Living Like a Leader: A day with Keck Medicine CEO Tom Jackiewicz


"I realized over time that being successful as a CEO is to be able to work very quickly and transition quickly from issue to issue."

With balancing clinical objectives, financial concerns and complex payer dynamics, there doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day for healthcare executives to address the diverse set of organizational goals they are tasked with accomplishing.

However, leaders succeed despite these challenges. And they each have their own habits, hacks, styles and methods to do so.

It's no question that Tom Jackiewicz knows academic medicine well. His decades-long career includes various leadership roles at prominent academic medical centers across the nation, including University of California San Diego Health System; University of Pennsylvania Health System in Philadelphia; Stanford (Calif.) University School of Medicine; and Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City.

Since 2012, Mr. Jackiewicz has served as CEO of Los Angeles-based Keck Medicine of USC. He is tasked with overseeing clinical operations, improving medical education and advancing cutting-edge research.

Here, Mr. Jackiewicz spoke with Becker's Hospital Review for our "Living like a leader" series, which examines influential decision-maker's daily routines to offer readers an idea of how they manage their energy, teams and time.

Question: What is the first thing you do when you wake up?

Tom Jackiewicz: I have a reasonably structured schedule. I wake up between 5:15 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. I do a quick scan of my emails and texts just to make sure nothing critical came up during the evening. Then I get up and go to the neighborhood gym. It's a great experience because I know many of the people there. From there, I come back and do a quick scan of The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and Bloomberg. Then I check to see if there's any news from Becker's that's in the healthcare space that I need to know.

Then I drive to work. During that car ride I make both personal and work calls. The commute, which ranges from 35 to 45 minutes, is a great time to stay connected with family and friends, while also getting a jump-start on work. The personal calls are important for me, because I think it keeps me grounded during the day.

Q: What's the first thing you do when you get into the office?

TJ: I have a notebook that is my lifeline. It holds my schedule, notes about meetings and what I need to follow up on. So when I first get to the office, I take out my notebook and review those notes to plan for the day. In addition, the night before I'll prepare notes and objectives for upcoming meetings.

Q: Do you have a before-lunch, after-lunch routine?

TJ: I've learned over time that what I think my day is going to be and what my day turns out to be is drastically different. I realized I come in as prepared as I can for the day, but part of my job is to be flexible and take on challenges. Being a leader at a university academic medical center, I work with the school of medicine, the university, the folks in the hospital, the medical group and community-based partners. Because of this, I often must rearrange my schedule to fit in unplanned meetings. I realized over time that being successful as a CEO is to be able to work very quickly and transition quickly from issue to issue.

Q: Is there anything specific or unique about your office setup?

TJ: I would say it's standard. The one thing I really do like about my office, though, is that it is next door to the hospital. It's also in a building where we have outpatient practices, so I feel like I'm right in the mix of our core business.

Q: How much time do you spend with your direct reports?

TJ: If I had to guess, I'd say about 25 percent of my time. I always want to make sure they have access to me, because they are driving the work that's going to make us a great organization. I have 11 direct reports and the time I spend with them is often in pre-scheduled meetings. I like it that way so I will be prepared when I meet with them on key issues and vice versa — they can be ready to talk to me.

Q: How often do you perform clinical rounds?

TJ: Never enough, but I always try to complete them as often as I can. Most times I decide it's time for me to pop into one unit or another, and I will just take a walk out of my office into the unit. I also make sure I meet with key physicians and clinical staff daily because it's very important to stay close to the clinical teams.

Q: How do you think your routine is different from non-academic medicine healthcare executives?

TJ: The thing that's different for academic CEOs is that they are responsible for three missions. Leaders in academic medicine have the clinical responsibilities, but must also focus on research and education. Academic medicine physicians are always thinking about how to be the best at all three, and as an academic medical center CEO I've got to think in the same way. Obviously patient care is top priority, but research and education also matter. So, our conversations tend to cover all three missions — not just one.

Q: What do you consider the hardest part of your day?

TJ: Since it takes a while to get on my calendar, I need to ensure I am managing my own emotions to maintain my focus so everyone gets the attention they deserve. I owe my full attention to the people who waited to meet with me, no matter what happened during the previous part of the day or in the meeting before. All of us are impacted by our days, but one of my main responsibilities is to minimize that impact so others get the best, even-tempered, focused leader.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of your day?

TJ: Working with clinical teams and patients. That is why I do this job; it's the part that is so rewarding. We are coming up on our 10-year anniversary of Keck Medicine of USC, and all the clinical teams have been talking about our accomplishments and growth over the last decade. This conversation is just so rewarding.

Q: What is the last thing you do when you leave the office?

TJ: Most of my days start the same way, but very few end the same way. We have three hospitals and 60 ambulatory sites, plus the university campus. So many afternoons I spend at the other sites. However, if I were in my office, the last thing I do is sit down with my assistant and go through my schedule for tomorrow and peek at the week ahead to make sure we're on schedule.

Q: Do you do any work at home? Why or why not?

TJ: Yes. I always prepare for the day ahead. I write down my notes and look through my schedule; I even look a week or two ahead, just to make sure I'm on track. There are board meetings, meetings with key trustees, and other hospital CEOs, so I always prepare for those. Secondly, I also look through emails at home and respond to them on the weekend. However, I have learned to be very careful not to email my team on weekends unless it's important. I want people to have a break from work. I think it's important for them to maintain their work-life balance. If I send emails on Sunday, they're going to feel like they need to send emails on Sunday, so I minimize that.

The other part of what I consider my work is reading. I'm an avid reader. At the end of the day I come home and read about things I want to get a better grasp on. I am very interested in reading healthcare information, but I also read about innovation and what's the latest in other industries. There is so much to learn as a CEO. I also read history. There are always incredible parallels between what's happened before and what's happening now in our industry and society.

Q: How do you unwind at the end of the day?

TJ: My true unwinding moment is when I start to read history, because I'll get caught up in the time and the place. Reading history allows me time to gain perspective. I love reading about challenges and how leaders addressed them. I am not a major TV watcher. I'll watch a bit of TV, but it's rare.

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