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Back to School

April 27, 2009
by Mark Hagland
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Top CIOs are spending as much time developing their teams as their IT strategies

Orlando health's dr. p. phillips hospital

Orlando Health's Dr. P. Phillips Hospital

At the seven-hospital, eight-facility Orlando Health System, Vice President and CIO Rick Schooler doesn't just encourage his reports to focus on professional development; he creates opportunities for them. Schooler, who manages a team of 282 IS professionals (plus nearly 500 FTEs across several divisions), advocated for full CHIME memberships for his three direct reports two years ago, a time when non-CIO memberships in the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based organization were the exception, not the rule.

Schooler was able to get his CMIO, CTO and chief applications officer (CAO) into the CHIME CIO Boot Camp workshops that the organization offers twice a year, sessions that this year were opened to CMIOs and to chief nursing informatics officers (CNIOs). (For more information, see sidebar, p. 46).

As a result, Steve Margolis, M.D., Alex Veletsos, and Drew Cobb, Orlando's CMIO, CTO, and CAO, respectively, attended the Boot Camp sessions, and all report having very positive experiences. More broadly, all three say, Schooler has made it clear that ongoing professional development is important, both for his staff members' current positions, and for any future positions. Indeed, Cobb, who has been at the health system for two years, says he'd like to become a CIO at some point; and further, that he came to Orlando Health specifically to work for Schooler, because of his well-known mentoring capability.
(from left) orlando health's alex vestos, cto, drew cobb, cao, steve margolis, m.d., cmio and rick schooler, cio

(from left) Orlando Health's Alex Veletsos, CTO, Drew Cobb, CAO, Steve Margolis, M.D., CMIO and Rick Schooler, CIO

“Working in healthcare IS, you learn about the various CIOs around the country,” Cobb says. “And I had heard of Rick Schooler before coming here as a consultant. When he was looking to fill this chief applications officer position, I talked to him and eventually was hired. But I had specific goals in mind. He's very good at governance in IT; and he's put together fabulous structures around IT here. And I wanted to learn about IT governance across the system.” Most importantly, Cobb says, “If we want to be CIOs, he wants us to become CIOs.”

For Schooler, this approach comes naturally. “I was raised in the world of athletics,” he explains. In addition to playing football, basketball, and baseball in high school, he also coached his sons when they were younger. “And in that environment,” he says, “I learned pretty early that when you get your shot, you've got to get up and perform. So one of the principles that guides how I work now is that I focus on helping prepare people to get their shot and fulfill their potential. There are times when I have to be on stage as a leader; but what's really important to me is to help others get up on stage.”

Tim zoph

Tim Zoph

And Schooler is just fine knowing that two of his three direct reports aspire to CIO positions. Indeed, he says, when they ultimately obtain those positions, he will take pride in their ascendancy. Schooler makes it clear to all of his managers and executives that they should be constantly reading, learning broadly, and having experiences that are pushing the envelope of their professional development. For Schooler, that's a key element in being an effective CIO.

A variety of approaches

Increasingly, Schooler's approach to management is becoming the norm in hospital organizations across the country. What's more, even getting onto an IS executive team is requiring more formalized education and preparation. Schooler, for example, makes it a requirement that any direct report to him already has an advanced degree. This has become common at hospital organizations nationwide, particularly at teaching hospitals and multi-hospital systems.

There's a clear logic to such requirements, says Tim Zoph, vice president and CIO at the 897-bed Northwestern Memorial Hospital in downtown Chicago.

Linda hodges

Linda Hodges

“Increasingly, advanced degrees for senior leaders in health IT are important,” says Zoph, who prefers that his direct reports either already possess, or choose to pursue, a master's degree. It has become critical, he says, that “the IT leaders of the future have advanced management degrees, not only because the nature of the role is changing and the level of responsibility is increasing, but also because the need for enhanced business capability is important, in terms of understanding an organization and its operations, and in terms of the layering of technology onto operations for adding value into the system. So if you're working for me, I want you to have the capability to someday run an organization as CIO. And I'm in a very good position to mentor young leaders. I've had five people working for me at Northwestern Memorial who have gone on to be CIOs; in my mind, that's a very good thing.”

Strategic beneficence

CIOs, however, aren't developing their reports solely out of the goodness of their hearts (though most agree it's the right thing to do). Other trends pushing forward the coaching/mentoring/professional development trend include the following: