Work­ing to make a dif­fer­ence

Ber­man, David­son found suc­cess through pur­suit of their pas­sions

Modern Healthcare - - HEALTH CARE HALL OF FAME - Neil Mclaugh­lin Man­ag­ing ed­i­tor

“My gen­eral for­mula for my stu­dents is ‘Fol­low your bliss.’ Find where it is, and don’t be afraid to fol­low it.” — Joseph Camp­bell The Power of Myth

Camp­bell, the late ex­pert on mythol­ogy, wasn’t di­rect­ing his stu­dents to em­brace he­do­nism, although some may have pre­ferred that in­ter­pre­ta­tion. He was talk­ing about iden­ti­fy­ing a pur­suit you are pas­sion­ate about and giv­ing your­self ab­so­lutely to it. He also said that if you fol­low that bliss, “you put your­self on a kind of track that has been there all the while, and the life that you ought to be liv­ing is the one you are liv­ing.”

This year’s Hall of Fame in­ductees ex­em­plify the “fol­low your bliss” phi­los­o­phy. They are peo­ple who achieved suc­cess not as a pri­mary goal, but as a means to ac­com­plish the ob­jec­tives that mat­tered to them.

Richard David­son, for­mer Amer­i­can Hospi­tal As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent, took an un­usual path to get­ting on his track. He started out as a teacher, but a hospi­tal ad­min­is­tra­tor who had heard about David­son pro­moted him for a job with the Mary­land-dis­trict of Columbia-delaware Hospi­tal As­so­ci­a­tion. He was talked into the idea af­ter be­ing ad­mit­ted to the ex­ec­u­tive’s hospi­tal and be­ing un­der the ef­fects of De­merol.

David­son found that be­ing a teacher and work­ing on be­half of hos­pi­tals and com­mu­ni­ties were re­ally parts of the same con­tin­uum. Col­leagues re­call that he brought a teacher’s sen­si­bil­i­ties to the man­age­ment of an or­ga­ni­za­tion. He led the Mary­land Hospi­tal As­so­ci­a­tion through the adop­tion of a state rate-set­ting sys­tem. Later, he led the na­tional as­so­ci­a­tion through the Clin­ton health­care re­form de­bate.

“We do what we do only for the pur­pose of cur­ing and we’re an or­ga­ni­za­tion that does this in tak­ing care of you with re­spect that’s be­yond re­proach,” David­son says of the hospi­tal in­dus­try.

Howard Ber­man’s path to ful­fill­ment took him to se­nior di­rec­tor and vice pres­i­dent, group vice pres­i­dent of the AHA, and pres­i­dent and CEO of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield af­fil­i­ate in Rochester, N.Y. Ber­man says he never as­pired to an im­pres­sive job ti­tle.

“What I wanted to do was make a dif­fer­ence, and the dif­fer­ence I wanted to make was to make the qual­ity of life bet­ter in our com­mu­ni­ties,” he re­calls. Be­ing a top ex­ec­u­tive was a means to that end.

Those who know him say that his pri­mary con­cern is the well-be­ing of the com­mu­nity. He asks about the fi­nances later. “That’s not some­thing you typ­i­cally hear from some­one of his back­ground,” one col­league ob­serves.

As if chan­nel­ing Camp­bell, Ber­man coun­sels, “Don’t plan a ca­reer. … Is what you’re do­ing now in­ter­est­ing? If it isn’t, what do you want to do? Stay where you are un­til you want a greater chal­lenge—and take risks.”

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