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Dome - My 15 years with Ed Miller

Dome June 2012

My 15 years with Ed Miller

By: Ronald R. Peterson
Date: June 15, 2012

Ron Peterson

My first recollection of Ed Miller goes back to when I was the executive vice president of the Johns Hopkins Health System. I had just come from Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center and Dr. Miller was the new director of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine.

I was cognizant of the fact that he had inherited a department that needed a lot of attention because of management and financial issues. He was very effective as director. He took on some tough issues in his first year, and I witnessed for the first time his gift in dealing with people. He had that ability to take on touchy issues, yet handle them in a nice way.

He left a bold impression as a seasoned guy, and I knew that Dr. Miller was going to be very successful. I did not know then, however, that he would go on to become the head of Johns Hopkins Medicine.

I would not usually dwell on history, but I feel it is important to understanding my relationship with Dr. Miller to reacquaint people with the fact that the 1990s was a period of turmoil between then-health system president, Jim Block, and the medical school’s dean, Mike Johns, as well as the faculty. Block did not seem to understand or appreciate the culture of this place and got himself into a situation where he and Johns were always at odds. Block had a vision for where the clinical delivery side should be going, but he got out in front of the dean and the clinical directors.

The situation became so nasty between Block and Johns that finally the trustees of the university and the health system had to step in to deal with the issues between the two men and also to address an apparent structural problem. They created Johns Hopkins Medicine, which would have one dean/CEO to head the entire organization.

After the trustees did a national search to find the inaugural dean/CEO, in early 1997 they chose Dr. Miller, who had been acting dean after Johns stepped down. Around the same time, I was made the official president of The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System, after serving in an interim capacity after Block had left.

Because Dr. Miller came into this position on the heels of the tremendous turmoil, I was struck by how he began the healing process, calming the anxieties of the clinical directors, and methodically fostering a sense of stability.

Early on, Dr. Miller felt that we should create an Office of Johns Hopkins Medicine and asked me to be an integral part of that office. That was an important gesture to me, and it was the start of our partnership. It signaled to everyone that this was a new day.

From the start, Dr. Miller articulated succinctly the fact that we were going to work together and that Johns Hopkins Medicine was going to begin thinking collectively. That would be reflected in how we would budget and plan.

What I remember best and appreciate most in him is that he so completely promoted the tripartite mission, never subordinating any one component. Yet, he always said to me that ultimately we are here for the patients. Whatever we do in research, education or care delivery, it is done to support the patients.

It was the shared belief in the tripartite mission and a patient-centered approach that was our common ground. We have different skill sets. He was trained in medicine, and I was trained in health care administration. He was a broad-brush guy, and I was more into the weeds with things. He’s more of a risk taker than I. Yet, our individual strengths and expertise complemented each others.

We are different personalities, but we just hit it off. He became much more than a boss and colleague; he became a partner and a mentor, and in some cases like a big brother, even though we are only five or six years apart.

I cannot begin to tell you how much I will miss him. It will be a big change. I will go through a period of some serious readjustment, because this has been such a special relationship that we have enjoyed. He has always been there for me. He always had my back. It has been an extraordinary experience.

Now, my next responsibility is to do everything possible to enable our new dean, Dr. Paul Rothman, to succeed.    

Ronald R. Peterson

President, The Johns Hopkins Hospital  and Health System

EVP, Johns Hopkins Medicine