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Dome - Peterson speaks about his named professorship

Dome June 2012

Peterson speaks about his named professorship

Date: June 15, 2012


Ronald R. Peterson speaks on professorship named in his honor

This is a transcript of a speech the president of The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System gave at the March 1, 2012 event announcing the professorship and and his achievements. 

Thank you, David, for that very generous, mostly true, introduction.  It is most convenient to have the master of metaphor serve as the master of ceremonies. 

But David, if my mother were still with us, she probably would wonder about whom you were talking.  She always had visions of me becoming a Lutheran minister.  As a matter of fact, when I was first accepted to the Johns Hopkins University in 1966 and announced to my parents that I intended to go, my mother was a little bit taken aback—maybe a lot taken aback.  She was thinking more like Muhlenberg or St. Olaf’s or Concordia.  After all, how was a Johns Hopkins University education going to help me get into the Gettysburg Seminary?  In any event, as I reflect on my Hopkins’ career, I guess in many ways, I have been ministering to the Hopkins family for all of these years.  So, perhaps I can get a little credit for that upstairs.  We all have our cross to bear.

Thank you all for being here with us today and welcome to my old stomping grounds.  David was kind enough to introduce my family members so I don’t need to do that, but I would like to share one vignette about our family vis-à-vis my work at Johns Hopkins.  Susie, who is now Dr. Susie, was the baby in our family not too many years ago and was a real talker.  She would repeatedly ask my wife, Rooney, why is dad always so late in getting home from work. 

And of course, Rooney would always answer, “Dad’s got an important job at the hospital and the hospital never closes.”  Well Susie, now that you are a chief resident in emergency medicine at Johns Hopkins, pulling your fair share of nightshift duty, I hope you have a better appreciation for the reality that the hospital never closes, and Phil, if you are wondering where your wife is, just remember the hospital never closes.

I wanted to take a moment to introduce my lifelong friend, Bob Chelle, who was kind enough to travel all the way from Dayton, Ohio to be with me today.  Bob is one of the original Jersey boys.  He always claimed that I taught him to read when we were kids, but he proved to be a lot smarter than yours truly and was able to retire from a successful business career in his early fifties.

  I am very proud that Bob has been giving back by continuing to serve as the founding director of the Crotty Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership at the University of Dayton.  He has been doing this since 1999.  Bob, I really appreciate your presence. 

I would also like to thank Maria Heyssel and Sue Smith for traveling in order to be with us today.  Maria is, of course, the spouse of the late Dr. Robert Heyssel, who served as the leader of The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System from 1972-1992.  Sue’s deceased husband, Gardner Smith, was the Chair of the Section of Surgical Sciences at Bayview for most of the time that I was there as president.

Several trustees are here today from Bayview, The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System, as well as Johns Hopkins Medicine.  I really appreciate your presence.  Special thanks to Morris and Nancy Offit for traveling to be with us today.  I would also like to recognize my neighbor from Harford County, Virginia Dresher, who is the mother of Jim Dresher, Chairman of the Board of Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.  The Dresher family has been very supportive of Cardiac Surgery at Johns Hopkins, and Mrs. Dresher just celebrated her 90th birthday last week!

It is true, when David Hellmann first approached me about this opportunity that he wanted to pursue on my behalf, I was quite reluctant, to say the least.  For those of you who know me, I tend to avoid the limelight.  And although I have been a lifelong donor to Johns Hopkins, I have not given a couple of million dollars to establish a chair.

As David reminded me, during the time that I served as President of Bayview Medical Center, I had worked collaboratively with the leadership in the Department of Medicine and the Chesapeake Physicians Practice Association to assemble infrastructure assets to support renal medicine, and specifically dialysis, both on and off the Bayview campus. 

We had the good fortune to have a successful sale of certain of those assets a few years back, which enabled us to create an endowment-like fund—a portion of which will be available to support this chair. So, President Daniels and Dean Miller, there is indeed a bona fide source to support this professorship.  As a fiscal surgeon, I can attest to that. 

As to my reluctance to be recognized, David assured me that I would be doing this on behalf of the team, an opportunity to celebrate the power of partnership within the unique academic medical center enterprise that is John Hopkins Medicine—partnership between hospital and medical school, partnership between business and the academy, partnership between lay administration and physician leadership. 

