Ancelmo Lopes has always been interested in the water. Until recently, he was an avid scuba diver, but last summer he had a diving accident which pretty much forced the water out of his gills.
"I was in the Bahamas and I got the bends," Mr. Lopes, vicpresident of operations for the Johns Hopkins Health Plan, recalls.
When most people get the bends they usually get it in their extremities. But for Mr. Lopes, his was in the spine, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down for about 12 hours. He had to spend five days in a decompression chamber.
Mr. Lopes, 38, is now healed, and for him, it's business as usual. That means little recreational time.
In his professional position, Mr. Lopes carries the responsibility for directing the provider activities of a regional mixed-model health maintenance organization. He is in charge or has responsibility for about 200 employees, including nurses, allied health professionals and other medical office support staff. Also in his domain is contracting for the HMO's provider network, including primary and specialty care physicians, hospitals and home care agencies.
Mr. Lopes participated in Hopkins' accelerated management development program, where he was involved in a "fast track" program for health care management. That was in July of 1978. Three months later he became manager of general medicine outpatient services, where he directed several large ambulatory care centers. In succession he became new program coordinator, assistant administrator for the Department of Medicine at Hopkins and then vice president for operations.
Mr. Lopes was born in Boston, but his family soon moved to Marion, Mass., a town with about 5,000 residents on the edge of Cape Cod.
"My grandparents came from a group of islands called Cape Verde, off the west coast of Africa. It used to be a colony of Portugal and that's why you have names like we have."
Around the turn of the century his grandparents, searching for opportunity, moved to New England, where there is a large Cape Verdean community.
"The cranberry industry was a significant part of the economy in Marion, and all along the southeastern part of Massachusetts.
"My grandparents worked in that industry and it was almost indentured servitude. There was the company store, the whole bit. They lived on property owned by the cranberry industry."
His father broke the pattern and became a construction worker, his mother a homemaker for Mr. Lopes and his brother.
Mr. Lopes received his master's degree in health services administration from the University of Michigan and his bachelor's degree from the University of Massachusetts.
According to Mr. Lopes, one of the "nice things" about Baltimore is that there is upward mobility, or better still, an opportunity for growth.
"I'm seeing more and more black people who are about my age who are climbing the corporate ladder."
One of the things he is most proud of is that the Hopkins Health Plan has been "really concerned" about its employee profile.
"We have a real mix of minorities, women and blacks and whatever other minority we can identify," he says.
"Our president is a woman. We've got two women vice presidents and a black vice president. Among our senior HTC directors we probably have more minorities than any company of a similar size in this area and we work hard to do that.
"I like what I do for a living," he says. "The question is, can I continue to get what I need in my business? That's going to be the tough challenge because I have to balance my family needs with my professional needs."