July 2004

Elizabeth Concordia: Building the Academic Hospitals of the Future

by John Fries

For many years, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has been building a well-deserved reputation as one of the finest, most advanced health and medical systems in the world.

With more than 31,700 employees, UPMC is the regionÕs largest employer. Those who interact with the health system, whether occasionally or on a regular basis, experience firsthand the quality and excellence embodied by four simple lettersÑUPMC.

Excellence at UPMC is also embodied in its leadership. In 2001, the system recruited Elizabeth Concordia to serve as President and CEO of UPMC Presbyterian and UPMC Shadyside, two of its Pittsburgh-based tertiary facilities. At the time, her responsibilities were focused on enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of the systemÕs existing clinical programs and developing new ones. In a relatively short time, she did a remarkable job.

Last spring, as part of a restructuring at its executive level, UPMC appointed Concordia Senior Vice President of Academic and Community Hospitals. The new roles are in addition to her existing ones at UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside.

ItÕs been an event-filled three years for Concordia. Under her leadership, UPMC built and opened the state-of-the-art Hillman Cancer Center in Shadyside, moved its world renown transplant program (with the exception of open-heart cases) to UPMC Montefiore, and has been actively and successfully integrating its hospitals. Two years ago, also under her direction, UPMC Shadyside was selected from a field of 1,000 facilities as one of the top 100 hospitals in the U.S. (and the only one in the tri-state area) for cardiovascular services.

And these, mind you, are just the highlights.

Concordia, a Philadelphia native, brought a highly impressive background to UPMC. She holds a BachelorÕs degree from Duke University and a MasterÕs degree in administrative science management from Johns Hopkins University.

Early in her career, she served as manager of healthcare information systems and senior consultant at Ernst & Young in Washington, D.C. Later, she was named associate director of the Montefiore Medical Center, the Jack D. Weiler Hospital of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, N.Y.

Prior to coming to Pittsburgh, she spent eight years at the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore, where her titles included vice president, senior director, director of clinical service and clinical information systems, and--during her last two years there--executive vice president and chief operating officer.

She was very excited about the opportunity to work for UPMC. "In Western Pennsylvania," she said, "everyone knows about UPMC, since itÕs part of the landscape. But, outside the region, UPMC is building an amazing reputation. This is a health system that is consistently featured in the national media.

"I wanted to make a difference," said Concordia, "and thatÕs why I came to UPMC. Here, I have the opportunity to do that."

She continued. "IÕve always wanted to create the hospital of the future, and to innovate the next frontier." A major advocate for UPMCÕs academic mission, Concordia said the system fosters an entrepreneurial environment, and one that allows for innovation and flexibility, with a primary focus on quality. "Other academic hospitals have great programs, but their cultures are more conservative."

When she was recruited to UPMC, she was told that the system was looking for someone with strong operational credentials and significant experience at other academic centers. She also learned that she would be one of the few non-natives of Western Pennsylvania in an executive position.

If thereÕs any question about how she spends her time away from the office, one need only look the wall opposite her desk. Most people have a few family photos on hand. Concordia hasÑconservative estimate hereÑabout 75. She lives in OÕHara Township with her husband, Michael, and their three children, ages six, eight and ten. They are an athletic family that enjoys skiing, biking, tennis and golf. The children add swimming and soccer to that list.

Concordia enjoys living and working in the Pittsburgh area. "People here are very friendly. My family and I have quickly integrated into the community and now feel at home." she said.

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Copyright © 2005 by John Fries, Pittsburgh, PA.
Please direct all correspondence to john@johnfries.com