CEO, URMC; Dean, School of Medicine and Dentistry
Years in current role: 7 years as CEO; 12 years as Dean
What was your biggest success in 2021?
What made 2021 so interesting was the continued convergence of two overarching challenges: the COVID pandemic and the imperative to become an antiracist society. I’m most proud of our ability to respond to these simultaneously, without losing site of education and research missions that are key to our future.
This required extraordinary effort by our faculty and staff. I’m thrilled that our affiliate hospitals worked seamlessly to provide care throughout the region. I’m honored that our scientists helped develop COVID vaccines and therapies. I’m gratified to see measurable, positive changes as we implement our Equity and Anti-racism Action Plan. We did this while continuing construction of our new outpatient Orthopedics campus and accelerating Wilmot Cancer Institute’s years
What are your expectations for 2022?
We’ll adjust our lifestyle as the COVID pandemic morphs into an endemic. For example, last year, we virtually eliminated influenza hospitalizations because of COVID masking and social distancing. When the recent omicron wave hit, we readopted these safety measures. As a result, cases of influenza immediately fell. Will we take from this lesson the tools that allow us to function and enjoy ourselves while protecting us from infections like COVID and flu? I also expect that we will see a lot of volatility in the financial markets as the economy adjusts to a post-COVID environment. Businesses, including the health care industry, will have to learn to incorporate virtual work and patient care settings. For us, this means more use of telemedicine and enabling segments of our workforce.
What is your biggest takeaway from dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic?
The importance of having a coordinated effort orchestrated from the top. We were hampered by the lack of a coordinated national plan and felt the impact of Rochester having fewer hospital beds than most communities. Although this makes us one of the most efficient and lowest cost health care markets, it made us particularly vulnerable in a pandemic. The COVID experience also exposed the interdependence of the various components of the health care system. Problems in our nursing homes have caused patients waiting for long-term care placements to back up in our hospitals. This makes it harder for the rest of us to access hospital services. Monroe County fared better than most because we’re able to develop a countywide plan orchestrated by county and state government and two health care systems.
What is your favorite thing about the Rochester community?
Everything is very accessible, and the city offers far more than what one would expect in a city this size. This is particularly true regarding the range and caliber of music performances. People are also very friendly and very helpful. There’s a great sense of community.
If time were no issue, what would you do to help the community that you aren’t already doing?
My life is focused on bringing health care to the community. If I had unlimited time, I would focus on ways to better provide other resources, such as housing, food, etc. These “upstream” factors have a profound effect on the health status of our citizens.