So with that in mind, I accept this honor with a great deal of pride and heartfelt appreciation.  I have probably been to nearly 100 of these professorship ceremonies in my time at Hopkins, and as Dr. Brody referenced just a short while ago at the dedication of his professorship, it is not until your own name is associated with this perpetual honor that it really hits home.  So I thank you, David Hellmann, for your advocacy on my behalf, and I thank you, Dr. Weisfeldt, Dean Miller and President Daniels, for consenting to bring this forward.

In his letter of direction to the first board of trustees of The Johns Hopkins Hospital shortly before his death in 1873, Mr. Hopkins stipulated in no uncertain terms that the hospital should become an integral part of the University School of Medicine supporting the tripartite mission of research, education and excellent patient care. 

On my leadership watch, I have had the privilege and opportunity to be a steward of that original charge laid down by Mr. Hopkins.  I certainly did not appreciate the significance of that responsibility early on in my career, but the importance of this has become abundantly clear to me with the passage of time.  David has shared some of his thoughts about my time at Hopkins so I will fill in some of the detail, but I assure you my wife has given strict orders to be mercifully brief.

I think about my Hopkins career thus far, having had four phases:  1970s (the formative years), 1980s (risk taking years, leaving the security of JHH for the unknown of BCH), the first half of the 1990s (turbulent time following the retirement of Dr. Heyssel), the last fifteen years (the golden era of the newly configured Johns Hopkins Medicine).

David mentioned that I arrived at The Johns Hopkins Hospital as an administrative resident in 1973.  Dr. Heyssel was brand new in his role as executive vice president and director of The Johns Hopkins Hospital and was not my assigned preceptor.  Mr. Halle, who was really Dr. Heyssel’s right-hand man and always the matchmaker, arranged for me to meet Dr. Heyssel. We established a good rapport and I was permitted to shadow him.  After successfully completing a few administrative assignments that he made available to me, shortly before the completion of my administrative residency, he asked if I would consider taking the administrative assignment in psychiatry where both the chairman and administrative positions were vacant.  

What he did not explain to me was that I would be relating to an oversight committee of four psychiatrists and one behavioral scientist until Dr. Paul McHugh was successfully recruited.  For a newly minted hospital administrator, this proved to be baptism by fire, or should I say baptism by group therapy! 

In any event, I guess I did well because I was then invited to come around front to work directly for Dr. Heyssel in the design, development and execution of a cross-functional cost improvement program as a response to the runaway inflation that had kicked in by 1975.  I modeled the program after a successful initiative at the General Electric Company.  We were successful in taming the tide of the rising costs by 1978.  Once again, Dr. Heyssel called upon me to go into the fiscally challenged department of pediatrics which had a relatively new chairman, Dr. Littlefield, who was a geneticist desperately in need of a business partner.

During these formative years of the 1970s, I learned a great deal about the power of mentorship and the importance of granting a young administrator, such as myself, the opportunity to take on new challenges and be empowered.  I got a taste of partnership with physicians, first with Paul McHugh in psychiatry and later John Littlefield in pediatrics.

By 1980, Mayor William Donald Schaefer began to contemplate seriously the future of the troubled Baltimore City Hospitals.  A public referendum was issued which granted the Mayor the right to pursue divestiture of city ownership.  It took a coalition of senior doctors from Baltimore City Hospitals: Burt D'Lugoff, Chester Schmidt, and Phil Zieve, to convince Dr. Heyssel that it would be in the best interest of Hopkins, Baltimore City Hospitals, and the city of Baltimore for Hopkins to get involved.  Once Dr. Heyssel decided we should be involved, he reached out to me and we created a company, Broadway Medical Management Corporation, for the purpose of bidding on the opportunity to manage BCH. 

After operating a short time under a management contract, we were given the nod by the trustees of the University and Hospital to pursue acquisition.  For more than a year, Dr. Heyssel, Irv Kues, Ed Halle and I worked diligently on the negotiations for acquisition with city officials, and the deal was consummated in June 1984.  The city had been losing seven million dollars per year for several years, but our feasibility study for acquisition determined that there was a lot of low hanging fruit. 

Within one year of our involvement, we were able to bring the fiscal house into some semblance of order and generated a near break-even bottom line.  But of course, the real story at Baltimore City Hospitals, renamed Francis Scott Key initially and ultimately, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, was the power of the partnership that emerged with the physician leadership.

