NORCAL Group Foundation Awards Six Grants Focused on Improving Health & Wellness

The NORCAL Group Foundation, dedicated to improving healthcare in local communities, is pleased to announce its Spring 2018 grant recipients. Six organizations have been awarded funding for initiatives and programs focused on patient care, patient safety and physician wellness:

• Asian Health Services  of Oakland, CA

• Indian Doctor’s Club Charitable Foundation, Inc.  of Houston, TX

• Northeast Valley Health Corporation of San Fernando, CA

• St. Anthony Foundation of San Francisco, CA

• The Southwest Florida Free Pain Clinic of Fort Myers, FL

• University Faculty Associates of Fresno, CA

“There are so many opportunities to impact healthcare in local communities,” said Joy Corso, president of the NORCAL Group Foundation. “The work our grant recipients are doing is a great example of meaningful efforts to improve local healthcare for both patients and physicians, and we are very proud to support these endeavors.”

One such endeavor is the FRESNO Project through the University Faculty Associates. This sleep study program identifies factors that lead to excessive fatigue of physicians in the residency program, with the goal of improving the well-being of practitioners—ultimately improving wellness and patient care.

“The generous grant from NORCAL Group Foundation will enable us to expand The FRESNO Project pilot program to all residency and fellowship programs at UCSF Fresno, with the hope to be a model to address physician fatigue across the country,” said Lynn Keenan M.D., clinical professor at UCSF Fresno. “Physician fatigue from sleep deprivation or sleep disorders has been shown to adversely impact learning, judgment, and quality of life.”

Established in 2017, the NORCAL Group Foundation supports improving healthcare in local communities through grant giving focused on patient care, patient safety and physician wellness.  The Foundation is a non-profit organization established by NORCAL Mutual Insurance Company. For more information on eligibility and giving cycles, please visit

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The Doctors Company Names New Senior Vice President of Patient Safety and Risk Management

The Doctors Company today announced the selection of Kerin Torpey Bashaw, MPH, BSN, RN, as senior vice president of patient safety and risk management. Bashaw reports directly to Bill Fleming, chief operating officer.

Bashaw brings more than 20 years of experience to her new role. She has held a variety of positions in healthcare organizations, most recently as corporate vice president of quality for Verity Health Systems in Redwood City, Calif. At Verity, she led the design and implementation of a new evidence-based quality and safety program. She has also served as system vice president of quality for Alameda Health System in Oakland, Calif. She has held other positions as patient safety officer; director of clinical services and operations; and director of accreditation, quality and safety.

“We are extremely pleased that Kerin is leading our patient safety and risk management efforts, which are key to advancing the practice of good medicine,” said Fleming. “Her extensive background in patient safety, risk management, quality, accreditation and operations will support her nationwide team’s focus on utilizing data, measuring quality and delivering service and value to our members.”

“I am truly honored to join a company with a national footprint, history of leadership in the risk and patient safety space and a mission-driven team dedicated to serving and supporting its members,” said Bashaw. “Another quality that attracted me to The Doctors Company is its expertise in healthcare transformation. The company is known nationally for how it supports and guides members through innovation and change.”

Bashaw holds a Master of Public Health degree from Yale University and a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Georgetown University. She served as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps and volunteered for active duty in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

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Garrett P. Cronin Joins CMIC Group as Director of Underwriting

CMIC announced today that Garrett P. Cronin has joined the CMIC Group team as its new director of underwriting. 

Prior to joining CMIC, Cronin worked for Chubb Corp. as a national underwriting manager within their Chubb Specialty Business. His background and focus for the past 25 years has been in underwriting of healthcare, public and private management liability commercial business as well as financial institutions.

“Garrett’s robust underwriting experience and expertise will be a tremendous asset to our policyholders as CMIC continues to provide competitive coverage options in a challenging marketplace,” said Stephen J. Gallant, chief executive officer of CMIC Group.

In 1991, Cronin began his insurance career at Travelers working with national accounts in their Managed Care Enrollment Division. In 1994, he worked for Berkshire Hathaway/General Reinsurance in the Alternative Risk Market handling various reinsurance treaties. Following that, he worked for Berkshire’s specialty group in New York where he underwrote and managed public and private commercial business. In 2000, he and his family moved to Colorado when he became a broker for AON Financial Services serving clients in the commercial markets. After spending three years in Colorado, he joined Chubb Corp. and relocated back to Connecticut where he has worked in various roles throughout the organization leading and strategizing in multiple underwriting groups.

Cronin received his undergraduate degree in business from Southern Connecticut State University and his MBA from the University of New Haven with a concentration in Finance and Marketing.

