What value do you believe is critical to success?
We have to start with respect for each other as human beings, respect for the jobs that we all do. That’s why I feel so strongly about the [NYP RESPECT] Credo. I think that fundamentally the basis of caring for people is empathy, and empathy derives from respect. The respect has to be amongst each other as well as toward the patient.
Could you talk a bit about your vision for NewYork-Presbyterian, its six campuses and regional hospitals?
I think we have a profound obligation to deliver the best care we can to everybody who comes through our doors, and I think we have an opportunity in the region as a whole to deliver a high level of care. We’re not going to be perfect. No one is, but that’s what we should strive for, and I think that we have a critical mass of talent where I think we can provide the very best care. The fact that our 30-day mortality statistics as measured by CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) are the best in the country, that shows what we’re capable of. I feel strongly that with the resources that we have, with the talent that we have, we have an obligation to deliver the very best care. You know, it’s the “your mother” test.
The “mother test?”
If your mother were in the bed, would you want her to come to NewYork-Presbyterian? I think the answer to that, by and large, is yes. Now we’re saying, “If your mother was in that bed, would you come to any NewYork-Presbyterian facility in the region?” And I think the answer to that should be, “Yes. I’m going to trust in them, and I’m going to trust in that brand. I’m going to trust that they have the best doctors, the best nurses.” … When I get a letter from families and from patients saying, “I knew I was safe when I came to your hospital,” or “I can’t believe that every interaction I had in your hospital throughout my stay or my daughter’s stay, or my husband’s stay, was a positive interaction, that people really cared about me. That the housekeeper who came in to clean my room every day asked how I was feeling,” that makes you feel good.
How does our partnership with two Ivy League medical schools — Columbia and Weill Cornell — make NewYork-Presbyterian unique?
I think that teaching institutions in general are unique. There are 400 institutions in the country out of 5,000 or so that are teaching hospitals. Of those 400, probably 30 or 40 are major academic centers, so you’re already talking about a relatively small slice of the pie. What makes those places special? You have an ability to coalesce talent that is unmatched. The great academic medical centers in this country can bring together talent that few places can. The fact that we have two such medical schools, to me, was always, “How can we, as three partners working together, do something truly unique, and develop something truly unique?” I think that our ability to say, ‘We’ve got these two great medical schools. We’ve got great physicians. We have a great value structure, and we attract the very best people who exhibit those values.’ I think that’s unique. I’m hoping, and I believe, we can scale that in the region. But that’s our challenge as a hospital.
Given the uncertain health care climate, how do you expect NewYork-Presbyterian will face those challenges?
First, I think that we’ve got a terrific product. We deliver great care. Number two, I think we’ve got a great mission. I think people realize … I hope they realize, that we take care of everybody. Thirty percent of the patients we care for are Medicaid patients, and our employees feel strongly about that. Third, I think we’ve got a terrific board. I think we’ve got a very philanthropic community, and I think that we manage the institution well. I’m confident that we’ll be able to navigate these choppy waters. Am I concerned about it? Of course. I think that creating deficiencies of insurance, paying states less in the way of Medicaid monies, taking away insurance from people, is a real problem. It breaks your heart when somebody can’t receive treatment because they’re uninsured, or they won’t go to a doctor because it’s going to break the bank. People need to realize that 40 percent of Americans cannot afford a $400 unexpected expense.
What do you enjoy most about coming to work each day?
I think we’re a special place with a special mission. The people who have preceded me, the people who will succeed me. … This is a very special job. We’re stewards of a great institution. The New York Hospital was founded in 1771. Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons is the second oldest medical school in the country. Columbia Presbyterian Hospital was founded in 1868, so I don’t want to be the guy who ruins 230 years of history. I think you feel a profound sense of obligation that you really want to deliver the place into the hands of your successor, better than it was before. I know that Dr. (Herbert) Pardes felt that way when he handed it over to me, and I will feel that way when I hand it over to my successor, because it’s a special place. It’s a unique place. And it’s a place worthy of working hard for.