Steve Narang, MD, a pediatrician, hospitalist, and the then-CMO at Banner Health’s Cardon Children’s Medical Center in Phoenix, was attending a leadership summit where all of Banner’s top officials were gathered. It was his third day in his new job.
Banner’s President, Peter Fine, gave a presentation in the future of healthcare and asked for questions. Dr. Narang stepped up to the microphone, asked a question, and made remarks about how the organization needed to ready itself for the changing landscape. Kathy Bollinger, president of the Arizona West Region of Banner, was struck by those remarks. Less than two years later, she made Dr. Narang the CEO at Arizona’s largest teaching hospital, Good Samaritan Medical Center.
His hospitalist background was an important ingredient in the kind of leader Dr. Narang has become, she says.
“The correlation is that hospitalists are leading teams; they are quarterbacking care,” Bollinger adds. “A good hospitalist brings the team together.”
Physicians with a background in hospital medicine are no strangers to C-suite level positions at hospitals. In April, Brian Harte, MD, SFHM, was named president of South Pointe Hospital in Warrenville Heights, Ohio, a center within the Cleveland Clinic system. In January, Patrick Cawley, MD, MBA, MHM, a former SHM president, was named CEO at the Medical University of South Carolina Medical Center in Charleston.
Other recent C-suite arrivals include Nasim Afsar, MD, SFHM, an SHM board member who is associate CMO at UCLA Hospitals in Los Angeles, and Patrick Torcson, MD, MMM, FACP, SFHM, another SHM board member, vice president, and chief integration officer at St. Tammany Parish Hospital in Covington, La.
Although their paths to the C-suite have differed, each agrees that their experience in hospital medicine gave them the knowledge of the system that was required to begin an ascent to the highest levels of leadership. Just as important, or maybe more so, their exposure to the inner workings of a hospital awakened within them a desire to see the system function better. And the necessity of working with all types of healthcare providers within the complicated hospital setting helped them recognize—or at least get others to recognize—their potential for leadership, and helped hone the teamwork skills that are vital in top administrative roles.
They also say that, when they were starting out, they never aspired to high leadership positions. Rather, it was simply following their own interests that ultimately led them there.
By the time Dr. Narang stepped up to the microphone that day in Phoenix, he had more than a dozen years under his belt working as a hospitalist for a children’s hospital and as part of a group that created a pediatric hospitalist company in Louisiana.
And that work helped lay the foundation for him, he says.
“Being a hospitalist was a key strength of my background,” Dr. Narang explains. “Hospitalists are so well-positioned…to get truly at the intersection of operations and find value in a complex puzzle. Hospitalists are able to do that.
“At the end of the day, it’s about leadership. And I learned that from day one as a hospitalist.”
His confidence and sense of the big picture were not lost on Bollinger that day at the leadership summit.