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Thirty Minutes, Six Topics, One Powerful Conference Call

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Thirty Minutes, Six Topics, One Powerful Conference Call

Thirty Minutes, Six Topics, One Powerful Conference Call
Karen Nitkin

Date: 08/27/2018

On the third Tuesday of the month, at precisely 6:55 a.m., the Team of Teams conference call begins.

Hosted by the Office of Johns Hopkins Physicians (OJHP), the tightly orchestrated half-hour calls always cover six topics. Each speaker gets exactly five minutes to talk and answer questions.

“I have my timer and I’ve had to occasionally cut people off in the beginning, but not recently,” says William Baumgartner, who launched the calls in February 2017 and moderated them in his role as senior vice president for OJHP through his June 2018 retirement.

“The main purpose of the calls is to let people know what’s going on at Johns Hopkins,” says Baumgartner, who was also vice dean for clinical affairs and professor of cardiac surgery.

The most recent Team of Teams call, in July, included updates on precision medicine, the Epic electronic medical record system and state funding that’s newly available for care coordination. Previous calls have covered the latest news from community hospitals or research labs.  

Starting in September, the Team of Teams calls will be handled by professor of surgery Jonathan Efron, who succeeded Baumgartner as OJHP senior vice president. Like Baumgartner, Efron will choose the topics, invite potential speakers and moderate the calls.  

Baumgartner brought the Team of Teams concept to Johns Hopkins after reading a 2015 book by General Stanley McChrystal, who was commander of the Joint Special Operations Task Force in Iraq.

In Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World, McChrystal describes a daily conference call that connected thousands of people in the U.S. military so they could quickly share information across geographies, ranks and perspectives. “I thought this was a great communication tool,” says Baumgartner.

Working with Kim Sherbrooke, vice president and chief operating officer of OJHP, and Sandy DiBlasio, administrative manager of the Johns Hopkins Medicine Clinical Practice Association, he sent electronic invitations to leaders across the health system, including hospital presidents and clinical directors. “We are not fighting Al-Qaeda, but I believe we could vastly improve our communication,” the invitation said.

Other Johns Hopkins Medicine employees may request invitations. Between 80 and 110 faculty, staff and leaders dial in each month, Baumgartner says. The technology was tweaked so people can join or drop the call without the usual telltale beep.

The Team of Teams calls provide information that listeners might not otherwise hear, giving them a more complete picture of Johns Hopkins Medicine, Baumgartner says. “You can listen as you’re packing lunch for your kids, and if there’s a topic that interests you and you want more information, you know who to call to follow up,” he says.  

Johns Hopkins Medicine employees interested in listening to the calls can contact Sandy DiBlasio at for more information and the dial-in codes. Send topic ideas to Jonathan Efron at