Corner Office: Holy Name Medical Center CEO Michael Maron on delivering culturally sensitive care

Michael Maron joined Teaneck, N.J.-based Holy Name Medical Center as CFO in 1987, rising through the leadership ranks to become CEO in 1996.

Mr. Maron is on the board of the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey and its healthcare steering committee, and has been appointed to the CRUDEM Foundation board of directors, which oversees and funds the day-to-day operations of Hôpital Sacré Coeur, the largest private hospital in northern Haiti.

A member of the American College of Healthcare Executives, Mr. Maron previously served on the board of directors for the New Jersey Hospital Association and was chairman of its HealthPAC Board of Directors. He earned his bachelor's degree from Providence (R.I.) College and his MBA from New York City-based Columbia University.

Mr. Maron recently took the time to speak with Becker's to answer our seven "Corner Office" questions.

Note: This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity

Question: What's one thing that really piqued your interest in healthcare? 

Michael Maron: I've had a lifelong interest and passion for the science of medicine and the utmost respect for physicians and all caregivers. I started my education with the intent to become a doctor, and I was talked out of it by my older brother. He graduated from undergraduate with a pre-med degree a year ahead of me. He had taken organic chemistry and said, "Have you thought about this, because you're actually going to have to work. You're not going to be able to enjoy college the way I think you were expecting." Then he told me about four years of medical school, three years of residency and two years of fellowship. You know, it's a long haul, and at the time I hadn't really though it through that way.

So I changed my major the start of my freshman year from biology and pre-med to accounting. During my sophomore year at Providence (R.I.) College, a counselor called me in and said he had noticed my previous interest in healthcare, and asked if I ever thought about running a hospital. I told him I didn't even know that job existed. He said not only does it exist but we have a major called healthcare administration that I've enrolled you in alongside your accounting major. I didn't know this counselor from Adam, but in a very fortunate stroke, that's what set my path in healthcare.

Q: What do you enjoy most about Teaneck?        

MM: Teaneck's a great town. It's culturally diverse, plus it's right on the doorstep of Manhattan. We have many, many cultures here and it's a real melting pot.

Being in such a diverse area exposes you to a whole host of different cultural beliefs and mindsets. One of the big initiatives at Holy Name has been our culturally sensitive healthcare delivery. We've really focused on having empathy and understanding for the nuances of the different cultures around us. Our population contains a mix of Korean, Hispanic and Jewish people, and there's a host of nuances in each of these communities that affects their healthcare. It affects how they acquire disease, the diseases they get and how we can treat them. We've introduced that into the fiber in the culture of Holy Name. We are responsive and sensitive to the needs of these people and try to be knowledgeable of the more prevalent disease categories that affect the people around us.

Q: If you could eliminate one of the healthcare industry's problems overnight, which would it be? 

MM: To me one of the single biggest problems in this day and age, one of the major drivers of the healthcare problems across the country, is the lack of transparency and the lack of a singular pricing methodology. I would make the process public, transparent and consistent.

As a consumer today, if you wanted to see how much a procedure would cost at a hospital, it's a black box. You can't price shop across providers and every insurer, including the federal government, pays under different methodologies at different rates. Consumers can't go to insurers and ask, "What do you pay Holy Name compared to a competitor? What's my co-pay or deductible going to be?" It actually costs you as the beneficiary, because you're blinded to that.

Q: What do you consider your greatest talent or skill outside of the C-suite?

MM: I consider myself a good parent. I have four boys and I'm very proud of how we raised them. I try to be a good communicator in terms of being empathetic and understanding to all the people here at the hospital.

Q: How do you revitalize yourself? 

MM: The most revitalizing activities for me are sports and other outdoor activities. In the winter it's skiing, in the summer it's the beach. Exercising, keeping myself physically fit and engaging in sports as best I can is what keeps me going. I played ice hockey until a few years ago. Pick any sport you like, I'm a fan of them all and I love engaging in physical activity. If not that, then just sitting on the beach, reading a book and listening to the waves roll in — that's probably the most relaxing and revitalizing time for me.

Q: What's one piece of advice you remember most clearly? 

MM: I came up through the financial ranks because of my accounting background, so I started off in budget reimbursement. My first boss, Rich Keenan — a brilliant man who's very well respected and still active as the CFO of Ridgewood, N.J.-based Valley Health System — gave me some great advice. He told me to never ever lose sight of what is behind the numbers on the page, and if you're not sure what's behind those numbers, get out of the office. Get out on the floor of the hospital and go to where patients are cared for. Make sure you can connect the reality of what's going on there to the numbers you're seeing on your balance sheet or income statement.

People have a tendency to bury themselves in their computers or the data, and they have no idea what's happening in the ER or the patient floor or in the operating room. I enjoy actually putting on scrubs and rounding through the OR when I get the chance, engaging with the surgeons while they're in surgery, understanding the business and what's going on that's very important.

Q: What do you consider your greatest achievement at Holy Name Medical Center so far?

MM: My greatest achievement is nurturing a culture of high-quality, compassionate care that embraces innovation. One of the greatest compliments people can give me is when people come through Holy Name and engage with our staff and say, "Wow, this place is different."

Part of that is creating an environment that is not top-down. It's a very flat organization that respects people and their opinions and gives them the freedom to innovate and try new things. There have been a whole host of innovations that have come up here, both from an operational standpoint and from a clinical standpoint.

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