HSS welcomed Todd J. Albert, M.D. as its new surgeon-in-chief and medical director on July 1. A world renowned orthopedic spine surgeon, Dr. Albert has dedicated his professional life to clinical excellence, research, and academic mentorship, most recently as Chairman of the Department of Orthopaedics and President of The Rothman Institute at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. We recently sat down and spoke with Dr. Albert to find out more about him and his vision for HSS.
Q: What do you find most rewarding about being an orthopedic surgeon?
A: I love taking care of people. For me, the best thing about being a doctor is interacting with people and changing their lives in a meaningful way. You can’t get a closer relationship than that. What’s specific to orthopedics that is great is we fix things, and we can measure our success almost immediately by looking at an X-ray. Of course, the ultimate proof of success is how a patient feels.
Q: How would you describe your leadership style?
A: My leadership style is open, transparent, and collaborative. I practice distributive leadership, in which I appoint the best people and let them do their jobs. At HSS, I will help make the tough decisions that will prepare the hospital to succeed in the changing healthcare environment. We need to be innovative in these solutions because going forward, physicians need to lead and step out front when healthcare decisions are made because we understand our patients needs better than anyone. I first learned to lead playing college football. Football taught me to handle adversity, to collaborate, and to elevate teammates needs above my own.
Q: What attracted you to HSS?
A: HSS is the number one orthopedic hospital in the world, and being the surgeon chief of this hospital is the number one orthopedic job in the world. I think you’d have to be crazy to say no to that opportunity and that challenge. I’m honored to accept this challenge.
Q: How important do you see academic mentorship in your role as SIC?
A: One reason I chose HSS is its focus on academics. Teaching is vital to ensure continued excellence in the practice of orthopedics, and HSS has one of the most prestigious training programs in the country. Mentorship is how physicians become great doctors. I love working with residents and fellows and watching them mature and go on to do great things. For me, helping develop people is really fun.
Q: Why is it important for physicians to conduct research?
A: I am a physician-scientist, and I fervently mentor young physicians to develop strengths in both clinical care and research. Physician-scientists are uniquely qualified to conduct research that benefits patients, because they are familiar with the real-life problems patients face. Bench-to-bedside research is an important part of the HSS culture. Research by physicians makes the hospital better, makes the physician better, and leads to better care for the patient.
Q: What is your vision for HSS?
A: HSS is already the best musculoskeletal hospital in the world. We know how to get people moving again better than anyone else. I believe I can help bring HSS to the next level, so we’re even better prepared for the challenges we’re likely to face going forward. One goal is to create care pathways for every disease process and injury within musculoskeletal medicine that everyone at HSS agrees with across subspecialties. Increased consistency in care delivery will elevate quality, improve efficiency and drive research. Another goal is to take care of patients across the entire continuum of musculoskeletal care from pre-injury through treatment, rehabilitation, and full recovery. Population health starts before patients get to the hospital and continues after discharge, when patients are back to doing whatever they need and love to do. We need to control the whole episode of care to really make sure patients lead healthy, full lives.
Q: How will you support innovation at HSS?
A: As surgeon-in-chief, one of my highest priorities is to find innovative ways to create new efficiencies that will improve the experience for patients and physicians. When efficiency improves, quality improves and everyone benefits.
Q: How do you spend your time outside of work?
A: I love all forms of exercise. I bike, I spin, I do Bikram yoga with my daughter. I love history. I am actually in a history club where we read history books. It sounds nerdy but what we do is get together and have a nice dinner and talk about books. I also love to travel. Some of my favorite places are Namibia, Kenya and Tanzania. I also love going to China. I find it a fascinating country.
Q: Are you excited to move to New York? What are you most looking forward to about living in NYC?
A: Very excited. What I love about NYC is that within minutes, you can get any single thing you need or want. I love the access. And I love the shows, Broadway, all that. I love the aspect of NYC that it’s so big that you can get anything you want, you name it.
Dr. Albert serves on the boards of several scholarly journals and is Past President of The Cervical Spine Research Society and Past Chair of the International Meeting of Advanced Spine Techniques (IMAST) for the Scoliosis Research Society. He is the author of seven books, and more than 40 book chapters and 300 journal articles.