The corner office: Hospital for Special Surgery CEO Louis Shapiro on the strength of independence

I would like to see a massive reduction in the number of cumbersome and unneeded regulations, and then I would like to see Americans taking massive responsibility for their health. No smoking, exercising regularly, eating healthy and eradicating obesity.

Louis Shapiro joined the Hospital for Special Surgery — the nation's oldest orthopedic hospital — in October 2006.

In his role as president and CEO of HSS, he is the lead administrator of what U.S. News & World Report ranked the No. 1 hospital in the nation for orthopedics for 2014-15. Patients travel from nearly every state and more than 100 countries to the hospital for its diagnostic and clinical expertise.

Mr. Shapiro started his career at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, where he served in many capacities. Throughout his more than 30 years of experience in healthcare, Mr. Shapiro has served as a leader in the healthcare practice of McKinsey & Company and as executive vice president and COO of Geisinger Health System in Danville, Pa. He also found time to earn a master's degree in healthcare administration and management from the University of Pittsburgh.

In addition to leading HSS, Mr. Shapiro is chair of the Greater New York Hospital Association board of governors for 2014-15 and is on the board of Crutches 4 Kids, an organization that collects and distributes crutches to kids around the world who need them.Lou Shapiro1

Here, Mr. Shapiro took the time to answer Becker's Hospital Review's seven questions.

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

My interest in healthcare started with the convergence of three things: 1) Parents who were chronically sick while I was growing up and in hospitals frequently, 2) an interest in business and management stemming from my father's role as a retail store manager, and 3) realization as a freshman that medical school wasn't for me — Organic Chemistry class gave me that realization. This led me to pursue a career in healthcare management.

What do you enjoy most about New York City?

I love the energy NYC exudes. There is always something going on, something to explore. It's a city filled with options. I love taking walks through Central Park with my wife or exploring parts of the city I haven't been to. It's like being able to go on a mini vacation with only a short walk, cab or subway ride.

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

I would like to pick two things. I would like to see a massive reduction in the number of cumbersome and unneeded regulations, and then I would like to see Americans taking massive responsibility for their health. No smoking, exercising regularly, eating healthy and eradicating obesity.

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

That's a bit of a problem. I am focused so much on work that my priority outside of work is to spend quality time with my wife and daughter — she lives in another city so that requires organization — and to see my brother and his family, whom we are very close with, when possible. I also enjoy playing golf and traveling but don't have adequate time for that. It's something I need to work on. I received an acoustic guitar for my birthday from my wife and daughter and would like to learn how to play.

How do you revitalize yourself?

I revitalize myself by talking to our employees, one-on-one or in small groups, about what they love about HSS and how we can make it better. I also like to do the same things with our patients. It is very common to leave these interactions only to be inspired by what they say about HSS, which makes you want to only work harder to make the place better.

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

My first year working, 31 years ago, I was told by my first mentor and current friend that I need more than one tool (a hammer) in my toolbox. The second piece of advice was also a compliment, and that had to do with being a normal human being as CEO and treating all people the same — whether the person is dong the very important work of keeping the hospital clean or is a board member. 

What do you consider your greatest achievement at HSS so far? 

That would be achieving significant growth while improving quality, outcomes, patient satisfaction and improving on an already excellent culture. Also, I would like to add, extending the reputation and sphere of influence of HSS globally. And finally, positioning HSS to be able to maintain its independence in an environment of rapid consolidation and having that independence be a source of strength rather than a source of weakness.

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