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Health Leadership P6

So I wrote a grant and we got our first monies and we opened up clinics in both places and shared employees back and forth between Walter Reed and Windber. Anyone ever heard of Windber? They go “Windber?” I remember Dr. [inaudible] saying, “What do you want from me?” I said, “I want you to take the question mark away from the word Windber.” Now, where did this come from in my mind? Well, in 1992 when a nun said, “You’re out of here,” I had a job interview. It was in Omaha, Nebraska. I could tell my wife cried the whole way out and the whole way back. So I knew I wasn’t going to get to move there unless I got divorced. I mean, that’s where it was. But I get out there, and there’s this little hospital in the middle of Omaha.

Now, the difference between the look of that hospital and the look of Windber hospital was in the parking lot, everybody had clubs on their steering wheels to keep their cars from being stolen. In Windber we had guns. So you walk into this place, and here is this hundred bed hospital in the middle of Omaha, and on the top of the building it says, “National Research Hospital.” And I’m going, “Oh, yeah. There’s some real serious ego stuff going on in this place. It’s a hundred bed hospital. It’s not associated with a university. It’s not associated with the NIH. It’s just a little hundred bed hospital.”

And I walk in, and I meet this feisty little [inaudible] priest, and he happens to be the head of a place that some of you may have heard of called Boys Town. Did you ever heard of Boys Town? It’s kind of like Hershey. It was started back in the 30s for kids who were poor and their parents died, and to help them get through that. Well, this guy, this priest says to me – I said, “What’s the deal with this national research hospital?” He said, “You know what the deal is? I got this idea, and I hired three PhDs, and I hired three more, and I hired three more.” He says, “I have 38 PhDs in 1992, and we are a genome center.” And I thought that’s the guys who made the cookies. I didn’t know what genome center was in 1992. And he says, “And we’re going to crack childhood deafness and blindness through the study of genomics.”

Whoa. That’s a pretty big deal. And it stuck with me. I get the job at Windber. I go down to the Arcadia theater, and I’m on the board, and this little old bald guy comes up to me. He’s probably my age now, but at that time, a little old bald guy, which I almost am. Bald. I’m old. But anyway, he walks up to me, and he says, “You know, you know, I used to head up the radiology school at Windber.” And I’m going, “There was a radiology school at Windber?” He says, “Yeah.” He says, “We removed Betty Grable’s thyroid.”

Now, for those of you who have never heard of Betty Grable, she was this really hot movie star in the 40s and 50s. She was, I think, the very first person who ever had her legs insured by [inaudible] of London for a million dollars in 1940 whatever, because she was the pinup that all the army guys and the Navy and the Marines and the Airforce – she was a hotty, okay? He said, “Yeah. She came to Windber to have her thyroid removed.” And I’m going, “Are you kidding me? How did she even get here? We didn’t even have a Fisher Price airport in those days. How would you get from Hollywood to Windber to get your thyroid removed? And why? Why would you do that?” He said, “Well, we did Arthur Godfrey’s, too.”

Well, Arthur Godfrey was a famous TV star from the 50s and 60s, played the ukulele and sang. He said, “He came up at 10:45 at night knowing [inaudible] was there, took his thyroid out, and he went home.” He said, “We did Jenny Woolworth.” That would be the equivalent to the Dollar Store now. It was Woolworth Five and Dime. And I’m going, “Jenny Woolworth, Betty Grable, and Arthur Godfrey came to Windber? What? What?”

So I started to look into it, and I found out that two of the surgeons that worked there were very progressive surgeons, and when the [inaudible] company started that hospital, one of the Bowen brothers said, “I want this to be a cutting edge, leading edge hospital.” In the 20s. And these guys studied in Austria with an Austrian surgeon, and they were in class with two other people whose names you might recognize. They were in class with the Mayo brothers. That’s not that jet pilot thing. Mayo clinic, okay? So the Mayo brothers were in class with these [inaudible] guys from Windber, and they’re learning to do thyroid surgery where they do an internal stitch and a very tiny external stitch, and guess what happens when they’re done? There’s no big scar. You don’t look like the bride of Frankenstein.

Now, why would Jenny Woolworth and Betty Grable and Arthur Godfrey want to do that? Well, they didn’t want to look like they had thyroid cancer or whatever. And why else would they want to do that? They found out that these guys worked periodically out at Johns Hopkins. Now, they could have gone to Johns Hopkins and had it done, but who hangs around big cities? Reporters. Paparazzi. What happens? They find out you’re there. You’re Betty Grable, and all of a sudden it’s the front of the National Inquirer that you have thyroid cancer, and you’re like, “Naw, we were seeing Michael Douglas. He’s dying. He’s dead. He’s gone, and now she’s pregnant again.” It’s like that kind of stuff that’s going on. I made that up. I don’t know if that’s true. He says he’s not. And she says she’s not.