I worked very closely with Phil Zieve, Chair of Medicine and elected President of the Medical Staff, Chet Schmidt, Chair of Psychiatry and President of Chesapeake Physicians PA and ultimately Gardner Smith, who returned to Baltimore City Hospitals as Chair of the Section of Surgical Sciences.  We did program planning together, and we did extensive facilities master planning.  We took a patient-centered approach, working closely with the clinical director of geriatrics, John Burton, to determine that the very first building that we needed to construct was a geriatric center in order to get the very frail long-term care patients out of a circa 1860s building known as the Mason F. Lord Building.  We went about the business of looking seriously at the alignment of incentives between the medical center and the physician organization. 

Within a few years, we created what in retrospect was an informal PHO, a physician hospital organization, encompassing the medical center and CPPA.  We worked increasingly as one combined organization.

  The power of the partnership enabled the troubled City Hospitals to turn around fiscally, programmatically and from a physical redevelopment perspective.  All of this set the stage for an emerging academic campus that David Hellmann and the next generation of Bayview Medical Center administrative leaders would bring to fruition --  truly a remarkable story about the power of partnership.

There is no question that I had a great ride during the first two decades of my Hopkins career.  My one disappointment occurred when I was overlooked to succeed Bob Heyssel after he announced his intentions to retire in 1991.  Afterall, I was not an M.D., I didn’t have enough gray hair, and I certainly did not have the managed care experience for which the trustees were looking. 

The search committee was successful in recruiting a visionary physician leader with a shock of gray hair and significant managed care experience.  The problem that emerged was that although Dr. Block was indeed a brilliant strategist, he did not understand the culture of Johns Hopkins, nor did he choose to go about the business of learning and embracing it.  Many of you know that we entered a turbulent time involving great difficulty between the president of the health system and the dean of the medical school.  The situation got so ugly that trustees of our university and health system had to step in, demonstrating that at Johns Hopkins, culture trumps strategy and vision. 

To the credit of trustee leaders, Morris Offit from the university, and George Bunting from the health system, the structure that we know today as Johns Hopkins Medicine was pursued after a very deliberate process of study and contemplation.  What emerged was a formal alliance between our school of medicine and health system with a dedicated board and CEO who would be the dean of the school of medicine. 

While the trustees conducted a national search for the inaugural Dean/CEO, I was quietly invited by health system chairman, George Bunting, to accept the position of president of The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System, initially on an acting basis, and within a few months, the real deal.  Dr. Edward Miller was named the inaugural Johns Hopkins Medicine Dean/CEO in February 1997 and shortly thereafter, he invited me to serve with him as his executive vice president.

Under the JHM structure, there is no question as to who is the boss; that would be the Dean/CEO. But the boss reached out to me very early on, and by his actions invited me to serve as his partner.  Working side-by-side for fifteen years, we have been able to dramatically improve the physical and programmatic infrastructure in all three dimensions of the tripartite mission. 

The research, education and clinical buildings may very well be the most tangible examples of the success of the partnership, but don’t forget the dramatic improvement to the financial condition of the total enterprise, the development of an increasingly integrated patient centered health care delivery system to address the direction of health care delivery for the future, and the development of tremendous capacity to do international program development, health care management, and health care delivery work. 

During this period of remarkable partnership, many new institutes emerged to ensure that in this research intensive academic medical center environment, the structures would be in place to enable new discovery and innovation to flourish.  As well, a brand new medical school curriculum has come online to ensure that Johns Hopkins is once again leading the way in medical education for the future generation of physician leaders.

In many ways, this has been a golden era thanks to Ed Miller’s leadership, the partnership we have enjoyed, and the structure our trustees put into place.  I believe we have demonstrated that in this research intensive academic medical center that is Johns Hopkins, it is essential for the dean to be at the top of the managerial pecking order.  But, we have also demonstrated that the power of partnership can dramatically facilitate advancement of the enterprise.  It has been my privilege and pleasure to have been involved in such meaningful partnerships, not just in the last fifteen years, but over the course of the last four decades. 

So where do we go from here? 

I believe phase five of my Hopkins career will involve the opportunity to work closely with President Daniels, Johns Hopkins Medicine Board Chair Frank Burch, and Dean/CEO elect, Dr. Paul Rothman, to ensure a seamless transition for the new Dean/CEO.  I then intend to partner with Paul Rothman to ensure that Johns Hopkins Medicine will be able to navigate the challenging times ahead for academic medicine.

I would be remiss if I didn’t take a few minutes to offer thanks to those who were instrumental in providing me the opportunity to have such an interesting go of it for the last four decades.  I must start with the trustees. 

