The UCLA Health System Experience: What Everyone Can Learn from Greatness in

Greatness is so often a courteous synonym for great success.
—Philip Guedalla

Imagine having to run a successful business that requires the innovation of
Apple, the commitment to safety of NASA, and the customer service of Ritz-Carlton.
Furthermore, imagine that your mandate demands that you be a world-class
educator, your work product holds life and death in the balance, and you
are responsible for discoveries that shape the future of medicine. But wait;
there's more! You have to achieve your complex mission in a highly political,
cost-competitive industry. From imagination to reality, you are about to dive
deeply into the challenges and leadership lessons of UCLA Health System!
While a book about a premier medical research and training center is obviously
relevant for anyone who is in healthcare, its appropriateness for other
industries might not be readily apparent. In fact, you may be asking: what does
UCLA Health System, a leader in a complicated and often maligned sector of our
economy, have to offer me if my business is banking, retail, hospitality, or
something else? The short, albeit incomplete, answer is how to
• Catapult your business to preeminence at an unusually rapid pace.
• Transform the satisfaction and engagement of your customers through a
service-centric approach.
• Achieve meteoric profitability during economic downturns—despite
aggressive competition.
• Achieve decades of recognition as a quality and safety leader.
• Create revolutionary improvement in your employee engagement and empowerment.
• Redesign, elevate, and humanize your customer experience.

Despite having a background working as an organizational development specialist,
when UCLA approached me to write this book I was initially skeptical about
whether UCLA Health System would be the "right" source for business lessons. (Of
course, my cynicism may have been amplified by my not having been accepted by
UCLA's graduate school years ago, and instead having attended its crosstown
rival USC.)
For me, an author of books about businesses that provide great customer and
employee experiences, such as the Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle, Starbucks
Coffee and Tea Company, and the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, UCLA Health System
seemed an unlikely subject for a book. Suffice it to say that my experiences
with the UCLA leadership convinced me that these lessons needed to be told. In
fact, the profits from this book will be donated to Operation Mend (more on this
program in Chapter 11) in support of UCLA Health System's overall
Are you ready to learn from one of America's top healthcare systems, owned by 30
million citizens of California, with 4 hospitals; more than 75 clinics; in
excess of 80,000 inpatient hospital contacts; 1,000,000 clinic visits annually;
1,500 physicians; 1,500 residents and fellows; 3,500 nurses, therapists,
technologists, and support personnel; 1,000 volunteers; 120 physicians cited in
the "Best Doctors in America" poll; and a world-renowned medical school that is
among the top 10 in the nation in medical-research funding, the David Geffen
School of Medicine at UCLA? If so, your lessons are about to begin. But let's
first examine UCLA Health System's humble start and rapid ascent to the top tier
of medical excellence.

Traditionally, centers of medical excellence were found in the northeastern and
Great Lakes regions of the United States, with highly revered institutions such
as Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland, and the Mayo Clinic in Rochester,
Minnesota. As World War II came to a close, however, a group of physicians began
pressuring the University of California to create a premier medical center in
southern California. In response to these influential physicians, the University
of California Board of Regents voted in 1945 to appropriate $7 million to fund a
medical school at UCLA.
In 1947, Stafford L. Warren, a professor from the University of Rochester
Medical School in New York, was appointed as the UCLA medical school's first
dean. Picking a handful of exceptional faculty leaders from the University of
Rochester and Johns Hopkins, UCLA School of Medicine began without a hospital or
advanced research facilities. Scientists instead worked in temporary Quonset
huts in distant locations around the campus. As construction of the new medical
center began in 1951, the first UCLA School of Medicine class was being
admitted. Fifteen faculty members provided courses to 28 students—26 men
and 2 women—who attended classes in a reception lounge of an old religious
conference building.
In 1950, just prior to the beginning of construction on the medical center
building, a Los Angeles Times reporter called it "one of the greatest
medical meccas in the world." Newspaper reports indicated that the medical
center would "combine a complete undergraduate medical school, a fully equipped
and staffed hospital and the most advanced research facilities possible." In the
article, Dean Stafford Warren remarked that the medical campus would be "the
first structure of its size and nature to be specifically designed for the
Atomic Age with operating rooms and radiology department built where they serve
both the flow of function and, incidentally, protection against disaster."
That protection from disaster served the UCLA medical complex well from its
opening in 1955 until 1994, when the main medical building experienced interior
structural damage as a result of the Northridge earthquake. Given concerns for
patient safety in the context of earthquake risks, the California legislature
amended existing legislation and required all hospitals to house their acute-and
intensive-care units in earthquake-safe buildings by 2008. As a result of that
legislation, the "medical mecca" of the 1950s gave way to the Ronald Reagan UCLA
Medical Center (RRUCLA).

The Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center is named after the former U.S. president
and California governor. Including state-of-the-art equipment purchases, the
construction costs exceeded $1 billion. Funding sources included more than $300
million in private donations, including $150 million in the name of President
Reagan; $432 million in federal earthquake relief funds; and $44 million in
California state contributions. The 10-story building, with more than a million
square feet, has 520 private patient rooms and employs 1,500 full-time
physicians and more than 2,500 support staff. The building, which opened to
patients in June 2008, is constructed to withstand an 8.0 magnitude earthquake
and was one of the first buildings in California created to meet the state's
elevated seismic standards.
The Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA occupies a 90-bed unit in the Ronald Reagan
UCLA Medical Center. Similarly, the medical center houses the Stewart and Lynda
Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital at UCLA, a 74-bed independently accredited and
licensed hospital.
In addition to the hospitals housed in the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center on
UCLA's Westwood, California, campus, UCLA Health System also owns and operates
the 271-bed acute-care Santa Monica–UCLA Medical Center and Orthopaedic
Hospital in the neighboring community of Santa Monica. The Santa Monica hospital
has had a presence in its community since 1926 and was acquired in 1995. Much
like the Ronald Reagan UCLA campus, the Santa Monica–UCLA Medical Center
has been modernized to the highest technology standards and serves