Movie fans may recall the recurring theme of the no-win scenario in the film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. A Starfleet cadet is vexed by an officer training simulation that has no solution and always results in virtual death. Pressed by the cadet to explain how he became the only person ever to beat the test, Capt. Kirk (Adm. Kirk in this movie) reveals that he surreptitiously reprogrammed the computer so it was possible to beat the no-win scenario. I got a commendation for original thinking, Kirk gloats.
This year, the Health Care Hall of Fame judges have bestowed their own commendation for original thinking on three people who applied the power of innovation to their profession.
Sister Mary Ignatia was a woman in the mold of Capt. Kirk, pioneering not in space but in the humane treatment of alcoholics. In an era when alcoholics were shunned by hospitals, Sister Ignatia resorted to a menu of deceptions to get these souls shelter and treatment in Akron, Ohio. You can easily imagine the good sister today hacking into the hospital computer system and rewriting programs to skirt bureaucracy and help the unfortunate.
Two of this years inductees were founders of VHA, the cooperative of not-for-profit hospitals that has advanced the industrys knowledge and finances. One of them, Pat Groner, spent more than three decades at the helm of Baptist Hospital in Pensacola, Fla., where he pushed innovations such as outpatient surgery, senior housing and productivity incentives. Former VHA chief Tom Smith described Groner as being always restless about the status quo and finding new and better ways to do things.
The other VHA founding father is Wade Mountz, president emeritus of Norton Healthcare in Louisville, Ky. Mountz, like Groner, headed his organization for 30 years. He led what he said was then a cutting-edge merger of Norton Hospital with Childrens Hospital in 1969. The American College of Healthcare Executives frequently invited him to speak on hospital mergers at its institutes. He also sparked a minor revolution in the local medical community with immediate-care facilities.
Theres a popular management book titled First, Break All the Rules. This year, the Hall of Fame welcomes three inductees who, in that rule-breaking spirit, werent bound by convention and werent afraid to do what needed to be done.
The profiles of this years winners were written by Elizabeth Gardner and Ed Finkel. Gardner, a freelance writer and former Modern Healthcare reporter based in Riverside, Ill., can be reached at [email protected] Finkel, a freelance writer and longtime contributor to Modern Healthcare based in Evanston, Ill., can be reached at [email protected]