Powerbook: Dr. Harold Paz


As senior vice president for health affairs at Penn State University, CEO of Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and dean of the Penn State College of Medicine, Dr. Harold Paz has overseen a roughly $600 million expansion of the medical complex. Photo/Amy Spangler

Dr. Harold Paz has three titles: CEO of Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, senior vice president for health affairs at Penn State University and dean of the Penn State College of Medicine.

He runs an organization with 9,000 employees, 1,400 students and a budget of $1.3 billion. He came to the medical center in April 2006.

“He has been an extraordinary leader in the progress that’s been made at the medical center over the past five years,” said Dennis Brenckle, former president of PNC Bank‘s Central Pennsylvania division and a medical center board member.

Paz previously served as dean of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and CEO of Robert Wood Johnson Medical Group.

His 11-year tenure there saw rapid development. The New Jersey school added five departments, as well as eight buildings totaling more than 1 million square feet of space, according to a profile of Paz in the school’s alumni magazine. The faculty and student populations expanded and the school’s reputation burgeoned.

That experience served as a valuable dress rehearsal for a similarly ambitious program at Hershey Medical Center.

Paz is supervising a 750,000-square-foot build-out of the already extensive Hershey Medical Center campus. New complexes include the Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute, which opened in 2009, and Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital, now under construction.

Earlier, Paz led the development of the Penn State Hershey Rehabilitation Hospital and the Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute. The Penn State Hershey Medical Group he helped found has more than 700 members.

These developments position Hershey Medical Center “at the upper end of the spectrum” among its peers nationwide, Brenckle said.

Hershey’s ongoing development increases opportunities throughout the local market, said Ann Messner, president and acting chairwoman of the Hershey Partnership, the community’s chamber of commerce.

“It is encouraging to see the growth and expansion,” she said.

In 2008, the Penn State health system and medical college had a statewide economic impact of nearly $1.6 billion, according to Pittsburgh-based consultants Tripp Umbach.

Paz was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and grew up there and outside Poughkeepsie, in Duchess County. Now suburbanized, the area was rural in those days, he said.

He earned an undergraduate degree in biology and psychology at the University of Rochester, his master’s in life sciences engineering at Tufts University and his medical degree at the University of Rochester. After internship and residency at Northwestern University and a stint at Johns Hopkins, he became director of intensive care at Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia.

At Hahnemann University he realized he enjoyed his administrative duties, and he received positive feedback about his work, he said.

Over time, his responsibilities there increased and he became associate dean and associate medical director. He also took leadership training there.

“It was a great opportunity to get administrative on-the-job training,” he said. “It was a good alternative to an MBA.”

Driven by cost concerns, the landscape of medicine is changing rapidly, Paz said. He predicted a shift to “population-based medicine,” in which insurers bundle payments for a group of patients and health care providers take on the responsibility of allocating those resources to provide optimal care.

“That seems inevitable,” he said.

Controlling costs will have to involve people improving their health habits, he said. Hershey Medical Center and Cumberland County-based insurer Highmark Blue Shield have collaborated on a restructured health plan that incentivizes exercise, healthy eating and smoking cessation, he said.

Over four years, the program has saved the medical center $25 million, he said.

“We attribute all that to the program,” he said. “We’ve bent the cost curve.”

He described his leadership philosophy as having three components. First, an organization needs a strategic plan that’s specific, feasible and measurable. A leader’s role is to help craft the plan — “It can’t just be my plan,” Paz said — then communicate it.

“If I can make the vision clear to everyone, that helps us all work together,” he said.

Second, Paz strives “to recruit the smartest leaders I can find” and makes sure they are communicating and cooperating, not isolated in departmental or divisional “silos.”

Third, as the leader of a major teaching and research hospital, it’s incumbent upon him to secure the necessary resources through fundraising, grants and advocacy.

Paz cited Hershey Medical Center’s securing of a National Institute of Health Clinical and Translational Science Award, which helps turn advanced lab research into products and therapies that doctors can use to treat patients. Hershey was one of only three institutions in Pennsylvania and 60 nationwide to be funded.

Every dollar of grant money Hershey secures translates into $5 to $7 of economic activity, Paz said.

As for fundraising, Brenckle chairs the medical center’s share of Penn State’s $2 billion “For the Future” capital campaign, and is charged with raising $300 million, more than any other Penn State segment.

“Dr. Paz has been extremely helpful to me” in that effort, he said.

Paz’ integrity and his interpersonal skills have made him a valuable ambassador to the community, Brenckle said.

“He’s a solid person,” he said, adding: “I consider Hal a good friend.”

About Paz

Age: 56

Position: Senior vice president for health affairs at Penn State University, CEO of Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and dean of the Penn State College of Medicine

Impact: Paz has overseen a roughly $600 million expansion of Hershey Medical Center, further cementing its status as the region’s largest, most advanced health care provider and one of its principal economic engines.

Tim Stuhldreher

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