Friday, August 5, 2011

1,300 Cupcakes, a Daughter’s Love, and a Father’s Legacy

A few months ago, the GBMC family was saddened by the loss of Dr. Peter Golueke, our Chief of Vascular Surgery. This week, I had the pleasure of meeting Peter’s daughter, Erin. To honor Peter, and his wonderful legacy of caring for our patients, the GBMC Foundation is raising money for the Peter J. Golueke, M.D. Lectureship in Vascular Surgery. Erin, a senior at Roland Park Country School, wanted to get in action to help maintain her father’s legacy and also to help vascular surgery patients at GBMC. So, as part of her senior project, she (and her friend Allie pictured with me and Erin below) baked 1,300 cupcakes and raised $2,500 for the lectureship! It was wonderful to meet Erin and Allie. Out of a very sad and difficult event for Erin and her family, she found the strength to get in action and do something good. Erin’s work will further her Father’s legacy and do good for others. The lesson for us all in this is that lamenting our lot in life, talking about the need for change, or standing on the sidelines and waiting for someone to make things better gets us nowhere – we must act to make things better.

Erin (on the left in the photo) and her classmate Allie Mason present me with a check.

In another story that was more about yelling and arguing about a problem rather than getting in action on real change, this week saw Congress act to raise the debt ceiling in hopes of avoiding a historic negative financial event in American history. The passage of the legislation only occurred after weeks of political posturing and fighting between members of Congress. I was amazed at how much our elected officials were relying on their own beliefs and ignoring the recommendations of learned economists. I was reminded of a line in the song Reeling in the Years, by Steely Dan…..”the things that pass for knowledge I can’t understand”. We are now headed down a road of drastically cutting federal expenses and putting the economy at further risk. There is absolutely no one who believes that the U.S. can continue to have deficit spending - the national debt is too big and we must reduce it. However, trying to fix a problem that started in 2001 (the last budget surplus was with President Clinton in 2000) with drastic spending cuts with 9% of Americans already out of work, makes no sense. We need a more measured response that gradually reduces spending while letting the economy grow.

Be that as it may, the enacted legislation will force expense cuts in entitlement programs like Medicare and this will have a negative effect on healthcare systems like GBMC. Don’t get me wrong. We must reign in Medicare spending. We must reign in all of our national expenditures on health care. The chart below was recently released by The Commonwealth Fund using the data of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. It shows that in 2009, the last year for which data are complete, the US spent more than 17% of gross domestic product on health care. The next biggest spenders, France and the Netherlands spent 12% each.

We also know that the French and the Dutch have health outcomes that in many areas are better than ours and that their citizens are much happier with their health care than Americans are. Their systems are imperfect, too, but we should try to learn from them.
Unfortunately, rather than embracing the notion that we need to redesign our system, Congress is now getting ready to “squeeze” money out of the big areas of spending, like hospital care, without redesigning the system itself. Healthcare costs in our country are nothing more than a characteristic of the system we have to deliver health care. Every system is perfectly designed to get exactly the results that it gets. If we want a more cost-effective health care system, we need to design a new one.

Erin Golueke had a goal and she got in action. GBMC has a strategic vision of a changed system and we are building it. We need to stay in action. The ride may get a bit tougher now, but I have no doubt that we will get to a better place.

We’re doing great work at GBMC but we have to get even better at continually adding value to our care. If there are things we are doing that are not truly helping the patient then we need to get rid of them. We need to keep innovating to create a more coordinated system that delivers what the patient wants and needs – better health and better care at lower cost.

Do you have ideas to improve our current healthcare system? I welcome your thoughts.

If you would like to make a tax deductible gift toward Erin’s efforts, visit or call the GBMC Foundation at 443-849-2773.

Lastly, the annual GBMC Employee Opinion Survey is underway. As you know, we need the information that we get from employees to make improvements to make GBMC HealthCare a more joyful place to work! In the year that I have been here, we have made many changes on the basis of what you have told us. I also know that there are still many things that we need to improve, but we must hear from you to identify them. The survey is scheduled to end August 21.

Please complete your survey and encourage others to do the same!!


  1. Do you really want to cut healthcare spending or make our system better? Really? Every time I turn around you are naming another person to another NEW position, and they aren't a little position that work their tail off for little pay like an NST, they are VP & director positions. Not to mention the Greater Baltimore Health Alliance and the positions that go with that. Also, stop with all the continuous remodeling. If you look to other countries who spend less on healthcare they have very plain hospitals, not ones that look like ours. Maybe we could spend less on the little gifts every year that say GBMC on them that are made in China. Or maybe we could cut back on the doctor's crab feast or the ice cream social. Shall I go on? If you really want to cut things & make them better maybe you should talk to the numerous people who don't come close to making $15.00/an hour & do the great amount of work in the hospital, but who can still make ends meet every month. I hear a lot of talk, but I see the status quo maintained.

  2. Anonymous, you are right that we should be very careful in adding new positions, especially new management positions. We have actually created very few new management positions even though our work has grown significantly. We have also hired many new people who are doing the work of taking care of patients, especially in our outpatient practices. You are correct that we are doing some remodeling, where our facilites are tired and worn. We will not stop doing celebrations, like our dinners for Thanksgiving or the Christmas season and our ice cream event. We also won't stop giving free turkeys to employees around the holidays. These events actually cost a very small amount compared to what patient care costs. They are small ways to say thank you. I don't know what you are talking about when you say that you see the status quo maintained. If you read the blog regularly, you see all that we are changing.

    I know that many of our people have trouble making ends meet. My job is to try to create more cost-effective care. This won't solve the whole problem of making ends meet, but at least it will help people get a handle on out of pocket health care costs and employers will have a shot at continuing to provide health insurance benefits to their employees.

  3. Dr. Golueke was a great guy and he definitely raised a daughter in his footsteps. Gives me hope for the next generation! (no, I'm not the same Anonymous as before)


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