June 19, 2024

The Boss: Translating Your Skills

My parents expected my seven siblings and me to be independent, to learn to take care of ourselves. In third or fourth grade in Germany, I went to an indoor public swimming pool with friends and got lost returning home. The trip required taking two buses. I got on the wrong one for the second leg of the trip and ended up in a bar on the Rhine River. Even though I didn’t speak fluent German, I was able to tell the bartender my name and phone number. Someone called my parents and gave me an ice cream cone while I waited for them to pick me up. Times were different then; it was safer.

When we returned to the United States, we lived in Pennsylvania for a short time, and when I was 14 we moved to North Carolina. In high school, I worked at a local hospital, writing procedure manuals for nurses. I read about everything that went on in a hospital. I knew then that I wanted to go into the business end of health care.

In 1980, after graduating with a business degree from the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, I got a job as a management consultant at what became Cap Gemini Ernst Young. When I was leading a health care business unit there, I was given the chance to move to a middle-market division that had some Internet companies as clients.

Shortly after I accepted the assignment, the dot-com bubble burst. Even so, I set a goal of being the No. 1 division in the company a year later. We got to No. 3. Then I led a high-tech group, followed by an entertainment division. After that, I returned to health care.

I was with the company for more than 20 years and rose to senior health care practice leader. I was nervous about taking some of the positions I did, but I learned that I could handle them. I never wanted to regret that I hadn’t taken risks. The key is to jump in and ask questions. You learn things that you can apply to other jobs.

I joined Premier in 2003 as the president of Premier Purchasing Partners, our supply chain division, and became chief operating officer of our health alliance three years later. In 2009, I was promoted to C.E.O. Premier has an uncommon business model. We’re owned by nonprofit hospitals and health care systems, serving as a group buying organization for them. We receive fees from manufacturers when hospitals buy their medical supplies using our standardized contracts. We also collaborate with our members to improve health care quality and safety, and to lower costs. I like to think we’re a profit-making business with a social mission.

A few years ago, I completed the International Masters for Health Leadership program at McGill University in Montreal. The program required several weekends and full weeks on campus. I was the only American in my class.

During the program, executives and public servants from around the world discussed their individual situations. No matter how different the problems seemed initially, it became obvious that health care systems all over the world are facing similar challenges. No nation has managed to develop a perfect health care model that delivers the best quality at the best price, and every model has trade-offs. Hybrid systems, based on public and private partnerships, are emerging around the globe. 

As told to Patricia R. Olsen.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=2dfb7fa6bf229bb30a0423412436c933

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