At age 30, Michael Lauf was not only young to be taking over as president and chief
executive officer at what was then called Miners Hospital in Hastings, Pa., but he
also looked even younger than his years, says Richard Salluzzo, CEO and chief
medical officer with Miners' parent Conemaugh Health System and its flagship
Memorial Medical Center.
Complicating matters was that the newly acquired rural
hospital was losing about $4 million a year. Some openly questioned Lauf's
experience. His age "was a concern of the board," Salluzzo says. He adds, "They
thought we were bringing in Doogie Howser."
Salluzzo was convinced Lauf was the
right candidate after seeing him work as the principal partner of business
development at the system's Windber (Pa.) Medical Center and executive vice
president of the Windber Research Institute.
However, the rumblings about Lauf's
experience didn't stop in the boardroom; they continued into the halls of Miners
not long after Lauf took over the top spot in July 2001. In the first four months
he was there, the hospital reduced staff. About 30 positions were eliminated,
bringing total staff to about 180.
Lauf, now 33, says the sentiment around the
hospital was basically, "they're bringing in this young guy to close the
Things didn't get better right away. About two years after Lauf came
to Miners, the facility filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
which is now called Miners Medical Center, had accumulated about $11.5 million in
debt, which Lauf says was mostly a product of the facility completing construction
of a new acute-care building in 1999.
Lauf enlisted the help of a former boss in
an effort to get the facility moving in a more positive direction. U.S. Rep. John
Murtha (D-Pa.) helped the hospital strike a deal with its creditors, which resulted
in a write-down of $7 million in debt.
After earning a bachelor's degree in
political science from the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown in 1993, Lauf
worked as director of community and economic development from 1994 to 1999 for
Murtha before joining the Windber facility. Some of his responsibilities with
Murtha's office included working with the budget and appropriations process.
says that the connections he made through that job helped the system land some
federal grants. Lauf says he didn't do much of the drafting of the grant
proposals-that was Salluzzo's department-but Lauf "made sure the right people" saw
the applications from Conemaugh. The end result is that the system has landed more
than five federal grants totaling about $30 million since 1999. Before then it
hadn't won any, Salluzzo says.
With a grant from the U.S. Department of
Agriculture, the hospital set up a video-conferencing system that allows some
staff-training to take place at the hospital-especially useful for a rural
Despite working at a 30-bed hospital, Lauf often highlights the
facility's technological achievements. He attributes some of the hospital's
successes to the parent system. He says Miners has been able to tap some of
Conemaugh's resources, getting price breaks through the system's group purchasing
organizations, for example.
But Salluzzo is quick to credit Lauf: "You look
at him and you say, `He's an Up & Comer.' "