17 of the most interesting people in healthcare

Here are 17 people who have had a huge influence on the healthcare system in the United States.


Please contact Laura Dyrda at ldyrda@beckershealthcare.com with any questions or comments on this list.

Sylvia Mathews Burwell. Ms. Burwell spent time as the director of the Office of Management and Budget and President of the Walmart Foundation before being sworn in as the Secretary of Health and Human Services in June 2014. She oversees more than 77,000 employees. During her time with OMB she worked with Congress on budget and appropriations issues and oversaw the development of the President’s second term management agenda. Ms. Burwell supports President Barack Obama’s healthcare law, having become the public face of ObamaCare, according to Business Insider. She is committed to moving the ACA forward despite calls from the Republican Party and presidential nominee Donald Trump to repeal the law.

Jonathan Bush, MBA. Mr. Bush is the CEO, co-founder and president of Watertown, Mass.-based athenahealth. Mr. Bush is the cousin of former U.S. president George W. Bush and nephew of U.S. President George H. W. Bush. In 2000, Mr. Bush raised more than $10 million in venture capital for athenahealth, which successfully launched an IPO in 2007. Athenahealth's mission is to "create the healthcare Internet," with Mr. Bush viewing his company as a disrupter, he told Institutional Investor last year. Athenahealth has thrived since inception with its market cap being 7.3 times company sales, while the industry average market cap totals 4.7 times company sales. Mr. Bush ran in the 2007 Boston Marathon and was featured in the Nova Marathon Challenge, a T.V. series which followed runners for one year throughout their training for the Boston Marathon.

Toby Cosgrove, MD. Dr. Cosgrove has served as CEO and president of Cleveland Clinic since 2004. He has been a Cleveland Clinic team member since 1975. Dr. Cosgrove performed the first minimally invasive mitral valve surgery via a worldwide web network in 1996. As CEO of Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Cosgrove has maintained patient care as the number one priority and distributed around 40,000 buttons on his first day as CEO which stated "Patients First." Earlier this month, Dr. Cosgrove published an article on LinkedIn detailing why empathy must drive healthcare organizations. He wrote, "We all know that healthcare is changing. Medical leadership is also changing. The days of arrogance, isolation and opacity are gone. Honesty, transparency and collaboration have taken their place. Trust is essential. So is empathy. Above all, we must have humility."

Michael Dowling. Mr. Dowling is the president and CEO of New York-based Northwell Health, a large U.S. heath system with annual revenue totaling $9.5 billion. Growing up in Limerick, Ireland, Mr. Dowling earned his master's degree from Fordham University and has various honorary doctorates from University College Dublin, Hempstead, N.Y.-based Hofstra University and Dowling College in Oakdale, N.Y. Prior to assuming his role as CEO in 2002, he was the senior vice president of Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield. Mr. Dowling was in the New York State government for 12 years and held roles as state director of health, education and human services. He was also the deputy secretary to former New York governor Mario Cuomo. He is the chair of the Healthcare Institute as well as an Institute of Medicine of the National Academies member.

Judy Faulkner. Founder and CEO of Madison, Wis.-based Epic Systems, Ms. Faulkner launched the leading health IT company with $6,000 she raised from her own funds as well as from her family members and colleagues. Forbes ranked Ms. Faulkner as the most successful female technology company founder in May 2016, with her net worth totaling $2.6 billion. As head of Epic, Ms. Faulkner remains dedicated to her customer base. In March 2016, she told Becker's Hospital Review, "I would say if I have one driving force, it is to keep commitments to our customers. When I have corporate philosophy class with all the new folks who come into Epic, we go over the philosophies behind Epic. That is the central message: To keep commitments to customers."

David T. Feinberg, MD, MBA. Dr. Feinberg is the president and CEO of Geisinger Health System. Triple board certified in child and adolescent psychiatry, adult psychiatry and addiction psychiatry, Dr. Feinberg previously served as CEO of UCLA Hospital Systems, where he led the efforts to improve patient care. He spearheaded his effort to revamp UCLA's mission. Once UCLA diverted resources from marketing to focus on one patient at a time, their patient satisfaction scores placed the hospital in the 99th percentile. In November, 2015, Dr. Feinberg lead the launch of ProvenExperience, a program which offers patients refunds if hospital staff do not meet patient expectations regarding kindness and compassion.

Dr. Feinberg said, "What matters to me is that every patient is satisfied with their treatment and so I started thinking, 'What is our guarantee? What is our refund?' We need to be disruptive to move the practice of providing great patient experience forward and so the decision was made to give unsatisfied patients their money back." The Washington Post called the ProvenExperience, "the most unexpected hospital billing development ever."

Dr. Feinberg also spearheaded the launch of ProvenCare, a performance-based bundled payment system. After implementing the ProvenCare, the hospital had a 10 percent reduction in readmission, shorter length of stay and reduced hospital charges for coronary artery bypass graft surgery.

