Dr. Stephen Klasko leaves Tampa Bay for his dream job in Philadelphia with a list of impressive accomplishments as dean of the University of South Florida's college of medicine and CEO of USF Health: new USF Health partnerships, an innovative simulation center in downtown Tampa, and a stronger medical school faculty. As USF president Judy Genshaft searches for his successor, she should focus on candidates who will continue to be highly visible in the community, adapt to the quickly changing health care economy, and forge a stronger partnership with Tampa General Hospital.
Klasko's enthusiastic, hard-charging nature energized his supporters and irritated others in the medical community. His nine-year run at USF is roughly twice as long as the norm in such jobs, and his departure presents opportunities as well as challenges for USF. In accepting the dual posts as president of both Thomas Jefferson University and the Philadelphia school's hospital system, Klasko achieved a goal that eluded him in Tampa — running an academic medical center in partnership with his university's medical program. The finances here never made sense for USF to build a stand-alone hospital, given the competition and the long relationship USF has had with its main teaching partner, Tampa General Hospital.
Still, Klasko's focus on excellence and his entrepreneurial spirit helped carve out a niche for Tampa Bay in the emerging fields of personalized and biomedicine and advanced medical training. Bioscience is now one of the industries the region has targeted with job development efforts. State-of-the-art training at USF's Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation in downtown Tampa has developed a global reputation. And under Klasko's leadership, the medical school has churned out programs to put physicians more in touch with their patients. These are achievements his successor should build on as USF continues to build its brand and look for new partnerships.
One key challenge for the new chief executive of USF Health, though, is to repair the ties with Tampa General. That relationship is critical for the medical residents and for the USF physicians who practice there (and their patients). Tampa General has just hired a new chief executive officer, and there is an opportunity to start fresh with new leaders at both the hospital and USF. The two sides need to come together on building the business and improving the clinical setting while ensuring that the hospital continues as a social safety net. Negotiations over a long-term affiliation agreement create an opportunity for both sides to move beyond the acrimony and work together for their common benefit.
Klasko told the Tampa Bay Times' editorial board Thursday that while he wanted a standalone USF medical center in 2005, shifting health care economics make one less attractive now and USF can be more nimble in forging relationships. He predicted his successor will face challenges presented by too little state money, increased competition in the health care industry, and recruitment of talented USF staff by other universities seeking to bring in more money in an era of declining research grants.
Genshaft pledged Thursday that she will seek to hire someone to build on Klasko's successes, continue an entrepreneurial spirit, forge partnerships and nurture ongoing projects such as the simulation center. Those are smart goals, because this will be a particularly important hire for USF and the entire Tampa Bay region.