Today, we announced the appointment of Dr. Graham Hughes as Chief Medical Officer of the SAS Center for Health Analytics and Insights. I wanted to take a moment to share some additional context behind this appointment, and I want to do it through telling you about a recent event.
I had the opportunity to attend the 3rd annual North Carolina CEO Forum yesterday. This conference brought together industry leaders from across the state to share experiences and successes across a broad range of topics including corporate missions, culture, leadership, innovation, and philanthropy. Jim Collins, one of my favorite business authors, was the keynote speaker, and set the context of the day by discussing his research on what makes and maintains successful companies. It was a great presentation, and there were quite a few industry speakers that followed Jim throughout the day: Glen Tullman (Allscripts), Dr. Victor Dzau (Duke University Health System), Brad Wilson (Blue Cross and Blue Shield of NC), and Leah Brown (A10 Clinical Solutions) to name a few (and SAS’ own Keith Collins spoke as well).
What was interesting to me was how absolutely common the big themes / “takeaways” were across speakers, which I will summarize as follows:
- The pace of business change will not decelerate…get used to it.
- Thriving cultures of innovation are keys to business prosperity, and are often hard to create.
- People are your best asset.
Now, if you are like me, you might be sitting there saying "well, duh." And true enough, it does sound sort of motherhood-and-apple-pie. But consider for a moment that even though these sound like simple ideas, how many times do you see businesses actually doing something about it? Do most companies have mechanisms to respond rapidly to change, cultures that are truly innovative, and people that are exceptional? Or is it more likely that the companies that come to your mind -- whether they acknowledge these realities or not -- still sit in medeocrity (or worse)?
So what does this conference have to do with a new CMO at SAS? Well, for starters, SAS formed my team to tackle these exact same issues. We've opted to invest in people and a new culture in the hopes that creative, talented people working collaboratively with the industry can do amazing things. We've just gotten started, and have a long way to go, but I am as excited today as ever.
Now, to be completely honest, when I set out to hire our first chief medical officer, there were a few skeptics. Some folks didn’t understand why a software company needs a CMO (though many have them). Others thought it might be difficult to convince a physician to work with a software company – didn’t they go to school to treat people not computers? Still others doubted our ability find a physician candidate with a personality that would fit well with our corporate culture (which doesn’t lend itself to hierarchy, for example). So there were a lot of discussions and debates…all healthy, but a lot of them.
Thankfully, Graham is the type of physician and person that can help people discover the opportunity hidden in these questions. In the end, where we landed is exactly where the participants in the NC CEO Forum landed. Our business is moving – rapidly. We will success by continuing to focus on our people, software innovation and SAS’ award-winning cultural heritage. Bringing together a team of people to create and sustain that culture is what CHAI is all about, and it is what makes Graham such a great fit for our team.