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Being John Glaser 6/3/09

June 3, 2009 News 18 Comments

Several weeks ago, I spent time talking to a class of IT managers. These managers, from a wide range of industries, were learning about IT management and leadership. I was there to talk about my career, my management style, my values, and why I made the choices that I made over the course of my career.

During our discussion, I suggested that they think about the following.

All of us are caught up in the busy-ness of our professional and personal lives. But let’s suppose that you were told that you had five minutes left in your life. As you looked back on your life, what would you want to be able to say?

And I gave them my answer. I would want to be able to say:

  • That I was as madly in love with my wife then as I am today. I fell in love with Denise 34 years ago. And I am more in love today. She is my best friend, my lover, the mother of my kids, and my confidante. In ways that are unfathomable and indescribable, in many aspects of our lives and being, she and I have become one.
  • That my three daughters have had lives as blessed as mine. Their paths will have been different and their choices will have been their own. But I hope that they know deep love, good fortune, success, and many fine moments that have become treasured memories. I would hope that we were always good friends and looked forward to each other’s company.
  • That I will have been spared the agony and horror that can dominate a person’s life. I hope I never have to experience great hunger, deep and enduring physical pain, crushing hatred, or excruciating torment. If I was spared this, I would be grateful. If I was not spared this, I hope that I exhibited courage.
  • That those people with whom I worked say that I inspired them, taught them, and led them well. Just as I have been inspired, taught, and led well by several people, I hope that I gave that gift to others. I would like to know that many people are different people, better people because they knew me.
  • That the health care industry in which I work, and the provider organizations that I work for, have been changed, become more effective, have advanced because of the legacy that I have left. I would want to know that I showed these organizations and industries how to operate and think at a higher level; a level that significantly increases their ability to care for people, innovate and teach.

And if I can say all of this, I will die with a smile on my face. I will have had a good run.


John Glaser is vice president and CIO at Partners HealthCare System. He describes himself as an "irregular regular contributor" to HIStalk.

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Currently there are "18 comments" on this Article:

  1. Having met John in the early nineties as a student in the first CHIME CIO training class at U of M, and now honored to have the opportunity to work with John on a number of challenges related to the health care industry, this article confirms what most of us that have had the pleasure to work with John, have already realized….And what satisfies John’s fourth and fifth bullet…John has inspired and taught many of us well, not to mention his significant influence regarding changes he has helped broker in the health care industry..That being said, as John states it well, Having a best friend in life, being proud of our offspring, and avoiding “great hunger, deep and enduring physical pain, crushing hatred, or excruciating torment” is classic John, and something we all should strive for as we look back on our life. Thanks for your contribution John.

  2. Just wanted to say thank you for the John Glaser columns/contributions. His writings are wonderful and timely

  3. What a great gift you gave to the class, perspective.

    Thank God I can say the same things! I feel so lucky!

    Thank you for sharing it with the rest of us, John!

  4. Hi John:

    After reading your piece I feel both warm inside and distressed.

    >>> I would want to know that I showed these organizations and industries how to operate and think at a higher level; a level that significantly increases their ability to care for people, innovate and teach.

    How do you (and President Obama) expect to do that? I just read an article on the plans of President Obama to bring forth his idea of healthcare for all. This will be a system that most feel will end up being run by the government, as private insurance companies will not be able to compete with subsidized healthcare. Obama wants to cut out $300 billion over 10 years from the Medicare and Medicaid government insurance programs for the elderly, disabled and poor. It has been reported in past articles that a lot of these cuts will come through further decreased payments to providers and to hospitals. The article quoted Obama as stating: “such measures as better managing chronic diseases and avoiding unnecessary tests and hospital readmissions”.

    How is all this going to increase our ability to care for people? Where are we physicians going to find the time to teach and innovate in such an environment? The BS of him and his cronies doing a better job than our nation’s physicians at managing chronic diseases is a euphonism for denial of care, where patients will not be able to get the tests done that are necessary, or the treatments done because they are too old and possibly just too sick. (It’s much cheaper to die.)

