PHYSICIAN SPOTLIGHT: David J. Morton, MD
In leading efforts to redesign the quality program at St. Anthony’s Medical Center, cardiologist David J. Morton, MD, has an important advantage.
He’s still a practicing physician.
“I think that’s really critical,” said Morton, who became the hospital’s chief medical officer in April.
“One of the mistakes many hospitals have made is that they don’t have enough active, clinical expertise when they try to design these processes,” he said.
“It’s more administrative people doing that, or sometimes physicians who are not as actively involved.
“There’s just a difference in perspective when it comes to making sure there’s no disconnect between the administration and the bedside providers, whether they be nursing personnel or physicians.”
For Morton, that connection comes with retaining his cardiology practice on a part-time basis even as he juggles his administrative duties. He devotes two days a week to his clinical practice as part of The Heart Specialty Associates and focuses the remaining three days each week on his chief medical officer role.
Morton saw the opportunity to take on the administration job as a means of making a broader difference in the healthcare system at St. Anthony’s.
“I was willing to do it because I really care about this institution,” he said. “And I saw this as a way I can give back to my community by hopefully improving the quality of service we provide.”
Morton is a native of St. Louis, having grown up in the South County area.
He earned his medical degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia Medical School in 1982, and completed his residency at the Bowman Gray School of Medicine of Wake Forest University and The North Carolina Baptist Hospitals, Inc. in 1984.
He completed his cardiology fellowship at the University of Cincinnati School of Medicine in 1986 and is board certified in internal medicine and cardiology, as well as interventional cardiology.
Morton returned to St. Louis after his training and began practicing as an interventional cardiologist. Metro Heart Group, which he served as president, grew to become the area’s largest cardiology group as a 30-physician practice.
In January 2011, Morton and 10 colleagues broke off to join St. Anthony’s Medical Center as it created The Heart Specialty Associates.
The group’s cardiologists have board certifications in cardiology, echocardiography, electrophysiology and peripheral vascular treatment. They maintain offices at the St. Anthony's Physician Office Center, Kirkwood and the Shrewsbury area.
Their practice spans the spectrum of cardiac patient care, from screenings for the prevention of heart and vascular disease to inpatient treatments and follow-up care. The group provides a nationally certified Cardiac Rehabilitation Program and runs a research-driven Outpatient Heart Failure program aimed at reducing the risk of hospitalization and readmission.
Their practice also includes a new Heart Evaluation and Rapid Treatment (HEART) unit designed to speed the cardiac evaluation and treatment process in a dedicated outpatient cardiac-care unit.
“Our goal has been to form a more dedicated and high-quality cardiovascular institute,” said Morton, who served as director for the effort.
Morton’s prior administrative experiences equipped him for the challenges of becoming chief medical officer for the hospital. The role encompasses providing senior executive leadership for the medical center and facilitating interactions with St. Anthony’s medical staff, administration and board of directors.
While Morton has maintained his clinical practice, scaling it back has been the most difficult part of the transition process.
“I had to communicate with many of my patients, and they have had to choose a different cardiologist to assume their care, while there are still some patients who will actively see me going forward,” he said. “I was lucky in that I do some of the more specialized procedures that tend to be a little more elective, as opposed to a general cardiology practice. But I have had to decrease the time I can spend in the cardiac cath lab doing procedures.”
Morton’s practice in interventional cardiology has included treatment for abdominal and thoracic aortic aneurysms, as well as cardiac catheterization and coronary stenting and interventions.
He has performed diagnostic and interventional procedures for peripheral vascular disease, including carotid and renal angiograms. He has also provided therapy for venous insufficiency, including radiofrequency ablation procedures.
While Morton’s two roles divide his work week, the overlap between them is important, he said.
“Being an actively practicing physician makes my role as chief medical officer much more relevant and more tuned in,” he said, “so that I can cross that line between actively practicing and administration, as opposed to losing contact with what’s happening on the clinical side.”
That’s been essential when it comes to the current quality initiative, he said.
“We’re really redesigning the whole way we measure quality, and making sure that we are accountable not only to outside agencies like CMS and other authoritative agencies, but also to the patients themselves.”
The latter aspect includes tracking the medical center’s mortality numbers for procedures and surgeries, as well as its rates of infection and of correct drug administration.
“We want to make sure all those parameters are maximized,” Morton said. “The goal is ensuring we have the mechanisms and resources and manpower in place to achieve the highest standards in all our quality rankings.”
Outside of work, Morton enjoys golf and ocean sailing, and is also an avid scuba diver and divemaster.
Morton and his wife, Kathy, live in Town & Country. They have one son, Luke, a college freshman.