When Dr. Hela Kotob started her search for a job post-residency, she felt overwhelmed by her options. Without a particular location in mind, she entertained a bunch of possibilities. Her family wanted her to come back to Iowa, but she was more interested in traveling somewhere new. Engaged to be married, her husband, also a physician, worked for The Advisory Board Company, and traveled often for work. He wasn’t tied to any specific location either. The future was wide open.
“Sometimes it’s nice not to be tied down to one location,” Kotob remembered. “But sometimes when you have too many options it’s overwhelming.”
By the time she was ready for a job search, Kotob had a fairly wide variety of experience to draw on. She grew up in the Quad Cities area of Iowa, which actually consists of five cities clustered together around the Northwest Illinois, Southeast Iowa border. She went to College a few hours away in Champagne, Illinois, but after that traveled to Damascus, Syria on a Fulbright Scholarship, where she worked at a hospital. It was the last year any Americans would be able to travel there before the civil war began. Afterward, Kotob went to Georgetown University in Washington DC, where she earned a Master’s degree in physiology, then went to medical school at Lincoln Memorial University, right on the border of where Kentucky, West Virginia, and Tennessee all meet.
“That was weird going from Washington, DC, where everything is happening, to the middle of nowhere, up in the mountains where nothing is going on,” Kotob recalled. “We had to cross into Kentucky to go to a Wal-Mart, and people would just sit there with their lunches at the entrance. That was the scenery. If we wanted to go to a restaurant we had to drive an hour to go to Knoxville.”
Kotob moved again to do residency, this time to Toledo, Ohio. She graduated in June 2017. But by December the previous Winter, when most of her classmates had already signed a contract and knew where they were going to work, Kotob was still searching. In fact, she was beginning to get a little freaked out. “Most of my classmates had already signed and knew what they were doing, and I didn’t even have a location picked out yet,” she said. “And that was a little stressful.”
The problem was committing to a location. “I was telling a co-worker, I didn’t know what I want, I didn’t want to commit to a certain place. I wanted to be free. I wanted to be flexible.” That’s when the co-worker mentioned he had just done an interview with US Acute Care Solutions, which had a traveling physician “Firefighter” program. Physicians were able to live where they want, have control over their schedules, and still be a member of a group with a great culture. “It honestly just seemed like the perfect thing to do,” Kotob said.
But the question of where to live still lingered. She and her husband both wanted a place that was sunny and warm. Meanwhile, her husband’s travels mostly took him to the East Coast. They talked about Miami, but eventually settled on nearby Ft. Lauderdale, which was a little more affordable and quiet.
Originally, Kotob had been thinking she would likely move jobs in a few years, but working for USACS that attitude has begun to shift. “I think the biggest thing that made me feel good about this job, was that other companies would throw ridiculous signing bonuses at you, but you had to commit for a number of years. That was psychologically not working for me. I was like, ‘What if I don’t like it? What if I hate it?’ At USACS, on the other hand, it was three months’ notice. Because the company was confident you’d be happy once you sign.” Kotob said the group’s confidence drew her in, and so far, it’s working. “I signed on thinking this would be temporary. But it may be also something that is long-term sustainable. I’m really happy here.”
Learn more about US Acute Care Solution’s Traveling Physician Firefighter Program.