Lloyd Dean doesn't remember seeing a healthcare professional during his childhood in a segregated, low-income township near Muskegon, Mich., until he took a physical to join the high school football team.
"It was really just a very poor area, and we didn't have much access to care," Dean recalled. "You went to the doctor only if you were very sick."
Some 30 years later, providers see a lot more of the 49-year-old Dean. Currently chief operating officer for Advocate HealthCare in Oak Brook Ill., Dean will become president and chief executive officer of San Francisco-based Catholic Healthcare West on June 1. He replaces Richard Kramer, who resigned under fire in August 1999. The move may make Dean the highest-ranking African-American executive in the healthcare industry.
"I'm very humbled (by reaching this position)," said Dean, who's spent 28 years in healthcare, divided between a stint at pharmaceutical firm Upjohn Co. (now Pharmacia & Upjohn) and Advocate. "With it comes a great deal of responsibility and opportunity. Hopefully, I'll be able to motivate other African-Americans."
He won't have to wait long to showcase his talents. Dean is assuming leadership of one of the largest religious-affiliated hospital systems in the country, with 48 acute-care facilities in three western states. Although CHW has grown rapidly in recent years through multiple acquisitions, its expansion has left a long trail of red ink. CHW posted a $310 million operating loss in fiscal 1999 and has lost $500 million during the past three years. It hasn't posted a profit since 1996, and the cumulative losses have led to steep downgrades of its once stellar bond ratings.
Dean, who described his management style as collaborative, said he doesn't plan any shake-ups among the executive staff. His initial goal is to meet with the trustees and executives in various regions and scrutinize CHW's portfolio.
"We need to focus on building a common culture and integrating all these various entities into one system," he said.
Dean said he wouldn't hesitate to shed CHW properties. "This is not being driven by the need to clear some things out, but I wouldn't be reticent to make (such) recommendations to the board if it's in the best interest of CHW," he said.
CHW officials recently estimated that it will take three years for the system to return to profitability (Dec. 6, 1999, p. 22). Dean wants to accomplish that goal in two years.
And, he said, "we have to be financially sound in order to invest our resources in a way that guarantees providing healthcare to the poor. That's our driver. Not dollars in the coffer."