If you believe in an afterlife, you know for sure that Chuck Lauer is in heaven. He's likely sitting with some old buddies, and enjoying a beer and a hamburger.
Karl Bays of American Hospital Supply is there, and so is Walter McNerney, who helped design Medicare and led the merger between Blue Cross and Blue Shield. People from the history of healthcare are there too—from Ben Franklin and Clara Barton, to Michael DeBakey and Charles and Bill Mayo of the Mayo Clinic.
Chuck is probably hosting a spirited discussion of "what's right with healthcare." That's a topic he talked about hundreds of times during panels and presentations and that he wrote about in his popular publisher's letters. As his former colleague, I'm proud to have been on the receiving end of what I call "the best of Chuck Lauer." Chuck saw healthcare as "America's most exciting industry."
And he had many lessons to teach about it and life:
Healthcare was a business: But it was one where people came first. Before ideas like patient engagement hit the trade press, Chuck championed "service excellence" and the importance of a warm touch, kind word or a smile. The patient, he said, was and always would be our reason for existence.
Love the ones you're with: Chuck believed that everyone in healthcare—from the critical-care nurse to the environmental services manager—played a vital role in healing and wellness. And he never missed an opportunity to acknowledge unique wisdom, skills or emotional insight.
Mind your manners: At a time when many of us bemoan the absence of civility, Chuck was a true gentleman. I'll never forget the way he rushed to open doors, rose when a woman entered the room and truly listened.
Love your country: Chuck planted an American flag in the corner of his office and often gave it a crisp salute. A veteran of the Korean War, he was the military's best friend, shaking hands with every service person he met. He also proudly ended every speech with the phrase "God bless you and God bless the United States of America."
Keep on trucking: Chuck was 86 years old when he died but he never stopped working. Retirement for him meant still speaking at events, writing, consulting and serving on boards. He was a swimmer, golfer and hockey player who daily followed the gospel of wellness and good health.
Despite my hesitance to move to Modern Healthcare from Crain's Chicago Business 16 years ago, Chuck convinced me I could make a difference. I am forever grateful for his faith in me.
Thank you, Chuck, for the lessons and for setting Modern Healthcare on its path to the future. I will miss you very much. And I know I'm not alone.