Chuck Lauer, in the words of his readers, friends and colleagues

Kelly Gooch and Molly Gamble - Print  | 

The healthcare industry said goodbye to a giant this week with the passing of Chuck Lauer, 86, former publisher of Modern Healthcare. Here, readers, friends and colleagues share the ways Chuck touched the industry, their work and their lives.

"Chuck was a natural, gifted communicator and always ensured that all of us in this field stayed informed and connected."
Terry Akin, CEO of Cone Health (Greensboro, N.C.)

"Chuck was a kind, compassionate and thoughtful leader. Through his writing, he frequently reminded us that although healthcare is a business, our work involves the most vulnerable aspect of people's lives and we have a special obligation to be respectful in all we do. He will be greatly missed."
Teri Fontenot, President and CEO of Woman's Hospital (Baton Rouge, La.)

"I'm not sure there are many in the healthcare industry who don't know — or know of, Chuck Lauer. He has been such an incredible influence to leaders throughout the country, over many years. His quick wit, his unapologetic quest for basic humanity, the love he openly shared with all of us about his family — dogs included — his country, and those serving in the military, his transparency about his own healthcare experiences, always naming individuals and institutions who exceeded expectations but never calling out publicly if someone did not, and his focus on 'other-centeredness.'  It was not about Chuck, never was. Such a profound lesson.

I particularly enjoyed Chuck’s gift of the written language.  I still have copies of many of his old Modern Healthcare columns, dog-eared as they may be, including his last one, December 2008.  I'll quote the last two sentences:

'Please tell some people in your lives just how much you love them and remember to laugh, think and cry. It’s all part of living a great life.' 

And, indeed, a great life he has lived. Blessed to know you, Chuck."
Julie Manas. President and CEO of HSHS Sacred HeartHospital (Eau Claire, Wis.)

"I had the honor of knowing Chuck Lauer for about 20 years. And, during the past several, we met for lunch a couple times a year at various Chicago area restaurants to catch up on our lives, swap stories and discuss the status of healthcare in the U.S. He was a great mentor and friend to my entire family, took my daughter Liz under his wing and has been an incredible influence in her career in healthcare.

I could go on and on about the kindness and generosity of this great man. Instead, let me put it this way: In my 43 years in business, I have never met a more decent, credible and genuine person. He is a singular Mt. Rushmore."
Jack Querio, Senior Vice President of Sales, Entrotech Life Sciences

"I am very sad to learn of Chuck's passing. His imprint on healthcare will never be forgotten, along with his contribution to making this world a much better place. I always looked forward to his role as moderator for IDN Summits, in which he brought out the very best in the healthcare leaders who would join him on stage. My condolences to his family, and may he rest in peace." 
— Bob Acosta, Director of Business Development for Healthcare Services, Konica Minolta Business Solutions 

"His articles were both enlightening and humorous at times. His dedication and 'emotional attachment' to the healthcare field could be felt in every article he wrote. They were short, to the point and so valuable to us when we were just entering the healthcare field back in the 1980s. I never personally met Mr. Lauer, but felt close to him just by the passionate method he so eloquently expressed in his articles concerning patient care. He was certainly one of a kind, and we'll all miss him dearly."
Rick J. Leinen, CFO of Montgomery County Memorial Hospital (Red Oak, Iowa)

"As a publisher and columnist, Chuck was old school. He believed in journalism and the separation of 'church and state,' meaning editorial was king and advertising was there to support it, with profit a result of doing great journalism.

Having worked with Chuck for nearly a quarter century, I can say that the success he had never went to his head. He was one of the warmest people you could meet and would go out of his way to help anyone who asked for it.

