Emory Report
March 2, 2009
Volume 61, Number 22



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March 2
, 2009
In worst of times, WHSC is best place to be

Fred Sanfilippo is executive vice president for health affairs of Emory University, CEO of the Woodruff Health Sciences Center, and chairman of Emory Healthcare.

Recently I had the honor of presenting my first annual State of the Woodruff Health Sciences Center Address, in which I discussed WHSC’s achievements in the past year and its strategies for not just weathering the current challenging environment — but for emerging a stronger organization as a result.

We’re all aware that the current state of national and international affairs has been characterized by many as a crisis, but it’s probably more appropriate to view the current situation as really just the beginning of a major socio-economic climate change.

Most of us have lived through some major crises, and some significant social and economic changes have resulted from them. They’ve affected our society and our personal lives, but we have managed to get through them. Unfortunately, the worst part of such periods of change is at the beginning, when we don’t know how things will turn out. We are at such a point now — in the world, in the country, in Atlanta, and certainly at Emory and the Woodruff Health Sciences Center. So is this the worst of times? The best of times? Or is it both?

The key to moving through this complex period is keeping focused on our mission and vision, and making sure all of our resources are aligned with our goals. Frankly, the mission of our academic health center is about as important as anyone can imagine. First of all, we have the most important economic driver — knowledge. We’re in a knowledge economy where the future is all about creating, disseminating, and applying knowledge. And secondly, I think the most valuable asset anyone has is their health. So the mission of academic health centers, as the intersection of academics and health, is of critical importance to not just ourselves, but to our society as a whole.

Our vision is also something we can really be proud of — transforming health and healing … together. And over the past year, we’ve clarified the goals that will help us reach that vision. Our goals are pretty straightforward.

We want to be:

• The 21st century model for an academic health sciences and services center;

• A leader in patient care, research, education, and public service;

• A collaborative, inspirational environment that attracts and retains talented people.

Our goals are a stretch for any organization, but I believe we are uniquely qualified to achieve them, and I believe that together we will.

Indeed, the question we should really be asking ourselves is, “Where would we rather be in this environment?” For me the answer is pretty simple: In the best of times and in the worst of times, I’d want to be at an organization involved in health and the knowledge economy. I’d want to be at a place with a noble vision and high aspirations. I’d want to be at a place with unique assets and partners that provide the potential for success. And that’s why there’s nowhere I’d rather be than here in Atlanta, at Emory, at the Woodruff Health Sciences Center.

If you missed my “State of the WHSC” address, you can watch it online at http://whsc.emory.edu. Thanks again for all that you do to help us continue transforming health and healing … together.