Dr. Ravi Thadhani discusses innovation, Wellstar closure and growing Emory Healthcare's influence

On Oct. 27, Atlanta-based Emory University announced that Ravi Thadhani, MD, an experienced leader in academic medicine, will be joining its ranks. 

Dr. Thadhani will wear a number of hats at Emory. A professor at Cambridge, Mass.-based Harvard University and chief academic officer at Boston-based Mass General Brigham, he will take over as Emory's executive vice president of health affairs. He will also serve as executive director of its health sciences center and vice chair of Emory Healthcare's board of directors. 

Becker's connected with Dr. Thadhani to discuss his passions and goals — and how he aims to serve his new community as Wellstar Atlanta Medical Center prepares to close

Q: Throughout your career, you have continued to contribute to research and innovation. What sparked and held your interest in research, and how does it inform your work as a leader? 

Dr. Ravi Thadhani: I've always been passionate about academic medicine and the impact academic medicine can make on patients. When a patient comes through our doors at Emory — or at the institution I'm at now, Mass General Brigham — she deserves the best standard of care. 

That means what is innovative by way of research, diagnostic tests, novel therapies, novel imaging procedures. As an academician and somebody who is truly passionate about academic medicine — Emory Healthcare is, of course, one of the leaders in this area — I've always been passionate about making sure patients have that ability. It's the focus of how we improve health overall. 

I chose to be in academic medicine for that reason, so that those opportunities can be offered to patients no matter where they come to. And now of course, at Emory Healthcare, that will be a focus of mine. 

Q: What in particular drew you toward Emory Healthcare? 

RT: I am excited about being a part of an institution that has made the community its focus. 

Academic excellence at Emory, the outstanding schools and training opportunities at Emory … they've given the focus, the dedication, the passion and the allocation of time, energy and resources to the academic mission. 

Q: Since the closure of Wellstar Atlanta Medical Center's emergency department, many hospitals in DeKalb County, where Emory University is located, have seen increased patient volume and emergency response times. How are you preparing to enter the community's healthcare system in a time of increasing need? 

RT: What's happening in Atlanta with the closure of AMC is happening across the country in other settings. The particular challenge in Atlanta is that patients will undoubtedly have to navigate a complex system trying to find care. Not just being hospitalized, but also emergency care, which I know AMC played a large role in. As the only other level 1 trauma center in Atlanta, now that burden will shift primarily to Grady [Memorial Hospital]. 

Who I have seen step up to help in this situation has just been remarkable. The counties, the governor and Emory's dedication to making sure that these patients are served has been not only responsive, but unbelievable. 

That being said, there are challenges. My goal over the ensuing months is to learn about how to come up with creative solutions so Emory can continue to serve the community that it is so passionate about. 

Q: What goals have you set for the first year of your tenure? 

RT: I will parachute into an amazing community and learn about the culture, people, passion and — not unlike other leaders who have come in — figure out how to capitalize on its strengths and overcome its weaknesses and obstacles. 

The community has been incredibly warm and welcoming. The healthcare system at Emory, I'm sure, has challenges like other health systems. But the people I have met, including members of the board, are dedicated to coming up with solutions. My first year's goal is learning with the board, the other leaders about how to best serve the community. 

I'm also very passionate about making sure Emory is not just a regional powerhouse, but also a national one and international one. There are some really amazing areas of excellence at Emory that certainly deserve more recognition. 

Q: What are you most excited about in moving to Georgia from Massachusetts? 

RT: The hospitality here in Georgia is incredible. I'm looking forward to meeting and working with people who are passionate, and the hospitality has been remarkable. 

There is no question that homes are much smaller here in Boston! Maybe a little more space; I'm certainly looking forward to that. 

But probably most important is working with some really brilliant minds. No question, it's the reason I'm going, it's what I'm looking forward to and it's why I'm making this big move. 

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