At its meeting Thursday, the University of Virginia’s Medical Center Operating Board approved the center’s 2015 budget and saluted its Vice President and CEO R. Edward Howell, who is retiring this month after more than 12 years leading the Medical Center.
Board co-chair Dr. Stephen P. Long commended Howell for preparing U.Va. to be a health care leader in the years to come. “Ed has never been afraid to be interrupted in a busy time, to do what is right or unpopular, and to face the challenges of life in a complex world,” he said. “He is a true leader and motivator and visionary.”
Board member Connie Kincheloe said Howell was the catalyst for the partnership between U.Va. and Culpeper Regional Hospital. “We have valued his advice and counsel,” she said. “He has been the face of U.Va. in Culpeper.”
L.F. Payne cited Howell’s work to build up the Medical Center’s operating margin while providing high-quality care, enabling key investments in new faculty, research, facilities and equipment. “He recognized that making these investments would give us better ways to help our patients,” he said.
Dr. William P. Kanto Jr. said one of the best decisions of his life was recommending Howell to the search committee seeking a new CEO for the Medical Center, in part because of the value he placed on education as part of the Medical Center’s mission. “He understood the importance of being an academic health center,” Kanto said.
Howell was quick to share credit for his accomplishments.
“I’ve been blessed to have some of the most amazing people to work with,” he said. “I’m confident the Health System is poised for even greater achievements” under the leadership of Dr. Richard P. Shannon, executive vice president for health affairs, and Pamela Sutton-Wallace, the incoming chief executive officer who begins her work at U.Va. in early July.
After his retirement, Howell plans to continue teaching in the Department of Public Health Sciences.
The Medical Center Operating Board also approved a $1.28 billion budget for fiscal year 2015.
Referring to the ongoing discussion over Medicaid expansion in Virginia, Associate Vice President for Business Development and Finance Larry Fitzgerald said next year’s budget challenges “are not as much internal as they are external.”
But Fitzgerald sees a lot of opportunity in the years ahead. “The glass is about 90 percent full,” he said. He sees opportunities to partner with other hospitals to bring patients with complex illnesses and conditions to U.Va., to continue to make it easier for referring physicians to transfer patients to U.Va. and to emerge as a leader in population health.
And if U.Va. achieves its goal of becoming the safest hospital in America, Fitzgerald said, “everything else takes care of itself.”
In addition to providing better care for patients, eliminating harm and improving patient safety also reduces the cost of providing care. Every hospital-acquired infection that is eliminated reduces health care costs by $11,000, said Shannon.