McCorkle A High Five

April 1, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — Many might mark the first five years of Phil McCorkle’s leadership at Saint Mary’s Health Care by pointing to the new Hauenstien Parkinson’s Center, the new Rivertown Parkway office for Advantage Health, the new Lacks Cancer Center, or any of the other “news” that made the news during his tenure.

But McCorkle wouldn’t.

The president and CEO of Saint Mary’s believes his strongest accomplishment since he took over the system in April 2000 was getting everyone to focus; to concentrate their efforts on clinical performance, medical quality and patient safety.

“You can have all of those glorious buildings, but if you don’t have those kind of things, people won’t come to you. It’s helping us focus, finding a direction for Saint Mary’s,” he said of his favorite achievement.

McCorkle wants Saints to be a preventive primary-care leader and a leader in oncology, neuroscience and orthopedics. He feels the hospital has achieved much of that standing over the last five years, a sentiment supported by performance results and by the second straight Governor’s Award for Excellence that the Advantage Health Physicians group won recently.

“This is the manifestation of our efforts, getting these kinds of awards,” he said.

Advantage Health, which is owned by the physician members and Saint Mary’s, sees roughly 250,000 patients each year and the hospital discharges 19,000 annually. Both those numbers will likely rise in the near future, about halfway through McCorkle’s second five years. Two new projects will be built then and will boost Saint Mary’s stock in the local market even higher.

Groundbreaking on the 91,000-square-foot outpatient campus at Byron Center Avenue and 64th Street will take place in two months. The two-story building, a group effort between Advantage Health and Saint Mary’s, will take about 18 months to construct and will put both on the health-care forefront in the southwest corner of the county; a presence neither had but one that both wanted.

“We want to grow our primary care physicians network, that’s the Advantage Health organization. We’re looking to double, triple the size of Advantage Health over the course of the next five-plus years,” said McCorkle, who added that 20 percent of their patients come from the southwest area.

McCorkle’s future attention also will be turned toward developing the new $30 million Hauenstein Neurosciences Center, an outgrowth of the Hauenstein Parkinson’s Center that opened in 2002. Planned for the Xavier Hall site on the downtown campus, the center will offer patients complete neurological services under one roof, hopefully, in 2007.

“We want to do the same kind of care model for neuroscience that we’ve done for cancer. Ralph Hauenstein is my encouragement. He is the wind against my back,” said McCorkle.

Hauenstein started the capital campaign with a $2 million donation. Since he made his lead gift 16 months ago, Saint Mary’s has quietly raised $23 million of the $30 million it needs to build the center.

“It’s been very quiet so far,” said Micki Benz, vice president of community development, of the fund-raising campaign. “But just like we did with the cancer center, we will be going to the community.”

When McCorkle looks back over the past five years, he realizes these have been the fastest-moving five years of his business life and the most gratifying, too.

The successes have been many, ranging from the recent opening of the Lacks Cancer Center to the electronic transfer of the hospital’s medical records. Only 5 percent of all hospitals in the United States have accomplished that latter feat and possibly fewer have one-stop cancer centers.

McCorkle also is pleased that Saints had its best financial year in its 122-year history last year. But what appears to have offered him the most pleasure over his five years is knowing that his efforts and those of his staff have been embraced throughout the community.

“We’re increasing our market share. People believe what we’re about,” he said. “They definitely have matched their belief and their confidence in us with their dollars, their resources.”    

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