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Why I ended up in workers' compensation? - Mark Pew

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By Mark Pew, Senior VP, Preferred Medical

As with most people in our industry, I did not choose Work Comp – it chose me. Although wandered off a couple of times, the opportunity to help people return to their lives after an occupational injury has made this my home. However, my entrance into this unique Hotel California ("You can check out any time you like but you can never leave") was not always a straight path.

I am a technologist. I started in 1980 at Equifax in computer mainframe operations, then rolled out these new contraptions called a PC (personal computer, not political correctness) nationwide in 1983. I then transitioned to developing software on multiple platforms, evolved into a business analyst, then a project manager, then a department manager. It was the perfect fit for me because:
  • I think logically (not as much as Spock but more than "Bones" so I was the perfect Captain Kirk)
  • I am creative, taking real joy from talking about an idea then creating something tangible ("back of the napkin" kind of stuff)
  • I have a strong work ethic (my first job at 13 years old instilled in me a "do it right the first time" approach)
  • I am naturally inquisitive (my bosses would often get tired of me asking "how" and "why" so often)
  • I am detail oriented (those that have received my post-meeting notes can attest to that fact)
  • I am a workaholic (so many nights, weekends and holidays spent at the office)
  • I have – to some – a unique sense of humor that always goes for the punch line (Steven Wright is one of my favorite comics)
My personality was perfect for the prototypical IT person except for one thing … I like to talk to people (I know that is an unfair stereotype, but I bet you laughed). However, you probably already knew that after 600+ presentations to more than 48,000 people in 41 states + DC since 2012 (yes, I keep track, just like McDonalds). But back to the question …

One of my Equifax employees initially introduced me to work comp in 1990. He was doing part-time software development for a company that provided utilization management services (what became PRIUM) and he was tired of working nights and weekends. I was looking for a new challenge and so I offered to replace him. At the time I did not know this would be the start of a three decade (and counting) involvement in the industry.

All of the innate and learned character traits listed above fed my devotion to work comp. The excessively complicated web of 50 unique state systems filled with stakeholders that rarely agreed was compelling to me. Given my background and role, creating products and services (first at PRIUM, now at Preferred Medical) came naturally. Because I am a purpose-driven person, I feel fortunate that the products I've created and content I've authored have helped hundreds of people find the best treatment option for them. While I was a top performer in IT, this round peg found a round hole with work comp.

After helping ChoicePoint through Y2K (don't believe the skeptics – it was real, as was the Moon landing), I moved into work comp full-time in March 2000. Other than an IT sabbatical that involved a lot of travel to India from 2007 through 2009, I've been fully engaged in work comp since then. I went from invisible to visible in 2012 when I took what I had learned and created The RxProfessor (first as a speaker then as a writer, blogger, YouTuber) using skills I did not even know I had. I have developed relationships with so many exceptional people around the country at conferences (remember those?) through meals, conversations, handshakes and hugs (or, now, air fives on Zoom).

To say that who I am now would surprise the 1980 version of me would be an understatement of Biblical proportions.

I know work comp is a rounding error in the P&C insurance and healthcare marketplace, but it is a small pond stocked full of wonderful ways to grow personally and professionally. And when everything works perfectly as an injured worker returns to work, it's the best feeling in the world. So I have stopped looking for the exit from Hotel California. This is home.
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Mark Pew, senior vice president of product development and marketing for Preferred Medical, is a passionate educator and agitator. Mark is a recognized thought leader in workers' compensation and award-winning speaker, blogger, author and jurisdictional advisor. Also known as the RxProfessor, he is focused on the intersection of chronic pain and appropriate treatment, particularly as it relates to the clinical and financial implications of prescription painkillers, non-pharma treatment modalities and the evolution of medical marijuana. He is a strong champion for the industry to #PreventTheMess and #CleanUpTheMess with a specific focus on the BioPsychoSocialSpiritual treatment model.

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