Dr. Block arrives at Hopkins

July 14, 1992

Only weeks after he was named last winter to succeed Dr. Robert M. Heyssel as president of Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System, Dr. James A. Block survived a brush with death when he escaped the crash of USAir Flight 405 at New York's LaGuardia Airport. It was the kind of close call that alters one's perspective on life. Musing the other day about the experience, Dr. Block said, "The small things don't bother you nearly as much, and the big things look smaller. But perspective is what life is all about."

As Dr. Block takes over at Hopkins this month, the ability to pu things in perspective may be one of his strongest assets. He now presides over a hospital that for the second year in a row has been rated as "Best of the Best" by U.S. News & World Report. In a survey of 1,000 leading physicians, Hopkins ranked as superb in more specialties than any other hospital.

As chief executive of one of the city's largest employers, Dr. Block will also be an important figure to the East Baltimore neighborhoods surrounding the hospital. It is encouraging news that he leaves Cleveland's University Hospitals Health System Inc. on a much friendlier, more productive relationship with the surrounding community than he found on his arrival there seven years ago.

Yet like every other U.S. health care institution, Hopkins faces enormous challenges as the country searches for solutions to the crisis in health care delivery. By turning to Dr. Block at this time in its history, Hopkins is indicating it does not intend to rest on its considerable laurels. Associates describe Dr. Block as a "visionary," and his record as a hospital administrator in Rochester, N.Y., and Cleveland suggests that he has a gift for turning a crisis into an opportunity for healthy innovation.

For better or worse, the next decade will see a transformation ithe delivery of health care in this country, and Dr. Block is well aware that respected institutions like Hopkins can play an influential role in helping to pioneer creative solutions.

Inspired thinking has been sorely lacking in regard to the complexities of the American health care system, and it is worth noting that this man of science admits to finding much of his inspiration in literature. Reading, he says, provides insights that often spill over into his work. That's a nice touch for a man who will play a leading community role in "the City that Reads."

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