NAB Brings Hard Work,Teamwork, and Adaptability
By Michelle A. Dick
AAPC’s 2013-2015 National Advisory Board (NAB) President David B. Dunn, MD, FACS, CIRCC, CPC-H, CCC, CCS, RCC, is a humble, down-to-earth surgeon who realized early in life that hard work brings success. He is a family man, a coder, and a Texas Longhorn enthusiast who is in love with Nashville.
Being a well-rounded individual, Dunn sees himself as a team player who doesn’t shy away from his next challenge. What he envisions during his tenure as NAB president is continuing the work of the outgoing board and leading the diverse team of experts as they work to stay on top of health care industry changes.
Dunn brings hard work and dedication to AAPC’s NAB. Dunn said, “I had to help pay for education, so I always worked, worked, worked.” In his early years he wore many hats; for example, a construction worker hard helmet and a UPS driver delivery cap. He said, “Then, I went to college, started dental school and didn’t like it, so I went to medical school, and then practiced in Kansas City and ultimately Nashville.” During this time he began practicing as a vascular surgeon with David Zielske, MD, CIRCC, CPC-H, CCC, CCS, RCC, an interventional radiologist. Zielske slowly transitioned into coding and Dunn began coding part time, eventually taking on coding full time.
Learned the Value of Hard Work from a Surgical Pioneer
Dunn studied under medical pioneer Michael E. DeBakey, MD, “a world-renowned American cardiac surgeon, innovator, scientist, medical educator, and international medical statesman,” according to the Houston Chronicle. Dunn initially worked with him as a teenager during a summer internship. He shadowed DeBakey, which stimulated his interest to become a physician, then a surgeon, and ultimately a vascular surgeon. What Dunn learned from DeBakey shaped his work ethic throughout his career path. According to Dunn, DeBakey was “a very, very regimented and focused surgeon and he worked very, very long hours, both in researching in the area of cardiac and thoracic surgery and helping improve the lives of countless patients.”
After the summer internship with DeBakey and high school, Dunn went to college at Texas A&M University for undergraduate studies, and then to medical school at the University of Texas in San Antonio. He continued with a general surgery residency for five years at Scott & White in Temple, Texas. Dunn completed his vascular surgery fellowship at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, once again training under DeBakey’s group. Twenty years later, at age 36, Dunn said, “I found myself back at the same place, in the same operating rooms, with most of the same people—now doing vascular surgery.”
Vascular surgery is what brought Dunn together with colleague Zielske. Zielske, founder and president of ZHealth Publishing, recruited Dunn in 2002 as vice president, overseeing physician coding and managing operations. Zielske recalls when Dunn joined his team “Dr. Dunn and I were colleagues in the practice of endovascular surgery for many years, so when it came time to specialize as endovascular coders, it made sense to partner with Dr. Dunn.” This coding expertise and passion is what led Dunn to NAB presidency. Zielske knows best about Dunn’s dedication, work ethic, and qualifications as NAB president. He said, “Having worked closely together for the past 10 years in the medical coding field (many times sharing close quarters), I can say that Dr. Dunn’s work ethic, expertise, and interest in furthering the coding field is a credit to him and bodes well to AAPC in his tenure as NAB president.”
Dunn saw firsthand how vital teamwork is to an organization when he had the “experience of a lifetime” aboard the U.S.S. George H.W. Bush, A Nimitz class nuclear aircraft carrier (Read about his experience in the July 2012 Coding Edge article, “Take a Doctor’s Tour on the U.S.S. George H.W. Bush,” pages 28-32). When Dunn was on the aircraft carrier, he saw that the crew was made up of a color-coded team and recognized that AAPC was set up in a similar fashion. He said, “When I was on the aircraft carrier, I saw all of the color-coded vests and it reminded me of how the NAB and AAPCCA are divided into color-coded regions.” Each member of AAPC has his or her title and role, which makes up a functioning organization. On the aircraft carrier, for example, “one person was a fuel person, another first aid officer, fireman, etc.—kind of like how coders, physicians, and managers make up a team to get a claim paid correctly.”
Bridging the Physician/Coder Gap
During Dunn’s tenure as NAB president-elect, he became good friends with former AAPC CEO/Chairman Reed Pew. Dunn recalls conversations that made a lasting impression on him in regard to AAPC, “Reed always impressed in me that there are 100,000 plus members, and many of the coders are reluctant to address physicians because they see themselves as coders.” Dunn said, “I’d like to help bridge that gap.”
Dunn noted, “Professional coders already have the knowledge and AAPC’s backing,” but it’s important to have confidence, as well. He said, “I want coders to be comfortable talking to managers and physicians, so they can be more of a team to get coding correct, to be compliant, and to receive maximum reimbursement.”
Because Dunn is the first physician to be NAB president, his qualifications are very high. He thinks like a coder and has the expertise of a physician. Pew said, “I know he considers the membership whenever he gives advice. He truly cares about coders. He is concerned for the future of health care and will be very helpful to AAPC because he understands it from all viewpoints.” 2009-2011 NAB President Terry Leone, CPC, CPC-P, CIRCC, CPC-I, who was an influence on Dunn’s decision to become president, feels the same way about his qualifications, “Dr. Dunn has an impeccable character and he treats all coders as his colleagues. As a physician and fellow coder, he will always take the time to answer a question as he cares about AAPC, its membership, and staff.”
