Dr. Alas­tair Bell, 38,

Chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer Bos­ton Med­i­cal Cen­ter

Modern Healthcare - - UP & COMERS - —Jaimy Lee

When Dr. Alas­tair Bell ar­rived at Bos­ton Med­i­cal Cen­ter almost three years ago, the hos­pi­tal was deal­ing with a $175 mil­lion deficit and a pos­si­ble bank­ruptcy.

Bell was in charge of im­ple­ment­ing a strate­gic plan to turn around the aca­demic med­i­cal cen­ter. The plan was suc­cess­ful and BMC has since re­ported fi­nan­cial sur­pluses as well as sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ments in clin­i­cal qual­ity scores.

“He’s got a bril­liant abil­ity to con­cep­tu­al­ize and ad­dress very tricky prob­lems,” said Joe Camil­lus, BMC’s vice pres­i­dent of am­bu­la­tory op­er­a­tions and pro­fes­sional ser­vices.

Bell didn’t start out as an op­er­a­tions guy. He at­tended the Univer­sity of Cam­bridge School of Clin­i­cal Medicine and the Univer­sity of Ox­ford Med­i­cal School in the U.K. and later un­der­went house of­fi­cer train­ing—sim­i­lar to a med­i­cal res­i­dency path in the U.S.—in Glas­gow. It was there that Bell, who is Scot­tish, first saw the dif­fer­ences in the views of hos­pi­tal ad­min­is­tra­tors and clin­i­cians. “There was a com­mu­ni­ca­tion gap be­tween the two,” he said.

So Bell moved to Bos­ton, earned an MBA at Har­vard and joined McKin­sey and Co., where he served as an as­so­ciate prin­ci­pal for about five years. Along the way he and his wife, who is also Scot­tish, de­cided to make a home in the U.S.

“There was a lot of in­ter­est­ing work in the U.S., and the health­care sys­tem was go­ing through a lot of change and up­heaval,” Bell said. “It’s a fas­ci­nat­ing en­vi­ron­ment to work in at the mo­ment.”

BMC, a 454-bed hos­pi­tal serv­ing Bos­ton’s South End, is unique. Nearly one in five fam­i­lies in the South End has an in­come level be­low the poverty rate. About 40% of the hos­pi­tal’s pa­tients are cov­ered by Med­i­caid or Medi­care. The hos­pi­tal is also within three miles of four other aca­demic med­i­cal cen­ters.

“The chal­lenges here some­times feel over­whelm­ing,” Camil­lus said. “Alas­tair helped us think through our role in the com­pet­i­tive land­scape and the things we do well and cap­i­tal­ize on those things.”


Work­ing as an English

teacher in Tan­za­nia

through Stu­dents

Part­ner­ship World­wide.

KNOWN FOR: Wear­ing a

Scot­tish kilt to Bos­ton

Med­i­cal Cen­ter’s for­mal



THE HOUSE: His wife is a

der­ma­tol­o­gist at Brigham

and Women’s Hos­pi­tal in


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