Atul Gawande, MD. Dr. Gawande practices general and endocrine surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and serves as a professor in the department of health policy and management at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He is the executive director of Ariadne Labs, a joint center for health systems innovation, and chairman of Lifebox, a nonprofit organization with the goal of making surgery safer globally. In addition to his clinical work, Dr. Gawande is a prolific writer, authoring several books on the New York Times bestsellers list including The Checklist Manifesto and Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End. He has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1998 and has earned two National Magazine Awards. In one of his more controversial articles, Dr. Gawande made the analogy between healthcare and the Cheesecake Factory processes for efficiency.

“I always get a certain amount of flak for the things I write, and it was a little bit provocative,” Dr. Gawande told Medscape. “I’m saying, here is the fast-food chain, medium-ly based fast food chain — they serve you at a table. And I was saying that this place runs better than healthcare.”

John D. Halamka, MD, MS. Dr. Halamka is the chief information officer at Boston-based Beth Israel Deaconess. A practicing emergency physician, Dr. Halamka is the chairman of the New England Healthcare Exchange network and co-chair of the HIT Standards Committee. Outside of the health IT world, Dr. Halamka runs a family farm where he cares for alpacas, llamas and ducks. After joining Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in 1998, he launched an effort to develop securely web-enabled clinical information systems with CareWeb, which became the primary platform among Massachusetts hospitals for sharing information.

In an interview with Wachter's World, Dr. Halamka said, "I'm in this field not for fame and fortune but to make a difference. It's possible to make a difference, but you may want to do it in a different context than being in a healthcare delivery organization. Can you create an app that will revolutionize patient care? Yes. But can you — in the context of working in a hospital, which is trying to meet the requirements of ICD-10, meaningful use, and the ACA — spend vast amounts of time on innovation? You can't, really."

Elizabeth Holmes. Ms. Holmes dropped out of Stanford in 2003 at the age of 19 to found Theranos, where she currently serves as CEO, with the goal of creating a more reliable way to perform blood tests more cheaply. The company offers tests at 50 percent below Medicare reimbursement. She wanted to create a system to test blood with fewer drops of blood, inspired by her fear of needles. Ms. Holms raised more than $700 million from investors and the company was eventually valued at $9 billion at its zenith. Last year, Time named Ms. Holmes one of the Most Influential People in the World and she serves as a U.S. Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship. However, an investigative report in The Wall Street Journal cited clinical pathologists who had doubts about her technology. Within a week the FDA reported Theranos’s miniature blood containers weren’t approved for tests beyond herpes tests and there were compliance issues with one of the company’s major laboratories. CMS banned Ms. Holmes from owning, operating or directing a blood testing services for two years. The company has business lines beyond its labs and it will be interesting to see how its business model evolves given current circumstances.

Karen Ignagni. Ms. Ignagni assumed the role of EmblemHealth’s president and CEO in September 2015 after the company reported more than $485 million net losses the previous year. Her prior experience includes time as president and CEO of Health Insurance Plans and the American Association of Health Plans. She serves on several boards and advisory groups including the Healthcare Financial Management Association’s Leadership Council and the National Advisory Committee for Altarum Institute’s Center of Sustainable Health Spending. She appears regularly before Congressional committees and was instrumental in debates leading up to the Affordable Care Act’s passage. Ms. Ignagni has also appeared on national newscasts to share her expertise.

"Everybody’s gotten the memo that we have to move to a value-based system from a fee-based system," Ms. Ignagni told the American Journal of Managed Care. "And providers, clinicians, hospitals are at various points on the continuum in terms of doing that. Our role as a health plan is to support their efforts wherever they are on that continuum so it’s not a one-size-fits-all in terms of our strategy."

Vivian Lee, MD, PhD, MBA. Dr. Lee leads the University of Utah Health Sciences, which includes five major schools and a healthcare system of four hospitals and several other clinical and research specialty centers. There are more than 1,000 board-certified physicians serving patients in six states affiliated with the center. Dr. Lee is the senior vice president for health services dean and University of Utah Health Center School of Medicine CEO. In the past two years, she has focused her efforts on streamlining processes and lowering costs with key initiatives being Lean Management implementation and creating the Value-Driven Outcomes tool.

"I would say my biggest concern is that our industry has really been focused on sickness, not health, and that we’re not equipped or designed to do the single most important thing we can — prevent disease," Dr. Lee told Becker’s Hospital Review. "We know approximately 75 percent of our healthcare dollar is spent caring for preventable illnesses, often related to specific behaviors or lifestyles. Yet our system, our training programs, and the ways in which we’re funded have generally not led us to be experts in changing those behaviors by incentivizing healthy living."

Edward Marx. Mr. Marx has spent his career building and leading teams at the forefront of healthcare information technology. He is currently CIO of The Advisory Board Company. He spent eight years as chair of the Texas Health Services Authority and seven years as the chief information officer at Texas Health Resources. Prior to that role, Mr. Marx was chief information officer at University Hospitals. In 2013, HIMSS and CHIME named Mr. Marx the John E. Gall Jr. CIO of the Year. He published the book Extraordinary Tales from a Rather Ordinary Guy, outlining personal stories and his 14 guiding principles. He suggested aspiring CIOs "volunteer and give until it hurts," in an interview with Michelle Ronan Noteboom.

