Emergency physicians see people at some of their worst moments—traumatic injury, grave illness, the death of a loved one—and provide compassionate care without expectation of recognition or reward. For emergency physician John Geesbreght, MD, MS, FACEP, these principles have been a driving force in his life, guiding his decisions as a medical director, father, mentor, and member of the Fort Worth, Texas, community.
Dr. Geesbreght was born in south Chicago. The son of immigrant parents, he was inspired to become a physician in elementary school. He went on to practice in the emergency department in Fort Worth, where he served as emergency department medical director of Texas Health Harris Methodist Fort Worth for more than 40 years, providing care to his family and community. As a leader, Dr. Geesbreght searched for innovative solutions to make sure his emergency department would deliver the best patient care possible.
One of those solutions was founding PhysAssist Scribes, Inc., the first scribe company in the United States, in 1995. Initially, the company recruited pre-med students from Texas Christian University and trained them to work alongside emergency physicians to provide scribe services in the ED to improve communication and documentation, free up physicians’ time for patient care, and give students valuable medical experience. Both of Dr. Geesbreght’s sons went on to lead the company. Although neither became a physician, they both were guided by the principles of hard work and compassion they learned from their father and his career.
Dr. Geesbreght’s sons, Andrew and Alex, recently sat down with ACEP Now’s Medical Editor in Chief Kevin Klauer, DO, EJD, FACEP, to discuss their father’s career in emergency medicine and the influence he had on their own careers. Alex served as president of PhysAssist prior to its acquisition by TeamHealth in 2014. Andrew served as president of PhysAssist prior to its acquisition by HealthChannels in 2018 and is currently chief leadership officer at HealthChannels.
KK: Alex and Andrew, let’s discuss your father’s emergency medicine career and how it‘s influenced your life.
Alex G: The highlight for me was getting to work with my dad for 12 years. I was an attorney for a while and then was general counsel for his emergency medicine group.
When I was 9 years old, I started working, volunteering, with my dad down at the hospital and I thought, “Oh, my dad’s a doctor, maybe I’ll be a doctor.” I was 16, and I used to spend the night. I think I logged in 750 hours of community service through working at the emergency department. I very quickly realized when I got older that I couldn‘t handle being in that environment, and one of the things that I realized is that my dad never talked about what happened at the [emergency department]. When I started seeing people die, the horrible accidents, heartache, I remember thinking, “How could he not talk about this?”
Although he did shield us from the harm that some of the stories from the ED might do to a little kid, he took those lessons and was able to apply them to our world every day.
He is such a great teacher. He taught us all of these lessons and he had all of this wisdom. He never shared those stories with us, and I don‘t know why, but I kind of wish he had. This also speaks to his stability and his ability to separate family life from work life.