Ohioan to head Hopkins Block to succeed Heyssel at Hopkins

January 22, 1992|By Frank D. Roylance

Dr. James A. Block, president and chief executive officer at University Hospitals in Cleveland, was yesterday named president of the Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System.

The 51-year-old pediatrician will succeed Dr. Robert M. Heyssel, who will retire July 1 after 20 years in the hospital's top post.

"We have found a president we believe will not only maintain the standard of excellence expected of Hopkins, but will also advance the quality of health care in the years ahead," said H. Furlong Baldwin, chairman of Hopkins' board of trustees. "His vision of the way medicine will be practiced in the future complements our own," Mr. Baldwin said.

Dr. Block, who will become the ninth chief executive at the 103-year-old medical institution, said yesterday that medicine's future must include a search for ways to make health care more affordable.

That will include "the continuing growth of outpatient, ambulatory services . . . and the need to organize them in the most effective way," he said.

Demand for the costly, high-tech services for which Hopkins has become famous will also continue to grow, and Hopkins will have to learn to provide them in a fiscal environment that is "very demanding."

Dr. Block said the job change was a difficult decision, "but the chance to lead Johns Hopkins, the nation's most prestigious medical center, ranks as perhaps the greatest opportunity in my profession."

Dr. Heyssel said he was "particularly pleased" that Dr. Block's record in community health "fits with many of our own community efforts."

Dr. Block said, "I've always felt very strongly that health care is truly a community issue, and that the quality of health care, accessibility and even affordability should be addressed on a community-wide basis."

In Cleveland, Dr. Block led University Hospitals through a just-completed three-year price freeze that reduced operating costs by $50 million.

A native of Dayton, Ohio, Dr. Block earned his medical degree at the New York University School of Medicine in 1966. He then worked in the office of the surgeon general and the U.S. Public Health Service, where he helped to develop health programs for community, migrant and rural health centers.

In 1969, he resumed his training with a residency in pediatrics and ambulatory medicine at Strong Memorial Hospital at the University of Rochester, Rochester, N.Y. From 1971 to 1979, he headed ambulatory services at Genesee Hospital, a 400-bed hospital associated with the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.

Dr. Block also served as a consultant to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and, in 1979, became president of the nine-hospital Rochester Area Hospitals Corp. He earned a reputation there as a "pioneer" in cutting health care costs, leaving health care costs in Rochester among the lowest of any urban area in the nation.

He moved to Cleveland in 1985 to become president of the University Hospitals Health System Inc., a teaching hospital of the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

University Hospitals includes a 771-bed hospital, a 120-member physician group practice, four ambulatory-care centers, a managed care plan and five affiliated hospitals.

During his tenure, University Hospitals became the most utilized hospital in the Cleveland area and greatly expanded its network of services.

Dr. Block led the development of a network of hospitals and physician organizations called the University Hospitals Network, and established QualChoice, a preferred provider organization linking University and six other community hospitals and their staffs.

University Hospitals also acquired a multi-specialty group practice of 120 physicians and dentists known as University MEDNET. Dr. Block also led planning for the construction of a $130 million hospital addition.

At Hopkins, he will head the 1,036-bed Johns Hopkins Hospital and Outpatient Center, the Francis Scott Key Medical Center, the Johns Hopkins Geriatric Center and the Johns Hopkins Medical Services Corp., a physician group practice serving 18 outpatient centers.

Dr. Block and his wife, Mollye, have four children. The eldest, Pamela Block, is living in Baltimore and is engaged to Andreas Spiliadis, an aide to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's press secretary, Clinton R. Coleman.

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