership. On a personal level, I was also recently honored with an appointment to the editorial board of Management In Healthcare, a new international journal for health care management.

What was your childhood dream job?

When I was really young, I thought being an airline pilot would be the coolest thing.  But then I grew up, and went to university with the idea of becoming a teacher, since I admired several family members who were teachers, and saw that they enjoyed their careers. I obtained my teaching certification and taught briefly, only to realize it was not what I imagined it would be. 

So I took a step back and asked myself what did I really want to do ?  I went back to university to study business, and began my career with a small consulting firm that did business turnarounds and process improvement.  This experience eventually led me into the healthcare sector, first with BCBS the health insurer, then transitioning next into hospital business operations, and ultimately into a career on the business side of academic medicine. 

How do you spend your free time?

Over the years, I’ve been active in various organizations which have developed me personally and professionally. For seven years, I served on the village board of trustees in my community, which provided me with a strong understanding of how communities work at the grass roots level. Genealogy is another longstanding passion of mine, and I currently serve as the vice president of a national genealogy group. Other hobbies and interests include digital photography and motorsports. My wife Judy and I share a strong interest in gardening and landscaping. We created a natural landscaping environment certified by the Audubon Society and designed to attract birds, bees, and butterflies. It was a lot of fun seeing the wide variety of birds and butterflies regularly visiting and feasting on our plantings!

What’s one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

That on any given summer weekend, they may find me riding my Ducati motorcycle on country roads in Illinois.