But having said that, it’s like okay, let me think about this. Where is Rochester, Minnesota? Anybody ever heard of it or been there? Rochester, Minnesota is where the Mayo Clinic is. It’s nowhere. It’s nowhere. And before the Mayo Clinic became the Mayo Clinic, it was kind of Windber. And how about the [inaudible] health system? Any of you ever hear of the [inaudible] health system? Anybody know where it is? Anybody know? Danville. Any of you ever been to Danville? There’s a Red Roof Inn and a Burger King and a bunch of houses that look like Windber, because it was a logging town, and in this 4.5 billion dollar health system.

So it’s like, huh. Genome center. Mayo brothers. Danville, Rochester, Windber. And we had something that they didn’t have: connectivity. I mean, this is the only time in the history of this world that you could be sitting here and somebody riding on a camel on the [inaudible] could be texting you on his satellite phone saying, “Hey, how’s it going, Michelle?” Right? Am I right? Somebody in the Himalayas could be contacting you right now and say, “Did you remember to get milk?” I mean, my son in law was deployed for a year in Iraq, and two or three times a week we’d sit and watch him and talk to him on Skype. We’re connected. For the first time ever, probably since Adam and Eve, worldwide we’re connected.

And what’s going on because of that, it scares people that don’t want to take their shoes off and wave them. It scares them desperately, which is why there’s this ultra conservative movement going on internationally. There’s an ultra-conservative movement to pull it back, take us back. Not ten years, not twenty years, not thirty years. Take us as far back as you can when it was safe because we don’t know what this all means right now, and it scares us.

I heard an anthropologist talk about the fact that all the tattoos, there are 50 million people in the United States with tattoos now. I mean, my daughter came home from college and she had a little daisy on her back, and I said, “You know, that could eventually turn into a sunflower.” You have to worry about stuff like that, right? So the tattoos, the piercings, it’s tribal. This is all tribal. It’s like, let’s preserve something that we’re familiar with and let’s associate in that manner.

So you look at that and say, “Okay. Change is happening. Why couldn’t it happen here?” Well, we have the internet, and we were the first place in this area to have OC48 dark fiber lines, which meant, it was like the equivalent of having a telephone line that covers Washington to Baltimore and Windber.

So why couldn’t it happen here? You don’t have to be sitting in the middle of a library somewhere to communicate with somebody with ideas. So what I found was if you work half the time in areas that you don’t know like genomics and proteomics and whatever I ended up being thrown into and half the time somewhere else, you’ll grow from it.

Well, this young colonel walks into my office because I’d written a grant for breast cancer research and was denied on the grant, and I rewrote it and resubmitted it next year, and we got 7.5 million dollars. And this colonel walks into my office and he says, “Well, Mr. Jacobs, you’ve got 7.5 million dollars coming from the army to study something dealing with breast cancer. What do you want to do? What do you want to do?” And I said, “I want to be the genome center for breast cancer for the United States military.” And he said, “Well, as long as we’re doing genomics, we probably should do proteomics, too.” And I said, “We might as well, because I really don’t know what either one of them are.”

And that’s how it started. We were literally standing in a gravel floor beneath a hospice at Windber with nothing there yet, and I said, “So what do I do now?” He said, “Form a corporation, a research institute. Non-profit research. I’ll recruit the beginning of the PhDs. I’ll get that started for you. But you need to have a research institute.”

So I went to my boss and I said, “I want to start a research institute.” And he said, “You idiot,” and he laughed and scoffed and said, “Get the heck out of here.” He didn’t really say heck. So I go to my board chair, and I said, “Well, I tried to get him to start a research institute with me and he said I was nuts.” He said, “Good, we’ll start it separate. We’ll do our own.”

So we started a separate non-profit corporation called the Windber Research Institute, and the first three scientists they recruited were from the University of Maryland, and these guys and lady walked into Windber Medical Center, the new Windber Medical Center at that point – and this isn’t an advertiser for Windber. I’m detoxed. I’m not there anymore. I don’t care if you ever go there. But my point is they walk into this place, and there’s bread baking, and there are golden retriever therapy dogs, and there are guitar players and harpists and violinists, and there’s popcorn in the lobby, and there’s 24 hour visiting, and there are double beds in the OB suites, and there’s a workout facility in a town of 4700 people that has 1350 members allowing us to deduct the money every month from their checking account, and they walked through this place, and they go, “Man, if you can do this, you can do a research institute. We’re moving here.”

That’s how it started. And we ended up with 50 scientists. But it started from an idea, from designing a future, from some luck, and from having big dreams. That’s what started it. I’d like to talk about a ten minute break and come on back. Thanks.

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