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Doctor Burnout in Small Practices Is Dramatically Lower Than National Average, New Study Concludes

Physicians who work in small, independent primary care practices — also known as SIPs — report dramatically lower levels of burnout than the national average (13.5 percent versus 54.4 percent), according to a study led by researchers at NYU School of Medicine published online July 9 in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. The findings indicate that the independence and sense of autonomy that providers have in these small practices may provide some protection against symptoms of burnout.

Physician burnout is a major concern for the healthcare industry. It is associated with low job satisfaction, reduced productivity among physicians, and may negatively impact quality of care. Multiple national surveys suggest that more than half of all physicians report symptoms of burnout.

Research on physician burnout has focused primarily on hospital settings or large primary care practices. The researchers say that this is the first study that examines the prevalence of burnout among physicians in small independent primary practices—practices with five or fewer physicians. Despite declines in the number of small practices in the United States, primarily due to market forces driving consolidation, close to 70 percent of all primary care office visits occur in small practice settings, according to the American Medical Association.

Researchers examined data collected from 235 physicians practicing in 174 SIPs in New York City. The rate of provider reported burnout was 13.5 percent, compared to the 2014 national rate of 54.4 percent. A 2013 meta-analysis of physician surveys conducted in the United States and Europe found that lower burnout rates were associated with greater perceived autonomy, a quality and safety culture at work, effective coping skills, and less work-life conflict.

“Burnout is about the practice culture and infrastructure in which primary care doctors work. So the obvious question is: what is it about the work environment that results in low burnout rates in small practices?” says Donna Shelley, MD, professor in the Departments of Population Health and Medicine at NYU Langone Health, and the study’s senior author. “It’s important to study the group that’s not showing high burnout to help us create environments that foster lower burnout rates. The good news is that a culture and systems can be changed to support primary care doctors in a way that would reduce the factors that are leading to burnout.”

How the Study Was Conducted

Researchers analyzed data as part of the HealthyHearts NYC (HHNYC) trial, which is funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s (AHRQ) EvidenceNOW national initiative. AHRQ is a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The HHNYC trial evaluates how practice coaching or facilitation helps SIPs adopt clinical guidelines for the treatment and prevention of cardiovascular disease.

Each physician answered a multiple choice question with response options indicating various levels of burnout. Options ranged from no symptoms of burnout, to feeling completely burned out and questioning whether or not to continue practicing medicine. The question was validated against the Maslach Burnout Inventory, a nationally recognized measure that identifies occupational burnout. Physician respondents were categorized as burned out if they checked one of the last three options in the multiple choice question.

As part of the HHNYC trial, physician respondents were also asked a number of questions about the culture of their practices. The tool used specifically measures “adaptive reserve,” or a culture where individuals have opportunities for growth and the ability to learn from mistakes by talking and listening to each other. Physicians who described this kind of culture in their practice reported lower levels of burnout. According to Dr. Shelley, practices where employees feel that they are included in decisions and have control over their work environment are referred to as having “high adaptive reserve.”

Dr. Shelley is careful not to minimize the challenges faced by physicians working in solo practices or SIPs. She cites that even though burnout rates are lower, many of these practices are struggling financially, and many of these physicians are on-call all of the time.

“The more we can understand what drives low rates of burnout, the more likely it is that we’ll find solutions to this problem,” says Dr. Shelley. “The hope is that our research can inform ways for larger systems to foster autonomy within practices so that there is space to carve out a work environment that is aligned with doctors’ needs, values, and competencies.”

Dr. Shelley lists a number of the study’s limitations. Since the findings are representative of physicians working in small practices in New York City, the study does not capture burnout rates in other cities across the country. It is also possible that the researchers underestimated the number of hours worked by physicians, since hours worked is associated with burnout. Dr. Shelley also cited the lack of data linking physician burnout to patient outcomes.

The research was supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

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NORCAL Mutual Earns Top Honor at 60th Annual IMCA Awards

NORCAL Mutual Insurance Co. won the coveted SAMMY Award for “best overall work” at the 60th annual Insurance Marketing & Communications Association (IMCA) Showcase Awards on June 26. The award honored NORCAL’s Employee Appreciation campaign, which thanked employees for their hard work throughout 2017. The SAMMY Award, selected by conference participants, recognizes the best overall work among all of the “Award of Excellence” and “Best of Show” winners.

NORCAL also received Awards of Excellence for its Customer Experience Champions launch event and Employee Appreciation campaign, and a Best of Show award for its event.

