Experience, know-how could benefit Cosgrove
The fact both candidates praised Cleveland Clinic President and CEO Dr. Toby Cosgrove in the 2012 presidential debates isn’t the only reason he could win bipartisan support should President Barack Obama nominate him to head the embattled Veterans Affairs Department.
A former Air Force surgeon in Vietnam, he has the military background necessary for any outsider brought in to replace Secretary Eric Shinseki, who resigned after the VA’s waiting-list scandal. He’s also knows how to play the political game. Campaign finance records show he donated to Republican candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign to unseat Obama, but also contributed to Ohio Democrats Sherrod Brown, Lee Fisher and Marcia Fudge.
“He knows his way around Washington and the veterans’ service organizations,” said Donald Fisher, CEO of the American Medical Group Association, which represents large physician practices like the Cleveland Clinic.
Confirmation hearings wouldn’t be easy though. A decade ago, Cosgrove and the Cleveland Clinic were embroiled in a conflict-of-interest controversy that led to him cutting ties with a medical-device company and a venture capital firm. Safety concerns at the clinic (see p. 7) also could become an issue.
But Cosgrove’s passion for physician engagement—a key strategy for resolving problems at the VA—could overshadow those concerns. “Any ambitious strategy that they do not embrace is doomed,” Cosgrove wrote in a co-authored essay in the latest Harvard Business Review.
“He clearly knows how to manage a large healthcare system, and he would be able to draw on his experiences as a healthcare executive, a physician, an innovator and a veteran,” said Wayne Smith, CEO of Community Health Systems, a Franklin, Tenn.-based for-profit system that recently formed a collaboration with the Cleveland Clinic. “He could bring unique and valuable perspective to the position.”