Handling a Changing of the Guard

by Keith Steffen
OSF Saint Francis Medical Center

As we look to the future, it’s imperative to have the right leaders in place.

Having the right person in place to lead the team has always been important at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center—not only to oversee day-to-day operations, but also the long-range vision. It began with our Sisters all those years ago, including the 38 years Sister Canisia Gerlach served as administrator.

I will retire as president and CEO of OSF Saint Francis at the end of the year, and the search for my successor continues. It must be the right person to not only lead our staff, but someone who will make sure the patient experience is everything it should be during this time of change.

Meet Dr. Avellino
This summer, Dr. Anthony Avellino was named CEO of the OSF Neuroscience Clinical Service Line and the Illinois Neurological Institute (INI). He replaced Dr. Patrick Elwood, who retired from OSF HealthCare after 53 years—the past 13 years as INI CEO.

Dr. Avellino, a pediatric and adult neurosurgeon, came to OSF HealthCare from the University of Washington, where he was director of UW Medicine Neurosciences Institute and chief of neurological surgery at UW Medical Center, responsible for the consolidation and integration of neuroscience programs across the UW Medicine Health System.

As part of the INI team that works with Children’s Hospital of Illinois, Dr. Avellino will spend time leading from within—within the operating room and patient clinic. He sees that as part of being a leader. “One of the things that defines a good leader to me is being in the trenches, on the shop floor with the rest of the team,” he explains. “It’s all about the team. To be an effective leader you have to remember the six Cs: Collaborate, Cooperate, Consolidate, Coordinate, Communicate and Convince.”

Looking to the Future
Being in the trenches will be important when it comes to treating neurological disorders and illnesses in the coming years, according to Dr. Avellino. “The next 24 months will be the most critical time for healthcare in the next 20 years as we work to provide great care with good outcomes while keeping costs down. OSF has the culture and analytical tools in place to lead the way as one of the largest healthcare systems in the country.

“Addressing and improving neuroscience clinical care is going to be what it was like for cardiovascular care 10 to 15 years ago,” he continues. “Think about it: all of the baby boomers are aging, so we have to find the best ways to treat what they will be facing: stroke, neurodegenerative dementia diseases, heart disease and joint problems. I don’t think people fully understand how big of a problem the care for those with dementia is going to be. Dementia is the national and global health crisis of the 21st century: every four seconds, a new case of dementia is diagnosed in the world. By 2050, there will be 20 million people who suffer from dementia, and the 2010 worldwide costs associated with dementia were $604 billion [one percent of global GDP]. When you think about it, we really know very little about the brain.”

The Spiritual Connection
Outside the office, Dr. Avellino has found another focus. After playing football in high school and college, he turned to running—specifically, ultra-marathons. He has competed in 50-mile events and will run the McNotAgain 30-mile trail run in Pekin this month. For him, ultra-marathons only enhance his clinical work.

“I am a firm believer in spiritual and emotional balance,” says Dr. Avellino. “Running keeps me balanced—it’s my psychotherapy. I’m a better husband, father, friend, co-worker… a better leader.

“That spiritual connection is also what drew me to the Sisters and their Mission. The culture at OSF—people are passionate about their work. You see that they are prayerful and planful with everything here, but once they have that vision and set that vision, they go for it. I have been at other places where they might say they want the cutting-edge technology, but they can never make it happen. That’s not the case at OSF. The Sisters have put the pieces in place—both in personnel and equipment—that we will have a state-of-the-art neuroscience center here within the next three to five years.” iBi

Keith Steffen is president and CEO of OSF Saint Francis Medical Center.

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