He loved life and loved healthcare. He knew everyone in the healthcare business, and had legions of admirers in the industry. He worked right up to the end of his life, even as he battled cancer, and kept his sense of humor all the way through."
— Todd Sloane, Former Senior Editor at Modern Healthcare 

"While I have a number of warm memories of Chuck, one stands out as a special experience. At a Becker's CEO Roundtable several years ago, Chuck was the moderator of a CEO forum. I approached the front of the room to say hello and greet some of my former colleagues. I had retired from my CEO role at Sinai Health System by then.  Chuck looked up with Scott Becker, and they both said, 'You need to be on this panel!' 

As much as I resisted, they insisted. It turned out to be one of my most enjoyable sessions. Chuck and I managed to get into a little humorous riff in the middle of a serious discussion on organizational management. Teasing each other in front of a crowd of CEOs and senior leaders echoed the warmth and charm that Chuck brought to all his friends and acquaintances. And, by the comments from several in the audience, I certainly was not alone in feeling that special connection with him.

I will miss him dearly.  He was a good friend, a thoughtful advisor and a very special human being."
— Alan Channing, Former CEO of Sinai Health System (Chicago) 

"Chuck, as publisher of Modern Healthcare and then a special writer for Becker's Hospital Review, understood healthcare as few really do — the complexity, importance, the passion and the emotion. His editorials were challenging and yet supportive as only those on the inside of healthcare would understand. His writings demanded good leadership and management in healthcare, and he prided himself in recognizing the good in healthcare leadership.

I'll never forget the day he presented me with a Becker's Leadership Award. I think he enjoyed presenting it as much as I did receiving it. And I could tell he expected even more of me going forward. I'll miss his writing as much as I will miss him."
— Chris Van Gorder, President and CEO of Scripps Health (San Diego)

"Chuck was a very close friend for over 35 years. We both spent time together for years at Health Insights and HRDI, and supplemented those relationships with many phone calls each month and some rounds of golf. To say he was an icon in the healthcare industry does not do justice to the respect others had for him. He was Mr. Modern Healthcare, a pillar of integrity and a genuinely fine human being.

With the passing of Chuck, I lost a very close and dear friend. Now I must 'find strength in what remains behind.'"
— Tony Alibrio, Corporate Officer and Division President at Marriott International

"Chuck spoke at the Healthcare Planning, Marketing & Public Relation Professionals ​​of New Jersey Annual meeting in 2007. As the editor of Modern Healthcare for 29 years, Chuck's column had a following. He retired from Modern Healthcare prior to his talk at HPMSNJ, but his keynote set attendance records for HPMSNJ that I think have still not been broken. I went back through my notes, and found his presentation. Here is an excerpt:

"Success is often understood to mean achievement in work - how high we climb the career ladder. But that definition falls short. For success includes all of life, and far more than what we do; it describes what we are. A successful person is not just productive but positive: not just a go-getter but a giver. A successful person seeks excellence. Not only in the workplace but in social, emotional, intellectual, physical and spiritual dimensions as well. Nothing ranks higher than possessing a personal character than reflects time-tested virtues and values: honesty, resiliency, perseverance, kindness, and the full slate of other essential traits."

We were better people after Chuck's presentation. God bless you, Chuck. Thanks for all that you did for HPMSNJ, and for inspiring us as leaders."
— Anthony C Stanowski, President and CEO of the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Association 

"Chuck was a true icon who contributed enormously to healthcare and to many of our careers. He cared deeply about everyone and made you feel so welcome. I was truly honored to co-chair Becker's conferences with this extraordinary leader who touched all our hearts and souls. There will never be another Chuck. He will be greatly missed."
— Rhoda Weiss, PhD, National Co-Chair, Becker's Healthcare Spring and Fall Conferences

"What a class act. Chuck was the guy who knew everyone in the room from the CEO of the largest healthcare system in the country to the name of the waiter and he treated everyone the same, his yardstick was respect and kindness. When Chuck would stop and speak with you, with the unmistakable Chuck Lauer 'radio voice,' he would look you in the eye and really listen; you felt like you were the only person in the room.