    I hope that as his advisor you can put an end to this craziness…

    Al Borges MD

    URL: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/us_health_overhaul

  5. I spoke with you (John) way back in the 80’s (or early 90’s – memory is fading!) as your organization was heavily involved with the development of your MUMPS environment. (I believe both of our organizations were using Datatree MUMPS?) I have been inspired by your willingness to take a development project on and not always rely on shrink-wrapped, expensive vendor solutions. You set the standard for “thinking outside the box” and I’m guessing you don’t realize the positive impact you have had on so many of us throughout the country. I have always wondered how you prioritized your life as busy as you are – it is nice to see you have everything in order. Thank you for the very nice article John.

  6. RE: Al Borges, MD

    Dear Dr. Borges,

    Although I know that we often try to shy away from politics on HIStalk, I thought I would share this link with you. It is excerpted from a speech given by Canadian New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton in Washington yesterday, and it might shed some light into how a government-funded system can absolutely succeed in managing long-term health outcomes. It’s quite the opposite of “denial of care,” and rather about providing appropriate care to everyone, regardless of income.



    A very happy (and highly satisfied) Canadian health care consumer

  7. Dear John,

    I was so wrong about your professional motivations until you demonstrated that you are truly a mensch; Number One as a devoted loving husband and Number Two as an ardently proud father. All the other stuff is just time-in-grade because it is the last five minutes of life that really counts.

  8. I always click on your writings quickly. I enjoy the humor and the insight delivered artfully.

    This morning, I really needed a laugh, so I quickly selected your post.

    While I did not get a laugh this morning, I got something more important, perspective.

    Thanks for your thoughts and teachings…

    Another CHIME Boot Camp pupil

  9. A questions for John came to me when I was talking with the CEO of a large academic medical center this past week. It is a little left field but something that we probably need to get ready for.

    Will all the emphasis in quality that is coming – what are the ones that will impact healthcare and IT the most? speculation sure but need to start culling the list to get ahead of the curve (and no, just saying EMR isn’t it).

    How or even should we think about linking revenue cycle data with quality data to start thinking about how quality is going to effect revenue. One of the not so dark secrets is that hospitals and often physicians get paid without regard to the quality of their work. If true quality indicators come to be, what will be the impact on revenue and how should institutions start positioning themselves. As it stands now, if you provide higher quality as defined by patients not seeing you or being admitted as often, the revenue goes down.

    Maybe too much time on my hands but an intriguing thought.

    Finally, and on a slightly different subject, this site needs to slide by the EMR stuff from the feds and start informing us on what the other things that are slithering our way from Washington are going to look like.

    Best and keep up the good fight


  10. Sorry, all, but the last 5 minutes of life are in no way different from the previous 80 years, except maybe in your own minds. It’s only where you stand relative to minute number 6 that matters. And being a devoted, loving husband and father, and helping people be better “because they knew me” is arrogant and deceiving if you think it will mean anything at that point.

    Glaser’s ideas may be wonderful and sweet, etc, but lets not get carried away about dying with a smile. I’m not a psychologist, so I don’t really know what a Jesus complex is, but I think I’m getting the idea.

  11. John,

    Thanks for this post. I believe the only way to be great at anything is to truly give of yourself, to expose yourself through sharing and thus become vulnerable. This takes bravery, which you have shown here.

    Thanks for the reminder of what’s important.

  12. John’s most recent article was exceptional. After having seen him recently in his new role at ONC on top of his existing role at Partners I was amazed that he found the time to write this for HisTalk. We can all learn from a guy who, being as busy and with as much on his shoulders as he has, takes the time to write a piece from the heart with a refreshing message about how we all need to take a deep breath and put our lives in perspective once in a while. That’s true leadership in action.

  13. John,

    Nicely put. I think this puts things into perspective nicely. just welcoming my first child to this world has been an eye opening experience, and one that drives me harder to leave a legacy from my work that will be part of reducing the cost of healthcare, improving outcomes, and providing a greater availability of information to a wide variety of stakeholders. I find it amazing with all that is going on in HIT, that my newly born Childs medical records are strewn across multiple stakeholders just 2 weeks into her life. We need an Army of advocates such as you to ensure that my daughter’s children are never faced with this challenge.

  14. I have never seen jealousy, pessimisim and misery rolled in to one ComplexIssue, but I am starting to get the picture

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