Nancy Schlichting, who served as chief operating officer during the last four years of Warden’s tenure and is now president and CEO of Henry Ford, described Warden as a “mentor, friend and colleague, I would never describe him as a boss. He’s a very soft-spoken man, very humble in many ways, and an individual who truly respects the people he works with, treats them really as part of his family.”
Warden, 68, brought experience gained in an academic setting at Chicago-based Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center, now known as Rush University Medical Center; a group health system at the Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound in Seattle; and a policymaking environment at the American Hospital Association, where he served as executive vice president, Schlichting says.
“What Gail has meant to this organization is understanding all the components that make up Henry Ford Health System,” she says. “What he brought was a very unique blend of experience that worked very well at Henry Ford.”
As executive vice president and COO of Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s from 1965 to 1976, Warden helped lead the reopening of Rush Medical College and the creation of both the Rush College of Nursing and the Rush University System of Health, a network of affiliated hospitals. “The important thing about my stint at Rush was, I got very well-grounded in academic medicine,” he says.
At the AHA, where he worked from 1977 to 1981, Warden created constituency centers for groups such as multihospital systems, rural hospitals, rehabilitation centers and behavioral health specialists that exist to this day. He led a voluntary effort to reduce costs to avoid caps that the Carter administration wanted to impose, he beefed up the association’s hospital research and education trust, and he developed a “policy shop,” Warden says.
Warden turned around a money-losing organization during his eight years at the Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, where he expanded the organization statewide; created a foundation as well as a center for health services research, “which is still one of the best in the country”; and founded a center for health promotion and disease prevention, “one of the first in the country,” Warden says. “They were looking for someone who had run a health system but also had an understanding of health plans.”
During his 15 years at the helm of Henry Ford, Warden led the system in efforts to better integrate its hospitals, medical group and health plans; raised funds to secure 45 endowed chairs; lobbied the state of Michigan to address the uninsured; established school-based health centers in the city of Detroit; and created its own centers for health services research, clinical effectiveness, health promotion and disease prevention.
“One of the most important things I did was to develop a strategic approach that brought everything together,” Warden says. “We got the system developed in such a way that everybody was pulling together and on the same page.” He adds that he also initiated a “major fundraising effort” that led to the endowed chairs.