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Dome - Making Hopkins a better place

Dome May 2012

Making Hopkins a better place

By: Edward D. Miller, M.D.
Date: May 30, 2012

Dean Miller

The construction guy who was in charge of the whole new clinical building project called me several months ago and said he’d like to show me the new pediatric intensive care unit. I said sure, and I went over there and was just blown away: the rooms, the equipment, the amenities for families, the expert craftsmanship, And I told him that. 

He said that’s nice to hear, but he wasn’t sure how it’s such a big deal. I looked at him and asked, have you seen our current PICU, have you seen our other ICUs? He said no, and I said I’m going to take you there.

The following week he came by with two other construction supervisors and we went on a tour of the ICUs—medical, surgical, cardiac, neuro. Everywhere we went the staff just showed these guys appreciation for their work on the new buildings. In the NICU, one of the nurses gave them a big hug. The construction guys were overwhelmed both by the reaction of the staff and by the conditions in the older ICUs. I don’t think they were aware that the staff members were the ones who made suggestions for the design of the new ICUs based on their experiences with the existing ones. 

People always have assumed that my legacy as dean/CEO will be the new buildings that have gone up around the campus in the past 16 years. Mort Goldberg, former director of the Wilmer Eye Institute, told me that my real legacy will be about people—the academic department directors I’ve recruited, the vice deans I’ve appointed—and I think that holds true with the opening of the new clinical buildings. They’re not monuments to me. They’re vehicles in which we’ll deliver the best medical care in the world in an environment that our patients and staff richly deserve. That’s important to me.

My perspective comes from having arrived from the University of Virginia, where we designed a brand-new hospital that was just about to open before I left. It comes from my experience at Columbia-Presbyterian, where we built and moved into a new hospital and how that changed the way we thought about and delivered patient care. When I came to Hopkins, a place of such distinction, I was frankly dumbfounded by how antiquated the facilities were. I’d go to ORs on the 7th floor of Nelson and see how cramped the rooms were, and I observed how surgeons had to talk with families in the hallways. Families were crammed into tiny waiting rooms. It wasn’t a great environment.

I’d walk through the ICUs and it was the same—crowded, poorly lit, noisy, and everyone was constantly worried about infections being spread.

I remember clearly the finance people saying we can build a new children’s hospital or a new adult hospital, but we can’t do both. To their credit, they came back and said, here’s what we needed in state support, in philanthropic contributions, and here’s how big a loan we will need. That was the beginning of the 10-year plan that got us to where we are today.

I’m still in awe of the fact that when that 10-year plan first came out, we asked everyone in Johns Hopkins Medicine not to take a pay raise. That was very important, not only because of the request, but also the way people responded. I’ve always had an open email, and I didn’t receive one complaint. The employees knew how important this plan was, and they should stand tall and proud about their sacrifice. They could’ve marched in the hallways, picketed outside my office, but they didn’t. They worked in these antiquated buildings. They knew firsthand why we had to build new clinical spaces.

Am I proud of what has been accomplished with the campus redevelopment? Yes, I’m proud of it. This may sound corny, but I’m proud that I was given an opportunity and responsibility to make this campus a better place. I was a caretaker for this institution for a finite period of time and I wanted to make it better. For whatever reason, I was put here to do that job.

Articles in this Issue

Cover Story

Leadership Speaks

Before the Move

The Move

After the Move