Comparing notes over the years I discovered Chuck was a medic in the Korean War, as was my father, and his love of his family and colleagues was only rivaled by his love of his country. Interestingly enough if there was the rare time we didn't see eye to eye on an issue he could also give me 'the look' I'd get from my own father signaling me to throw in the towel!

Chuck will be missed but certainly not forgotten by a long shot. He'll have a ripple effect on the healthcare industry for many years to come; he was our industry's LinkedIn."
— Neil Thorpe, Strategic Account Manager - U.S. at Halyard Health (Phoenix)

"Chuck Lauer was a giant among healthcare journalists. He was a true professional who had incredible insight and knowledge of the industry. He was a prolific writer, public speaker and career coach who also happened to be a great guy — and a good friend. All those who knew and worked with him will miss him greatly, but we're buoyed by many fond memories."
— Michael Dowling, President and CEO of Northwell Health (New Hyde Park, N.Y.)

"I believe every industry, if you look hard enough, has a finite number of sage, experienced leaders — leaders with a passion and a heart for making that industry — and the world for that matter — a better place. Chuck Lauer was in my book one of these people. Through a long career of service in healthcare, he inspired others to learn more and do more. His objective was always to lift up others and help them fulfill their vision and dreams. My interactions with Chuck were always filled with kindness and respect, with uplifting remarks and encouragement. In the world of healthcare, he will be sorely missed. Thank you, Chuck, for your many contributions to our industry. May you rest in peace."
— Paul Stewart, President and CEO of Sky Lakes Medical Center (Klamath Falls, Ore.)

"Imagine the old-fashioned speech cadence of radio's Paul Harvey combined with the hail-fellow-well-met brio of a man who wore the badge of 'salesman' with a pride that came from working to win over the loyalty of every single customer. Then add in a lifetime of industry knowledge and infuse it all with the genuine warmth and caring of a devoted family man who saw everyone in healthcare as part of his extended family. That was Chuck Lauer.

Did I say 'healthcare'? Really, it was hospitals that captured Chuck's heart. Chuck was a key part of the transition of Modern Hospitals into Modern Healthcare. That was before my time, but when I met Chuck back in the spring of 1982 as a Chicago Tribune financial reporter who'd had the healthcare beat unexpectedly thrust upon him, Chuck quickly tutored me in that and a great deal more industry history. Crain's, the publisher of Modern Healthcare, was based just a few blocks away from the Trib, and Chuck and his then-editor, Don Johnson, served as mentors and, eventually, friends. It was an era of colorful personalities, when Congressmen, industry lobbyists and journalists could take in dinner and a Las Vegas show together without anyone batting an eye. Everyone was Chuck's pal, though he was no naif; privately, he knew exactly who was doing what with (or to) whom.

I freelanced the main story for Modern's 'Healthcare Hall of Fame' issue while on leave from the Trib in 1986, briefly considered becoming Chuck's editor when the position became open and then returned to the Trib before leaving journalism some years later to write a book and then go into full-time consulting and part-time academic endeavors. Chuck and I still corresponded and sometimes saw each other. His energy, optimism and commitment to using his voice to make things better — through books, articles, speeches, blogs and every other communication form known to man — was an inspiration. Chuck's writings were filled with love — whether for his country, his wife and kids, the latest in a series of loyal family dogs or the healthcare (one word, please!) industry. He will be missed."
— Michael Millenson, President of Health Quality Advisors

"The legacy left by Chuck Lauer is one of wisdom, insight and friendship. I ran into Chuck a few years ago at a Becker's conference in Chicago. As we got on the elevator together at the Ritz Carlton, Chuck had just finished reading The Wall Street Journal and when he threw it down the trash chute at the hotel, he accidentally threw his cell phone with it. With the help of the staff at the Ritz, we recovered his cell phone but it was always a fun event to recall and brought us closer together. I will miss him for his laughter, his graciousness and his genuine love for life. Healthcare has lost a great leader and the nation has lost a great American."
— Bill Sexton, CEO of Crossing Rivers Health (Prairie du Chien, Wis.)

