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Interview with Dr. Andrew Artenstein, New Chair of the Department of Medicine

September 01, 2012
Andrew Artenstein, MD, Chief, Department of Medicine, Baystate Medical Center
Artenstein standing in front of the original "vaccination cottage" on the property of Edward Jenner's 18th century family home in rural England. There, in 1796, Jenner proved the effectiveness of using cowpox vaccination to protect against smallpox in humans, thus launching the field of vaccine science.

What attracted you to Baystate in general, and this position in particular?

I had known about Baystate's reputation for excellence in clinical medicine, medical education and academics from my days as a medical student at Tufts.

But being back in New England over the past 16 years, I have had the opportunity to watch—from a regional perspective—how Baystate has developed an integrated health system and successfully advanced the health care of its broad, diverse community—I want to be a part of that effort.  I feel as the incoming Chair of the largest clinical Department at Baystate I will be in a position to contribute in a positive way to the overarching mission.

What will be your initial focus in your new role?

My initial focus, of course, will be to learn as much as I can about the Department and Baystate in short order, and to get to know the Department of Medicine faculty and staff.  Because it is large, with such diverse constituencies, it is important to understand all of the different perspectives.

What do you expect will be your biggest challenge here? Biggest opportunity?

I know from experience that there will be many challenges ahead, but I also know that where there are great challenges there are tremendous opportunities as well.  I think one of the greatest challenges involves the changing landscape of health care, both nationally and regionally, and devising ways to nimbly and innovatively respond to this shifting environment. 

One of the most attractive attributes of Baystate to me is that you have creative and thoughtful people in positions of leadership and outstanding talent in all areas throughout the organization who have helped to position the institution for success.  I think we have a great opportunity to lead the way towards novel approaches to population-based care and to excel in all aspects of our mission: clinical, education, and research.

Can you give us the highlights of your goals for the Department of Medicine over the next 3-5 years?

I was once given sage advice by the Dean Emeritus at Brown that in positions of leadership in medicine, it is best to look at a 3-5 year timeframe—so your question is a good one.

Over that period, I hope to achieve a number of goals:

  • Ensure that the Department of Medicine is fully populated and with the optimal leadership at all levels to fulfill its mission
  • Grow the clinical enterprise
  • Strengthen the outstanding programs in medical education
  • Develop and implement a research portfolio that is tailored to Baystate’s strengths, priorities, and the needs of the population we serve.  I believe that the latter goal will require system-wide, coordinated and collaborative planning efforts.

Which accomplishment(s) in your previous position are you most proud of?

I would have to say these fall into three major areas:

  • Culture change—I think we were able to successfully—over the course of the last decade—develop a culture of excellence, collaboration, scientific rigor, entrepreneurship, and accountability.
  • Innovative program development—most notably the launching of broadly-based, novel alliances and affiliations to enhance the clinical and academic missions.
  • Developing and nurturing an outstanding, intellectually diverse, physician faculty. Being in a position to have positively impacted the careers of young physicians is particularly important to me; I hope to continue this in my new role at Baystate.

Do you have a memento that you carry with you from position to position?

I tend to bring with me a number of different items I have accumulated in my career, but I have carried one thing with me from medical school onwards—my father’s doctor’s bag filled with his medical equipment from the 1950s.  Not only does this remind me of my father, but it also serves as a symbol of the rich tradition of medicine in which we are all engaged.