Change is coming at the health-care system at a breakneck pace, and in Maine the Daniel Hanley Center for Health Leadership is helping steer the course through these turbulent and fast-moving waters. On Monday night, 220 people gathered for a dinner hosted by the center and held at the Marriott Sable Oaks in South Portland. The event’s guest of honor was Dr. Bob McAfee, a well-known and greatly respected figure in Maine medicine.

Dr. McAfee took home the Hanley Leadership Award, but also gained a more lasting recognition. Jim Harnar, the center’s executive director, announced that physicians participating in a new advanced leadership course, delivered in conjunction with the Heller School at Brandeis University, will be known as McAfee Fellows.

Over the course of five years, 150 physicians will be trained as McAfee Fellows. The first crop of fellows includes 34 doctors from all corners of the state.

“I want to thank you for this immense honor,” Dr. McAfee told the crowd. He said his work over the years wouldn’t have been possible without the support of his wife, Doris, with whom he’ll celebrate his 55th wedding anniversary next month.

“To work with and admire Dan Hanley as I have over the years makes this award all the more important,” Dr. McAfee said.

The cocktail reception only lasted for 45 minutes, but once we proceeded to dinner the party had the feel of a family banquet with lots of guests out of their seats and socializing with friends and colleagues at other tables.

Dinner offered a choice of salmon, chicken or vegetable lasagna. I enjoyed my vegetarian meal at a table filled with McAfee Fellows, including Dr. Jeff Aalberg of MaineHealth, Dr. Bill Kiley of Goodall Hospital, Dr. Regen Gallagher, chief medical officer of Cary Medical Center, Dr. Noah Nesin, medical director of Health Access Network, Dr. Joel Kase of Maine General, Dr. Guy Nuki, regional medical director of BlueWater Emergency Partners, Dr. Mike Rowland, the vice president of medical affairs at Franklin Memorial Hospital, Dr. Andy Hertler, medical director of MaineGeneral’s oncology department, and Dr. Connie Adler, a past recipient of the Hanley Leadership Award.

Topics at our table ranged from delivering babies to the nuances of human resource management. I also learned that when a surgeon shows off an iPhone photo during dinner, it helps to have a strong stomach because you won’t see his little baby or a cute puppy. Instead you’ll come face to face with internal organs.

During dessert we heard a keynote address from Dr. Thomas Lee, a professor at the Harvard Medical School and network president of Partners HealthCare System. Dr. Lee talked about a system his practice is using to create continuous improvement in patient care.

Catherine Ryder, executive director of Tri County Mental Health Services, is a graduate of the Hanley Center’s Health Leadership Development Program.

“The program really enhances your leadership skills,” Ryder told me. “They’re really looking for people to move strategies forward.”

“The creation of leadership in Maine among health-care professionals is really important,” Carolyn Wollen of the Betterment Fund told me. “Leadership is a set of skills and it’s knowing people.”

The Hanley Center provides participants with both, Wollen said. The Betterment Fund provides grant support to the Hanley Center and is currently funding an internship program with college students.

“The Hanley experience is transformative,” Dr. Lawrence Crystal told me.

He’s one of the McAfee Fellows and said he jumped at the chance to participate in this high-level course.

“The training is trying to transform health care in Maine by getting health-care leaders across Maine to connect … and solve Maine’s problems,” Dr. Crystal told me.

While change can be difficult, it’s not all negative, as Dr. Hertler told me.

“It’s challenging, but fascinating times,” Dr. Hertler said. “It’s exciting to be involved in the redesign of our health-care system. Where there are problems, there’s opportunity.”

 

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at:

akamila@pressherald.com

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila