Richard Pitts, D.O.’73, Ph.D., said a lot in the subject line of an e-mail message he recently sent to DMU President Angela Walker Franklin, Ph.D.: “My, how respect for osteopathic physicians has changed over the years.”
Pitts’ message shared news of his new appointment as medical director at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center (ARMC), a 456-bed facility owned and operated by San Bernardino County, CA. He says the bigger news are the advancement of respect for the osteopathic medical degree and the increasing number of osteopathic physicians in prestigious health care leadership roles.
“I suspect that when I graduated from DMU, a D.O. would never have been considered for this position,” he noted in his message to President Franklin.
Pitts knows: In 1975, as one of a few newly licensed osteopathic physicians in California, he first worked in emergency medicine at a large Orange County hospital. In short order, however, he was invited to a meeting that “was basically an inquisition” about his background. The next day, he received a certified letter stating the hospital had “no openings” for him.
“It was a bumpy road. But as the number of osteopathic graduates increased, with all these very smart people getting very good training, that changed,” he says. “I think the whole profession has boot-strapped itself up to earn a good reputation.”
Pitts wants to see continued progress, including increased peer-reviewed publication programs and preparation of osteopathic physicians for “leadership, followership and team member roles.” He understands the importance of these qualities given his nearly 40-year career as a physician, health educator and hospital administrator. The Massachusetts native worked at Kaiser Permanente in Anaheim, CA, as the Orange County Service Area assistant medical director. He also served as chief of occupational medicine and employee health for Kaiser’s Orange County Service Area.
In his new role, Pitts is helping guide ARMC through implementation of the Affordable Care Act along with many other duties in medical services policies, procedures and delivery. He’s the liaison between ARMC and the 21 private physician corporations whose nearly 400 physicians staff the center’s 26 specialties.
In an ARMC news release about his position, Pitts said he’s “excited” to take on the challenges that reform will bring.
“This new law will result in thousands of area residents receiving health care coverage for the first time, and we must be prepared to handle the expected influx of new patients while maintaining high-quality care,” he added.
Certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine and American Board of Preventive Medicine, Pitts holds a clinical professorship at the University of California’s Irvine Medical Center. In addition to his DMU degree, he earned a Ph.D. in applied management from Walden University.
“I enjoy solving problems and using systems thinking,” he says. “That’s what physicians do in terms of systems of the body.”