An Exemplary Experience

From 7am to 5pm this past Tuesday I had the privilege of shadowing two local spinal surgeons of the Summa Health System.  The Summa Health System has continually been nationally ranked in the U.S. News & World Report as one of America’s Best Hospitals, while locally ranked as one of the Best Places to Work in Northeast OhioSo why all of the prestige surrounding this top-notch organization composed of several hospitals, care centers, and research labs?

From what I experienced in one day, here are a few of the possible reasons:

Teaching & Accountability: Summa Hospitals are teaching hospitals, meaning the medical staff have a continual connection to a resident.  As I shadowed my first spinal surgeon conducting patient rounds and appointments, he had consistent interaction and “testing” with his apprentice, which in turn ensured that the doctor was at his best.  In many ways, this highly integrated mentoring approach of “on the job training” created a natural accountability system to the doctor for superior quality, while creating the best learning environment for the student.

Teamwork & Fluidity: From the nurses to the surgeons, the medical staff operated like a family, all pulling for one another with encouragement, playful fun, and sincere warmth…and the results of their teamwork showed:  While I stood directly behind one of the spinal surgeons, watching him pull out a disc from a man’s spine (sweet!), the nurses conducted a change in staff.  As each nurse took over for one another, the shift change was incredibly seamless.  I actually wouldn’t have even noticed that the change occurred if the doctor hadn’t mentioned it, however, I was pretty focused on watching things done to a spine that I didn’t think were possible using screws, a hammer, and a chisel.

Stamina & Excellence: The medical staff’s ability to work incredibly hard, and yet consistently ensure excellence was overwhelming.  For the first half of my day I followed one spinal surgeon from room to room talking with patients and accessing next steps for medical treatment.  The doctor’s ability to consistently use general psychology practices, gain quality rapport, make the best assessment, and then record his case on the situation was literally a non-stop process.  When I shifted over to surgery for the second half of my day, it was hard to believe that the doctor would be keeping that pace up for several more hours!  And to then see the physical and mental demands of just two surgeries was equally inspiring, especially knowing that the doctor had conducted two other surgeries earlier in the day.

As those were just a few takeaways from yesterday’s “white coat experience,” I noticed that a lot of Summa’s DNA came down to leadership.  It seemed like whomever I interacted with, from the surgeons to clerical employees, had nothing but extremely positive things to say about Summa’s CEO and President, Tom Strauss.  You see one of Tom’s most important values within the organization is that of servant leadership.  And as he stresses this DNA piece amongst his managers, ensuring all employees have an orientation on Greenleaf’s leadership principle, Tom is one that lives it himself.

As Albert Schweitzer penned, “Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.”


~ by Dave Smith on January 27, 2010.

2 Responses to “An Exemplary Experience”

  1. I’m from Summa’s communications department and just stumbled across your blog today. Glad you had such a great and worthwhile experience at the White Coat!

  2. For sure. Excellent organization and so grateful for your presence in our community.

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