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Staying the Course: Meet Dr. Matthew Dzurik

How speeding up is Dr. Matthew Dzurik’s way of slowing down


By Ashley Antle

It’s not far-fetched that a guy who grew up tinkering with car engines in the garage of his Louisiana home would become an interventional arrhythmia cardiologist and electrophysiologist. After all, the heart is the body’s engine and fuel pump, and Matthew Dzurik, M.D., president of Cook Children’s Physician Network (CCPN), has become a masterful mechanic of it.

“We were a car family growing up,” Dr. Dzurik said. “There was always a partially disassembled car in the garage that somebody was working on, so cars and car racing have always been something that my family and I have done.”

Maxing the speed of his own sports car at a local racetrack is Dr. Dzurik’s idea of relaxation. A self-proclaimed introvert, the solitude he finds there suits him. Don’t take that as a sign of him being disengaged, he says, but one of staying focused. Dr. Dzurik is a thinker, always processing the needs of his patients and colleagues while keeping his eyes on the road ahead, just like he does when navigating the twists and turns of the raceway.

While cathartic, his time racing cars these days is limited. It’s been replaced with dad duties and attending activities for his 9-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter that he shares with wife, Yvette Dzurik, M.D. The two have been married for 18 years. Yvette recently retired from her role as a pathologist at Cook Children’s to be home with their children.

Dr. Dzurik followed his father’s footsteps to become a pediatrician and fell in love with pediatric cardiology during one of his last training rotations. He joined Cook Children’s medical staff in 2007.

Taking the helm

After serving as a member of CCPN’s board of directors for six years, Dr. Dzurik took the helm of the network in June 2021 with one caveat: that he be able to maintain his clinical practice by continuing to care for a small number of his long-term, medically complex patients. Balancing the two roles is a tall task, but one that Dr. Dzurik says keeps him connected to the challenges physicians face on a daily basis.

“I want to experience everything the physicians are experiencing,” Dr. Dzurik explained. “If I'm going to lead them, I have to know what the hangups are with the electronic medical record, for example. What's going well when an update comes along? I see what the physicians are dealing with. I think that's important. Having both that perspective and then the administrative perspective will give me the complete picture, so that I see everything that's going on and can lead the network well.”

He’s staying connected to the patient experience, too. Last summer, Dr. Dzurik completed his fifth year as a volunteer at Camp Moss, a summer camp for children with congenital heart disease.

“Volunteering at Camp Moss is just good for the soul,” he said. “I have a number of my own patients that attend. You get to see them interact with other kids who have scars on their chest. A lot of the kids that go to Camp Moss simply can't go to the other camps because of restrictions, and there's just things they can't go do until they get to this camp. So just to see how much fun those kids have is pretty impressive.”

Work-life balance

IMG-7002Moving from a full-time patient care role to a primarily administrative one has been a learning curve, mainly in the pace of things. As a physician Dr. Dzurik is used to completing a clinical task, closing his chart and moving on to the next. Being an administrator requires more patience for the process as issues linger from day to day and take a longer course to resolution. It’s not always easy leaving that unfinished business at the office. 

“I’m really working hard on having an off switch,” Dr. Dzurik said. “So when I go home, it's just enjoying my time with my family, because I know things aren't going to happen overnight.”

That off switch is more important now for physicians and providers than ever before. In his short time as president, Dr. Dzurik has led CCPN physicians and practitioners through some challenging days. The COVID-19 pandemic put a significant strain on physician practices and medical providers everywhere. Health care has always been a 24/7 business, but Dr. Dzurik says it seems the profession’s typical seasonality—where months of high demand are followed by a lull—is a thing of the past since the pandemic. As a result, many providers are weary and crumbling under the weight of a serious lack of work-life balance. Dr. Dzurik predicts restoring that balance will be the biggest challenge facing physicians and busy medical systems like Cook Children’s over the next five to 10 years.

He’s intent on creating solutions and taking steps to dismantle the generations-old stigma that only weak physicians ask for help, starting with his proudest accomplishment to date—naming two fellow CCPN physicians, Kirk Pinto, M.D., and Sara Garza, M.D., to champion the Office of Physician Well-being.

“It used to be you didn't really ever ask for help or slow down,” Dr. Dzurik said. “You just kept working and working and working. But I think we now recognize that is not good for you. That's not good for the patients long term with the amount of patients we’re seeing. It’s a sign of strength when you can identify that you need help before you get to the point where you're burnt out and you're not helping your patients, yourself or your family.”

Looking ahead

StateoftheNetwork-8992 2022Dr. Dzurik also has his sights set on building camaraderie and championing the Cook Children’s culture among physicians and providers. The network has doubled in size since he became president. He wants new and seasoned physicians to know that taking care of themselves is a part of the Cook Children’s way now and in the future. Once you have that work-life balance, he says, it’s easier to make everything about the child and their optimal care when you’re on the job.

Setting a new course, particularly one that finds the synergy between work and life in the current health care environment, is never easy, even for a guy used to navigating challenging courses. But Dr. Dzurik wants his fellow physicians and providers to be encouraged and stay the course with him.

“Change can be slow,” he said. “But there is light at the end of the tunnel.”