VITALS: Akram Boutros

Three things can – and often do – sabotage leaders, says Akram Boutros, M.D., president and CEO of MetroHealth in Cleveland.

Thursday, Jan. 14, on NEOMED’s VITALS: Visionary Health Leadership in Action speaker series, Dr. Boutros laid out those three dangers:

  • Mission creep 
  • Thinking too much about yourself and comparing yourself or your organization with others
  • Avoiding risk

In his 17-minute presentation, introduced by President Langell, the veteran leader explained further. 

Once an organization clearly establishes its mission, that mission should serve as a litmus test for any initiative suggested, said Dr. Boutros. For example, he posited, let’s say a group of physicians request an expensive piece of equipment in the next year’s budget. At MetroHealth, he said, leaders would respond by asking how many people the equipment will serve, to determine the return on investment compared with other ways the funds might be spent. In reviewing the budget, Dr. Boutros would also ask himself if another provider (hospital) were already doing a good job providing the service – and if the equipment expenditure best served their mission. 

Dr. Boutros demonstrated that he has no qualms about crediting his competitors on their achievements. With the Cleveland Clinic already doing a great job providing cardiovascular care, there was no reason for MetroHealth to try to compete in that specialty, he said. 

Thinking too much about ourselves and following the crowd “like lemmings” gets a leader nowhere, said Dr. Boutros. When he determined that primary care and preventive care were missing from the Cleveland health care market, he steered MetroHealth in that direction, despite the financial risk.


Monica Robins, senior health correspondent for WKYC-TV, moderated a question-and-answer session following Dr. Boutros’ comments. Topics ranged from immunizations to how the donor process works. 

VITALS webinars are free and open to the public, with Continuing Education credit available. Each speaker has the opportunity to speak and invite discussion on any of the  VITALS topics: value-based, innovation, technology, advocacy, leadership and service. 

The next VITALS speaker is Toyin Ajayi, M.D., chief health officer and co-founder of CityBlock Health in Brooklyn, New York, at 5 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 4. 

Register for the VITALS Zoom webinar with Toyin Ajayi, M.D.

Watch Dr. Boutros' VITALS presentation.

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