Josh Emdur, DO
SteadyMD Chief Medical Officer, Marathon Runner, Rock Climber
Josh Emdur, DO, has two roles at SteadyMD: physician and Chief Medical Officer. His days are busy providing leadership to empower other clinicians to conduct their most meaningful work and providing high-quality care to his patients. He enjoys a balanced life of personal time with his family, the great outdoors of Colorado, and leading our team of clinicians. Here he provides background on how his father influenced the way he pursues doctor-patient interactions and why he believes telehealth is the best way to improve public access to healthcare.
Who inspired you to become a doctor?
I’m the son of a physician, so I grew up around the practice of medicine during a different time in life. In my father’s generation, practices were primarily physician-owned, like small family businesses. To be successful during that time, you had to market yourself and build a trusted reputation. You had to provide amazing service to your patients and embody many personality traits that were expected from a physician – professional, caring, and reliable. I grew up watching my dad be this person. He was always available for his patients and his community.
What did the medical field look like when you finished residency?
It was 2007 and doctors were being employed by big companies. They didn’t have to participate in the building up of their practice—the big companies did this for you. The downside of this is that medicine became a lot less personal. I was looking for opportunities that allowed me to provide care for patients and have some autonomy for myself. I was able to sustain that during my 10 years of caring for patients while working as a hospitalist.
You had an epiphany during your time in the hospital, what was it?
During my time as a hospitalist, I was treating a lot of issues that could have been prevented if patients had better access to care. I realized I could have a bigger impact if I went back to my roots of family medicine and preventative care. This would help treat people before they ended up in the ER or needed to be hospitalized.
How did you end up connecting with SteadyMD?
In the spring of 2017, I was working an overnight shift in the hospital and had some down time between hospital admissions. I logged onto Facebook and I got a message from Yarone Goren, SteadyMD COO and co-founder. He was looking for an experienced primary care doctor to lead an online practice specifically for runners. It was important for the doctor to be passionate about running. It’s where I saw the future of medicine: connecting patients with doctors who have similar interests and taking care of them in a different way, just like my dad always did. The original SteadyMD model gave me an opportunity to build a practice of like-minded patients which sounded amazing to me.
You’re both a practicing clinician and Chief Medical Officer of SteadyMD. Talk to us about those two roles.
My mission is to improve access to healthcare by making it convenient, effective, high-value, and accessible to everyone.
In order to accomplish my mission, I feel obligated to really dive in and explore all the different care modalities that we have available today: chat-based messaging, video calls, and remote patient monitoring. Using all these tools, we are able to design a new modern healthcare system that is focused on keeping patients healthy, but that also empowers clinicians with the tools they need to be able to accomplish that goal, in addition to being able to care for themselves. If you’re not in a good place personally, it’s impossible to take good care of others.
On some days, I spend time working with SteadyMD’s leadership on how to best deliver high-quality medical care for our partners. During the rapid growth phase of virtual care during the pandemic, we have met with many ambitious partners who want us to power their care models. While it seems like almost anything can be done by telemedicine, we have learned that it is largely up to our clinician leadership to develop processes on how to bring these offerings to market without compromising patient safety or quality of care.
On other days, I have the pleasure to use my medical knowledge to help patients, such as treating patients for a virtual urgent care partner or caring for my personal panel of primary care patients.
“I have found that continuing to work clinically as well as functioning as the Chief Medical Officer allows me not only credibility with my team, but also provides me with a deep understanding of what needs to be done to continue to deliver virtual care of the highest quality.”
Clinicians Leading Clinicians — elaborate on what this means and how it fits into your role.
SteadyMD has strong, experienced clinical leadership across the company, ensuring that the clinician voice is rooted in the key decisions we make. This has been intentionally ingrained into our culture since our start in 2016.
If the clinicians are involved in making the decisions, they’re building the beautiful workflows, making sure the work is meaningful, and it recreates the style of medical practice of my father’s era. It brings that autonomy to practice the craft in a way that is best for their patients. Clinicians have the ability to improve their practice and work towards mastering it. They develop a deep sense of purpose in what they’re doing.
It’s my job to make sure we’re doing something better than what’s happening in corporate medicine right now.
“We need to completely overhaul and recreate the physician experience in order to improve the current model.”
What clinicians would best fit in at SteadyMD?
“We need clinicians who completely align with our philosophy and truly believe there is a better way to take care of patients.”
They are clinicians that want to innovate and are comfortable with change. They are not okay with achieving just the status quo.
How does SteadyMD stand out from other telehealth companies?
It’s really about clinicians having the ability to influence the way they are taking care of patients and practicing their craft. We never consider our clinicians to be just bodies or cogs in a machine. We aspire to make every one of our clinicians feel respected as highly-educated, skilled, working professionals. We take pride in empowering them to provide great care to their patients.
What are your interests outside of work?
Before medical school, I really got into rock climbing. I was a rock climber above all else. As an undergraduate student in Boulder, Colorado I was rock climbing every day. It taught me so much about life, and it’s a metaphor for being a physician.
As a climber, you have to be a visionary and believe in yourself and the fact that nothing can get in your way. I viewed this opportunity with SteadyMD very similarly to my first climb in Yosemite. You’re in Yosemite Valley. You know what needs to be done. At SteadyMD, we knew we needed to create a whole new way of delivering care virtually. When you’re a rock climber at the bottom of the mountain, you know you want to get to the top, but not necessarily how you’re going to get there. The only way to do both of those things is to actually do the work and make sure that you’re making careful decisions at every step. If you make a mistake, there’s big consequences — both in healthcare and in rock climbing.