Why are you leaving Henry Ford?
I've been here 12½ years, and we have accomplished a lot. I have always advised people to look in the mirror and ask yourself if it is time for a change. I started thinking about retiring a couple years ago. We had bought a house back in Boston seven years ago, so we planned to go back east. The decisive moment came in July when I was chosen as a fellow for Harvard's Advanced Leadership Initiative. This was an opportunity that I could not turn down.
Did the planned merger announcement with Beaumont Health System have anything to do with why you are leaving now?
No, the merger made me think twice about leaving. I thought it might be fun to be a part of this merger. It will be very challenging to integrate the private doctors at Beaumont with the employed doctors at Ford.
What is the fellowship at Harvard about?
Only about 25 leaders from different disciplines around the world are chosen for the yearlong fellowship in Advanced Leadership Skills. I will be a special student at Harvard. We participate in structured seminars, classroom work and, in some cases, mentor students. We also develop a project in collaboration with others. I might write a book on quality. This will serve as a well-organized sabbatical year as I plan the next adventure in my career.
What was it like at the medical group when you arrived in 2000?
I was at the University of Pennsylvania Health System before I came here and involved in physician and hospital network development. I saw this job as a great opportunity. A lot of other top doctors were already here at the time, and I wanted to be a part of it.
It was not clear if the medical group was evolving into a staff-model HMO from its traditional position as an academic practice. What were we? There were pieces of an academic medical group in place, a lot of potential and a lot of moving parts. The medical group already had major academic strengths but had even more potential with the assets of a large delivery system, anchored with excellent primary care. The idea was to unite them together and take the enterprise to the next level. I think we have done that.
At the beginning, the health system was having financial trouble because of the Balanced Budget Act of 1998 (which limited Medicare reimbursement increases). It took a little time to turn that situation around, but we had the management and physician leadership in place that gave us the confidence and momentum to move forward rapidly and be successful.
What challenges did you address?
We had two issues at the time. First, the system had great potential, but Detroit was on the decline. I saw this opportunity to use health care to help rebuild Detroit. I saw this happen in Boston and Philadelphia in the 1970s. It is now happening in Detroit. Health care, anchored by education and research, has gone from being perceived as a problem to being promoted as an economic engine for urban growth.
Second, Henry Ford was suffering from an image problem at the time in the community. Not that there weren't great doctors and medicine here. There was. People in the region didn't appear to know that. We wanted to restore Henry Ford to its rightful position as the go-to place for health care.
What happened to change the image of Henry Ford and the medical group?
We had a lot of top doctors come here over the years. They have built strong clinical programs that have improved our image locally and nationally.
Among those early leaders were Mani Menon, director of the Henry Ford Vattikuti Urology Institute; John Popovich, CEO of Henry Ford Hospital and the system's chief medical officer; Bill Conway, chief quality officer and interim CEO of the medical group; Henry Lim, chair of dermatology at Henry Ford Hospital and the system's senior vice president of academic affairs; Doug Weaver, chair of cardiology and co-director of the Henry Ford Heart and Vascular Institute; and Mark Rosenblum, chair of neurosurgery at Henry Ford Hospital and co-director of the Henry Ford Neurosciences Institute and Hermelin Brain Tumor Center.
What have been your main accomplishments?
There are four areas that come to mind. The first is that we have improved patient care and expanded our market share, including growth in physician referrals. We have made great strides in quality and patient satisfaction. Thanks to everyone's efforts, Henry Ford has won the nation's "Triple Crown" in health care quality—the Codman Award, the John Eisenberg Award and the Baldrige Award.
Second, we have recruited and retained great people over the years. Detroit isn't the easiest region for recruiting, but once here, our physicians love the area.
The third accomplishment is our major affiliation with Wayne State. In 2002, we signed our first agreement to train their medical students and collaborate in research. Both programs have been very successful. Our investment in student education has paid off, as these students join our residency programs, which are among the largest in the nation. We recruit and retain these talented young physicians to keep our group practice strong.
Finally, research has been growing here the past decade. We have created an innovation institute that has expanded our opportunities for discovery. We have excellent researchers here who continue to compete successfully for grant funding. It isn't the easiest to do with a large managed care practice and a group that is largely primary care.
How did having the new Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital open in 2008 change the medical group?
It got us out of our comfort zone as downtown doctors practicing exclusively at Henry Ford Hospital. We have 30 medical centers in Southeast Michigan, but this new facility helped us grow our inpatient service in a new region. We learned a lot from launching a new community hospital open to private physicians. We built better relations with outside doctors and also grew full inpatient and outpatient services for a new population of patients. The lessons will help us meet the challenges of health reform.