Trained general surgeon Dr. Wendy Ketner couldn’t have been more excited to find Expert Institute (EI) 6 years ago. When she left clinical practice, she was looking for an opportunity on the startup side where she could utilize her 10+ years of medical knowledge and make a real impact on clients in a new industry. Now she’s the Senior Vice President of Medical Affairs at Expert Institute, helping attorneys understand the narratives behind their malpractice, personal injury, and mass tort cases, informing better decisions based on solid interpretation of the medical facts.
We recently caught up with Dr. Ketner to learn more about her journey to Expert Institute and how she’s helped the company grow during her tenure.
How did your medical career lead you to Expert Institute?
I spent 3 years working in general surgery and during my last year, I realized that I didn’t love the physical act of operating as much as I had anticipated. I started speaking to anyone that had left clinical medicine and done something different that would talk to me—those in biotech, consulting, finance, entrepreneurship, pharma—and ended up working at a company that finds experts to support financial investors. For 2 years, I ran their healthcare hedge fund book of business, which was a large portfolio of device, pharma, and biotech investors who wanted to speak with physicians about what needed to be done to pass clinical trials and how much they would use that device or drug in their practice. I enjoyed it, but I wasn’t using my medical training as much as I wanted to.
One of my current colleagues at EI had worked with me at my former company for a period of time. When he started at EI, he told me the company was looking for more physicians. I said I wanted to make a change and the rest is history.
What was your first impression of the EI team?
I was excited about and impressed by the energy and the people! [Founder and CEO] Michael Talve’s passion came across very clearly, and our first meeting didn’t even feel like a job interview. It was more figuring out if this was the right fit: Can I help grow this company? Can I be a part of it? And it was clear that I could bring my medical background and the managerial skills I had learned over to the EI physician team.
I knew when I left medicine that at some point I wanted to do something on the startup side, but that was established enough that I didn’t run the risk of being out of a job in 6 months. I was excited about where the company was. I anticipated that it would grow a lot in the next couple of years, and I wanted to be part of that.
Since then the office space and the size of the team have grown, but the caliber of our people has always been extraordinary. Our marketing efforts have improved and our technology has continued to evolve. But I think particularly for we physicians, the level of service we provide to the clients has changed. They’ve come to expect so much more from us across the medical team both with Case Clinics (medical record reviews), answering curbside questions, and expert referrals.
You mentioned that clients have come to expect more from our Case Clinic product. Can you give us a brief description of Case Clinics and what you like most about them?
Our attorney clients are phenomenal litigators, but they don’t necessarily know the technical aspects of the medicine behind each case as well as a physician. The best attorneys, with the most medical knowledge, will admit they don’t know what they don’t know. They are dedicated to their craft and realize the years it takes to master a surgery or a treatment algorithm based on looking at the entire clinical picture for a patient. Case Clinics are an opportunity for we physicians to help our clients make the most of the cases they are working on.
For example, we’ll have a client that’s looking at a complicated ICU course and they don’t know whether infectious disease didn’t order the right antibiotics or if the surgeon should have taken the patient back to the OR sooner. They’re just trying to figure out what’s going on with the case and see if it has merit, and if so, who is liable. Our team reviews the records and explains the story. We tell the client where there could have been deviations in the standard of care and where there weren’t. We also do a lot of work on the front end to confirm our suspicions with the literature that was available at the time of the potential malpractice, use UpToDate, and phone a friend or two.
The best part of the Case Clinic process is that the attorneys are so appreciative of everything that we do for them. The other day, I wrote a client a summary of why he shouldn’t take the case back to his clients. I got an email back from the client that said, “Wendy, your summary was not just helpful, it was invaluable.” Another member of my team got feedback from someone who said, “I’ve never worked with a physician of this caliber before.” It’s really nice to know that we’re providing white glove service to not only our clients but most importantly, our clients’ clients. And at the same time, it’s rewarding for us as MDs to continue to feel like physicians—to keep up our medical endeavors, and to actually use all that knowledge that we spent so many years acquiring with our heads in the books, on the wards, and in the OR or office.
Can you tell me about yourself and something you like to do in your free time?
When I first left medicine, I truly didn’t know what to do with two days off every weekend. Now I’ve picked up SoulCycle, running and it’s great to have more time to exercise, hang out with friends, and go away for weekends. I’m a big foodie so I enjoy trying new restaurants. And then on rainy days, binging on Netflix or Hulu is my guilty pleasure. I’ve got two siblings. My brother is an eye surgeon and my sister helped start a hedge fund investing in medical technology. Everybody’s in medicine despite the fact that neither one of my parents is. Go figure.
What’s something that we wouldn’t know about you at first glance?
I was on Babysitters Club poster when I was 7 years old! I went to a studio in Queens and shot a poster for the bookstore Eli’s books. I also tried out for Broadway when I was in the 5th grade. It was the year that Daisy Eagan won the Tony Award for The Secret Garden. She was 11 and the youngest girl ever to win a Tony and I kind of became obsessed. But I was too tall, and had braces, and couldn’t sing. So that was the beginning and end of my Broadway career.
What would you say to physicians who are maybe looking to get out of clinical medicine and are considering Expert Institute?
EI is a great environment and a growing company—the skies the limit. The medical team has a really good time together and these people have become some of my best friends—you never lose that bond of being a physician and enduring the training. To the physicians out there thinking about making a change: I think some of the smartest people change careers lots of times in their lives. But as a physician, it’s really hard to go to a place where you’re not working with other physicians or where you’re not using your medical degree. EI offers a really unique opportunity to continue your learning and to continue interacting not only with the other physicians at EI, but other top experts in the field that you might otherwise not get to work with.