February 04, 2019
Area(s) of Interest: Emergency Medicine Physician Leadership
Name:Davis Cracroft, M.D.
By James Santiago Grisolia, M.D.
"Every shift in the Emergency Department satisfies," says Davis Cracroft, M.D., senior vice president for physician development at ScrippsHealth. "As leader of your emergency team, you're the orchestra conductor, trying to shape the disorder of rehearsal into a polished symphony!"
Cracroft isn't sure why, but he always felt drawn toward medicine, coming from a family of businessfolk and English professors without a doctor in sight. His vague feeling crystallized instantly in high school, when he and some friends were returning from a summer swim at the reservoir. They happened on a fresh rollover accident of other teens, one dead at the scene and others critically injured. Not knowing what to do propelled Cracroft into a lifelong search for mastery in crisis situations.
Despite this epiphany, his route meandered from Columbia University back to the University of Utah, where he finished college and then medical school. A daring team of urologists let him do a nephrectomy, a real high point as a medical student. He came to UC San Diego as a surgical resident under Marshall Orloff. Moonlighting in EDs during his research year turned into a convenience, then slowly into a calling.
Eventually, during a management crisis, the Mercy chief of staff asked Cracroft if he'd consider taking over as chief of Emergency Medicine. A competitive bidding process left him, as the winning director, to work out an employment deal with the winning medical services provider on the spot.
Refashioning the emergency department of San Diego's oldest and now largest hospital into an efficient, egalitarian organization remains one of his greatest satisfactions, and one that brought him to organized medicine Cracroft took a crash course in medical leadership at that year's ACEP (American College of Emergency Physicians) conference, getting syllabi from every course he couldn't attend. And that's when he joined SDCMS/CMA. "I decided I needed to learn from other leaders and wiser heads" to guide him in shaping his new department, he says. And he wanted to learn more about state and national issues, and how they impact delivery of emergency services.
"I learned a lot about politics and the value of CMA's lobbying work. I could see the value of tobacco tax dollars and other revenues that help us keep the doors open,” Cracroft says, noting Scripps-Mercy's mission to serve all comers, from the homeless to CEOs, and everyone in between. Cracroft also appreciates the SDCMS CEO making regular reports to the Medical Executive Committee and the medical staff, which he finds keeps physicians engaged with state and national issues
After the transformation of the Scripps Mercy Emergency Department, Davis points to medical missions as other great moments. The Mercy MOST team affords chances for him to perform minor surgeries on their outreach trips in Mexico, and he joined the Scripps team for disaster relief in Houston after Hurricane Katrina. Cracroft says working in the Ben Taub Hospital ED "was like batting in Yankee Stadium for an ER doc, where the trauma and medical desperation were nearly overwhelming. When he responded with Scripps to the Cedar Fire, the primary problems were respiratory but it was gratifying to help people in need.
“With volunteering, the benefit you get is even greater than what you give to the patients," Cracroft says.
This profile originally appeared in the January 2019 issue of San Diego Physician. Dr. Grisolía, SDCMS-CMA member since 1980, is editor of San Diego Physician.