Max Cohen, M.D., vice president and CMO of the 489-bed Missouri Baptist Medical Center in St. Louis, is the winner of the fifth annual Physician Executive Award of Excellence, while Harris Berman, M.D., CEO of the not-for-profit Tufts Health Plan in Boston, is the winner of the first Physician Executive Lifetime Achievement Award.
The awards are sponsored by the American College of Physician Executives, Cerner Corp. and Modern Physician magazine.
'Champion for quality'
Cohen, 64, a native of Glasgow, Scotland, has seen his surgical and administrative career take him to three countries, six medical schools and numerous hospitals in pursuit of clinical excellence and his passion to improve quality and patient safety at the operations level.
In 1998, he assumed his current position at Missouri Baptist, part of the 13-hospital BJC HealthCare system.
Working toward his vision of making Missouri Baptist a model of safety in the United States, Cohen has helped create a just culture to promote uninhibited error reporting and accountability. By creating an effective interdisciplinary team of hospital administrators and staff to implement his strategy, the number of adverse drug events per 1,000 doses has been reduced from 2.5 to less than 0.5.
Cohen was chosen for the Physician Executive Award of Excellence from a record 35 nominees.
"Max is a phenomenal champion for quality and patient safety," says Claiborne Dunagan, M.D., vice president of quality and director of the Center for Healthcare Quality and Effectiveness at BJC HealthCare. "He has a strategic view of where healthcare needs to go and of what individual programs need to do to get there."
To date, the cost of Cohen's entire patient safety program has been less than $200,000, including salaries, while the reduction in adverse drug events has saved the medical center $13.4 million annually.
"I love to see how one can make changes to the way an organization functions that will result in an improvement to care," Cohen says. "I get very restless with the status quo."
Managed care pioneer
Berman, 64, was born and raised in New Hampshire. He graduated from Harvard College and Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons.
Berman, who will retire in May, was a pioneer of managed care when he co-founded the Matthew Thornton Health Plan in Nashua, N.H., in 1971.
One of the first health plans in New England that offered an alternative to traditional indemnity medical insurance, the idea was to form a multispecialty medical group that offered insurance based on prepayment. It would be a not-for-profit organization controlled by a lay board of directors. The group included midwives, nurse practitioners and physician assistants, and later, a psychiatrist, dietician and podiatrist.
"All of those things which now sound rather ho-hum, in the late 1960s and early 1970s were very controversial--and it all worked," says James Squires, M.D., a co-founder of Matthew Thornton Health Plan and president of the Endowment for Health in New Hampshire.
"Harris is extremely efficient; his organizational skills are tremendous. He works incredibly hard himself, thus to work with him and for him is not too arduous. He fostered a common bond among us all."
Berman became active in a number of organizations dealing with insurance and managed care issues at the national level. Meanwhile, he influenced global healthcare as a consultant for the U.S. Agency for International Development in Russia, Hungary, Pakistan, Indonesia and Jamaica.
His motive was always the same.
"He has a desire to reach out to people who are less fortunate and develop new and different ways to address the world's problems," Squires says.
Since Berman assumed the helm at Tufts Health Plan in 1986, membership has grown from 60,000 to more than 900,000. Under his leadership, Tufts became one of the first HMOs to offer preventive benefits such as fitness center memberships, smoking cessation programs and nutrition classes.
"What stands out is his very thoughtful and very effective manner of leadership," says Karen Ignani, president of the American Association of Health Plans, who has worked closely with Berman.
"He listens. And he has always believed in coalitions. He is great at developing alliances, at influencing individuals with the power of his intellect as well as his passion for the issues."
Proud of achievements
"We at ACPE are very proud of the achievements of these two exemplary physician executives," says ACPE Executive Director Roger Schenke. "Congratulations to each of them on their award."
Andrew Svetly, M.D., director of clinical operations for Cerner, says, "Those who have been nominated and chosen for these coveted awards have all exemplified leadership capability as well as the ability to make the difficult decisions, which is the only way that we are going to improve healthcare and eliminate the errors, waste and inappropriate variance with which we are faced today.
"We have to win the hearts and minds of the physicians, and of course the nurses and ancillary groups, to move forward," Svetly says. "Not until we accomplish the culture change will we be able to move ahead with any type of initiative."
Joseph Conn, editor of Modern Physician, says the competition this year was intense, but, in the end, both Cohen and Berman were the unanimous choices of the judges.
Conn and Schenke thank judges Scott Ransom, D.O., vice-president, Witt/Kiefer; Francine Gaillour, M.D., president and CEO, Ki Health; Thomas Royer, M.D., president and CEO, Christus Health; Chalmers Nunn, M.D., senior vice president and CMO, Centra Health; and Susan Freeman, M.D., senior vice president of medical affairs, St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center, for their work.
"We know the difficult choices the awards panel of judges had to make, so simultaneously with these awards we want to commend the contributions that are being made by all physician executives during these difficult times," Schenke says.