Issue: September/October 2012
Best Places to Work: Akron General Health System
Life Lessons From ... Dr. Thomas ‘Tim’ Stover, CEO
Dr. Thomas “Tim” Stover had notified Akron General Health System that his last day would be May 22, 2012 — his 65th birthday. A chronic heart condition forced the president of outpatient services to give up a successful OB-GYN practice a decade ago. And his passion for accessible outpatient facilities and wellness put him at odds with peers and superiors throughout his medical and administrative careers. But when president and CEO Vincent J. McCorkle resigned in January after 18 months in office, the board of directors offered Stover the job. He took it.
It was such a difficult time.
We thought we had the right person for the job of president and CEO, and then he gets sick.
I was one of the few people
left after a major transition, when 10 executives were let go or left the organization.
The board interviewed
multiple people, multiple times. And I kept saying the same word: stability. You couldn’t ask these 5,500 people to wonder when the next shoe was going to drop. In the last three or four years, they had gone through so much change with leadership. Sooner or later, we were going to lose a lot of good people.
asked me to do something as far as leading from a physician’s standpoint, I said yes. I wanted to learn about what other people in our organization were doing. It gave me an amazing amount of experience.
I think that’s what
the board looked at the most: “Stover’s pretty much done everything in this facility.”
I have a tremendous amount of respect
for other hospital administrators. They’re trained from the very beginning to know how to work in teams.
You have to depend
on others. Physicians don’t do that very well.
and docs have a hard time understanding what I’ve been saying for 16 years: Wellness is the right thing to do. If you build a new hospital with a hundred beds in it, you’re gonna look to make sure that there’s a butt in every one of those beds. Otherwise, you’re losing money.
I’ve never really
put my plan in front of God’s. I’ve just waited until the game comes to me. And when the game’s in front of me, I play it.
My family told me
that I always said, “At some point I want to be a doctor.” I don’t remember that.
What I remember is
not being as good at football as I thought I was.
I was being recruited to
play football at the military academy, and I spent a day up there. They put me with one of the football players. I realized by noon that I couldn’t do it. I mean, this guy was nuts. He was up at 5, he was checking off that he washed his socks. He had a schedule of things that he had to do every day, and he did them by the book.
I did a fellowship in surgical infertility.
I was helping patients who had infertility issues. When I was successful in doing that, two good things happened. First of all, I fixed their problem. Second, they got pregnant. And there’s nothing better than that.
I actually relaxed
in the operating room. It was peaceful, even when things were terrible. And in OB, things can get bad quick.
I developed a cardiomyopathy
secondary to a smallpox vaccination that I got while I was in the military.
I quit OB in 2001
because of my illness. It basically is an autoimmune disease now. I get flares, kind of like people with rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. The board knows I’ve got this. When I get them, I just have to take care of myself.
I look at the Cleveland Clinic as an asset.
I don’t look at them as a competitor. They saved my life — twice.
I like humility.
When a person tells me how good he is, the first thing I think is, He’s not very good.
If we find a person who fits
our culture and understands what we’re doing, but we don’t have a spot for them, we hire them and either create a spot or replace someone with them.
There are a lot of people
who are really concerned about doing the wrong thing. They’re not willing to make a mistake. And in leadership, you’ve got to make some mistakes.
People spend millions of dollars
to have consultants come in and tell them how to be nice, which just blows my mind. What the hell! How do you justify spending a million bucks to have this guy come up and tell you to smile?
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