“It’s an honor for our work to be recognized among some of the best marketing and communications minds in the insurance industry,” said Joy Corso, vice president of marketing and communications at NORCAL Mutual. “We are very proud to be selected from such a talented group of peers, and are inspired to build on these accomplishments and drive excellence.”

IMCA is the oldest insurance marketing-communications trade association in North America with a diverse membership of marketing, advertising, digital media, social media, graphic design, public relations, employee communications and corporate communications professionals. Showcase Awards were presented to insurance industry organizations in 37 distinct categories, including advertising, annual reports, corporate print communications, interactive, marketing communications and public relations.

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CMIC Group Announces Appointment of Mary Ann Bentz, MD, to CMIC Board

CMIC Group announced that Mary Ann Bentz, MD, has joined the CMIC Board of Directors.

 “Dr. Bentz is an experienced and dynamic medical professional,” said Stephen J. Gallant, chief executive officer of CMIC Group. “Her leadership and background will prove to be a substantial asset to the Board as well as the company.”

Bentz received her medical degree from the Boston University School of Medicine, where she was also awarded the Joseph Cochin Award in Pharmacology and Medical Ethics. She completed her residency in Dermatology at Boston University and Tufts University. Bentz has served on the Board of Directors of Lawrence & Memorial Hospital in New London, Conn., and was also thepresident of the Medical Staff at the hospital. She currently works in private practice in New London at Dermatology Associates of Southeastern Connecticut.

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Nurses Say Today’s Anti-Union, Anti-Worker Supreme Court Decision Threatens Patient Safety

The Supreme Court decision today to roll back decades of union and worker rights in Janus v. AFSCME poses a significant threat to patient safety as well as worker and community health and economic standards, said National Nurses United, the nation’s largest union and professional association of registered nurses.

Registered nurses affiliated with California Nurses Association/National Nurses United (CNA/NNU) will also hold press conferences today at medical facilities throughout California and in Chicago to discuss the impact of today’s ruling

NNU is urging Congress to reverse the decision and support the Workplace Democracy Act, introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Senate and Rep. Mark Pocan in the House to strengthen the rights of workers to form unions – and for state legislators to also act to protect the rights of workers and unions.

Additionally, “we encourage all non-union workers to join strong unions to protect their right to act collectively to advocate for themselves, their co-workers, and the public well being,” said NNU Co-President Deborah Burger, RN.

Janus, said Burger, is “a gift to billionaires, corporate executives and far right lobbying groups that have worked for years to destroy worker rights and unions. It also harms women and people of color who have historically had more economic opportunity in public workplaces in contrast to decades of discrimination by private employers.”

“But the architects of this decision have a far larger goal than just hamstringing public unions and workers,” said NNU Executive Director Bonnie Castillo, RN.

“They want to remove any opposition to their agenda of eliminating all protections on public health and safety, in healthcare, environmental pollution, clear air and water, food safety, and workplace standards, that they see as an impediment to their profits and authoritarian power,” said Castillo.

“That’s why they have targeted unions in both the public and private sector who with tens of millions of members are a powerful voice for working people to unite to defend our communities and nation,” Castillo said.

In healthcare, the decision “seeks to handcuff registered nurses and other public healthcare workers who challenge unsafe conditions or cuts in patient services,” said Burger.  “Nurses have seen hospitals aggressively pushing to cut corners that lead to dangerous conditions that jeopardize patient lives, as well as corporate-aligned politicians shredding public healthcare and other safety net programs.”

“Nurses will never be silent in the face of this ruling, or in any other threat to our patients, our members, and our communities,” Castillo said.

Under a 1977 Supreme Court case, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, workers represented by a union who object to the union’s political activity must either pay union dues or otherwise pay a fee to cover the cost of the union’s work to represent them for the cost of negotiating improvements in pay, benefits and working conditions.

Under Janus, the Court broke with that established law and court precedent to allow public workers to refuse to pay any dues or fees, even though unions are required to represent all employees covered under a union contract. 

Nurses in public hospitals emphasize the difference with a collective union voice to advocate for patient safety and public protections.

“Budget cuts frequently threaten to close services that the community desperately needs,” said Martese Chism, a nurse at Chicago’s John H. Stroger Hospital. “When the system threatened to close pediatric services at Stroger, we came together with other public sector unions at County and fought to keep pediatrics open.”

“With our communities facing a serious opioid crisis, and public health emergencies, patients count on us to act on their behalf when care conditions are eroded, when staffing is unsafe, when decisions are based on budget goals, not patient need. That’s what this ruling threatens,” said San Bernardino County, CA Public Health RN Kimberly Amini.  

