Donald S., D.O., MBA, has provided medical care to patients since beginning his career in 1983. As current chief medical officer for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (DOC), Donald has decreased the cost of medical services at the DOC without sacrificing quality of care. “Donald is a true corrections professional. His business sense and prudent utilization of state resources is surpassed only by his care and concern for the offender population,” Eric R. Franklin, deputy director of employee development and offender services at the Oklahoma DOC, said.
Donald graduated from the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences in 1982 with a Doctor of Osteopathy degree. He also received a Master of Business Administration degree from Oklahoma Wesleyan University in 2009. He began his career in corrections shortly after completing his medical training, working part-time at James E. Hamilton Correctional Center from 1983 to 1984. He then worked as an emergency medicine physician for 20 years before returning to correctional medicine in 2002 as a staff physician at Northeast Oklahoma Correctional Center. In 2003, he transferred to Dick Connor Correctional Center (DCCC) in Hominy, Okla.,where he was soon promoted to northeast regional lead physician with supervision responsibilities for the medical clinical staff at five DOC medical facilities.
In June 2005, a disturbance in two housing units at DCCC resulted in severe injuries to 28 offenders. Donald responded at the scene, examining and treating all injured offenders, many of whom had lacerations or stab wounds. According to Donald, only two offenders were sent by ambulance to a local emergency room for collapsed lungs and internal bleeding, and the rest remained at the facility for treatment. Donald and the DCCC medical staff were awarded a Certificate of Excellence from the chief medical officer for their outstanding response. “The good work of the medical unit staff saved many ER trips,” Donald said. “The staff performed admirably.”
Donald became the acting chief medical officer in October 2010, and was promoted to chief medical officer in December 2010. In his current role, Donald has organizational responsibility for all medical and dental operations, staff, budgeting, and related clinical and administrative duties. In response to a shrinking budget, he began looking for ways to save money for medical services. In his time with the DOC, Donald has achieved this goal in many ways, including significantly decreasing the per diem for medical, dental and mental health expenditures. Donald also indicated that the DOC “was successful in proposing and having passed a legislative initiative which limited reimbursement to outside providers of health care,” saving the department “$1 million (or more) annually.”
Temporary staffing agency nurses were being used by the DOC at a cost of $1.8 million per year. With the help of the medical services administrator, facility health services administrators, and dedicated nursing staff, the expenditure was decreased by half, Donald said. He indicated that this was done by encouraging the hiring of DOC nurses, which decreased the need for temporary nurses. “Today, DOC is trending less than $300,000 annually for temporary staffing agency nurses.” According to Franklin, Donald also developed a plan for the expansion of the role of mid-level providers, saving at least $50,000 per year.
When asked what has been the highlight of his career, Donald said, “I believe I have seen some culture change in medical services, from caring for ‘inmates’ to caring for ‘patients’ (who we remember are offenders) … correctional medicine is about patients who by nature do not trust us, but who we try to help anyway.” In the future, Donald said, “I would like to see correctional medicine continue to grow into an area of specialty medical and nursing care that is recognized for its unique challenges, and that recognizes the extraordinary skill set its practitioners possess.”
“I appreciate the recognition [given to me] by Franklin and Corrections Today,” Donald said. “The real work is done by the folks in the field at the correctional facilities, who care for a most difficult patient population. I always try to remember them, and to remember that I have been and remain one of them. Though I am more of an administrator now, I wish to be remembered as a physician.”