Prior to coming to Boston, Dr. Gottlieb spent 15 years in Philadelphia where -- as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar -- he earned an MBA with distinction in Health Care Administration from the Wharton Graduate School of Business. He established Penn Medical Center's first program in geriatric psychiatry and served as both executive vice chair and interim chair of Penn's Department of Psychiatry and the Health System's associate dean for Managed Care. In 1994, he became director and CEO of Friends Hospital in Philadelphia, the nation's oldest, independent, free-standing psychiatric hospital.
The Public Affairs Department at Partners HealthCare had a chance to talk with Dr. Gottlieb, shortly after he started in the new role.
Q. during your first days as President and CEO of Partners, Haiti was devastated by one of the worst natural disasters in our history. In the first hours and days immediately following the earthquake, describe what you saw in terms of a systemwide response and the role Partners will play in the weeks and months to come in that part of the world.
GOTTLIEB: First, may I say our hearts go out to all indelibly scarred by this unspeakable tragedy. For those who are our colleagues, may we stand with them and embrace them in their time of need. The Partners HealthCare family is doing exactly what you would expect in a time like this -- taking a decisive leadership role, working with government and relief agencies including our colleagues at Partners In Health, our affiliated medical organization with bases in Haiti. We will offer whatever we can to help a country, our global friends in their most desperate time of need.
Q. You have taken on a series of challenging and high-profile roles in health care management. However, first and foremost, you are a physician Board-certified in psychiatry and geriatric psychiatry. What first drew you to a career in medicine?
GOTTLIEB: Like most of my colleagues, I was drawn to medicine by the compelling importance of helping others and the enormous privilege of providing care. Psychiatry is so attractive because brain disease affects the essence of who we are, how we relate to one another and how we function in society. Behavioral neuroscience seeks to unlock those doors and those pathways and improve that core of our overall function.
Q. You have a reputation as someone who is deeply connected to the community, both through your work at the hospital and through the outside boards and the community activities you participate in. Why do you think issues like workforce development and preparing young people for careers in health care are so critical?
GOTTLIEB: What are we if not our community? Boston is a city that is enriched by the ethnic and socioeconomic diversity of its people. Broadly, workforce development accurately reflects the needs of our community. It's been a sweet spot for me personally. It embraces the principles of education, and as a professor I am driven by those principles. One of the great weaknesses of American education is that the workplace hasn't informed the schools adequately of what skills students need to succeed, while the schools haven't shared with employers the challenges of preparation, home life and the limitations of the classroom.
As chairman of the Private Industry Council (Boston Mayor Menino's workforce development board), I have witnessed firsthand how challenging a time this is. If we don't fully understand the importance of work as a critical tool to support and stabilize families, their housing, and their health, we will miss the opportunity to do real good and will fail in our role and responsibility.
Q: First days in the new office, as you think ahead about this new role, what excites you the most?
GOTTLIEB: I'm excited to be able to engage more deeply in all parts of the Partners HealthCare system in a way that I've only been able to touch up to this point. You know, I arrived at Partners in a unique job -- the first head of Partners Psychiatry. Through that opportunity I was able to spend time at the MGH and Brigham and Women's, to work with Newton-Wellesley and Spaulding and to connect with McLean, develop psychiatry services at North Shore and work with our community partners at a variety of mental health agencies, as well as the Partners health centers. So I look forward to working more directly with the people whose skills make each piece of the system special and make the whole so much better than the individual parts.
Q: What do you view as the major challenges facing the Partners organization in the years ahead?
GOTTLIEB:There is so much good that is driven by our mission, and by the extraordinary people who work in the system. But we face an environment in which the economy has been devastated and health care costs feel like an increasing burden. And in this environment, an important challenge that we need to address consistently, in a very clear and thoughtful way, is to demonstrate the great value we offer. We must remember that we don't have the opportunity to continue to just do what we do. We have to do -- and explain what we're doing -- in a way that's continuously accountable, that consistently reflects the thoughtful work of the people across Partners and conveys how what we are doing improves the human condition.
Q: Partners is recognized as one of the national leading centers of biomedical research. Describe how you view the research enterprise at Partners and how it will support clinical care.
GOTTLIEB: Over the course of the last 15 years, our hospitals and Partners have consistently invested in our research enterprise to support discovery and translation. These investments are continuing to pay off in better approaches to diagnosis and to care and treatment that are being used throughout the world. MGH and BWH are the top two independent hospitals in terms of NIH funding -- we have the biggest NIH funded laboratory in the country. Together as Partners, the MGH, Brigham and Women's, McLean, Spaulding, our community hospitals and all other elements of the system, we have an obligation to the people of this country to continue to explore new horizons in research that are relevant to improving the human condition and the healthcare system. The science here is informed by clinical realities and provides the opportunity to ease pain and cure illness. That is an investment that we must continue to make. It differentiates us. It helps to attract some of the most extraordinary young people to work here. There is no other health care delivery system that has a fully integrated research arm that also serves an urban community, nothing close to it. We should all be proud of this distinction.
GOTTLIEB:Q. For the 50,000 employees across Partners HealthCare -- what message do you wish to share with them?
GOTTLIEB: At Partners, we have a responsibility to provide everybody with the opportunity to grow. Most people work in the context of stressful and challenging lives -- increasingly so at the present time. Often, there isn't a moment to think about what the next year and the years beyond hold for our own lives. Therefore, we need to use our resources to help further people's skills, to provide them with educational opportunities that would not exist otherwise. Working at Partners HealthCare should feel like being a kid in the candy store of opportunity.
Q: You have a special connection to the MGH. I wonder if you could just talk generally about the MGH role in the Partners family moving ahead.
GOTTLIEB:The MGH is the largest part of the family. It's a remarkable place, a reflection of its culture and a reflection of how much good it has been able to do, and the good people it's been able to attract. As we know, the MGH's Dr. Jack Szostak won a Nobel Prize this year in the very same place that operates three magnificent community health centers. MGH is also among the most nurturing places to work; I know this firsthand because I worked there for an extended period of time. The MGH will play a defining role in the future of both Partners and health care in Massachusetts and this country.