I would like to specifically recognize Bob Harvey as the inaugural chairman of the board of Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center who served in that capacity for the entire time that I was president at Bayview, and Francis Knott who also chaired the Bayview Board and has continued to serve on the board at Bayview since the inception in 1984.  He is an important bridge player with his service on the Health System board and Johns Hopkins Medicine board. 

I am particularly grateful to George Bunting and Morris Offit for the respective leadership roles they played in facilitating the restructuring of Johns Hopkins Medicine. 

 In the audience is Eddie Dunn, who served as the second chair of Johns Hopkins Medicine, as well as a number of senior trustees from Johns Hopkins Medicine including Manuel Dupkin, Henry Rosenberg, Sandy Greenberg, Fred Mitchell, Jeff Legum, Mike Hankin, and Jim Dresher, who as I mentioned before serves as well as chairman of the board at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. 

Other outside trustees from Bayview who are here today include George Mantakos and Sheridan Smith.  Although they cannot be here, I wanted to recognize the other senior trustees who have served as chairman of Johns Hopkins Medicine including Lenox Baker, Mike Armstrong, and the current chair, Frank Burch. 

My mentors along the way have been most influential: I am grateful to Bob Heyssel, who took me under his wing early on and granted me one opportunity after the other, and Ed Halle who taught me the art of relationship building with physicians.  Of course, as I have already mentioned the very special relationship I have had enjoyed with Ed Miller -- he has been my boss, my mentor, my partner, and most importantly, a very close friend.  I owe my thanks to the physician partners, Drs. Paul McHugh, John Littlefield, Phil Zieve, Chet Schmidt, Gardner Smith and John Burton, and many others at Bayview and all of the clinical directors in east Baltimore and at Bayview with whom I have worked over the years. 

Special mention goes to Mike Weisfeldt for taking such serious early interest in Bayview. Some of you may know that as cardiology division director, he and I collaborated in the mid 1980s to procure an early generation MRI for cardiac research at Bayview through a fledgling west coast company called Resonex, which was head up by a young entrepreneur, Bill Brody.  Mike reached out to a young rising star in this new field by the name of Elias Zerhouni, to check out the technology at the development site in California.  We were able to consummate the deal in relatively short order.  Brody would go on to become president of the Johns Hopkins University.  Zerhouni would ascend to the directorship of the NIH.  Mike and I are still doing the Lord’s work at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

I must recognize some of my longstanding administrative colleagues:  Rich Grossi in the medical school who goes way back with me and who, of course, ascended to be the CFO of Johns Hopkins Medicine; Dr. Judy Reitz, the senior most officer who has worked for me the longest; colleagues Ron Werthman, Joanne Pollak and Sally MacConnell, who have been with me for the entire time that I have served as Health System president.  And finally, all of the officers of The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System, Bayview Medical Center and Johns Hopkins Medicine, as well as our jointly held entities with whom I have had the privilege of serving. 

I have also enjoyed the opportunity to work with the vice deans of the School of Medicine and must, of course, recognize in a very appreciative way once again David Hellmann for the very special role he has played in this event today. 

I have also enjoyed over the years, very special staff support:  Sharon Jones, who ran the office at Bayview for the time that I was president; Gayle Greenwood, who is currently my assistant and office manager along with Fay Jay and Theresa Harris; and Mike Turner, who helps get Dr. Miller and me where we need to be. 

And our course last, but not least, one final word of thanks to my anchor who is my wife Rooney, without whom none of this would have been possible for me.

Now before I yield, I must say a few words about the inaugural recipient without taking away Mike Weisfeldt’s thunder.  I have known Paul Scheel for a number of years, although interestingly, we have not worked closely together, but I have watched his Hopkins career grow and could not be more proud that he will be the inaugural recipient of this professorship.  He is a remarkably solid Johns Hopkins Medicine citizen.  He is first and foremost a wonderful doctor and credible scientist, a serious program builder and a health service innovator in the management of chronic disease.  He is a bridge player between our East Baltimore campus and Bayview.  He is a collaborator who has given us the opportunity to expand dramatically our capacity to do renal transplantation. 

Finally, he is an individual who is willing to step up to the plate to take on thankless administrative tasks such as the oversight of conversion to ICD-10, a government mandate to dramatically change medical coding so that we can continue to be paid for the services we render. 

In short, Paul Scheel has the attributes of a wonderful physician partner and is most deserving of the opportunity to be the inaugural recipient of the professorship that will bear my name.  So Paul, congratulations to you on this very special day for you and your family.

Once again, thank you all for being here.  Your presence means a great deal to me and my family.

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