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Monday, Oct 2, 2023

UCI Health’s New Leader Forges Vision for Enterprise

A new leader has taken the helm of UC Irvine Health, the University of California-Irvine’s healthcare enterprise, directly overseeing its academic work and with proximity and oversight of its clinical work, something he said is unique among the five UC campuses with extensive medical operations.

“That’s a new role,” Dr. Howard Federoff said this month during an interview in his fifth-floor office in UC Irvine Medical Center’s administration building on its Orange campus. “It hasn’t been done among the other UCs … it made sense for us.”

Federoff became UC Irvine Health’s permanent chief executive last month after serving as an interim replacement for Terry Belmont, who retired last June.

He’s also UCI’s vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the medical school.

UC Irvine Health encompasses the medical school, medical groups, clinics and its centerpiece, UC Irvine Medical Center, a 419-bed teaching hospital.

No. 1

The center ranks No. 1 on the Business Journal’s annual hospital list (see story, page 20), with net patient revenue of $912.8 million and pretax profit of $58.5 million. Both figures are for the 12 months ended Sept. 30.

“Probably the most single important thing to begin with is that we are an academic medical center, and we will always be committed to really the three traditional missions,” Federoff said.

The missions center on research, training and providing healthcare to the larger OC community.

“Discover, teach, heal is how we refer to those,” Federoff said. “But importantly, it’s in the service of our community at large. We are here to serve. There’s a lot of work in front of us, and some of it’s very familiar, and some of it is going to be new and potentially innovative.

“Our Orange footprint has been very much the cornerstone of the clinical enterprise for UCI for a long time. Both our outpatient visits and inpatient admissions have grown substantially—we’re basically full,” Federoff said, adding that the hospital’s emergency department is so full that it’s occasionally had to divert patients to other hospitals.

UC Irvine Health is looking for solutions, including creating a “modest” amount of inpatient capacity and opening a pair of walk-in facilities on its Orange campus and Gottschalk Medical Plaza at the university’s campus in Irvine.

The enterprise also has opened a multigroup specialty medical practice in Tustin, added a trio of formerly independent general neurologists, and opened a new diagnostic imaging center.

“We see ourselves [as] less Orange-centric—even though this will always be where we do the very high-end, so-called tertiary and quaternary care—but being more in the community,” Federoff said.

He was given the permanent chief executive job roughly nine months after UCI launched a national search and had picked “a small group” of potential candidates.

Federoff is board-certified in internal medicine and endocrinology. Starting in 2007, he ran healthcare services at Georgetown University, which operates 10 hospitals in the mid-Atlantic region around its main campus in Washington, D.C. He previously spent 12 years at the University of Rochester.

He received master’s, medical and doctorate biochemistry degrees from Yeshiva University’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine and did his internship, residency and clinical and research fellowships at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

Federoff and UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman began to rethink what they were looking for in a chief executive as the search for Belmont’s replacement unfolded.

“I did not anticipate, really, when I came here, being in this role, but I started to speak with the chancellor. I spoke with the office of the president, all of whom have endorsed the model that we’ve migrated to.”

Federoff, in addition to crafting a new vision for the enterprise, has been rebuilding its executive suite because of retirements and departures.

“What we did not anticipate is that we would have others of the so-called C-suite being recruited or electing to retire,” he said.

Interim corporate suite executives are in place while UC Irvine Health searches for permanent replacements. Those include interim Chief Operating Officer Larry Anstine, who was previously with Ohio State University’s health enterprise in Columbus, Ohio.

UC Irvine Health also will try to create efficiencies as a way to make sure the business itself remains healthy. It hopes to achieve the efficiencies through efforts such as coordination of care by expeditious admission, evaluation, treatment planning and discharge planning as a way to reduce the length of stay, along with the deployment of staff, according to Federoff.

Academic Goals

Federoff said he also wants to add to UCI’s medical education programs through the academic portion of his role.

Plans are to create three health-focused schools: nursing, pharmacy and population science. Federoff said the university is “very fortunate” to have the ability to create the schools to “educate the next generation of healthcare providers.”

The effort will be aided by a $40 million commitment to UCI by the William and Sue Gross Family Foundation in January. The gift will be used to establish the nursing school and construct a building needed for the program.

“It’s the largest [gift] to date, a $40 million gift,” Federoff said. “We are working assiduously to identify other philanthropic investments so that we can expand the health enterprise.”

The dean also emphasized that his long-term vision for the healthcare academic enterprise includes equality among programs—

“there are no dominant or subordinate groups”—and that he wants nurses, doctors, pharmacists and population health specialists to learn together.

“The best patient experience is going to be managed by a team, not just by a single physician,” he said.

Federoff’s research goals also include collaboration with other U.S. institutions.

“By virtue of collaboration nationally, we might be the only place in Orange County where a new treatment might be available.”

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