Trading places

The chief executive officers at Tampa General Hospital (TGH) and USF Health exchanged leadership roles earlier this month in an effort to repair the bridges burnt by past leadership. 

Dr. Charles Lockwood, dean of the Morsani College of Medicine and vice president of USF Health, takes the title of TGH executive vice president and chief academic officer. TGH CEO Jim Burkhart takes the title of senior associate dean at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine 

“It’s a moment of time that’s been reached that requires greater levels of collaboration with a nice mix of personalities,” Lockwood said. “I like Jim very much, personally, and I’d like to think he’d say the same about me.” 

Both Lockwood and Burkhart took the helm of their respective organizations after conflicts between USF and TGH were reported in a 2013 Tampa Bay Times article. In the article, letters were published revealing differences between the organizations’ management. 

Dr. Stephen Klasko, the former dean of USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, wanted to partner with Lakeland Regional Medical Center to create a residency program, which would potentially draw USF residents away from TGH. 

Meanwhile, TGH changed its psychiatric services to no longer treat psychiatric patients involuntarily committed under the Baker Act, risking USF’s medical school accreditation. 

Lockwood said the principal source of conflict was likely Klasko’s desire to build his own hospital on USF Tampa’s campus. 

“It seemed like those types of initiatives were at odds with the best working relationship possible,” Burkhart said. “We’re not going to do that, we’re going to sit down in a room and know what the other is doing and pull together.”

Lockwood and Burkhart will act as ambassadors to communicate realistic collaborations between the two organizations.

“Part of the job is advocating for USF,” Lockwood said. “Part of it is putting myself in (TGH’s) shoes and understanding their pressures.”

Burkhart said the cooperative relationship benefits the Tampa community and USF, which currently supplies 60 percent of TGH physicians.

“Having us pulling in the same direction versus pulling in the opposite, as some perceived, will make the community feel we’re spending health care resources more carefully,” Burkhart said. 

Already, Lockwood said, USF and TGH are consolidating outpatient records to provide more efficient health care to the community. 

“This is designed to facilitate a much more collegial, collaborative and synergistic relationship,” he said. 

The cooperation is possible, Lockwood said, because his philosophy on where medicine should go is different than his predecessor, who saw an opportunity for profit in opening a hospital. 

An all-encompassing monthly insurance fee will likely replace the current model that makes patients pay for services after each visit. Whether a procedure is performed or not, such as a surgery or a lab test, the hospital won’t receive extra money.

“TGH is an outstanding hospital with nationally-ranked programs,” he said. “Why would I want to hurt them or try to build a competitive program that would make us both weaker?”

Burkhart said the partnership doesn’t mean TGH and USF will always agree, but understanding one another’s goals and opinions is vital to a healthy friendship.

“There’s a symbolism of showing that we are connected,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed working with the dean.”

Lockwood said the partnership began back in May when the two new leaders extended olive branches to set an example for Tampa’s health community. 

“It’s kind of like any friendship: it started with little interactions,” he said. “I might credit Jim. Jim might credit me. It was very much a partnership.”