Kevin B. Mahoney, a 23-year veteran of Penn Medicine, became CEO of the University of Pennsylvania Health System July 1. With these five questions, get a glimpse of his insights and inspiration as he steps into this new role.
What do you see as Penn Medicine’s three greatest strengths today?
Above all, we have incredible talent at all levels—from international award-winning scientists to the most compassionate doctors and nurses you could ever meet, to the courteous and helpful employees who help our patients to find their way to appointments when they come in the door.
Second, the stability of our mission and unwavering strategy are a cornerstone of our success. We focus on excellence and execution in everything we do, whether it’s advanced medicine, scientific discovery or community care. That stability is also evident in the longevity of our leadership and the tenure of our employees—that’s very unique, and creates a genuine, collegial spirit across the institution. People really care about one another.
Finally, I’m very proud of our commitment to our employees. We’re always looking for more ways to support them and invest in them. You can see it in the $25 million in tuition assistance we provide each year, in the way we’ve worked to hold the line on employee contributions for health insurance this year, and in all the training programs we’ve put in place through Penn Medicine Academy to help employees in all kinds of roles build new skills and advance in their careers.
What areas do we have for growth and improvement?
Don’t settle. Don’t say “I did my best today,” because that implies we reached our goal. Rather, let’s focus on trying to be better tomorrow than we are today. That sustained effort is how we advance patient care and science; it’s how we’re going to create more treatments and cures.
Finding new ways for people to access care at Penn Medicine is critical—whether that’s by making it easier to get to our downtown facilities by car, by building new ambulatory practices close to where people live in the suburbs, by connecting them with their care teams through their smartphone, or just making it easier to schedule appointments.
We also have a lot of opportunities to improve the electronic medical record—EMR innovation is an area where we can lead nationally, especially in leveraging the data our providers spend so much time putting into the EMR. We need to develop artificial intelligence tools that help us use that information to improve care. We need to reduce the human burden and associated burnout from inefficient data entry. We have teams working on this every day, thinking about how to turn these technologies from something that’s often a burden to use to a vital tool to care for patients, just like an MRI and a stethoscope.
What do you like to do to relax or as hobbies?
I love to go walking with my wife, Pam, in places like Valley Forge National Historical Park. I enjoy spending time with my friends, some of whom I have known since the Little League fields. Our three grown children are the most important things to us, so we love spending time with them—my daughter is a high-school teacher, and we have two sons, one who is a farmer in Chester County and one who is an Army Special Forces officer. His wife is an emergency medicine resident. I also enjoy working in my yard.
I love to travel. We are always up for a trip—Ireland, France, Italy and the West Coast are some of the best trips I’ve taken. I’m always up for a visit to a new place. And we binge-watch good TV—“Billions” and “The Wire” are two of my favorites.
Who is your favorite historical figure?
T.E. Lawrence—more often referred to as “Lawrence of Arabia” for the movie made about him—was a remarkable British soldier during World War I. His vision and willingness to go outside the box and get proximate with the situation inspires me. He didn’t believe in the rules of the British army—he was successful because he made up his own rules. He didn’t try to run the war from London or Cairo; he went out and immersed himself in the Arab culture and saw first-hand what was happening, then developed a winning strategy in the field by putting disparate cultures together in new ways no one had tried before.
What qualities do you look for when hiring new leaders and staff in the health system?
Intellectual curiosity, willingness to learn and grow, passion and an understanding of Penn Medicine and our mission. When you’re working at Penn Medicine, at any level, you’re working on big, big problems, and you’re contributing—everyone’s role matters. Just one example: I always tell the men and women working on the Pavilion project that they’re not building a hospital—they’re building a platform to cure cancer, among many other things.