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Dome - A global outlook

December 2011

A global outlook

Date: December 16, 2011

John Ulatowski
John Ulatowski

Over the past three years, Johns Hopkins Medicine has expanded its reach, bringing three new hospitals into the system and most recently undertaking a comprehensive organizational restructuring. Johns Hopkins Medicine International (JHI) is an integral part of this broader vision. To gain insight into JHI’s evolving role, Dome sat down with the man charged with its clinical integration into the new Johns Hopkins Medicine.

During his 23-year-long career at Hopkins, John Ulatowski has been  director of anesthesiology and critical care medicine, and professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine, neurological surgery and neurology.

What do you see as your key role as executive medical director for JHI?

Attracting larger numbers of international patients to the entire Johns Hopkins Health System—including our partner hospitals in Florida and the Washington, D.C., region—is critical to the success of our business operations. It is clear to me that international work is a natural next step in the realization of JHM’s mission, which demands that we improve the health of the community—and that community is now global.

We must not only discover and learn better ways of delivering health care and conducting medical education and research, but disseminate that knowledge internationally. JHI is the vehicle through which we can deliver what we know about practicing medicine, teaching medical and nursing care, and performing research.

How would this work?

Right now, our international and out-of-state patients are familiar with The Johns Hopkins Hospital and the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. However, there’s much more to offer if you look across all of the Johns Hopkins Health System (JHHS). What are the centers of excellence that we can better market to international patients? Are there physicians within JHHS who are interested in interacting with our affiliates around the world or seeing more international patients? These answers will guide JHI’s strategy and increase our ability to assist more non-local patients—an institutional goal that relates to both our mission and our bottom line.

What have you discovered in relationship-building with faculty and staff?

Physicians and nurses have a thorough understanding of how JHI can assist with international, out-of-state and non-English-speaking patients. They have less appreciation of the full potential of opportunities available relating to education and research. This makes sense, though, because JHI has invested heavily in improving health care for international patients—those who come here and, through our project work, those who visit any of our global affiliates. JHI is excellent at improving clinical care. The next step is excel internationally through our affiliates at the other core aspects  of the mission.

For instance?

Growing more research collaborations, such as the one Hopkins urologist Brian Matlaga forged with Leticia Ruiz from Hospital Punta Pacífica, our managed hospital in Panama, to create a minimally invasive technique for kidney stone treatment. They’re presenting their research this month at the World Congress of Endourology.

Most people have heard about Perdana University Graduate School of Medicine and Perdana University Hospital in Malaysia. There we’ve taken our Genes to Society curriculum and our teaching methodology and using it as the foundation of a new academic medical center.

One challenge is that faculty are so busy here in Baltimore, it’s difficult for them to fathom creating room to work abroad. But as they gain an understanding of the benefits, their interest grows.

Where do you see the next best opportunity?

My colleagues who teach and I  see a growing interest in global medicine among residents. This truly informs my vision. But to capitalize on that interest, we need to prepare them when they’re still graduate students. So I’d like to see an entirely new program at Johns Hopkins University, pulling together the strengths and pieces of the curricula of the schools of medicine, nursing, public health and business to create a new program for global health leaders.

This program would educate students in what it’s really like to work in health care in other regions of the world, prepare them for the differences they may encounter. For example, cultural differences in other countries can present challenges, especially those related to health care relationships, with types of health care workers and between providers and patients. Then there are differences in infrastructure and technology that affect the practice of medicine and conduct of research abroad.

I’ve spoken with leaders at all of these schools and this is the time to take the leap and make this happen. Dr. Patti Gravitt, vice dean of research at Perdana University (Malaysia) tells me that she’s already identifying local public health challenges that require a multidimensional approach. We need people who have a multidimensional education to match that challenge.

—Reported by Cymantha Governs