Due to a rise in the number of reported cases of flu and other respiratory viruses, IU Health is limiting visitors at its healthcare facilities to prevent spreading and protect patients and team members. View full details.
Dr. Megan Crittendon came to IU Health West as an emergency medicine physician in 2004. Almost 20 years later, she is now a division chief and helping other women become leaders.
By Charlotte Stefanski, email@example.com, writer for IU Health's Indianapolis Suburban Region
As an Emergency department physician, Dr. Megan Crittendon thrives in a fast-paced environment as she and her teams work to save lives. Teams never know what will walk through the door.
Her passion for healthcare developed during her first job, where she worked in a retirement community. There, she found a love for both people and science, so pursuing a career in medicine came naturally.
She worked as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) as she completed her undergraduate degree, eventually moving on to medical school.
“I didn't come from a medical family, except for my grandmother was a World War II nurse,” Crittendon said. “But I loved it, basically everything in medicine.”
During her residency, Crittendon was focused on OB-GYN, and while she enjoyed the specialty, she soon found out the lifestyle was difficult. She began her residency when her daughter was only six months old and felt like she was missing out.
Crittendon turned to emergency medicine, and admittedly, the only experience she had with it was the television show “ER.” But there seemed to be plenty of similarities between it and OB-GYN.
“There's clinic-type work, and there's procedures and surgeries. There are often primary care-type situations, but then you get urgent and emergent-type situations,” Crittendon explained. “Then there are these beautiful moments of glory, like when a baby is born or a life is saved.”
At the time, there was an open spot for a resident in emergency medicine within Crittendon’s program, so she took it. She became chief resident by her third year of residency, where she discovered her love for leadership.
“I really got frustrated when I couldn't change things. I wanted to know that either I could change them, or I wanted to know the reasons behind why I couldn't,” Crittendon said. “That's why I like to have a seat at the table, to have a voice and to know what's going on, and to try to exert my influence on the things that I'm passionate about.”
Now, she’s taken that passion for medicine and leadership to IU Health as division chief in the Department of Emergency Medicine for the IU Health Indianapolis Suburban Region, which includes IU Health North, Saxony Tipton and West hospitals, and East Central Region, which includes IU Health Ball, Blackford and Jay hospitals.
A passion for medicine and leadership
Crittendon’s first job as an emergency medicine physician was at IU Health West Hospital. She joined the team in 2004, just as the hospital made its debut. She was even there opening night.
She had pursued a job at IU Health West because she liked the idea of a new hospital. Crittendon knew she wanted a leadership role and she liked the idea of being able to mold the hospital’s culture.
“I loved the idea that everybody thought of it as a sanctuary of healing, so relationship-centered care. It was all about relationships,” she said. “I loved the idea of that and wanted to be a part of that culture.”
Three years later, Crittendon was named medical director of IU Health West, a role she held for 12 years. If there was a leadership role open, she took it, including president of the medical staff and an interim chief medical officer position.
In 2019, IU Health began regionalizing its facilities, and Crittendon took on a regional director role, overseeing the Indianapolis Suburban Region’s Emergency departments.
“That way we could standardize operations across the emergency departments, so that the experience and care were the same, essentially, she explained.
In 2022, she took on the role of division chief in the Department of Emergency Medicine, where she now oversees the Indianapolis Suburban Region’s Emergency departments, as well as the East Central Region’s Emergency departments.
In this role, Crittendon mainly focuses on operations, whether it be hiring talent or being the connection between emergency medicine team members and hospital executives.
She also still works in a clinical setting, taking on about six shifts every month in the departments she leads. Crittendon also worked closely with each Emergency department’s medical directors.
“I do a lot of leadership development with my medical directors, because many of them have been new directors that I've mentored into that role,” Crittendon said.
Celebrating women by creating opportunities
Celebrated every March, Women’s History Month is a time to recognize women’s contributions to history, culture and society.
Crittendon has championed women in medicine nearly every day at IU Health, as she works to encourage and promote women in leadership. In her seven Emergency departments, three of the medical directors are women.
But it wasn’t always that way. When Crittendon became a medical director in 2007, she was often the only women in the board room.
“It was overwhelming and a little bit daunting, but I had these great emergency medicine mentors,” Crittendon said. “They really believed in me and kept saying, ‘Megan, you can do it. It's going be fine—you're good at this.’”
Crittendon also formed close connections with other women leaders at IU Health, including a nursing leader that came on board just a few months after she became medical director.
“She really taught me how to be a leader,” Crittendon said. “She was a huge mentor for me and she always had such a great heart for her people and [knew] how to deliver difficult conversations.”
Mentorship has played a big part in Crittendon’s life, and she tries to provide that same support for her own medical directors and teams.
Outside of the hospital, Crittendon participates in the Meaningful Mentor Program at Marian University, where she mentors medical students, and she has also spent time mentoring both high schoolers and college students. She has also served as a volunteer and on the board for Hope Healthcare Services in Avon.
“Having a lot of these medical directors being women, it's been nice to be able to be there for them and help, show by example and to coach them through difficult conversations,” she said. “It's just different as a woman—how you're perceived. You have to come at things, sometimes a little bit differently than a man does, because you don't get that automatic credibility.”
Trailblazing your own path
Since joining IU Health almost 20 years ago, Crittendon has been able to help create a thriving culture and spread it to other hospitals as she’s taken on more responsibility.
The teams are cohesive, well-oiled machines that deliver high quality care to the community. She finds that the physicians are passionate about supporting each other and have great relationships with nurses, leadership and team members throughout the hospital.
Those teams have watched her dedicate herself to IU Health, and they in turn do the same. But what she’s most proud of lies outside of the hospital.
“My kids, that's the easy one. I have two amazing kids,” Crittendon said. “My daughter is 23 and my son is 19 and I now have an empty nest. I'm most proud of them.”
While navigating the world of medicine can be intimidating for women, Crittendon stresses the support they need is out there.
Having a mentor has been essential in her career, and she encourages the women at IU Health—no matter if their role is medical, in leadership or elsewhere—to find that support.
“Getting involved and getting to the table is super important, even to just have your face out there,” Crittendon said. “Make sure that people know that you're interested in leadership. Get involved and it will happen. Believe in yourself and have the confidence to be able to do that.”