Member Profile - Jorge Garcia-Zuazaga, MD

soldier (garcia-zuazaga) standing in front of a military aircraft

Jorge Garcia-Zuazaga, MD
Apex Dermatology

ACG Member Since: 2017

How have you had to adapt your business model during the shutdown? What has worked and what hasn’t?

Apex a Dermatology is a dermatology group with seven locations in Northeast Ohio. As a healthcare provider during this pandemic, our main focus is the safety of both staff and patients as well as access to care.

We reached out to the local emergency rooms and primary care physicians in our communities. We became readily available to see any patient with skin diseases, lacerations, or other acute skin problems that were seeking care in their offices. By doing this, we did our part taking care of those patients that could avoid a visit to the ER and get exposed to the virus.

In addition, this helped the ERs PCPs with open access to people that were there for COVID-19 screening. We established a telemedicine platform to be able to connect with our patients at home and switched our clinical operations into a virtual model. While we were able to see urgent visits and high-risk skin cancer surgeries, we established a new triage algorithm to screen staff and patients. This required us to change our normal "check-in" area. We are now checking temperatures at the door (for staff and patients), screening patients for COVID-19 symptoms before they come to the office. In addition, we make sure everyone has masks, shields, and gowns as appropriate and follow social distancing rules.

I can say that our team moved at an unprecedented speed to be able to change so many protocols in such a short amount of time.

What are you most proud of during this period?

I have always been a culture guy. At Apex, our purpose of "Transforming Lives Through Healthy Skin" is always front and center in our offices. In times of uncertainty, having a strong culture and core values is key. These values serve as our compass, or foundation, to get through these difficult times. This is what allowed my team and I to think clearly, make hard decisions, and focus on taking care of patients amid the chaos. We have shown resilience as a team and formed stronger bonds. I’m very proud of Team Apex.

How are you staying connected with your network?

Through my prior experience as a flight surgeon in the Marines, I have learned that during crisis situations having a clear message among the group becomes very important. Our group stays in contact with daily emails and phone calls, clinic huddles, and frequent virtual meetings. I also enjoyed a few Zoom happy hours where we played games ad interacted outside work. These little details really make me feel part of the team and allow us to share our emotions (good or bad). This helped me by keeping things in perspective and focusing on what’s important — to deliver great patient care even during the crisis.

Do you think we will see lasting changes to how we do business as a result of this?

I believe that people will still have to go see their physician for acute symptoms and follow up. Telemedicine is here to stay as most of us were able to connect with patients at home. It will be very important that insurance companies understand this concept and start covering these visits. They can certainly supplement the patient experience if done well. Given the current situation, I feel that, at least for the foreseeable future, we will have to be proactive with personal protective equipment and screening patients for symptoms of the virus prior to any medical visit.

What piece of advice would you give to leaders when dealing with a crisis?

This pandemic reminded me of times of deployment with my squadron. Often times I had to make quick decisions, with limited information (or in a fluid environment), and make the best of it with the limited supplies I had. I learned to put people's safety first during the initial assessment of any crisis. By being transparent and with frequent communications, one can start developing action plans to tackle the situation as a team. Also, remaining flexible and considering various alternative pathways of action will help with the objectives at hand. Having trust in your teams helps to execute the plan and prepare for recovery. Even though we are still in the middle of the pandemic, Apex continues to adapt and revise our strategy to be successful and to continue to be there for our patients.

What is your favorite ACG Cleveland event and why?

The Summer Social at the Shoreby is always a big winner. As a skin cancer surgeon, I don't get to interact with entrepreneurs on a daily basis. This event gives me the opportunity to network with local leaders and to learn about them and their businesses. Cleveland has so much talent and great people. I'm lucky to be part of this community.