Haveman Sees Project Through

June 22, 2008
Text Size:
GRAND HAVEN — Size doesn't matter much to Jim Haveman.

For a year, he oversaw the rebuilding of health services for 26 million people in war-torn Iraq. He's also a member of the Medical Center Board on Mackinac Island, which has a year-round population of 523.

"All the issues are the same. You're just on a different stage," Haveman said. "All the dynamics you deal with at a small agency, whether they be budgets or strategic planning or recruitment or training or protocols or policies, they might be this small at a smaller agency; at a bigger agency, the dynamics are the same, it's just wider."

Four years after leaving the Iraq Coalition Provisional Authority as senior advisor for health, Haveman is president of his own consulting group, which consists of himself, assisted by his wife, Barb, and a revolving set of contacts he's made in a career that started at Bethany Christian Services in Grand Rapids.

"I can pull people in as I need them for various projects," he said.

He publishes a weekly newsletter about health care issues for several hundred subscribers. He helped the Mackinac Straits Hospital and Health Center secure a loan for a new building. Among his clients are insurance companies, a security firm and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the federal Department of Health and Human Services.

In December, he joined the board of directors of a small Canadian electronic medical records public company called MedcomSoft. Traded on the stock exchange in Toronto, the firm, which is struggling financially despite winning awards for its products, reported a net loss of $4 million for the first three quarters of fiscal 2008. The CEO, a physician, was replaced earlier this month on an interim basis by a former investment banker as the company figures out how to tap into the U.S. health care market.

Haveman also is an investor in a private Texas firm called TelaDoc, which provides over-the-telephone medical consultations. He serves on the company's board of advisers, along with former HHS secretary Tommy Thompson and former astronaut Buzz Aldrin.

James K. Haveman Jr.
Organization: The Haveman Group
Age: 64
Birthplace: Grand Rapids
Residence: Grand Haven Township
Family: Wife, Barb; one son, one daughter; seven grandchildren
Business/Community Organizations: National Association of Social Workers; Academy of Certified Social Workers; board member, Defense Business Board; Project Rehab state board; Mackinac Island Medical Center; Cornerstone Foundation; Michigan Federation for Children and Families; MedcomSoft; Youngsoft and H2H Solutions; vice chairman, International Aid; president, Ferris State University trustees.
Biggest Career Break: “When I was a social worker at Bethany (Christian Services) and Bill Kooistra called and said would you be interested in becoming director of Project Rehab. From then on, the public policy opportunities came.”

"After running the department (Michigan Department of Community Health), watching what's going on in health care, I'm just a huge believer in anything we can do to make health care understandable, safer, affordable, accessible, using technology. I'm becoming a huge believer in transparency in price and outcomes," Haveman said. "I'm a real believer in partnerships, collaboration, and I just don't see that enough in health care. It just seems everybody is running to see who can get to the goal first. It's not sustainable and we can't afford it," he added.

"At the same time, we have these millions of people uninsured. And we're paying for it in many ways."

Haveman also is chairman of the Ferris State University board of trustees, to which he was appointed in 2003 for a seven-year term.

"We're the fastest growing university in Michigan over the last five years, percentage wise," he noted of the Big Rapids institution with a fall 2007 enrollment of about 12,500. "When you go to a graduation at Ferris and you see these 1,800 kids walk across and going on to make a difference — that makes all that year of committee work and board meetings and issues you're faced with real easy."

One of Haveman's more recent endeavors is as a member of the Defense Business Board, a 20-member group appointed by the Secretary of Defense t to advise the U.S. Department of Defense on private business management practices to help make the department more efficient.

"This is a group of people who assist Secretary (Robert) Gates on management issues at the Pentagon. We meet quarterly and work on projects," said Haveman.

Haveman grew up in Grand Rapids with two sisters, the middle child of an architect. "I'm one of the few social workers who can understand a balance sheet," said Haveman, who took a degree in sociology and economics from Calvin College in 1966.

"In my senior year at Calvin, the woman who I was dating — which is my wife — convinced me to take a (sociology) course, and I spent a summer as a counselor at Camp Blodgett. And it just all kind of made sense, because I like people and being around kids and adults, rather than the economics, which was always a ledger with assets and liabilities."

Haveman received a master's in social work from Michigan State University in 1968, studying to become a clinician. That's the job he held at Bethany Christian Services, until he left to run Project Rehab in the early 1970s.

"I found myself wanting to change policy and influence direction," Haveman said. "I said, you know, if I'm going to make a difference and make things happen, I've got to get to the policy, administrative, director level.

"Then out of the blue, Bill Kooistra (the late Grand Rapids psychologist who was a founder of Project Rehab in 1968) called and said, 'Hey, would you be interested in the Project Rehab directorship.'"

That was the first step in a career that included the executive spots at Kent County Community Mental Health Services and at Bethany Christian Services before he joined the cabinet of former Gov. John Engler as director of the Michigan Department of Mental Health in 1991. When that department was melded into the Michigan Department of Community Health five years later, Haveman led that department through 2002.

Six months later, Haveman arrived in Iraq, at Engler's recommendation to Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.

"I'd never been to Iraq before, but I knew health care and I knew health care management, and the Ministry of Health was a combined public health/health care delivery hospital structure," he said. "The dynamics were very similar. You were just in a different culture."

And working with a different budget, just $16 million for the entire nation, he said.

"My critics would say, 'How can you, as a Christian, go to Iraq? You're pro-life, you believe in a supreme being, you've got a value system.'

"I say, I fit in quite well with the folks I interacted with, who are also pro-life, who also have a value system," said Haveman, adding that he attended a Presbyterian church while living in Baghdad's Green Zone. "As a Christian, I had no difficulty."

Haveman, board vice chairman at International Aid in Spring Lake, was among those hired to run crucial areas for the Coalition Provisional Authority who faced criticism for being light on credentials, but heavy on Republican loyalty. He shrugged off the criticism without animosity and instead pointed to accomplishments made in challenging circumstances, although those strides, too, faced scrutiny. 

"Politics is not an evil, it's a good thing," Haveman said. "I worked for Engler for 12 years, and I certainly continue my interest in it."

Around the same time, Haveman and his wife, Barb, a retired stockbroker, built their year-round home on the Lake Michigan land his father purchased in 1950, where the family cottage had stood. It's a gathering spot for the Havemans' two grown children and their families.

"I'm the son of an architect. My dad designed a lot of buildings in Grand Rapids," Haveman said, standing at the edge of his wife's lush garden. "I can see a project done. So if you throw a tough challenge at me in human services or trying to put together some package of relationships or collaborative, I can pretty much see it done. Then, it's just a matter of putting the building blocks into place."

Recent Articles by Elizabeth Slowik

Editor's Picks

Comments powered by Disqus