The ability to cope with change is something that the executives of any institution have to deal with on a regular basis. Change can be viewed as both a positive and negative situation in an organization. What makes a leader stand out is the ability to enforce a positive change that benefits the organization. CIOs in the healthcare vertical must be great at adapting to change with all of the healthcare regulations that have shifted the industry.
Our job as CIOs has to be more than managing technology; we are in the business of managing change and business behaviors. As a younger CIO in the industry, I have had to make some drastic changes. It has been a great eye-opener and has been a steep learning curve.
Growing up in sunny Southern California and having a successful career overseeing the technology sector for a multi-hospital system can be viewed as the peak for many people. I was in my late 20’s working for a 7-hospital system called AHMC Healthcare. I was part of the core team that went through mergers and acquisitions with Tenet, Dignity (formerly CHW), and MemorialCare. Throughout my tenure, I realized that I have always been in the for-profit side of the industry and was lacking the knowledge of working in a non-profit system.
After 7 years with AHMC Healthcare, my life started getting interesting. I embarked on a journey and moved my entire family 8,000 miles away to work for Cleveland Clinic at their first international flagship hospital in Abu Dhabi, UAE. It was a great experience, both in terms of a change and a chance to work abroad. We had an international work environment with the best talent from all over the world working on the project. The change was different, but one must embrace change to appreciate the experience. I took some of the simple things that we have for granted, such as the ability to go to any supermarket and buy anything that you need. In Abu Dhabi, I found myself hoarding my favorite products because everything is imported so it may take some time for the stock to replenish.
I also grew to appreciate the health system we have in North America, where I can trust the medical diagnosis. I was very skeptical when abroad, and even went to multiple consultations. My favorite story was having a stomach virus that was diagnosed as appendicitis — the doctor was ready to perform surgery! The government of the UAE is working hard to bring in the best medical care for the citizens, which is why they brought on Cleveland Clinic as a partner. Quality of life was great internationally, and I do miss that tremendously.
After almost 3 years in Abu Dhabi, an unexpected opportunity came from my current employer: University of Mississippi Medical Center. No one would ever imagine that someone like myself who grew up in a major metropolitan city could adapt to life in a smaller town in Mississippi. I was ready for the change, but moving the family of five 8,000 miles back to North America was not an easy transition. The main attraction was for me to work in an academic medical setting where my challenge is to bring together the ecosystem of healthcare, education, and research. The organization is transforming and we are embarking on a journey to make the medical center a leader in the southeast region of the United States.
During my journey through many life-changing environments, I have been asked by many young aspiring thought leaders what advice I would give them on taking on the next challenge in their career path. My response has always been that it’s all about timing and the ability to make a change. I believe timing is key, especially when I reflect on the fact that there are only 136 academic medical centers in the US. If my next journey is to be in that environment, I will need to make the change and take advantage of the timing. My family made a 16,000 mile change in the last 3 years and it was a struggle but, luckily, we were willing to embrace change and are thrilled about the journey ahead.