Ascending the Hospital’s Leadership Ladder

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Times of change generally present increased opportunity for those willing to find the right door and open it. With hospitals merging, buying practices, and acquiring imaging centers, there is just such an opportunity, in health care, to rectify what many believe is a paucity of radiology representation in the upper echelons of hospital administration. Room at the Top As unusual as it is to find imaging experts in general-leadership positions, Robert Grossman, MD, has attained a position in his field that makes him even more of a rare species. Grossman, who is both dean and CEO of NYU Langone Medical Center (New York, New York), logged 20 years as a neuroradiology chief and another six as department chair. His career as a researcher is equally distinguished: He won a a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Javits Neuroscience Investigator Award in 1999 for research on multiple sclerosis, and from 1997 to 2000, he chaired the NIH Diagnostic Radiology Study Section. Grossman also invested time in the service of organized radiology, as a past president of the American Society of Neuroradiology, as editor of the American Journal of Radiology, and as a fellow of the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine (ISMRM). He received a gold medal from the ISMRM in 2010 for his pioneering research in MRI in medicine and biology. By some measures, though, one of his greatest achievements was turning all that experience into a true C-suite position. After all, radiologists are physicians first. “I didn’t have a linear pathway at all for this job,” Grossman says. “I was never focused on being the dean/CEO; I was focused on doing what I did at the time that I was doing those jobs.” The accolades didn’t stop piling up once he got the job, either. In the years since he’s held the dean/CEO position, two NYU Langone Medical Center facilities—Tisch Hospital and the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine—have twice earned Magnet Awards from the American Nurses Credentialing Center. In recruiting the dean/CEO, the board of trustees at NYU Langone Medical Center sought a candidate with a background in research and medicine who would help integrate the school and hospital aspects of the institution. The reason that the board chose Grossman, he says, is that he had sampled a variety of different leadership opportunities along the way. “If I were trying to talk to young physicians who want to be deans or CEOs, the most important thing I’d say is not to be afraid of something that you may not be comfortable with,” Grossman says. “Extend your comfort zone, and go with your passion,” he says. “Ultimately, you want to maximize your job satisfaction and happiness, and in order to do that, you have to be willing to stretch, sometimes. By sampling a lot of different opportunities, I gained experience that provided me with a skill set that our board found appealing.” Raising All Boats Grossman says that his passions—and his appetite for taking on added responsibilities—were fueled by his recruitment of talented staff, along the way. When he was a section chief, he says, he mentored excellent people and looked for ways to help them conduct research that would embellish their careers. When he moved up to become a department chair, he simply scaled up his approach, seeking individuals who could help transform an institution into something greater and more successful than it had been. “There’s nothing formulaic, as far as I’m concerned,” he says. “The best thing is to be a good learner. I think that what you have to do is manage people and have a vision for what you want to make of your institution.” At NYU Langone Medical Center, Grossman’s vision has to hold for 19,000 people who always ask what’s in it for them, he says. That’s where the effectiveness of a leader is made: in communicating effectively a vision for the future of the organization and in coordinating the deliverables necessary to execute it. Grossman says, “Ideally, you want to have a vision and then manage the components to fulfill the aspirations.” Unifying those qualities of assessment and implementation, he says, is what makes an effective leader: making an appropriate evaluation (of talent, resources, or strengths): seizing opportunities that other people don’t see; and then delivering on those expectations. “It’s easy to see them,” he says. “It’s harder to make sure that everything works. I think you’re chosen as a leader if you can deliver on vision and your promises.