Top 25 Emerging Leaders
Michael Lauf, 33
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 hospital."
Things didn't get better right away. About two years after Lauf came to Miners, the facility filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
The hospital, 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.
He 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 facility.
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.' "