The One Thing
Oct 13, 2015 4:00 AM
Recently I was asked by a recruit, “What’s the ‘one thing’ you are trying to achieve for the University of Utah Health Sciences?” I suppose he was alluding to the book by Gary Keller, which has been very popular of late among the business set.
I reflected on his question and replied that the “one thing” I aspire to for the Health Sciences is that we realize the full potential of our organization. We achieve this by enabling all of the really bright, hard working and talented people here to accomplish their goals and to realize their career aspirations and potential. Provided we communicate effectively across our large, complex system to ensure these efforts are well-coordinated and synergistic, this “one thing” will translate into a responsive, productive, effective, efficient and transformative culture that exceeds all expectations.
While this may sound idealistic, I am quite confident that this is the perfect aspiration for us here at the University of Utah. I have good evidence to support my optimism.
Look at our roots. More than 50 years ago, Philip B. Price, M.D., was recruited to the U. of U. from Johns Hopkins University to head the department of surgery (1943). Later Dr. Price became Dean Price, the dean of the medical school. As Dean, he faced major challenges. The home of the U’s medical school, Salt Lake General Hospital (SLGH) provided woefully inadequate facilities, inadequate for the 126 full-time and 325 part-time faculty. The SLGH was run down, it was what Dr. Wintrobe then referred to as, “an awful dump and even more badly run.” Despite the large financial challenges to building a new medical school and hospital on the University campus, Dean Price succeeded. And as he envisioned, a facility that would “… carry on the highest grade of scientific work, which by the quality and reputation of its clinical work would attract patients from the whole Mountain Region irrespective of their economic status.”
Now, look at us, 50 years later. Today we at the U of U serve all of Utah and 10 percent of the continental U.S. with some of the highest quality, most compassionate and most affordable care in the nation, and we have been pioneers in so many ways. We were one of the first states in the country to perform an open heart operation. We implanted the first human artificial heart. We identified more than 30 disease-causing genes and tests to prevent them from ever occurring. We are home to a Nobel Laureate. We are a highly sought after medical school (over 3600 applications this year already) and we train more than 2/3rds of all the medical providers for Utah. We are home to one of the world’s foremost cancer institutes and one of the world’s most impactful ophthalmology centers. We have grown Utah’s economy having spun off more than 200 companies. More recently we have costed out all the services in our health care delivery system—an achievement that many thought was impossible. And most importantly, over the past 50 years, our hospitals and clinics have cared for millions and millions of people from Utah and all over the world.
I’d guess Dean Price would say we achieved his vision, and maybe even exceeded expectations.
So now, it’s our turn. Just think in 100 years, how much more we will have accomplished, how many more firsts we will have celebrated, how many millions more lives we will have touched.
As we reflect on the possibilities, I want to share some words of Dean Price from over 50 years ago that still hold true. He said, “The essence of the pioneer spirit, as I see it, is the courage to tackle an un-ideal situation, trying hard with faith and intelligence to build something ideal out of it.”
We can do it. Let’s build something truly ideal for all of Utah.
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