Motivated by the personal fulfillment that community service brings, Clint
Cummins is confident fate placed him in the perfect position. As the new executive vice president of the Memphis Medical Society, he can apply skills and insights garnered during his 12 years in the nonprofit sector – not just for the benefit of his new employer organization but for the Memphis community as well.
He describes himself as a community-oriented person who embraces the “rising tide lifts all boats” philosophy; he believes the success of the MMS in advancing the interests of its members not only benefits them but other physicians and the community at large.
“Memphis is so keenly aware of its issues, especially in the health space, and there is a consortium or a group of groups to address everything,” he said, citing random examples like the Common Table Health Alliance, the Medical Group Management Association, the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association. “Sometimes they’re tackling the exact same issue, but they’re working separately. I think there could be a role for us (MMS/Tennessee Medical Association) to play there . . . to help get everybody on the same page with some of those issues.”
Cummins, who stepped into the executive vice president role in September, acknowledged his good fortune in being able to begin his preliminary assessments and information-gathering with support and mentorship from his retiring predecessor, Mike Cates, who served in the position for 31 years.
“When you replace someone who has been that vital in that role and developed that many relationships over that many years, I think a big challenge for somebody like me is trying to get those relationships to the level that he had them,” Cummins said. “This is a people-to-people type of business, so I’m going to have to, in some ways, start from scratch building relationships with those people.”
People are more willing to accept change, he said, when they understand where and who it comes from — and that understanding comes from relationships.
The MMS Board of Directors, Cummins’ boss, is responsible for setting the strategic plan, approving the budget and working with Cummins to set priorities for the organization, which is among the first items on his to-do list.
“I’m hoping to spend some time with them in the coming weeks and hash out our future direction, whether it’s stay the course, do more of the same or try to look at things a little differently.”
He’ll then be able to better prioritize and determine which of Cates’ responsibilities, legislative and otherwise, need to command larger shares of his time.
One of the Society’s concerns is the stress physicians are now facing, with too much to do, too many patients to see, too little time, and too little reimbursement.
“That’s one role where we need to be helping them,” Cummins acknowledged. He plans to discuss with the Board ways to address such member concerns, including improving the Society’s MedTemps staffing service.
“Hospitals taking over some of the clinics has changed that side of the business,” Cummins said. “That’s something else I’m going to have to unpack a little bit and figure out what change is better.”
Although the Society has 2,261 members, that’s not enough, Cummins said. “It wouldn’t matter to me if we had a 99.9 percent share — we’re going to find that other .1 percent. That’s the way my brain operates.”
He plans to grow the organization, starting with member polls that determine their likes and dislikes. “If we’re going to increase membership, we’ve got to make sure we have members who are willing to sing our praises. If they don’t have a great membership experience, they’re not going to do that.”
Cummins received his baccalaureate degree from the University of Tennessee-Martin before going to work for his national fraternity, Kappa Alpha, where he caught the nonprofit/fund-raising bug, he explained. “As a fraternity member, you’re encouraged to do things for other people, so the service bug got me as well.
“From the point I was president of the fraternity as an undergraduate through my three years as a staff person, it really changed my life to a certain degree. You don’t hear a lot of people saying that about their fraternity experience.”
During those years he visited 90 college campuses, put 125,000 miles on his car, experienced a lot of relationships and honed and developed his leadership skills.
Apparently he also earned his stripes in diplomacy.
“The biggest challenge working with an organization like that is getting 18- to 22-year-old men to understand certain sensitivities,” he said.
Cummins then served as annual fund manager for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Memphis before filling management and executive roles with the American Cancer Society, and ultimately finding his ideal niche with the MMS.
“I’m just excited about jumping in and being able to hopefully make a good contribution to the organization, and therefore make a good contribution to the community,” he said.
In his leisure time, Cummins stays active in a weekly basketball league and spends time with two sons —ages 22 months and 4 years old —and his wife, Lindsay, who works at St. Jude.
He does extracurricular community work for the UT-Martin local board and volunteers in various capacities at national, regional and local levels for his fraternity. “I guess you could say mentoring is a bit of a passion of mine,” he said.
Cummins emphasized that the MMS advocates on behalf of all physicians in Shelby County. He cited a lengthy list of professional resources and benefits that include legal and practice management guidance, MedTemps staffing and more — not the least of which is the assurance that physicians' priorities and values are shared, supported and carried forward by a strong and respected coalition of their peers.
“If any physician is not a TMA/MMS member, we ask that he or she consider joining,” Cummins said.