Not many big-city physicians are eager to trade Chicago's rich cultural and social scenes for the drowsy pace of rural north-central Pennsylvania, nearly a three-hour drive from the closest metropolis.
But Glenn Steele Jr., M.D., was an exception to that rule, leaving a fast-paced life as dean of the highly regarded University of Chicago's Pritzker School of Medicine for the chief executive officer's job at Geisinger Health System, headquartered in the hamlet of Danville, Pa., population 5,165.
In so doing, Steele, a one-time professor at Harvard Medical School, becomes the top prize in a recruiting season successful beyond most expectations.
"They showed me an opportunity-a chance to build," says Steele, 56, who spent seven years in Chicago before heading east to take over at the far-flung system. "It was the right time. I really got turned on to the place."
In fact, says Steele, who lived in Boston for nearly two decades before moving to Chicago, the change of pace and quality of life in small-town America acts as a selling point for Geisinger, which operates in 31 largely rural counties in the eastern half of Pennsylvania.
"I think (the rural character) is an advantage when people come to look at the possibility of working at Geisinger," Steele says. "It doesn't take long for them to figure out whether or not it would be appropriate for them. There are a lot of people who are actually not offended to be living in an area with more trees than people."
Steele, who took over the system's top job on March 1, says he will be intimately involved in luring top people to jobs at Geisinger, which has filled about 50 physician posts in the past year or so with an aggressive new in-house recruiting campaign.
"We offer a superb quality of life, a competitive salary and all the usual indirect benefits," Steele says, already talking like the system's No. 1 recruiter.
Steele had his first close look at Geisinger last year, when the two-hospital system broke off its planned merger with 413-bed Penn State University-Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.
He made the decision in early January, less than three months after recruiters contacted him for the first time. Officials at Geisinger declined to reveal Steele's salary or compensation package. His predecessor, Stuart Heydt, M.D., who had been on the job for nine years, earned about $660,000 in his last year, a Geisinger spokesman says.
"The toughest thing about taking the job was convincing my wife to leave Chicago," Steele says jokingly.