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In This Issue:
On Jan. 1, Gary L. Gottlieb, MD, MBA, became the fourth president and CEO of Partners HealthCare, succeeding James J. Mongan, MD, who retired at the end of last year.
Gottlieb, who joined BW/F as president in 2002, was recruited to Partners to become the first chairman of psychiatry and mental health in 1998. In 2000, he added the role of president of North Shore Medical Center. Prior to coming to Boston, Gottlieb spent 15 years in Philadelphia where, as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation clinical scholar, he earned an MBA with distinction in health care administration from the Wharton Graduate School of Business. He established Penn Medical Center's first program in geriatric psychiatry and served as executive vice chair and interim chair of Penn's Department of Psychiatry and the Health System's associate dean for managed care. In 1994, he became director and CEO of Friends Hospital in Philadelphia.
Q: During your first days as president and CEO of Partners, Haiti was devastated by one of the worst natural disasters in our history. Describe the system-wide response and the role Partners will play in the weeks and months to come.
A: First, may I say our hearts go out to all indelibly scarred by this unspeakable tragedy. For those who are our colleagues, may we stand with them and embrace them in their time of need. The Partners family is doing exactly what you would expect in a time like this-taking a decisive leadership role, working with government and relief agencies including our colleagues at Partners In Health, our affiliated medical organization with bases in Haiti. We will offer whatever we can to help a country in its most desperate time of need.
Q. You have taken on a series of challenging and high-profile roles in health care management. However, first and foremost, you are a physician board-certified in psychiatry and geriatric psychiatry. What first drew you to a career in medicine?
A. Like most of my colleagues, I was drawn to medicine by the compelling importance of helping others and the enormous privilege of providing care. Psychiatry is so attractive because brain disease affects the essence of who we are, how we relate to one another and how we function in society. Behavioral neuroscience seeks to unlock those doors and those pathways and improve that core of our overall function.
Q: You are deeply connected to the community through your work at the hospital and through outside boards and community activities. Why do you think workforce development and preparing young people for health careers are so critical?
A: What are we if not our community? Boston is a city that is enriched by the ethnic and socioeconomic diversity of its people. Broadly, our workforce development efforts accurately reflect the needs of our community. It's been a sweet spot for me personally. It embraces the principles of education, and, as a professor, I am driven by those principles. One of the great weaknesses of American education is that the workplace hasn't informed the schools adequately of what skills students need to succeed, while the schools haven't shared with employers the challenges of preparation, home life and the limitations of the classroom.
As chairman of the Private Industry Council (Boston Mayor Menino's workforce development board), I have witnessed first-hand how challenging a time this is. If we don't fully understand the importance of work as a critical tool to support and stabilize families, their housing and their health, we will miss the opportunity to do real good and will fail in our role and responsibility.
Q: What excites you the most about this new role?
A: I'm excited to engage more deeply in all parts of the Partners system in a way that I've only been able to touch up to this point. I arrived at Partners in a unique job-the first head of Partners Psychiatry. Through that opportunity, I spent time at MGH and BWH, worked with Newton-Wellesley and Spaulding and connected with McLean, developed psychiatry services at North Shore and worked with our community partners at mental health agencies, as well as the Partners health centers. I look forward to working more directly with the people whose skills make each piece of the system special and make the whole so much better than the individual parts.
Q: What are the major challenges facing the Partners organization in the years ahead?
A: There is so much good that is driven by our mission and by the extraordinary people who work in the system. But we face an environment in which the economy has been devastated and health care costs feel like an increasing burden. In this environment, an important challenge we need to address consistently, in a very clear and thoughtful way, is to demonstrate the great value we offer. We must remember that we don't have the opportunity to continue to just do what we do. We have to do-and explain what we're doing-in a way that's continuously accountable, that consistently reflects the thoughtful work of the people across Partners and conveys how our work improves the human condition.
Q: Partners is recognized as a national leading center of biomedical research. How do you view the research enterprise at Partners and how does it support clinical care?
A: Over the last 15 years, our hospitals and Partners have consistently invested in our research enterprise to support discovery and translation. These investments are continuing to pay off in better approaches to diagnosis and to care and treatment that are being used throughout the world. MGH and BWH are the top two independent hospitals in terms of NIH funding-we have the biggest NIH-funded laboratory in the country. Together as Partners, MGH, BWH, McLean, Spaulding, our community hospitals and all other elements of the system, we have an obligation to the people of this country to continue to explore new horizons in research that are relevant to improving the human condition and the health care system. The science here is informed by clinical realities and provides the opportunity to ease pain and cure illness. That is an investment that we must continue to make. It differentiates us. It helps to attract some of the most extraordinary young people to work here. There is no other health care delivery system that has a fully integrated research arm that also serves an urban community, nothing close to it.
Q: What message do you wish to share with the 50,000 employees across Partners?
A: At Partners, we have a responsibility to provide everybody with the opportunity to grow. Most people work in the context of stressful and challenging lives, increasingly so at the present time. Often, there isn't a moment to think about what the next year and the years beyond hold for our own lives. Therefore, we need to use our resources to help further people's skills and to provide them with educational opportunities. Working at Partners should feel like being a kid in the candy store of opportunity.
Q: As you start in this new role, could you offer a few reflections on your time at BWH?
A: Brigham and Women's has been in my soul for the past almost eight years. Shortly after I arrived, my father became ill and ultimately passed away while at the Brigham. Almost immediately, I had the chance to see how incredibly warm, thoughtful and connected a place it could be for my family. At the Brigham, I've had the great fortune of mentoring dozens of young people, of interacting with young people in our high schools, through the Student Success Jobs Program, and with the most brilliant young physicians and scientists you will find anywhere in the nation. My experience at the Brigham gave me a sense of the unique richness of these academic medical centers-a richness that the world needs to understand and that will lead the way in improving health and health care in this country.