"I had the privilege of participating in a panel discussion that Chuck moderated at last year's Becker's conference. Chuck was an absolute pleasure to team with, both in our preparation for the panel and the discussion itself. He was on his game, asked us excellent questions, offered wonderful insights, and was a true gentleman.

I will always have fond memories of his energy, enthusiasm, and passion for healthcare! Our sincerest condolences to the Lauer family and his many friends."
— Don Barbo, Managing Director at VMG Health (Dallas)

"Much has been said about Chuck and all of it is true! It was my privilege to call Chuck a friend and a colleague over several decades. Whether it was professional advice or personal mentoring he always had pearls of wisdom that helped you think through the issue at hand. Those pearls captured in his many articles are still in my possesion and in many cases in my adult children’s possesion as I passed them along to them.

His most powerful pearl was in the calls he placed to me after my heart attack. He said 'Let Go…Let God'….words I still live by six years later. I was privileged to return those calls during his recent struggles. We both loved hockey, golf and dogs and was delighted to have played golf with him this past January in Naples. It was quite the group. Ed Eckenhoff, Tony Alibrio, Chuck and myself….the laughter that day was the best medicine.

Thanks for all you did for us and this industry. It is good to know we all have another angel in heaven looking after us. God Bless you Chuck!"
— Brian Grissler, President and CEO of Stamford (Conn.) Health System

"The highlight for the many years that I subscribed to Modern Healthcare while Chuck served as editor was reading his editorial column. More often than describing some temporary crisis in reimbursement or latest startling statistic on hospital mortality from hospital acquired infections, Chuck’s articles were life lessons. I still recall his hockey stories and his experience as a patient for his joint replacements. These articles showed the depth of his experience and his observations of doing life in Chicago. Chuck was close to many of the giants who built our health systems.  He was loved by those of his builder generation. Finally, Chuck understood his role. As a publisher, his primary job was as a salesman for the publication. And sell it well, he did.  Thanks Chuck for all you brought to our industry and for helping us to not lose sight of life as we worked to better healthcare in America."
— Tom Mallon, Co-Founder and Board Chairman of Regent Surgical Health (Westchester, Ill.)

"Chuck Lauer was a leader in healthcare journalism and always willing to share his sage advice. He was supportive and encouraging to me and countless others. He will be missed."
— Kristin Baird, RN, BSN, president and CEO of Baird Group

"Chuck had the gift of making you feel significant…that what you did mattered and that you mattered. He was always on the side of good and goodness and without intending to do so, led his life in a way to provide a measure against which you could assess your own commitment, motivation and purpose. He was one in a generation and all of us who knew him were blessed beyond measure but all of us in healthcare, irrespective of how well we may or may not have known him, were blessed that he chose healthcare as his industry of focus. He made our profession and the individuals who comprise our industry better."
— Stephen Mansfield, PhD, president and CEO of Methodist Health System (Dallas)

"Chuck's amazing energy and constant eagerness to help others and connect with them made everyone a better person, with any interaction, however brief. He had endless love for his wife Maggie, son and daughter, daughter- and son-in-law, grandkids — even his dog Yodi and the grand-dog, Remy. He was a gentleman's gentleman. His enthusiasm was endless, his passion contagious — he was the most motivating person I have ever met. Chuck was a walking legend, and I will miss him very much."
Jessica Cole, President and CEO of Becker's Healthcare

If you'd like to contribute to this compilation, please email mgamble@beckershealthcare and kgooch@beckershealthcare.

More articles on leadership issues: 

HCA to change its name — again
Big data insights from the Becker’s Hospital Review 8th Annual Meeting
Racing toward value — Building an ambulatory platform to come out ahead

© Copyright ASC COMMUNICATIONS 2019. Interested in LINKING to or REPRINTING this content? View our policies by clicking here.

To receive the latest hospital and health system business and legal news and analysis from Becker's Hospital Review, sign-up for the free Becker's Hospital Review E-weekly by clicking here.