"Our job as leaders is to serve. If you don’t get that, you lose your humility. Just focus on serving other people. It’s the key to everything else working. I’d also add that if you are just starting out, you should build a team of life givers because leadership is tough if you aren’t surrounded by really strong people that help you. And you have to seek and chase vision because that sets the stage to where you want to go and how you get there."

President Barack Obama. On March 23, 2010, the 44th President of the United States Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act which aimed to create state-based health insurance exchanges, offer subsidized coverage through the exchanges, increase coverage and expand Medicare, amongst several goals. When addressing an audience at the U.S. Department of the Interior in September 2009, President Obama said, "After a century of striving, after a year of debate, after a historic vote, healthcare reform is no longer an unmet promise. It is the law of the land." Under the ACA, the uninsured rate has decreased from 15.7 percent in 2009 to 9.2 percent in 2015. He also removed an eight-year ban on federally funded stem cell research during his presidency.

Neal Patterson. Mr. Patterson is the CEO of Cerner, a medical software company. In 1979, Mr. Patterson co-founded the company with two colleagues. Forbes ranked Cerner as one of the "World’s Most Innovative Companies" and "World's Most Admired Companies" in 2015. In 2014, the company had revenues totaling $3.4 billion. Mr. Patterson owns the Sporting Kansas City soccer team along with Cerner co-founder and Cliff Illig and other others. Mr. Patterson is the co-founder and executive board member of the First Hands Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to providing assistance to children in need of critical healthcare.

Earlier this year, Mr. Patterson reported he was diagnosed with cancer in a note to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. In the note he wrote, "It's not often I'm forced to slow down, but the silver lining will be having some extra 'think' time to reflect on all the extraordinary opportunities we have in health IT. After years of studying healthcare systems around the world, this unique opportunity already has my gears turning."

Nancy Schlichting. Ms. Schlicting is the CEO of Henry Ford Health System, a $4 billion healthcare organization with 23,000 employees. She led the system through a dramatic financial turnaround and focuses on patient safety, customer service and diversity initiatives. Her previous experience includes serving as senior vice president and chief administrative officer with the organization. Ms. Schlichting is known for her work with legislative and business leaders to improve health services while providing affordable care. She sits on the Walgreen Company Board, Federal Bank of Chicago Board—Detroit Branch and Detroit Regional Chamber Board. In 2015, President Barack Obama appointed Ms. Schlichting chairperson of the Commission on Care to work with the Veteran’s Health Administration to find the best way to deliver care to veterans.

"Several years ago, I hired an executive from the Ritz-Carlton to be the first CEO of a new hospital we were building," Ms. Schlichting told the Journal of Healthcare Management. "People thought I had lost my mind because they didn’t understand why I was putting someone without any hospital experience in this role. However, to really move health and wellness to a new level, we needed a person who thought differently about healthcare. We had a vision to create a new type of hospital, one that was much more patient centric and customer centric."

Bernard Tyson. Mr. Tyson is the CEO and chairman of Kaiser Permanente, a $60 billion nonprofit health plan headquartered in Oakland, Calif. Mr. Tyson knew he wanted to go into healthcare from an early age after being in and out of hospitals with his diabetic mother. For the last 30 years, Mr. Tyson has worked in numerous roles at Kaiser Permanente including an assistant administrator at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center San Francisco, CEO at Kaiser Foundation Hospital Santa Rosa and executive vice president of health plans and hospital operations, among several others. He spoke at the 2014 NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund Annual Gala, which commemorated the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. As CEO and chairman, Mr. Tyson takes a hands-on approach, saying in a Bloomberg report, "I still do hospital visits, and I can tell how well it's run in a couple minutes: How clean are the floors? How does the staff respond? What’s the vibe?"

Chris Van Gorder. Mr. Van Gorder has been the president and CEO of five-hospital Scripps Health, based in San Diego, since 2000. When he stepped in as president and CEO, the organization was losing $15 million a year. Mr. Van Gorder built a strong executive team that streamlined business operations and focused their efforts on bolstering internal efficiencies, physician relations and workplace culture. Mr. Van Gorder is heading the restructuring of Scripps, which currently is worth $2.6 billion.

But his road to CEO wasn’t always easy; in 1978, Mr. Van Gorder worked as a cop and was critically injured when responding to a family dispute. Following a nearly year-long hospital stay, the police department planned to retire him. Instead of staying at home, Mr. Van Gorder applied to work security at the hospital that cared from him during his injury. Mr. Van Gorder told Becker's Hospital Review, "The CEO said to me, 'You really haven't done that much in healthcare,' and I asked him to give me a shot. Give me minimum wage and 90 days and I'll prove to you that you have not made a mistake. After 90 days he said, 'You're right. You're good at this.' I realized shortly thereafter that I had found my calling."

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