How to Become a Medical Director

Effective communication; ability to coach, influence and engage a team; and continuing education are just some of the characteristics a great leader possesses. Success as a medical director goes beyond exhibiting outstanding clinical skills, but leadership skills as well.

At ApolloMD, we believe that an exceptional leader is one of the most crucial components to a successful emergency department. ApolloMD is just one of a few groups nationwide in which all physician leaders still practice clinically, directly benefiting our hospital partners and physician partners.

Get to know three ApolloMD Emergency Medicine (EM) Medical Directors with this Q&A.

Where are you serving as the medical director?

Dr. Hijinio Carreon: Mercy Medical Center located in Des Moines, IA

Dr. Keia Hewitt: Carolinas Healthcare System Stanly located in Albemarle, NC

Dr. John Wood: Navicent Health located in Macon, GA


What lead you to emergency medicine?

Dr. Hijinio Carreon: Medicine has always been a part of my life. Growing up I had a brother with a health condition that required a lot of medical attention. For most of my childhood he was in and out of the hospital, so at a young age I realized what a big part of medicine my life was. This is when I decided I would attempt to pursue a career in healthcare. However, my decision to become an EM physician came as I got more involved with the different aspects of medicine. I knew there was only one specialty that allowed me to enjoy all of the others as well.

Dr. Keia Hewitt: I chose emergency medicine because it encompasses population health and wellness. Emergency physicians make decisions that impact the overall wellbeing of a community through public health initiatives and education, which is a personal area of interest.

Dr. John Wood: Growing up I knew I was going to be one of two things: a doctor or a lawyer. At first, I thought I wanted to be a pediatrician. One day during clinical rotations, I was standing in the middle of the emergency department with chaos all around me, that’s when I decided on emergency medicine. The constant hustle and fast-paced atmosphere felt like home. Being able to take care of almost anything was what drew me in.

What was your path to clinical leadership like?

Dr. Hijinio Carreon: As irony has it, I was the head-intern of my intern class then became the chief resident of my residency program. As I evolved as a physician, so did my leadership skills. When I first came to Mercy, I did not think I would become the Medical Director, but it was on my radar. I did a lot of things in the background to prepare myself to be a leader. What I have realized throughout medical school and my practice is communication plays a huge role in medicine. I have focused on taking a lot of communication courses to develop that skill set and believe it has truly helped me as a leader. It is not just improving my communication with my department, but with colleagues in other subspecialties and hospital administration.

Dr. Keia Hewitt:  I have always wanted to pursue clinical leadership. I believed that as a leader, I could be more effective in emergency medicine and impact a greater number of patients. I discussed my career interests with clinical leaders, read leadership books, took development courses and engaged leadership opportunities when they were presented.

Dr. John Wood: My first leadership position was overseeing the QA (quality assessment) responsibilities for our department. It was my second year out of training when I was approached about these new responsibilities. QA was something I really enjoyed working on. The attention I was able to provide helped the department and team in a big way. But even then, I never anticipated I would take that next step. Becoming the medical director of Navicent happened after our partnership with ApolloMD. I served as a voice for our department and got involved in the transitioning process and was later approached about the position.

As a leader, what do you focus on with your team?

Dr. Hijinio Carreon: Friendship and camaraderie within the department and myself. Building relationships with your team is important. We work as a cohesive group. My team knows that I do not just serve as the title on my badge, but I represent them and their voice, not just my interest.

Dr. Keia Hewitt: Engagement. It is important that the entire team is invested in the success of the department to ensure that it flourishes. I want everyone on the team to have a voice and feel comfortable expressing his or her opinions. I try to regularly check in with the team, individually and collectively, to determine any outstanding needs or concerns that are not being addressed, which could break down the team unit. The ED can be a challenging environment and having everyone engaged and focused on a common goal, minimizes the potential disruptions that could damage the team and ultimately impact the flow of the department and patient care.

Dr. John Wood:  Transparency. Weekly communications are sent out to ensure everyone is on the same page. If something needs to be fixed, the team knows I will hear them out and we can work on a solution together. I communicate with my team as just another member of the group because practice decisions affect us all equally.

What advice would you give to a young physician seeking a clinical leadership position?

Dr. Hijinio Carreon: Volunteer for committees and initiatives within your department and hospital.  It is important to know what is going on in your facility and voluntary positions are a great way to do so. When becoming involved it is also important to maintain a healthy balance. Sometimes people get too involved and end up not wanting to pursue a leadership position. I also suggest reading Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

Dr. Keia Hewitt: Prepare.  If you are interested in clinical leadership invest time in the preparation.  Volunteer for positions, read, get involved at your hospital, join local, regional and national organizations and stay engaged.  If an opportunity is presented, accept it and work hard.

Dr. John Wood: Join your local ACEP chapter. By joining you will have the opportunity to develop leadership skills, build relationships and learn and discuss problems and challenges that may affect your hospital in the future. Read as much as you can. Great leadership readings include Eisenhower on LeadershipWords at WorkCrucial Conversations and Hardwiring Excellence.


Dr. Hijinio Carreon received his bachelor’s degree from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. He received his medical degree from Des Moines University Osteopathic Medical Center. Dr. Carreon completed his internship at the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine in Port Chester, N.Y. He completed his emergency medicine residency at the University of Illinois Medicine at Peoria.

Board certified in emergency medicine, Dr. Carreon currently serves as the emergency department medical director of Mercy Medical Center for ApolloMD. He is a member of the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine, American College of Healthcare Executives & Physician Executives, American Medical Association, Polk County Medical Society, Iowa Medical Society, a fellow of the American College of Emergency Physicians and a fellow of American Academy of Emergency Medicine.

Dr. Keia Hewitt received her bachelor’s degree from Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans. She received her medical degree from the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Peoria. She completed her emergency medicine residency at New York Medical College. Dr. Hewitt received her Master of Business Administration and Master of Public Health from Benedictine University in Lisle, Ill.

Board certified in emergency medicine, Dr. Hewitt currently serves as the emergency department medical director of Carolinas Healthcare System Stanly for ApolloMD. She is a Fellow of the American College of Emergency Physicians, a member of the American College of Physician Executives, American College of Healthcare Executives and a Past Councilor of the North Carolina College of Emergency Physicians.

Dr. John Wood received his bachelor’s degree from Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville. He received his medical degree from the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta. Dr. Wood completed his emergency medicine residency at Palmetto Health Richland in Columbia, S.C.

Board certified in emergency medicine, Dr. Wood currently serves as the emergency department medical director at Navicent Health for ApolloMD. He is certified in the Principles of Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Medicine by The Undersea & Hyperbaric Medicine Society. Dr. Wood is the founding president of the Palmetto Health Richland Alumni Association, a member of the Georgia College of Emergency Physicians and a fellow of the American College of Emergency Physicians.

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