Becker's 10th Annual Meeting Speaker Series: 3 Questions with Michael Zappa, President of Highsmith-Rainey Specialty Hospital

Michael Zappa, MD, FACEP, serves as President of Highsmith-Rainey Specialty Hospital and Associate Chief Medical Officer of Acute Care Services for Cape Fear Valley Health System.

On April 4th, Dr, Zappa will speak at Becker's Hospital Review 10th Annual Meeting. As part of an ongoing series, Becker's is talking to healthcare leaders who plan to speak at the conference, which will take place April 1-4, 2019 in Chicago.

To learn more about the conference and Dr. Zappa's session, click here.

Question: Healthcare takes a lot of heat for not innovating quickly. What’s your take on this?

Michael Zappa: Healthcare in general does not innovate quickly. One reason for this is the demand for focus on daily operations; there can never be a pause, hospitals run 24/7, 365 days a year. Many health systems do not have the financial luxury of having leaders focus a significant portion of time on innovation, combined with the fact that many healthcare leaders are chosen based on their operational expertise as opposed to their ability to disrupt.

Similar to other industries, the environment must be conducive to allow innovation; it takes timing and risk tolerance. Timing is right for innovation when the pain of staying the same outweighs the pain of change and a leader along with the innovation champion is willing to accept a calculated degree of risk.

Q: Tell us about the last meaningful interaction you had with a patient.

MZ: I am very fortunate that despite my full time administrative duties I am able to carve out a few weekend days every month to still practice as an emergency physician. This provides me an ongoing opportunity to learn how to improve our system and connect with patients and staff. Recently I was touched by having to deliver the bad news of a miscarriage to a young couple, sitting with them through the tears, listening, and providing words of support. This serves as a reminder that managing a budget, improving patient flow and access, etc. is all done to be there for patients in their time of need.

Q: Can you share some praise with us about people you work with? What does greatness look like when it comes to your team?

MZ: Leadership in healthcare has its own unique set of challenges, but one of the things that makes it so much easier is having a great team. A great team is one that performs using both their minds and their hearts.

Recently I had the opportunity to recognize a night shift nurse at our long term acute care hospital for her outstanding commitment, strength, and compassion as a nurse. She actually composed a poem in the form of a note from a patient to their nurse; this excerpt speaks for itself: “Don’t lock me in a box and label me because grey hair, wrinkled skin, and slow movement you see…..that once I was you and you will one day be me.”

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