Tag: talent

Turnarounds are Talent Magnets: University of Chicago Medical Center


Like birds of a feather, talent in healthcare management often gathers in flocks. The University of Minnesota, University of Michigan and University of Iowa healthcare management programs are all justly famous for graduating, over many decades, an exceptional number of future transformative healthcare leaders. But sometimes, talent comes from the “street”- challenging healthcare turnarounds that attract risk-taking leaders who, in turn, gather young talent around them. The University of Chicago’s urban academic health center has been one of these places.

The U of C was (and remains) the largest care provider on Chicago’s troubled South Side, a vast urban landscape that struggled economically and socially for more than seventy years with intractable poverty and violence. Like other major teaching hospitals in challenging neighborhoods–the Bronx’s Montefiore and Harlem’s Columbia-Presbyterian come to mind–all the management challenges of running complex academic health center are magnified by coping with huge flows of Medicaid and uninsured urban poor. 

In 1973, President Edward Levi appointed Daniel Tosteson, who was then Chair of Pharmacology and Physiological Sciences at Duke University, to be Dean of the Pritzker School of Medicine and Vice President for the University of Chicago’s troubled Medical Center. Tosteson was a charismatic basic scientist with no prior experience running a 700-bed urban teaching hospital.  He arrived in the middle of a severe Illinois’ fiscal crisis, and a horrendous Medicaid funding challenge (31% of the Chicago’s patients were Medicaid recipients). Chicago’s clinical chairs who led the recruitment of Tosteson also played a crucial role in the subsequent turnaround–notably Dr David Skinner, Chair of Surgery and Dr. Al Tarlov, Chair of Medicine, and Dr. Daniel X Freedman, Chair of Psychiatry. 

To renew the Medical Center, Tosteson recruited an experienced clinical manager, Dr. Henry Russe from competitor Rush Presbyterian St-Lukes, as his Chief Clinician. But Tosteson went off the reservation and hired a 34 year old economist named David Bray, who was Executive Associate Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (responsible for the national security and intelligence agencies) as his Chief Financial Officer. He also named John Piva, formerly of Johns Hopkins,  his Chief Development Officer. To revitalize Chicago’s principal affiliate, Michael Reese Hospital, he recruited as its President, Dr. J. Robert Buchanan, then Dean of Cornell Medical College.  And he recruited me, at age 27, from the Illinois Governor’s Office, as his government affairs lead and special assistant.   

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Why A Diverse and Inclusive Healthcare Innovation Workforce Matters


There I was, my 10th-grade science fair. My mother made sure I had a tie that fit properly and a shirt that was perfectly pressed. I stood among my peers with our cardboard presentation displays highlighting what we did to make it to this point. I was a little nervous but also extremely proud of myself and excited to see the looks on the judge’s faces when they saw what my project was about:

“The Effects of Enzymes on DNA”

Boom. Oh, I wasn’t doing something that many people had seen already — I was working inside an NIH facility with a brilliant scientist mentor/coach, to get this done. The memories of taking multiple modes of transportation after school throughout the week for what seemed like forever wore me down enough to make sure that I knew this was going to be worth it. And then after the judges were introduced to all of our concepts and families poured throughout the gymnasium to see what we all came up with — now was the moment of truth.

Sweaty palms and teenage anxiety wouldn’t deter me. First place goes to….oh ok, yeah of course, they deserved that. They worked really hard I’m sure. Second place goes to….oh wow, I didn’t make second place? At least, I’ll get something. After a third place winner was announced and the applause faded. I looked, stunned, over at my mother in the audience whose face was covered in tears. I was ready for the night to be over. Did I not wear the right tie? Did I seem too confident? Not confident enough? The questions would consume me until later that evening when my science teacher told me that the judges thought I cheated or didn’t actually do any of the work.

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