“Know your employees and understand them as individuals. When I began working here 20 months ago, I did a “listening tour,” both internal and external to the organization. I met with every employee (We have employees in Philadelphia, Chicago, Houston, Atlanta, and Los Angeles.). We got to know each other. I think my interest in them sends a strong message that they are valued, which bolsters the human spirit and reinforces productivity.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. William W. Pinsky, MD. Dr. Pinsky is the President and CEO of the 501c3 organization Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG®) and Board Chair for ECFMG’s 501c3 Foundation for Advancement of International Medical Education and Research (FAIMER®). Dr. Pinsky leads organizations that are making important contributions to national and global health care. ECFMG is the sole agency in the United States that certifies doctors who have graduated from medical schools outside the United States and Canada to train here in the United States. Many of these talented physicians will stay in the United States, where they make up a full 25% of our physician workforce. FAIMER has institutes around the world to develop medical education leadership and does research on medical education outcomes. Both ECFMG and FAIMER have as their mission to promote quality healthcare around the world, and both organizations partner with others around the world to make this happen.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
By training and education, I am a Pediatric Cardiologist. I have also always been involved in academic medicine. My leadership roles in academia as well as on the management side of healthcare include Chief Medical Officer, CEO of a large teaching hospital, the senior executive of the managed care unit for a multi-hospital system, Chief Quality Officer, and Chief Academic Officer. I have had the opportunity and inclination to create disruption in and around my field; e.g., in my prior job at a large, independent academic health system, I created a partnership between the health system and a large, prominent medical school in Australia in order to educate 120 new doctors annually for the United States. Also, I am a former amateur race car driver, and in 1989 created a 501c3 foundation, Racing for Kids. This is a mission–driven, philanthropic endeavor that uses professional motorsports, primarily IndyCar racing, to draw attention to the healthcare needs of children and children’s hospitals. Everywhere we race, we arrive a day early, bring drivers to a hospital to see children who are patients, and pass out keepsakes of our visit. We help the patients and their families to have a better day, while hopefully focusing media attention on the hospital, its work, and its needs. To date, we have been to more than 700 hospitals across the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Australia, and Japan, visiting nearly 28,000 children and distributing over $6.5M in donations.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I have been with this company for approximately 20 months. December 2016 marked six months into my tenure. Traditionally, right before the holidays, the CEO would address all employees at a large meeting in person, with a closed video feed for remote locations, in order to do an end of year wrap-up and to announce a holiday bonus. Knowing this was the expectation, I dressed in a full-body Grinch outfit and played the Grinch theme song as I walked into the room and to the microphone. I then went on to tell them that the way I was costumed should indicate to them the status of their holiday bonus. There are about 1,000 employees, but you could have heard a pin drop. I quickly took off my Grinch mask and gave them GOOD news about the bonus. Everyone thought this was pretty funny. Being able to laugh is important, and so is seeing that your leader is human and has a sense of humor.
What do you think makes your company stand out?
We have a very low attrition rate due to our culture and strong benefits. We have many employees who have worked here for many decades. Can you share a story? Our workforce is the story. Because we have a very strong tuition reimbursement policy, we have many employees who, while continuing to work with us, have earned Bachelor’s, Master’s, and even PhD degrees. In fact, we have a number of combinations of parents and adult children employed, as well as spouses. We have a work environment that almost is family-like, yet very professional and productive. We have the continuity and expertise of long-tenured employees, as well new ideas and skills to take on new challenges.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?
Several. We have developed the first comprehensive strategic plan in several decades, a process that began one year ago. Our Board approved the plan in December 2017, and we launched it immediately. This was a very quick top-down approach that I refer to as the “speed–dating” strategic planning process. The plan calls for a number of initiatives to strengthen the organization and expand our reach, allowing us to improve healthcare for more people in more places around the world.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Know your employees and understand them as individuals. When I began working here 20 months ago, I did a “listening tour,” both internal and external to the organization. I met with every employee (We have employees in Philadelphia, Chicago, Houston, Atlanta, and Los Angeles.). We got to know each other. I think my interest in them sends a strong message that they are valued, which bolsters the human spirit and reinforces productivity.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
I have been fortunate to have had several along the way — very positive mentors and one who was very helpful by demonstrating the types of behavior a leader should not have. My earliest mentor was Dan McNamara, MD, my first Pediatric Cardiology Section Head. He taught me professionalism, dignity, humor, and commitment.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
This question really resonates with me. I know I have brought goodness through my intervention with very sick babies and children who have congenital heart disease. My efforts as a leader in academia and management have focused on providing quality health to our communities. Additionally, I have had many medical students tell me at their graduation that they would not have become doctors without me. And, most recently, our new strategic plan that I referenced above has a tagline that reads:”From Good to Goodness.”
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Remember every one of your employees is an individual with some sort of life events going on;
- Employees care about their company, and they care mostly about how decisions affect them as individuals;
- I wish I had known how much fun this would be;
- This is another way to give back and pay forward for all my prior opportunities and successes;
- It’s great having an executive bathroom.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
“SFSG”- “So Far So Good.” That’s what the man said as he fell out of the 40th floor window and passed the 30th floor. This means never to expect that things will continue to go well, just because they have so far. Active intervention is needed to assure continued success.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this :-)
Roger Penske, industrial giant as well as the most successful team owner in the history of auto racing. Even though I have met Roger, I have never had the opportunity to talk with him at length in order to understand how he became so successful in life.