Robert Motley, MD, MHCDS ‘16
President, Medical Staff, Lehigh Valley Healthcare System
As a family doctor for more than 25 years, Robert Motley has seen his fair share of changes in the medical system—the introduction of HMOs, the consolidation of hospitals and health networks, and now the emergence of ACOs. Through it all, however, he’s kept his focus on one thing: maintaining the humanity in medical care. “It is at great risk of being fully commoditized.” Now, as president of medical staff at Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley Healthcare System, he has never had a greater platform to convey that message. “My goal is to be able to help people understand that they need to have an awareness of the financial and operational realities, but must also keep in mind the professional duties of service to others—even when it’s late in the day and self-sacrificing. The moment we forget about that is the moment we become like any other business.”
Not that those are always easy sentiments to convey. As he transitions from the clinical front lines to a leadership role, Motley is learning to speak a new language, one that Dartmouth’s Master of Health Care Delivery Science program has been instrumental in teaching. “I’d like to be quadrilingual,” Motley says. “I’d like to speak clinical, financial, operations, and leadership.” Entering board meetings and presenting to an audience of CEOs, Motley has had to get over initial feelings of intimidation in order to get his point across. The grounding he has received in leadership and strategy at Dartmouth has helped him up his game.
“I’ve stolen liberally from some of the charts, figures, and concepts we’ve been learning,” says Motley of his new skills interweaving patient stories with facts and figures to help board members understand both the strategic investment and ethical imperatives behind programs. “We have a program in palliative care that barely breaks even,” he says. “I tell them, ‘If this was mom or Auntie Millie wouldn’t you want her cared for in this way? Wouldn’t her quality of life be better because someone took time to set up an outpatient infrastructure to take care of her?’ All of a sudden, they got it.” Since starting the program, Motley has been gratified by positive feedback he has received from the chair of the board and other members, who have told him his presentations “are at another level.”
“I am able to work in more of the conceptual theory, but also talk in their language and connect the dots in a way that’s accessible to them.”