Congratulations on your new role; what do you hope you can bring to the industry?
Thank you. I joined the IHF in October 2020 and then spent two months in a smooth transition period with the former CEO, Eric de Roodenbeke. That allowed me to get up to speed with his insights and guidance. I assumed the role of CEO in December 2020.
I’m excited to be leading a global NGO that has been around for more than 90 years and contributes to promoting excellent management standards among hospitals and health service organizations. The IHF is a place for knowledge exchange and collaboration across the globe. It is a real honor to be leading the IHF and I believe my 25 years of experience in health service delivery will be beneficial because I’ll have a good understanding of where our member hospitals are coming from on issues. My entire professional career has been in the health sector, mostly running hospitals in the USA and UAE. I have a keen appreciation of the demands of leading a hospital, the complexities, challenges and the incredible reward and satisfaction when witnessing the positive impact that a healthcare organization brings to the community it serves. I often say, a career in healthcare is a “calling” not just a job and that goes for all the administrative personnel along with the clinical team.
Is there anything that you think the international hospitals and healthcare sector needs to adapt to, as technology and globally mobile populations change how healthcare is consumed?
Since the start of this global pandemic, it has been clear that the leaders of the healthcare sector were able to adapt and adjust to difficult circumstances. Yes, some organizations handled the pandemic better than others but, overall, the healthcare sector showed how being resilient and agile were the top skills the leaders needed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. I believe these two competencies will be key to addressing the digitalization of healthcare delivery and the increasing demands from patients. As exhausting and at times devastating it has been, the COVID-19 pandemic did sharpen many needed skills for leaders to succeed in the fast-changing healthcare industry.
Tell us a little about your professional background, and how you ended up here.
I studied public and health administration at university and graduated with a master’s degree in the USA. I first entered hospital management as an associate administrator in a small hospital and, after many years moving to roles with increasing responsibility, eventually moved to be CEO of hospitals in different parts of the globe including the USA and UAE. I was fortunate to have opportunities of working with wonderful healthcare leaders over the last 25 years in different organizations and I’ve learned many, many lessons from them. From that standpoint, I believe that lifelong learning is an important characteristic for healthcare leaders, and the leaders that embrace lifetime learning are the ones who experience the greatest success in their careers.
It’s been a difficult year, what positives have you taken from it?
The past 18 months has been tragic in so many ways for so many people. And the COVID-19 pandemic continues to create challenging circumstances around the globe. I have tremendous respect for everyone involved with care delivery – the nurses, doctors, technicians, support staff, administrators, and everyone taking on a role to provide healthcare services to their communities.
I believe one positive development in our industry which was a result of the global pandemic was the acceleration of the use of telemedicine. Its arrival has been underway for many years but it got turbo charged by COVID-19. To help hospital leaders steer through the enormous changes happening as a result of the digitization of healthcare delivery, and those changes ahead, the IHF has also embarked on a project that navigates the future of hospitals in the context of telehealth. This is being undertaken by one of the IHF’s special interest groups. We are bringing together industry experts and the IHF’s members from across the globe to develop practical tools for hospital leaders.
We have launched two special interest groups (SIGs), one is on telehealth, the other is on harnessing big data. We believe that both are opportunities to provide our members with detailed and more practical information that our members can utilize for topics that are meaningful and add value to them.
We are also very excited about the upcoming conference on Green Hospitals: Sharing innovative practices for a sustainable future. It is a small-scale virtual discussion on sustainability in healthcare, in collaboration with Dialog Health. The event will be held on 7 October, which we hope will serve as a kickoff to the IHF’s further involvement in sustainability projects in healthcare. Climate change is a growing concern on a global scale and, if healthcare were a country, it would have been the fifth biggest contributor to climate change. There’s no time to waste and the IHF wants to support action in this area of the healthcare industry.
The World Hospital Congress will continue along its course except that, from this year on, the event will expand its reach to virtual attendees. In its new hybrid format, we also hope to bring in new forms of interactivity and virtual networking.
If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would you go and who with?
As with many people across the globe, COVID-19 has kept families separated. I am fortunate to be with my wife and daughter in Geneva, but we have missed visiting with our extended families in the USA. It will have been over one year, but we will attempt to travel back to the USA for the winter break.
The congress looks like it will take place in Barcelona after all; are you excited to be holding an in-person event again?
Yes, we are super excited to host the 44th IHF World Hospital Congress as mainly an in-person event. We believe there is no substitute for healthcare leaders to meet, interact, and talk with each other through attending an event. We’re looking forward to welcoming everyone to the Congress in November.
As it’s a hybrid event, how will experiences differ for in-person versus virtual visitors?
We are trying to create, as best we can, an event experience that will be engaging and interactive for the IHF members and supporters who will be attending virtually. The entire event industry is adjusting to this new environment and it’s exciting to imagine new possibilities. We are investing time and resources in our Congress so our hybrid event will be a good experience for both our in-person and virtual participants. We also believe large events such as our Congress will always need to offer both options and be hybrid. In fact, the IHF is using our November Congress to develop best practices for our 2022 Congress in Dubai. As lifelong learners, the IHF will take all the lessons we can gain from the upcoming WHC in Barcelona and apply them to next year, and the next, and so on, so we continue to get always better.
For how long have you been running the IHF awards, and what role do they play in recognising excellence or achievements in the industry?
The IHF launched the IHF Awards in 2015 so we are now on its sixth year. On behalf of the IHF, I’m proud to mention this year, we received close to 250 entries - our largest year ever. We believe that the IHF Awards is an excellent opportunity for hospitals to showcase the tremendous work they are doing. While the top three will be selected for each category, it is very important for us to make sure we recognize all the hospitals who submitted their projects and programs which commit to excellence in healthcare delivery. Our praises go to all the hospitals and healthcare workers across the globe who are genuinely dedicated to their patients and serve their communities each and every day. The IHF Awards is our opportunity to showcase and hopefully highlight some examples of the great work that’s being done across continents.
How do you choose the winners? It must be a difficult task!
The IHF Awards has a rigorous judging and review process. We’ve tapped more than 30 highly experienced healthcare leaders from across the globe who will give their time and lend their expertise to evaluate the entries by category. The judging panel is a very diverse team and the IHF Awards Committee has established strict guidelines to ensure complete fairness in the judging process.