“It’s the union that brings many safety laws in legislation and public regulatory protections,” says Maureen Dugan, RN, who works at the University of California San Francisco. “The attack on our union is an attack on our patients.”  

In advance of the decision, NNU has been meeting with nurses who work in public health settings and encouraging them, with growing success, to work together to protect their collective, union voice to strengthen their ability to speak out for the safety of their patients and improved economic and workplace standards for their colleagues.

Janus is modeled after so-called “right to work” private sector laws in 28 states. In those states, median household incomes are $8,174 less than in non-right to work states, people under 65 are 46 percent more likely to be uninsured, infant mortality rates are 12 percent higher, and workplace deaths occur 49 percent more often. 

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CMIC Group Announces Appointment of Nicholas Bontempo, MD to CMIC Board

CMIC Group has announced that Nicholas Bontempo, MD, has joined the CMIC Board of Directors.

“Dr. Bontempo is a highly skilled and exceptional physician that is well respected in the community,” said Stephen J. Gallant, chief executive officer of CMIC Group. “His expertise and leadership experience will benefit the Board as well as the company as a whole.”

Bontempo graduated from The College of New Jersey in 2003 where he majored in biology and minored in chemistry and psychology. He obtained his medical degree from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey – New Jersey Medical School in 2007. Bontempo then went on to complete his orthopedic residency at the University of Connecticut in 2012. As a chief resident in orthopedic surgery, he was awarded the Cavasos resident award, given to the most well-rounded resident, mentor and role model. Also, as a resident Bontempo was awarded the Courtland G. Lewis Founders award from the Greater Hartford Orthopedic Educational Research Fund, as well as the Connecticut Orthopedic Society Research award. He currently practices with Orthopedic Associates of Hartford.

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MICA Announces the Appointment of Timothy J. Friers as Underwriting Vice President

Earlier this month, Mutual Insurance Co. of Arizona (MICA) announced the appointment of Timothy (Tim) J. Friers as its new underwriting vice president. Friers will join MICA as vice president on July 9, 2018, and will become underwriting vice president upon the retirement of Mary K. Hedin.

Hedin will retire in August 2018 after more than 18 years of service with MICA and a total of thirty-seven years in the insurance industry. During the one-month overlap, Mary and Tim will work together to assure a smooth transition.

Hedin joined MICA after 19 years’ experience in the medical professional liability insurance industry. During her time at MICA, she was responsible for underwriting hospital system risks, converting MICA’s underwriting policy management system, transitioning underwriting files from paper to an imaging system and bringing on more than 2,600 new policyholders during a hard market. Prior to joining MICA, she held management positions with both AIG and COPIC Insurance Co.

“We are pleased to welcome Tim to MICA’s senior management team,” said James Garland, MD, MICA chairman and chief executive. “His extensive experience in the industry will undoubtedly be an asset to MICA and will help shape MICA’s future.”

Friers comes to MICA from his most recent position as senior vice president and chief operating officer at NORCAL Mutual Insurance Co., where his responsibilities included overseeing underwriting, policyholder services, billing, claims and risk management for all NORCAL Group companies. Prior to that appointment in 2015, he was the senior vice president and chief underwriting officer at NORCAL Mutual Insurance Co. Previously, Friers served for 10 years as vice president-underwriting and policyholder services at PMSLIC Insurance Co. (now known as NORCAL Specialty Insurance Co., a subsidiary of NORCAL Mutual Insurance Co.), a medical professional liability carrier that was formed by the Pennsylvania Medical Society in 1978.

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ISMIE Indemnity Coverage Now Available in All 50 States

ISMIE Indemnity, an excess and surplus line division of ISMIE Mutual Insurance Co., announced yesterday that it now offers medical professional liability insurance products in every state in the U.S.

With approval from state insurance regulators, ISMIE Indemnity reports that it is positioned to deliver its protection and customized solutions to medical professionals and facilities throughout the United States.

ISMIE Mutual also continues to expand its writing platform and offers medical liability products on an admitted basis in 10 states and the District of Columbia.

“This is a milestone for ISMIE, which has been serving dedicated clinicians and facilities in some of the nation’s toughest practice environments since 1976,” said Paul H. DeHaan, MD, ISMIE chairman. “Now in our fifth decade, we are available in all 50 states, helping practices expand physically or digitally with competitive coverage and pricing options on a variety of medical liability solutions.”

ISMIE Indemnity’s medical professional liability and healthcare facilities products are offered through wholesale and retail broker networks across the U.S.

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