Spiegel's first priority: Embrace talent at hospital

Spiegel's first priority: Embrace talent at hospital

March 3rd, 2013 by Kate Harrison Belz in Local Regional News

Kevin M. Spiegel

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

ABOUT KEVIN SPIEGEL

PROFESSIONAL

March 2008-present -- CEO of Methodist University Hospital, one of five hospitals in the Le Bonheur Healthcare system.

2003-2008 -- Senior vice president, later president and chief operating officer of Trumbull Memorial Hospital in Warren, Ohio

2000-2003 -- Senior vice president and COO of Southhampton Hospital in Southhampton, N.Y.

1994-2000 -- Deputy commissioner, later senior vice president of Westchester Medical Center

1992-1994 -- Assistant executive director at St. Johns Queens Hospital

1986-1992 -- A range of positions at Queens Hospital Center, ending as senior associate director.

PERSONAL

Age: 57

Family: Wife of 30 years, Judy, who is "the brains of the operation, and the backbone of the family," says Spiegel. She is involved with civic groups and events in Memphis. Three children: Rachel, a divisional administrator for surgery at Columbia University; Michael, who provides undercover security at Disney World; and Joshua, who is in his first year at medical school with the University of Tennessee in Memphis.

Background: Spiegel grew up on Long Island, N.Y. He got a bachelor's degree in psychology at the State University of New York at New Paltz. He spent about seven years as a rehabilitation counselor before getting his MBA at Adelphi University after a mentor told him, "The future in health care is to get your MBA."

Other experiences: Volunteered as an EMT; member of New York City's 911 committee; member of the Suffolk County, N.Y., Bioterrorism Task Force; commander of Metro New York's Disaster Medical Assistance Team.

New Erlanger President and CEO Kevin Spiegel's official start date is not until April 1, but don't be surprised if he's spotted walking the halls of the hospital Monday.

"I plan to be on the ground this weekend. I will be in the hospital all day Monday, talking to people," he said. "The quicker I get there and start getting to know people, the better."

On Friday, the Times Free Press held a telephone interview with Spiegel, who was in Memphis. Below are excerpts from that conversation.

Q. Tell us about where you're coming from and what you think you're bringing to Erlanger.

A. I believe I'm a catalyst to bring people together. Before I came to Methodist, there were issues between the UT docs, with the private docs, and the hospital docs.

There was the perception that to get good medical care you had to move east [to the suburbs].

We changed that perception. I believed in downtown, and I still do. The hospital went from 10 years of losing money to four years of making money. We are now building a $33 million emergency medical center.

I feel I was able to bring these doctors together.

What I believe has differentiated MUH is our quest for quality. I have a passion for asking, "Can you measure it, can you really look at partnering with your physicians in your community and nursing staff and drive change?"

Erlanger, with its challenges, is a spectacular opportunity. I believe we could turn that hospital around and bring resources from the medical community to significantly enhance care in the region.

Q. There is much in flux at Erlanger right now, with the shift in leadership along with the legislation that will restructure the board. How do you reassure officials, doctors and patients that you're the guy to give Erlanger a sound footing?

A. That's going to have to happen over time. The board took a brave step to bring in new leadership in this time. I expressed this profoundly to the leadership of the county, state, legislative that I can't do it alone.

Changing the complexity of the board is a healthy process, a springboard to get to the next level. People have been saying to me, "All of this uncertainty! Aren't you scared?" But I think it's a wonderful thing. I'm charged up that the legislators had the courage to embrace change. Their motivation was to help Erlanger; that is the best motivation you can have.

One thing I have learned so far is that this community loves Erlanger, and has for a long time. Erlanger has a very rich history of providing state-of-the-art care to the community. People here were born there, their roots are there, their parents and grandparents have worked there. They care about the overall success of that hospital. It's an honor to have that responsibility to bring people together.

Q. What are your priorities in your first 90 days?

A. I'm not new to coming into new, challenging situations. The first thing is not to have any preconceived notions. I want to look, listen and feel. I don't shoot, then look and listen. I'm a little more tactical. I believe there is tremendous talent at Erlanger. My first move is to embrace that talent and remove obstacles so they can do their jobs.

I didn't make a lot of changes to administration at Methodist during my tenure here. My goal is to work with the team at Erlanger. To bring them together, and to recruit physicians and administrators if there is an absolute need.

Q. What do you think are Erlanger's strengths and weaknesses?

A. Erlanger has an amazing physician base. There is some great talent on the tertiary care side. All of your high-end services -- trauma, pediatrics, neonatal, ICU -- that is one of the greatest assets it provides the community and the entire region. When Methodist was establishing our regionaI stroke center, we emulated the good work that was being done at Erlanger with their stroke center.

The amount of capital the doctors need to keep up with technology needs to be addressed. That is going to be one of my major focuses, to get the financial health in line and leverage that to infuse capital that is absolutely needed to take that hospital to the next level.

Q. What is "the next level?"

A. I want to see an expansion of medical services and research capabilities. We need to trail medical students and residents who stay in Chattanooga and the surrounding region. We need to be enhancing our academic mission, enhancing the research, enhancing state-of-the-art medical technology.

Q. You have heard, and already had to address, concerns that your connection to UT could be a sign that UT wants more control over the hospital or physician practices. How do you respond to this concern?

A. My involvement with the college is two levels. We partnered with UT to take ... Methodist to the next level, and I am proud of that. I am also an assistant professor, which I love.

I think my experience only benefits the relationship with UT. I think there needs to be clarity about what the mission of an academic medical center is, and the economics of that need to be clarified. I want to make looking at the graduate medical education financials a priority. There is some question about that and I want to bring clarity.

I do think the hospital should be locally run.

Q. How do you perceive the state and nature of competition among local hospitals?

A. There's significant competition in Chattanooga. Competition is good and healthy and it will drive each one of us to provide better patient care. Our strategy should change to focus on one thing and one thing only: the patient. The day you forget that is the day you've lost your way.