I've been around this industry for more than 30 years. I've watched all the changes and trends that are so typical of healthcare, the most dynamic business in this country and elsewhere in the world. Just as many of the things that were done when I first got into this business now seem outdated, in another 30 years all that seems new and cutting edge today will look old-fashioned, even quaint. That's the nature of change in medicine and business.
What won't change, however, is the need for capable, visionary and committed leaders who aren't afraid to take chances to make this industry even greater. I wish everyone could have been at last week's Health Care Hall of Fame dinner in Chicago, where three living legends were inducted.
John Colloton will be forever synonymous with the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Thomas Frist Jr. always will be known as the person who, through sheer willpower and a sense of purpose, engineered the turnaround of HCA after the disaster known as Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. Robert Waller long will be remembered for making the Mayo Clinic an even greater institution.
As I talked to these men and reviewed their careers, there was a common thread that stood out-their high ethical standards. Ethics, or a lack thereof, is a major issue across the spectrum of our society, challenging our institutions in business, government, politics, theology and sports. In the March 17 issue of Modern Healthcare, Larry Sanders, chairman of the American College of Healthcare Executives and chairman and chief executive officer of Columbus (Ga.) Regional Healthcare System, wrote about "The ethics imperative" (p. 46), making the point that proper corporate behavior requires rigorous self-examination. "We must all realize ... that our daily performance speaks volumes about the integrity we expect others within our organizations to display," he writes. That point should be drilled home to every individual who wants to lead at any level of an organization.
Of course, not everyone is a Colloton, Frist or Waller, nor are they a Michael DeBakey or one of the 63 others who have been inducted into the Hall of Fame in the past 16 years. But there are men and women who run healthcare institutions all over this country who day in and day out conduct their affairs in a highly ethical manner.
At the Hall of Fame festivities I had the chance to visit with Mark Howard, former chairman of the American College of Healthcare Executives. He is president and CEO of MountainView Hospital in Las Vegas, which has more than 900 employees. His philosophy and focus are simple: "There is a respect among all of the employees, no matter which department they're from. They're friendly, yet they work in a focused environment. They've also reported that there is a strong leadership and that those leaders are accessible to them."
Howard also makes this point: "I grew up on a farm where I learned the true meaning of hard work. I try to balance my life by focusing on three main priorities: God, family and country." Because of his high personal and professional ethics, Howard in 2002 was named one of Nevada's most respected CEOs, a well-deserved honor.
There are Mark Howards all over the U.S. doing an outstanding job of serving their communities and colleagues. That's why it's such an honor for me to be involved with some of the most principled individuals I've ever met.
Strong ethics is the best policy,
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Lauer is the author of two books, Reach for the Stars and Soar with the Eagles. For more information, go to www.chucklauer.com