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Q & A with new Medical College of Wisconsin President and CEO John R. Raymond, Sr., MD

Sept. 03, 2010 College News

This interview with new Medical College of Wisconsin President and CEO John R. Raymond, Sr., MD is also available in an audio podcast.
Audio podcast of interview with Dr. Raymond

Q: Looking back, what attracted you to medicine as a career?

A: Well 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 here at the College, was what made you first consider the possibility?

A: Well 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 College were most intriguing to you during the 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 by Dean Ravdin (Jonathan I. Ravdin, MD) to key leadership positions in the College. He has brought in some remarkably talented department chairs and center directors.

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.

I could add also that in this particular market there is very little net population growth, so that makes these market forces all the more difficult to contend with, because we won’t grow simply by maintaining our market share here. Thus, if we want to grow we need to have to have a larger market share because the net population growth is fairly limited. We also will have challenges on the reimbursement front, and there are all the uncertainties about what health care reform will mean not only to the community provider of health care but also to the hospitals and the physicians that provide services to academic medicine. We must ask, “what premium is going to be placed on those services by society?”

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 the team work that is very clearly a critical component of why MCW has been successful over the last several decades.

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 dialog.

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 motivates you in your career and also in your life outside of your profession?

A: Like many other leaders in medicine I like to build teams that can achieve more in aggregate than the sum of the individual efforts.

Q: You mentioned your Midwestern roots. What are your first impressions of Milwaukee as a resident?

A: I love the genuineness of the people here. I feel very comfortable here, and people have really gone out of their way to help me feel comfortable. The town has a terrific fine arts community that I am beginning to enjoy, a lot of culture and great professional sports.

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 manner of institutional culture do you envision fostering here at the Medical College for the faculty and staff?

A: As I have said earlier in the interview, we already have a terrific culture here where people are committed to excellence. They believe in the ideals of team spirit and collaboration, and in order to continue to have that philosophy flourish we should encourage the free exchange of ideas and information. We should try to build consensus when possible and to maintain an open door for exchange of ideas with faculty, staff and students. I think the quality and well-being of our faculty and staff are absolutely critical for us to provide the best environment for teaching, learning, discovery and community engagement.

Q: How should the Medical College engage faculty and staff as partners in the College’s vision?

A: I think people talk about transparency in decision making, and what that means to me is that we should as much as possible communicate clearly what our challenges and opportunities are and solicit the input of our faculty -- who are a terrific highly motivated group of people that are extremely knowledgeable -- to help us prioritize what our opportunities are and then to align those opportunities with short and long term goals that match our resource base.

Q: What should the faculty and the staff expect from the Medical College as their employer?

A: They should expect transparency when we go through difficult times, and we just went through some difficult times with the state of the national economy not being good. I think that tough decisions need to be made in public, and we need to, as much as possible, treat people with dignity and respect.

Q: Thank you for your time Dr. Raymond. Before we conclude, 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.

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