Former Lancaster General Hospital CEO Michael A. Young has been away from the midstate for seven years.
That might not sound like a lot, but “seven years in health care is an eternity,” said Young, who will become CEO and president of Harrisburg-based PinnacleHealth System in June. “So, to me, it’s really a new market.”
Q: Why did you choose to return to Central Pennsylvania and to take the CEO/president
position at Pinnacle?
A: My parents live York, and they had hospitalizations last year. My wife’s mother lives in Pittsburgh, and she was in the hospital twice last year. We have some other health issues in the family, and it’s really hard to provide assistance from this far away.
I grew up in and lived in Central Pennsylvania most of my life, so it’s really coming back home. Pinnacle is an excellent institution, one of five or six really exceptional places in Pennsylvania. When the recruiter called about this opportunity, it was very exciting.
Many people have credited you with a major role in the turnaround of Grady Health System, which are you leaving to come to Pinnacle. Tell me a little about what you’ve done there.
Grady is a massive safety-net institution. We do over $200 million a year of free care. … We do 4,000 major trauma (events) a year and have 1.2 million outpatient visits a year. It’s on a scale that is really unprecedented anywhere in Pennsylvania. We kept it from going bankrupt. (Grady) owed vendors $120 million, and a whole year to medical schools was on COD.
Many of the vendors, and the community, stepped up and raised $315 million in the last two and a half years. In this recession it’s unbelievable, but we’ve been fortunate enough to have those resources and basically redo the entire hospital. … It’s really been a plus for patients; all clinical measures have gotten better now, compared with big, public-sector institutions. We’ve built some really spectacular programs. … (We) paid off the vendors, we paid the medical schools back for one-fifth of that year we didn’t pay, and I could look at the Pinnacle opportunity because Grady’s on very solid ground now.
Has working in health care outside Central Pennsylvania changed how you might approach things here?
I’ve seen a lot of different markets now — the first was the Buffalo market, and now the Atlanta market. Each has a unique set of market realities that I think will give me a broader perspective and bring some new learned experience back to Central Pennsylvania. The University of Buffalo, Emory University, Morehouse College — the medical schools I worked with in the last seven years, each has a quality program.
The thing that attracted me most about Pinnacle is its outstanding clinical outcomes. It’s really unbelievable … and that any people in Central Pennsylvania might not have an understanding of just how good it is.”
What are your goals at Pinnacle?
I’d like to keep the tradition alive. Pinnacle is greatly respected in Central Pennsylvania.
Are there any specific initiatives you’d like to do/try?
(Pinnacle is) building a new cancer center that should be opening just about the time I get there. The relationship with Fox Chase Cancer centers is great for the community, as is the new space. … I’d like to see that be a home run on the first day. They’re undertaking a patient service program called Studer. I’d like to continue to watch that implementation. We did a similar thing at Lancaster General, and it really changes the way people are treated and interact with the institution.
I read a pretty candid interview of you in the Wall Street Journal from 2006. In it, you talked about your past struggle with alcohol, seeking treatment and, most of all, your struggle with perception. How have you evolved from that and where are you now?
Some people have diabetes, some people have heart disease, some people have neurological challenges. I have a unique problem that I deal with every day. I don’t think about it much, but it’s actually made me better. I listen better. I understand everyone a little differently, better than I used to. I would hope people would say it’s made me a better person — it’s made a better father, a better son and a better parent. I really don’t focus on it much.
What things are you most looking forward to in returning to Central Pennsylvania?
I’m looking forward to Penn State and Pitt football games, looking forward to fasnachts and Maple Donuts. I’m looking forward to the people of Central Pennsylvania, and to working with the employees and medical staff at Pinnacle. With everything they’ve accomplished, I’m really looking forward to being part of their team.