15:19 PM

President Drake predicts bright future for Wexner Medical Center already at the top of its game

Questions about the rapid change of health care, the future of multibillion-dollar expansion projects and the search for a new chancellor dominated a conversation at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center Wednesday night.

President Michael V. Drake answered questions from faculty and staff for an hour at the Ross Heart Hospital as part of the Biannual Medical Staff Meeting. Hospital Chief of Staff Jon Walker moderated the conversation in front of a full auditorium.

Walker noted that Drake had appeared in the same room four years earlier when he accepted the job to become president at Ohio State. The medical center closed out its most financially successful fiscal year in June, and the demand for patient care and medical education is greater than ever.

“He came out with a lot of hopes and plans at that time. A lot of big goals at that time,” Walker said.

Addressing Drake, he asked, “Where do you think we are in terms of those goals and meeting those goals, from your perspective?”

Drake pointed to a 20 percent increase in funding from the National Institutes of Health and a $40 million overall increase in funding for the College of Medicine. He also said opening a new hospital was more successful than he expected.

“We were much more successful at bringing a new hospital online and being efficient and doing more clinical care than I thought was a reasonable, aspirational goal,” he said. “And that means that we’re providing more service, to more people, more effectively and efficiently than we had before.”

Drake said breaking down silos inside the medical center was more challenging than he expected.

“We can do, and we need to do, a better job of making sure that we support each other in moving to our common mission goals,” he said.

Drake was asked about the search for a chancellor for the medical and health sciences enterprises. He said he was looking for someone who is inspiring, thoughtful and brilliant and who wants to be part of a team dedicated to improving the university.

“So I’m really interested in having someone who will be able to be a champion for the things we’re doing. But also a friend and partner who we are able to love and admire and is helping us all do our very best,” he said.

Walker asked Drake about the development of a new hospital and ambulatory center that is expected to be the largest single facilities project ever undertaken at Ohio State.

“I was up all night when I bought my last car,” Walker joked. “Do you worry about the fiscal challenges we will have when it comes to paying for it?”

“It’s a concern, not a worry. It requires that we have to be at our best,” Drake said, adding that increasing demand for care justifies the growth despite the ongoing health care funding debate. “A university of our size would normally expect, for capital improvements, to spend $400 to $600 million a year. So if we think of five to seven years, this is the upper end of what would be normal for us.”

Drake said he finds it reassuring how much the academic medical faculty and staff care about Ohio State.

“What I hear over and over again is how connected they feel to this institution and how much they want to do a good job. And I think that shows in the quality of patient care that we provide,” he said. “I think that’s a great asset for us.”