The corner office: Temple Health's Dr. Larry Kaiser on knowledge of wine and healthcare

Even though Larry Kaiser, MD, holds multiple leadership roles — he's the president and CEO of Philadelphia-based Temple University Health System, senior executive vice president for health affairs and dean of Temple University School of Medicine — he still finds time to practice medicine.

Perhaps this is because Dr. Kaiser, a thoracic surgeon with interests in lung cancer, malignant mesothelioma and mediastinal tumors, has had the goal of being a physician since he was a child.

Dr. Kaiser has practiced medicine and led various healthcare institutions, including the University of Pennsylvania where he held a succession of positions, founded Penn's lung transplant program and directed its Center for Lung Cancers and Related Disorders.kaiser3 001

He went to the University of Texas Science Health Science Center at Houston in 2008 as president, where he served until 2011 when he arrived at Temple University.

Temple University Health System is a $1.6 billion academic health system that includes Temple University Hospital and Fox Chase Cancer Center, an NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center, among other facilities. It also includes more than 1,000 physicians and scientists.

Outside of his medical practice and leadership positions at Temple, Dr. Kaiser has served in leadership roles for various professional organizations, such as the American Board of Surgery and the American Board of Thoracic Surgery. He is also a husband to his wife Lindy, who runs a company that manufactures skin care products for people undergoing cancer treatment.

Here, Dr. Kaiser took the time to answer Becker's Hospital Review's seven questions.

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

As a kid, I only wanted to be a physician. About the only stutter I had along the way was I did radio in college, but I thought it wasn't a very stable career. I was goal-directed and goal-oriented. I greatly admired a guy down the street who was surgeon, and I think that was as much of an influence on me as anything. He was a very impressive, serious kind of guy.

What do you enjoy most about the Philadelphia area?

It is a great place. The proximity to New York City and Washington, D.C., makes it outstanding. I've lived in a bunch of places, but Philadelphia is the most livable.

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

One of the problems is that we deal with a lot of patients who are covered by one of the government payers — about 50 percent of discharges are Medicaid patients and about 30 percent are Medicare. Part of our mission here is to serve this part of the population, and it is a lot of what we do. But I think one of the issues is the shortfall in our cost and what Medicare and Medicaid reimburse. So I would solve the problem and have government payers pay us closer to what our costs are.

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

I have a very deep knowledge of wine. That's probably what I know best. I started collecting wine about 20 years ago and have spent a lot of time studying it, and I'm currently enrolled in online certificate program in Viticulture and Enology at University of California, Davis.

How do you revitalize yourself?

I exercise every day, that's a good way to do it. On a daily basis I do the stationary bike or elliptical and once a week I work on X-Force, which is something quite unique — it's a weight training machine that is 40 percent heavier on the relaxation, or negative, phase.

And I read a lot — a lot of periodicals and both fiction and nonfiction books. On the nonfiction side, I recently read "Wilson" by Scott Berg. [Editor's note: "Wilson" is a biography of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson]

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

My father told me I couldn't go into his business, so I better find something else to do. He built apartments and houses, which wasn't a very good business to be in many years ago.

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

We really transformed the place. We've recruited great people who helped build strong programs on the research and clinical sides, and we have fixed the finances in a very challenging environment.

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