WITH THE imminent departure of Dr. James A. Block as president of the Johns Hopkins Hospital, the way is clear for historic change in the high command of the world-renowned medical institutions in East Baltimore.
Before the year is out, a single chief executive officer will be named for the hospital and the medical school, both with newly designated chief operating officers. This will be part of the virtual merger of two proud and separate entities into a combine designed to flourish in the fiercely competitive health care market.
Dr. Block is the third high-ranking Hopkins executive to leave within the past year. First to go was William R. Richardson, the university president, now director of the Kellogg Foundation. Then Dr. Michael Johns, dean of the Hopkins Medical School, left to become CEO of the Emory University hospital system and medical school in Atlanta -- a set-up similar to the one unfolding at Hopkins.
The new Hopkins "medical czar" will report to the incoming university president, Dr. William R. Brody, a former chairman of the Hopkins radiology department now returning to Baltimore after a brief stint at the University of Minnesota. While Dr. Brody will live on the Homewood campus to symbolize his interest in the non-medical sector of the university, his knowledge of the culture and institutions in East Baltimore will be invaluable.
If all these changes at the top sound like a shake-up, that's precisely what it is. Some involve personalities. Some reflect career imperatives. Overall, they conform to a decision by Hopkins trustees to adjust to the realities of the fast-changing health care industry.
For most of their first century, the hospital and the medical school could operate as two separate corporations. They built reputations that today earn the hospital the No. 1 rating from U.S. News and make the medical school the top research grant winner in the country.
As they merge, the importance of Johns Hopkins Medicine cannot be exaggerated. It is the region's largest employer, its main magnet for outside investment and contributions, its most famous "trade name" around the world.
Dr. Block, despite the controversies he engendered, initiated many of the marketplace changes his successor will probably deem essential. Dr. Johns defended the integrity of the medical school's academic credentials with vigor. Dr. Richardson was a highly esteemed and much-missed university president.
It will be up to a new team of managers to lead the Hopkins to even greater glory and achievement. They will need the support of the entire Maryland community.
Pub Date: 8/11/96