Both Zielske and Dunn have been advocates for interventional radiology and cardiology coders and for validating coding expertise in those specialties. They helped develop the Certified Interventional Radiology Cardiovascular Coder (CIRCC®) credential. According to Leone, an expert interventional radiology coder, “Both physicians were instrumental in creating our CIRCC® credential. They continue to speak at all of our national conferences and to provide us excellent conferences for interventional radiology and cardiology.”
What excites Dunn most about AAPC is its ability to adapt and change focus, which is important in today’s changing health care environment. He said, “Whatever the hot topic is now, we learn about it and help our members understand it.” Dunn continued, “For instance, ICD-10 comes along and now we’re focusing on that until ICD-10 becomes routine, and then something else comes along.” That ability to stay on top of industry changes and to help members makes AAPC unique. Dunn said, “We stay on the forefront of changes and through experience we prepare members for those constant changes; AAPC is able to be fluid and continually adapt to where it needs to be.”
Adaptability Through Diversity Keeps AAPC Ahead
The ability to be fluid and willing to adapt comes from diverse expertise. The NAB consists of 16 regional members and four officers, each with a wide variety of health care expertise: physicians, coders, attorneys, consultants, payers, managers, etc. Dunn said, “That’s 20 individuals with different expertise in the health care arena to help assist AAPC stay in the front of all the issues that will come from Obamacare—understanding the issues, being proactive, and reacting to them.”
This adaptability also is what puts Dunn’s mind at ease regarding the transition to ICD-10-CM. He said, “I think it will be smoother than we think, similar to Y2K. Coders, providers, facilities, and payers/insurers have known for a long time this is coming … I think AAPC members, in particular, who are preparing, will handle the transition with ease.”
Dunn Speaks for Members
As 2011-2013 NAB President Cynthia L. Stewart, CPC, CPC-H, CPMA, CPC-I, CCS-P, passes the torch to Dunn she feels he is a strong AAPC representative who knows the issues coders and health professionals face. She said, “Being a certified coder himself, David truly understands the value our members bring to the health care profession. Our members could not ask for a more dedicated physician champion.”
AAPC President Korb Matosich agrees. “His dedication to AAPC and its members is evident through his hard work on the NAB. We at the national office are excited to work closely with him to advance the interests of our members. I am confident he will be a strong president who will serve members well.”
Know the Lighter Side of Dr. Dunn
Unless you know Dr. Dunn personally or have heard him speak, you may not realize he has a soft side. Dunn’s colleagues share their personal, funny, and endearing Dunn stories:
“Dr. Dunn is about the nicest person I know. He is always interested in and concerned about you, not him. For example, he follows my football team just because they are my team. He’s very smart, but is humble and makes you feel as intellectual as him. He has a wonderful family and whenever I visit, they make me feel part of them.” – Reed Pew
“For those of us who know him well, we remember his antics behind the scenes as we prepared our conference skits. Seeing David in his cowboy hat and boots while singing on stage should tell you he has a great sense of humor and is a good sport. He is one the most down to earth people you will ever meet.” – Terry Leone, CPC, CPC-P, CIRCC, CPC-I
“I have had the pleasure of knowing Dr. David Dunn for the past 4 years. I have found this soft spoken gentleman to be a true advocate of AAPC and its members. David carefully considers his words and each decision, which may impact our fellow members as well as the organization.” – Cynthia L Stewart, CPC, CPC-H, CPMA, CPC-I, CCS-P
“Dr. Dunn has been known to many at ZHealth conferences as ‘eye candy’ [much to his consternation]; however, he really is an expert coder. We always wonder whether the excellent attendance he has at his seminars and talks around the country has to do with his superb speaking skills or his smile,” Zielske said with tongue in cheek. “In either case, he always packs the house, and those who attend are better for it.”
– David Zielske, MD, CIRCC, CPC-H, CCC, CCS, RCC
Dr. Dunn’s Hot Picks
Dunn isn’t always working. When he makes time for fun, here is a list of recreational activities he may be enjoying:
Family Time: His favorite activity is spending time with his wife Melanie Dunn, MD, and two teenage children: Alex, 16, and Courtney, 14.
Music: Dunn said, “With a teenage daughter, I mainly listen to pop. I think I’m the only 58-year-old in Nashville who listens to this genre. Here is a list of the last five concerts I’ve been to, so you can see that I’ve kind of went to the dark side: Pink, Katie Perry, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, and Maroon 5—pretty unusual acts for a 58-year-old to watch.”
Television: “Nashville” on ABC. Dunn said, “It’s fun because we know all the places they film at.”
Sports Teams: Nashville Predators, Tennessee Titans, Texas Longhorns, Texas A&M—“Go Johnny Football!”
Leisure Activities: Dunn enjoys playing sports. Among his favorites are tennis, golf, running, biking, and snow skiing. He also loves to travel and would love to explore Europe with his family.