A common theme links this year's inductees to Modern Healthcare's Health Care Hall of Fame
. They are all innovators.
Yet there is diversity within that common theme. Among the three inductees, one innovated in the practice of medicine; one in the morality and ethics of healthcare delivery; and one in the management of healthcare systems.
Legendary heart surgeon Dr. Denton Cooley was a prolific innovator over his long career as a heart surgeon. He introduced dozens of new cardiovascular techniques. His major accomplishments included the first human heart transplant in the U.S.
“I don't think he had a peer in the world as a technical cardiovascular surgeon and making very wise decisions about what he did and how he did it,” says Dr. James Willerson, president of the Texas Heart Institute, Houston, which Cooley founded in 1962.
Sister Mary Maurita Sengelaub also broke through barriers in her 60-year career in healthcare, which included roles as a nursing instructor, hospital and health system administrator and leader of the nation's largest advocacy organization for Catholic healthcare.
In 1970, she became the first woman—and nun—to become chief executive of the Catholic Hospital Association, the predecessor to today's Catholic Health Association.
Her many advocacy efforts included embracing a campaign to ensure access to healthcare for migrant farmworkers as well as being an early supporter for universal healthcare coverage in the U.S. “I would say the driving point of this is to serve the poor, the sick, the dying and the elderly—all the people in need,” Sengelaub says.
Donald Wegmiller, in shaking things up in healthcare delivery in the Twin Cities, rightfully earned the title of father of the modern integrated healthcare delivery system. His moves in healthcare administration and delivery systems had national repercussions.
He was among the first to see the necessity for healthcare consolidation, as well as the business case for slashing the number of beds at hospitals he led and negotiating mergers that would lead to a new organizational form.
“He was one of the founding fathers of what we now call integrated delivery systems,” says Ken Paulus, president and CEO of Allina Health System, Minneapolis, the successor system to the one Wegmiller created in the 1980s. “He really blazed a trail for a lot of other regions. The rest of the nation followed.”
I think you'll agree after reading the profiles of these influential leaders that their careers provide a fascinating window for understanding the historic changes that have transformed the healthcare landscape over the past half century. You can read more about previous inductees by visiting modernhealthcare.com/halloffame
Merrill Goozner, Editor