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Where Should You Search For A Great Hospital CEO? Try The Sewer System

Well, I know that blog post title probably got your attention. I’m referring, of course, to the unusual career path of Paul Levy, CEO of Harvard’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. Paul has done wonderful things over the past several years as CEO, including using his blog to promote outcomes transparency (by making his hospital’s infection rates public) and being accessible to all his staff via Facebook.

I had the chance to speak with Paul at Dr. Anonymous’ Blog Talk Radio show tonight. You should listen to the podcast to learn more about the world of hospital administration, Paul’s life journey, and what constitutes quality care in medicine. Here are some choice quotes from the call:

“I’m from New York, actually, which is something you don’t say very often when you live in Boston. I have to explain that I really didn’t want to be born in New York but my mother was there and I felt it would be appropriate to be near her during the time of childbirth… And I want to make it absolutely clear that I root for the Red Sox…

Well, personally I have a checkered past. I had no idea I was going to do this [hospital administration.] My background is in the energy field and telecommunications. I used to regulate the utilities in Massachusetts, then the state energy department in Little Rock, Arkansas, and then I ended up running the water and sewer system in the greater Boston area. I guess running a sewer system is good training for running a hospital…

There had been a merger of Beth Israel and Deaconess in the mid 1990s. The merger failed and the place was about to go out of business. I thought it was worth saving, so I persuaded them to hire me. It’s not the usual path. I hope that not too many other hospitals that are failing would want to hire the guy who runs the sewer system.”

So there you have it, folks. Sometimes the best CEOs may be found in unusual places… Kudos to Paul Levy for spearheading a major hospital turn around, and kudos to the Harvard system for recognizing leadership excellence in an unexpected corner of the world. Listen to the podcast to find out more about this fascinating story.This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at

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One Response to “Where Should You Search For A Great Hospital CEO? Try The Sewer System”

  1. RH Host Melissa says:

    You are right—an eye catching title for sure :)

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