Modern Healthcare - - COVER STORY -

Prop­erly treat­ing a pa­tient pop­u­la­tion means ad­her­ing to their unique needs, and health­care ex­ec­u­tives are in­creas­ingly turn­ing their at­ten­tion to­ward un­der­stand­ing how di­ver­sity meshes with the goal of im­proved qual­ity of care. “If you don’t un­der­stand that and deal with that, then the out­comes won’t be good,” says Dr. Ram Raju, CEO of the Cook County Health & Hos­pi­tals Sys­tem based in Chicago.

Raju, who joined Cook County last Novem­ber, is the for­mer ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent for the New York City Health and Hos­pi­tals Corp.


Amer­i­can In­dian He makes his first ap­pear­ance this year on Mod­ern Health­care’s bi­en­nial list of the Top 25 Mi­nor­ity Ex­ec­u­tives in Health­care. His chief un­der­tak­ing in his new po­si­tion at Cook County is turn­ing around the fi­nan­cially strapped gov­ern­ment-run sys­tem. While the Cook County sys­tem is smaller than New York’s, it’s not ex­actly com­pact, rank­ing as the third-largest sys­tem in the U.S. The staff at Cook County also speaks 53 lan­guages.

“Cook County is very di­verse … and the work­ers are very di­verse,” Raju says. Mi­nor­ity ex­ec­u­tives of­ten draw on the ex­pe­ri­ences of their child­hood or those of their par­ents, which mo­ti­vate them to help un­der­served pop­u­la­tions. Raju, while speak­ing last month in Chicago at the Amer­i­can Col­lege of Health­care Ex­ec­u­tives’ an­nual Congress on Health­care Lead­er­ship, drew a par­al­lel with his na­tive In­dia and Amer­ica, com­par­ing how the sub­con­ti­nent’s caste sys­tem pre­vents the poor from re­ceiv­ing health­care. He talked about how he was stunned to learn that the same prob­lem plagues Amer­ica, de­spite the dif­fer­ence in per­capita in­comes.

“Even to­day, in the great­est coun­try of the world, peo­ple—mostly peo­ple of di­ver­sity— go with­out ad­e­quate health­care,” Raju told his ACHE au­di­ence. “Even when they get health­care, the out­comes are not as good as the ma­jor­ity.”

Raju and other mi­nor­ity ad­min­is­tra­tors say their per­spec­tives al­low them to bet­ter fo­cus on the needs of these com­mu­ni­ties. Raju’s new job in­cludes over­see­ing Chicago’s only safety net hos­pi­tals.

He says he’s de­ter­mined to suc­ceed at Cook County: “I won’t fail.”

That same de­ter­mi­na­tion helped Raju along the way as he faced the same chal­lenges most ad­min­is­tra­tors com­ing from a va­ri­ety of back-


Break­down of ACHE fel­lows and mem­bers



Mul­ti­ple mi­nori­ties* 3.9% 1.9% 1.8% 0.3% 7.5% 3.6% 4.8% 0.6% 0.2%

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