'Eager to get to work': How Dr. David Brown will lead Mass General

As the new president of Boston-based Massachusetts General Hospital, David Brown, MD, plans to focus on listening, supporting workers and continuing the organization's work regarding research, education and health equity.   

Dr. Brown, who succeeds Peter Slavin, MD, is chair of the hospital's department of emergency medicine and interim president of Northampton, Mass.-based Cooley Dickinson Health Care. Before that, he was vice chair of the department of emergency medicine at Mass General.

Dr. Brown told Becker's he's excited, honored and humbled to take on his new role, which includes leading the nation's largest hospital-based research program.

"I'm eager to get to work. It's an enormous responsibility to lead an institution that I love within a healthcare system to which I'm deeply committed," he said.

Dr. Brown shared his goals for Mass General and discussed his takeaways from Dr. Slavin.

Supporting workers

Among Dr. Brown's first actions as president will be listening, he said. 

"I don't want to make the mistake of thinking because I've worked at MGH for 31 years — first as an intern and then as a resident and then as a junior faculty member and now as a senior faculty member and department head — that I somehow know everything about the institution," he said. "I, of course, do know a lot of the people and a lot of the institution, but I'm going to spend a good amount of time listening, particularly in the parts of Mass General where I'm less familiar."

Beyond listening, his overarching aim is to ensure the patient is kept at the center of every discussion and as part of every decision. 

Dr. Brown said that's how he's approached his leadership career and will continue that practice as president. 

He also aims to support staff. This means all 28,000 people who work at the hospital, who have battled COVID-19 throughout the last year and a half and have faced various emotional, physical and mental challenges. 

"I recognize our staff are our greatest assets. Every single person who works at Mass General contributes to the extraordinary healthcare that we provide. My goal would be to support all of them. Sometimes there's a misperception, perhaps, that when a president is also a physician, that he or she focuses mostly on the doctors, but I intend to be the president for all 28,000 people," said Dr. Brown.    

Among his other goals are to help articulate and execute Mass General Brigham's strategy to become a fully integrated academic health system. 

In November 2019, former Boston-based Partners HealthCare rebranded to Mass General Brigham. All 12 hospitals in Mass General Brigham, including the system's two flagship hospitals, Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women's Hospital, will be rebranded in a three-year, $60 million name change.

"We have historically acted like a loose confederation of healthcare units, mostly hospitals, that were tied together by corporate structure but not deeply integrated, and that at times is confusing to our patients," Dr. Brown said. "They think they're accessing one system, but in fact they end up experiencing it as accessing five or six or seven different hospitals. We want to streamline that experience for our patients so that not only are we providing the best healthcare in our system, but we're also providing it in a way that the patient experience is the best it can possibly be." 

As hospital president, he said he also will continue to support the hospital's research mission, while ensuring continued and expanded educational efforts at MGH and at the MGH Institute for Health Professions for physicians, allied health professionals and medical school students.

Additionally, he seeks to continue the institution's commitment to health equity and the communities it serves, as well as advance the building of a patient tower on the main hospital campus. 

The tower will have all single-patient rooms to better reflect modern medicine, he said.

"It will allow us to deliver the care that our patients need and have come to expect in a setting that allows us to harness innovation and where innovation is going over the next 25 to 50 years. That's a major undertaking. [The project is] in early phases, but I want to move that along. It's a priority so we can meet the needs of patients," said Dr. Brown.

He said the timeline for the project depends on the regulatory process, and the new building would be a multiyear construction.

Takeaways from predecessor

Dr. Brown will work to achieve all of his goals on the heels of Dr. Slavin's 18 years as hospital president. Dr. Slavin announced in April that he was leaving. Before becoming hospital president, Dr. Slavin was chairman and CEO of the Massachusetts General Physicians Organization from 1999-2002. 

Dr. Brown said he has tried to emulate the humility Dr. Slavin has shown during his career.

"He is a very humble person. He's been our leader for 18 years, and he doesn't seek the limelight," Dr. Brown said of his predecessor. "He's eager to support and develop his team and encourage and facilitate their growth. So that's something to emulate."

Dr. Slavin has been an outspoken supporter of diversity, equity and inclusion and health equity for many years, Dr. Brown said.

"This has become much more of a focus throughout healthcare and our society in the recent past, but his commitment goes back many years, and that's something that I deeply admire about him," said Dr. Brown.

Dr. Brown will begin his new position Sept. 8. 



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