If you want to find Tracy Geiger these days, chances are better than good that she’ll be in the parking lot of the UNLV Medicine Clinics helping direct the curbside testing program for COVID-19. The program that has tested nearly 10,000 Nevadans for the novel coronavirus.
The experience of working as the project manager for the program — she’s gloved and masked as she coordinates the experience for patients arriving at the testing center — is something Geiger, UNLV Medicine’s director of physician services, said she'll always remember.
“Before the curbside testing, all we saw were the numbers in the news,” she said. “It was happening in other places — China, Italy, Spain. But it all seemed so far away. Now we see it. Patients coughing, sick, scared. People want to know if they have COVID-19, but also are afraid to know if they have it.
"UNLV team members helping others, but also afraid for their own health and safety of their families. People working together and working beyond their own fears to provide help to the people of Las Vegas. That is what I will always remember — we are all afraid but we were all able to put that aside to help others.”
Ninety minutes before the first 8:30 a.m. appointment of the day, Geiger is at the Las Vegas Medical District site “to huddle and to ensure that everyone understands their role for the day. We set up the work stations, communicate with onsite security and the police department, get into our PPE (personal protective equipment), and we are ready.”
The more you talk with Geiger — she enjoys motorcycles and can be seen riding with her husband to Laughlin or other parts of the state on weekends — the better you feel. For her, the glass always seems half full. Leadership she’s worked with isn’t just good, it’s “amazing.” Staff at the curbside program do more than get things done, they provide “incredible support.” True, she says the 100-degree-plus heat increases the complexity of the outside testing program, but she says the new school of medicine offers “great opportunities.” The National Guard’s help at the site has been — you guessed it — “amazing.”
You get the idea. “My favorite saying is, ‘Bloom where you are planted.’ Make the best of the situation, no matter how stressful or dismal.”
As far as she’s concerned, negativism spreads faster than the coronavirus, crippling or even burning out an organization.
“The turning point in my life was when I became a single mother of two children under the age of 5. I realized that nothing stays the same, nothing is promised, and all you have one day can be gone the next. I had to rely on myself and found out I was stronger than I thought I was.”
Because of Geiger’s positive can-do management attitude — UNLV Medicine CEO Dr. Michael Gardner saw it exhibited in the way she dealt with the concerns of physicians and in the way she recruited them in a highly competitive marketplace — she was asked to also become the project director for the testing center.
“When leadership asked if I would take on this project, I said yes with no hesitation — partly because I’m not afraid of a challenge and partly because I trust that my leadership felt that I could handle the responsibility. I take my current role very seriously. I want to make sure that the expectations of leadership are met and that everyone at the site is safe, while ensuring a quality patient experience. I have a lot of help.”
At the age of 9, Geiger moved to San Diego from New York with her family. She now considers herself a Southern California girl. Following K-12 Catholic school, her college experience came from the University of California system. Her father had a long career in health care, becoming chief operating officer of Scripps Clinical Research in La Jolla.
While in college, she worked for a resort in San Diego. “I learned that I liked working with the public and figuring out how to best take care of their needs and concerns. I never shied away from an angry customer. I actually like to troubleshoot issues and get to a resolution that leaves the customer feeling that they received great service.”
She said transitioning to health care was not difficult. “Taking care of patients is like taking care of guests in a hotel. Patients are guests. They have choices, and I want to provide the best experience possible so that they return.”
It wasn’t long before she was heading physician services for a California management services company. In 2012, she moved to Las Vegas, where during the next five years she helped one company grow from 45 clinic locations to more than 57 and helped another expand its product line into the Reno market and Southern California. In 2017, she took her present position, seeing it as an opportunity to help transform health care in Southern Nevada.
“As the UNLV director of physician services, I am responsible for the School of Medicine faculty — recruitment, contracting, and being the liaison between the clinical practice and medical school. I like to see physician services as the one-stop-shop for the provider. We are where they go when they have questions or concerns, ensuring they get in touch with the right person in order to get a resolution.”
Geiger is mindful of advice given to her by her mother and by the University of California San Diego medical group vice president of marketing. The vice president told her “that the best leaders lead with purpose and with service in mind. Everyone is your client. When you leave a room or conversation, you should leave behind an experience of who you are as a person. My mother used to tell me that ‘When you walk out the door each day, you are not alone. You are representing your family.’ I still think about what they told me every day.”