Healthcare Business News

Hall of Fame: They bucked the trend

Cahill, Mayo brothers, Wilford built lasting organizations and legacies

By Neil McLaughlin, managing editor
Posted: March 23, 2009 - 12:01 am ET

We have been living in a second Gilded Age in America, in which the accumulation of personal wealth has taken precedence above all other values.

One problem with that behavior—other than the resulting economic bubble—is that the “he who dies with the most toys wins” philosophy leaves society as a whole crippled. Work that might benefit the entire nation is relegated to the back burner, and the country declines materially and spiritually.

That’s why it’s encouraging to read about people who have built something more meaningful than a bank account. People such as this year's four Health Care Hall of Fame inductees.

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Patricia Cahill, for instance, tapped her abilities as a consensus-builder to join disparate Roman Catholic health systems into a single powerhouse for treatment of the sick. The members of Catholic Health Initiatives realized that her combination of candor and diplomacy was needed to lead the fledgling organization.

Brothers Charles and William Mayo created a legendary clinic that thrived on integrity. They put patients first and helped maintain that priority by putting physicians on salary. That eliminated divided loyalties and competition between doctors to take care of patients.

And there’s Dan Wilford, a football aficionado, who coached Memorial Hermann into winning seasons as a provider system. One notable detail in his profile is the statement of a former Memorial Hermann chief operating officer who says that Wilford believed that if executives did the right thing, the financial success would follow. Such success was an outcome, not the starting point, Wilford emphasized.

Mythology expert Joseph Campbell noted that dragons in Western lore are depicted as hoarding treasure and virgins and not knowing what to do with either one. Leaving aside the issue of virgins, it’s good to know that there are still knights who can reject pecuniary dragons and marshal resources in the cause of a better world.

The profiles of this year’s inductees were written by Modern Healthcare reporters Joe Carlson and Jessica Zigmond as well as freelance writer Ed Finkel, a regular contributor to the magazine. Carlson can be reached at, Zigmond can be reached at and Finkel can be reached at edfinkel@



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