Rose Jacobs
Rose Jacobs decided on a career as a hospital administrator while flipping through a brochure from her local community college. She's now director of medical staff administration at UC Irvine Medical Center and a Living Our Values Award recipient. Steve Zylius / University Communications

In her office at UC Irvine Medical Center, Rose Jacobs has filled the shelves with files of physician resumes, certification forms and other administrative paperwork. Her neatness comes as no surprise, given her reputation for excellent organizational skills, but one book she pulls off a shelf might look out of place: It’s called Blind Eye: How the Medical Establishment Let a Doctor Get Away with Murder.

The true-crime story of a serial killer who passed himself off as a physician serves as a reminder of the crucial role her office plays in ensuring patient safety.

“You hear these horror stories of people posing as doctors who really aren’t,” says Jacobs, director of medical staff administration. “Our job is to make certain they have the experience and training they say they do.”

She investigates applicants’ backgrounds while also managing the monumental amount of paperwork needed to keep the center’s physicians current on their licenses and other credentials.

Because of her diligent sleuthing skills, support of medical staff and upbeat attitude, Jacobs received the 2009 Living Our Values Award for staff members with less than five years of service. Given annually by Chancellor Michael Drake, the LOV awards honor faculty, staff and students whose actions best embody UCI’s values of respect, intellectual curiosity, integrity, commitment, empathy, appreciation and fun. (Nominations for the 2010 Living Our Values Awards are due midnight Friday, May 7.)

Jacobs “holds a key position within the medical center,” wrote Dr. Kathryn Larsen, the Gerald B. Sinykin, M.D., Endowed Chair in Family Medicine, in her nomination letter.

“She brings incredible knowledge of medical staff bylaws to the job, as well as strength and integrity. Although she’s faced challenging credentialing issues in the past, she’s never lost her compassion and sensitivity for those around her, particularly her staff. And she treats physicians with great sensitivity, fairness and respect.”

Often, Jacobs must play detective — following leads to medical boards and academic institutions to confirm that physician applicants have earned the certificates or degrees advertised on their resumes.

“Obviously, my staff and I don’t treat patients, but we’re their first line of defense,” she says. “We make sure all of our doctors are qualified to treat them.

“If you see something that just doesn’t feel right — like a gap in training or a lot of malpractice suits — you need to follow up. Fortunately, the quality of our applicants is second to none. It’s highly unlikely we would encounter an impersonator.”

Jacobs and her staff also help the medical center adhere to standards required by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, The Joint Commission and other regulators.

For instance, they’re verifying that all physicians and physician assistants fulfill a new CMS mandate that they be tested for tuberculosis annually (instead of every two years). “It’s tough to do that with 1,200 people, but we’ll see to it that every single one gets a test,” Jacobs says.

When looking for a career change while raising three children, Jacobs knew she wanted to work in healthcare — with certain limitations. “I don’t like the sight of blood,” she says. “I’m best behind a computer.” She received her bachelor’s in healthcare administration from the University of La Verne and became a certified professional in medical staff management and healthcare quality.

After holding positions at two Los Angeles-area hospitals, she came to UCI three years ago.

“I enjoy working with the physicians here. They’re brilliant, and they really care about patients,” Jacobs says. “And the team I work with is great. They’re the main reason for my success.”