The meteoric rise of Jonathan Lord, M.D., to the No. 2 job at the American Hospital Association ended abruptly last week with his resignation.
Lord, the AHA's chief operating officer since 1997, is leaving his $437,000-per-year job to work with famed health services researcher Jack Wennberg, M.D., of Dartmouth Medical School in Hanover, N.H.
The AHA publishes Wennberg's noted reference book the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care.
Lord, 45, declined to elaborate on his employment arrangement other than to say, "It's really the right time for me to go back and focus on clinical care and quality."
In addition to publishing the Atlas, the AHA has other ties to Wennberg.
In 1997 the AHA invested $2.4 million in a Boston-based company, Fairview Medical Services Corp., which markets and distributes products and services based on research findings from a not-for-profit foundation co-founded by Wennberg (Sept. 15, 1997, p. 2). The AHA holds a 4% equity stake in Fairview, said Richard Wade, the AHA's senior adviser for communications.
AHA President Richard Davidson announced Lord's resignation, which was effective immediately, in an Oct. 28 memorandum to AHA staffers. Lord joined the AHA in 1995 as senior adviser of clinical affairs.
In the memo, Davidson also laid out a new management structure for the AHA, which wiped out Lord's job. Neil Jesuele, an executive vice president, will assume responsibility for AHA operations in Chicago and San Francisco. Richard Pollack, an executive vice president in Washington, will continue to oversee advocacy work there. He and Jesuele will report to Davidson.
Lord was widely speculated to be heir apparent to Davidson, who is 63.
Lord clearly was interested in a top executive position, because he was a candidate last year for the top job at the American Medical Association. The executive vice president position there went to E. Ratcliffe Anderson, M.D.
Lord is the third No. 2 executive at the AHA to leave during Davidson's tenure. The others were George Belsey, who resigned in 1994, and Christine McEntee, who left in 1997.
AHA officials said that Davidson was unavailable for comment on Lord's departure.
In the memo, Davidson credited Lord for integrating the AHA's strategic plan and budgeting systems, revamping the association's member services and creating the AHA's San Francisco-based Health Forum last year through the merger of AHA's publishing and data units and the San Francisco-based Healthcare Forum.
One of the latest AHA ventures Lord brokered was a partnership to help hospitals tap the lucrative, mostly private-pay, market of alternative medicine. The AHA's partner is 504-bed University Hospital and Medical Center, which is part of the State University of New York at Stony Brook and home to the University Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (Sept. 27, p. 2).
Yet Davidson's memo hinted that Lord's initiatives may have pushed the organization and its employees in directions they didn't necessarily want to pursue or were not ready for.
Davidson said the AHA would review "the full range of our activities to be certain we're putting our energies and resources to work on the areas of greatest value to our members, that are most germane to the future strength of the organization and that make the best use of the incredibly talented and hard-working staff."
But morale at the AHA is "at an all-time low," according to a copy of results from a recent internal AHA staff survey obtained by MODERN HEALTHCARE.
Wade said the AHA is undertaking activities to talk with employees about what they think and feel. He said morale is on the upswing.