Colleagues praise incoming Mayo leader
By Jeff Hansel
When he’s outside the medical environment, Dr. John Noseworthy loves to spend time with nature.
Noseworthy takes over Mayo Clinic in November from the current national CEO, Dr. Denis Cortese, when Cortese retires.
When he’s not treating patients as a neurologist, Noseworthy loves family time at a get-away in Canada.
"How he and I really connected was the fact that he and his wife have a small cabin up in Canada, and I have a cabin in northern Minnesota," said Catherine Rydell of Canada, executive director and CEO of the American Academy of Neurology.
That gave Rydell and Noseworthy a common connection to discuss. "We were instantly bonded, because when you own a small little retreat, you breath differently when you are there. I feel like I got to know John and his wife, Pat, very well just because of that connection."
Yet Noseworthy stays connected electronically to his Mayo colleagues, regardless of his location, said U.S. physician Dr. Robert Griggs, president of the American Academy of Neurology. "People never know whether he’s there or whether he’s in Rochester," Griggs said.
On the job
Noseworthy will analyze new information effectively, said Griggs. Once he sees the data, he "will lead the organization to strategic decisions that will be morally sound, fiscally sound and sound in terms of the business model that Mayo might want."
"John is an excellent listener and communicator. He presents himself as earnest, open, inquisitive and innovative in his approach to problems," said Dr. Steven P. Ringel, director of the Department of Neurology’s Neuromuscular Section, and vice president of Clinical Effectiveness and Patient Safety, at the University of Colorado hospital.
"In neurology, he’s written the first and only text book, that’s now in the second edition, on the treatment of neurological diseases. It’s in the area of MS that he’s most known for in the area of research," Griggs said separately.
Rydell admits mixed feelings about Noseworthy’s rise to become the top physician-leader at Mayo.
"John is a born leader, and I don’t say that about too many people. He truly is a born leader," Rydell said. But she had expected him to become president of her association.
"My first instinct was oh, I’m not going to be able to work with him as president — ever. Then my second thought was I was absolutely thrilled not only for him, but for the nation," she said.
‘Good for the clinic’
Noseworthy is known for making people in group settings feel comfortable.
"He’s especially charming, despite his rigor and intensity, and able to relax and make people feel comfortable," Griggs said. When Noseworthy walks into a room, he said, there’s a noticeable calming effect just by his presence. Griggs said the incoming Mayo CEO is disarming because he has an "infectious, shy smile."
"He can laugh at mankind’s foibles," he said. Yet Noseworthy expects those foibles not to interfere with the care of the patient.
"He’s a good-looking, middle-aged man and he’s very humble. He will always make a point of getting everyone involved in the room," Rydell said. He’s interested in people’s personal lives, not just their work, she said, and that will be good for the clinic.
Noseworthy’s experience with research collaborations will help his leadership, Ringel said.
"John is skillful in focusing a group to reach consensus," he said. "His disarming style and detailed knowledge of a particular issue allow him to get past personal agendas of individuals and to focus on the best solution for the greatest number of people."
Noseworthy’s upbringing provides a solid background for his service at Mayo, Ringel said.
"John is the son of a minister and, as a result, he has developed values that are altruistic and highly ethical," he said. "He has lived both in Canada and (the) U.S. so he has an understanding of differing health-care delivery systems and priorities. His Canadian cabin is his refuge."
Rydell said, "I think Mayo is extremely lucky. I think the Mayo patients are lucky. And I think, on a national scale, that it’s good for the country."
Reporter Jeff Hansel covers health for the Post-Bulletin. Read his blog, Pulse on Health, at Postbulletin.com.
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American Academy of Neurology