A lot of things keep me up at night, but worrying about the caliber of the next wave of senior managers in the healthcare industry is not one of them. In March, I attended my first annual dinner honoring Modern Healthcare's Up & Comers, a group of healthcare executives recognized as rising stars in the healthcare industry. My previous exposure to this group was limited to writing profiles of some of them during my nine years as a reporter for the magazine. I wrote most of those profiles without ever meeting the executives face to face. What a mistake that was. I lost out on a number of opportunities to personally interact with some of the brightest minds in the industry.
During the few hours I spent with some of the young executives, I learned a number of things about managing a healthcare organization and any operation, including a magazine. I walked away feeling confident that the future of the healthcare industry was in good hands. One of the things you learn in journalism school is that you're not the story. The story is the story. And once you think you're bigger than the story, you've stopped serving readers. The young executives I met still believed that their organizations and their organizations' patients were at the top of their priority lists.
Later this year, Modern Healthcare, along with co-sponsor Witt/Kieffer, an Oak Brook, Ill.-based executive search firm, will honor another crop of young executives in our 16th annual Up & Comers recognition program. The nominations are now open! Nominees must be 40 years of age or younger. To participate, please submit the candidate's resume along with a letter of no more than three double-spaced pages outlining the nominee's credentials, accomplishments and leadership qualities. Send the material to Up & Comers, c/o David Burda, Editor, Modern Healthcare, 360 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60601. The deadline for nominations is July 8, and the winners will be announced in the Sept. 16 issue.
That brings me to last week's cover story by reporter Vince Galloro on the behind-the-scenes battle over which industry icon gets to train the next generation of healthcare leaders (April 29, p. 6). The feud pits the newly formed National Center for Healthcare Leadership, backed by such industry heavyweights as Gail Warden, Gary Mecklenburg and David Fine, against six longstanding healthcare associations, including the American College of Healthcare Executives and the American Organization of Nurse Executives, a subsidiary of the American Hospital Association. In the issue before that, reporter John Morrissey disclosed the behind-the-scenes battle over the role of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (April 22, p. 8). That feud pits AHA President Richard Davidson against JCAHO President Dennis O'Leary, M.D.
I get the sense from these situations that the personalities involved have become bigger and more important than the matters at hand: grooming future industry leaders and improving the quality of care for patients. It's now who gets to do the grooming and who gets to monitor patient care. Is this the example that the elder statesmen of the healthcare industry want to set for their future replacements?
Ironically, many of the egos involved have long argued that collaboration, not competition, is the key to improving the delivery of healthcare services in this country. But somehow, that doesn't apply to them.
Maybe here's where the competitive model may work to the industry's advantage. I strongly believe in the benefits of competition. Let young healthcare executives decide which organizations provide the best career training. The groups that provide inferior educational programming will lose attendance and fall by the wayside. And let hospitals and other healthcare facilities decide which organization, the JCAHO or an alternative, provides the best accreditation process for improving patient care. The one that does will survive; the others won't.
Trust competition. And trust the younger generation.