John R. Raymond, Sr., MD, joined the Medical College as its sixth president and CEO in July. He recently answered some questions about himself and his new leadership position.
President and CEO John R. Raymond, Sr., MD, talks with (L-R) graduate student Marie-Elizabeth Barabas and medical students Tia Vernon and Nick Kuehnel at The Medical College of Wisconsin.
Q: Looking back, what attracted you to medicine as a career?
A: I think like many other people, the main attraction for me was the privilege of serving fellow human beings. We all go into medicine full of idealism, and that was the most attractive feature of medicine to me. Physicians are very highly respected and trusted by those they serve. With regard to academic medicine, I really like the intellectual challenge that goes along with being affiliated with an institution of higher education especially one that trains health care providers.
Q: Is leading a medical school as president something that was always among your career goals or did this opportunity at the College make you first consider the possibility?
A: Let me just start by saying that the opportunity here at the College is absolutely fantastic, but being a college president was not a long term goal of mine. I wanted to be the best physician that I could be, and as I assumed progressive responsibilities over the course of my career I started to think that might be a leadership possibility.
Q: What made the Medical College of Wisconsin the right fit for you? How are your strengths compatible with the challenges that this position presents?
A: Well, MCW harkens back to my Midwest roots. I grew up in Akron, Ohio, so I felt very comfortable with the people, the mindset, the work ethic and the commitment to excellence that many of us in the Midwest have. The institution has a great history of collegiality, collaborations, new facilities, a very strong faculty, a committed staff and many great partners here on the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center campus that makes this a fantastic opportunity.
Q: What opportunities at the Medical College were most intriguing to you during your candidacy?
A: I think the top two were the vigorous pursuit of a CTSA (Clinical and Translational Science Award) and the new Cancer Center director (Dr. Ming You) and the commitment of all the partners here on campus to have a world class Cancer Center. Obviously there were many other attractive features of the institution – very highly rated departments, nationally known faculty and a true integration into the fabric of Milwaukee. I was very excited by the quality and the caliber of the recent recruitments to key leadership positions in the college.
Q: Over the next five to 10 years what are the two or three issues that pose the most significant challenges to academic medical centers?
A: I think all academic medical centers face the uncertainties of the market forces, especially in markets like the Wisconsin market, in which there is very significant consolidation of the medical care market. That leads to significant uncertainty about the relative positioning of the academic health centers against their competition and peers in the non-academic sector. One of the challenges here is that we need to provide very high quality care and at the same time ensure that we are training the next generation of health care providers and generating new knowledge. We have faculty that are capable of contributing in all of those domains, but if we are measured solely on the ability to have a great financial bottom line and to provide great clinical care, we need to make sure that the premium is recognized for the time and efforts that we place on generating new knowledge and training the next generation of health care providers, which many of our competitors don’t have within the scope of their mission. Their mission is much more focused.
Q: How would you describe your leadership style?
A: I think my leadership style is engaged and open. I definitely have an open door policy. I want to hear people’s opinions, and I would love to have an environment where we recognize and encourage collegiality and a commitment to excellence through open dialogue.
Q: What has been your proudest moment in medicine?
A: Well, obviously all of us who have been in medicine for awhile have many great moments. It’s a privilege to be a physician. But I think the most memorable for me was my first night on call as an intern, I managed to turn around a patient that had an acute exacerbation of congestive heart failure that was severe enough that it appeared as if the patient might end up in the intensive care unit: by applying simple medical principles that I had learned in medical school, was able to really turn that patient around over the course of the evening, and to avoid an ICU stay.
Q: What do you do for relaxation or recreation?
A: I like to read, and I like to spend time with my family. I have a 19-year-old daughter and a 23-year-old son that are terrific adults, and I love spending time with them.
Q: What role do you believe alumni should have in strengthening the Medical College?
A: I think alumni play critical roles. They serve as ambassadors and representatives of the College through their professional conduct and their contributions to their communities and their fields. And those contributions enhance the reputation and increase the stature of our college nationally. Obviously, we hope that our alumni will help find and recruit the best and brightest students who will want to come to Milwaukee and attend The Medical College of Wisconsin.
Q: How can the Medical College be the best possible steward of the private funds received through philanthropy?
A: I think first and foremost, we need to continue to be a great vehicle for people to see that their contributions to society are amplified and that they have a sustaining impact. We need to clearly articulate our vision and remain true to the intent of all of the gifts given by our donors. I think a good part of the effort to show that we are good stewards of their resources would be frequent personal communications. In my opinion, those are critical to demonstrate good stewardship.
Q: Looking forward, what do you hope will be the distinguishing mark of your tenure here?
A: I hope that my tenure here will be characterized by the great collaborations and team work that is very clearly a critical component of why MCW has been successful over the last several decades.
Q: Are there any other topics you’d like to discuss, or insight you’d like to share?
A: I am not sure that people in Milwaukee really understand how highly respected MCW is across the country. I have encountered many former faculty members through my work with the National Institutes of Health and through various site visits for accreditation or at the Medical University at South Carolina where I served as provost, and the one thing that struck me from everyone who had been through MCW was their genuine fondness for the institution and the pride that they derived from having come from MCW. So this absolutely is a terrific institution.
Listen to a podcast of the full interview with President and CEO John R. Raymond, Sr., MD.
Audio Interview (MP3):
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