Buckeye Howell: Show him the patience

Because Ed Howell has loaded his McKim Hall office with sports memorabilia, one gets the sense that his high school coaching days are never far from his mind. But if you ask, the CEO of UVA's Medical Center describes himself as an educator. Only now it's on a much larger scale than his days of teaching high school biology.

In a job he likes because no two days are alike, here's a typical one:

Maybe he'll focus on the strategies needed to train a neurosurgeon 10 to 12 years down the road.

Maybe he'll look at the buildings needed for the next 25 years as the Medical Center embarks on a $200 million building spree that includes a Children's Hospital and new Cancer Center plunked down on West Main Street.

Perhaps he'll get a call that the hospital is full, while he's juggling a Korean visitor inquiring about best practices at one of the nation's top 100 hospitals.

It may be the day he indulges his educational urges and team-teaches a class in public health policy with Med School Dean Tim Garson. "I know of no other place where the dean of medicine and the CEO do that," Howell says.

There could be a question from Washington about the National Institutes of Health, because he's the chair of its advisory board for clinical research.

And most assuredly, there will be an irate doctor or nurse demanding his attention. Or one of the Medical Center's 680 residents and fellows.

When he first moved to town in February 2002, Howell was struck by how the community still referred to the UVA Medical Center, which just celebrated its 15th anniversary, as the "new" hospital. "Fifteen years is a long time in health care," he says.

His biggest job is to prepare for the growing demands of aging baby boomers in the midst of a physician shortage. For those of us who blinked, managed care's stranglehold is over, explains Howell. Patients can once again go directly to a specialist instead of that gatekeeper known as a primary care physician.

But while managed care ruled, he says, about half the would-be doctors became general practitioners. That means that petulant boomers now face a shortage of the specialists. "It's an undeniable fact," says Howell. "Older people use more health care– and more specialists."

Meanwhile, the forecast for the Medical Center: business looks good.

After over two years in Charlottesville, Howell is still amazed at seeing the mountains every day. "I never was a mountain person," he says. In Ohio, there are no sunset views of mountains.

Although he coached football, basketball, and track and field before embarking on his career in hospital administration, Howell has such a soft spot for women's basketball that he once took the Medical Center staff to a UVA women's basketball game.

Here's one other thing UVA's top Ohio State fan makes clear: the University of Michigan is not his favorite school.

Age: 55

What brought you here? Position at UVA

What's worst about living here? Trying to make new friends while taking on a challenging job

Favorite hangout? Don't have one– sports club or golf course

Most overrated virtue? Aloofness

People would be surprised to know: That I enjoy writing short stories

What would you change about yourself? I'd try to be a little more patient or tolerant.

Proudest accomplishment? Perhaps that I may have made this world a little better place, especially through the young people I've helped educate

Your most annoying trait?: My persistence

Whom do you admire? My father

Favorite book? Emerson's essay, Conduct of Life

 What causes you to rant? People who are convinced they're more intelligent than they really are– especially about financial matters

21st-century pro? Learning what we don't yet know, especially in medicine and the life sciences

21st-century con? The potential for "Big Brother" to become a reality

What do you drive? BMW

Current disc in the car: Sheryl Crow Live

Next journey: Washington, DC. I seem to be making that trip a lot lately.

What's the most trouble you've ever gotten in? Hard to say

What do you regret? Not going to Princeton

Favorite comfort food: Pizza

What's always in your refrigerator? No clue

Must-see TV: West Wing

Favorite cartoon: Does Shrek count?

Describe a perfect day. A day on the island

Walter Mitty fantasy: Being a world-renowned novelist

Who'd play you in the movie? Dan Ackroyd

Most embarrassing moment? Now that covers a lot of territory. Perhaps my surprise 32nd birthday party.

Best advice you ever got? "It's better to be respected than liked."

Favorite bumper sticker? Directions to Ann Arbor: North till you smell it...West till you step on it.

Ed Howell