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Q&A with Dr. Ed Sabanegh, president of the main campus and regional hospital system, Cleveland Clinic

by Sean Ruck, Contributing Editor | August 18, 2020
Dr. Ed Sabanegh
From the August 2020 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

This month, HealthCare Business News spoke with Dr. Ed Sabanegh, president of the Main Campus and Regional Hospital System for Cleveland Clinic, to learn about his background and what the organization is focusing on in these unprecedented times.

HCB News: Who or what inspired you to follow a career in healthcare?

Dr. Ed Sabanegh: I have long believed that working in healthcare is a calling. No one in my family had any medical background. Along the way in high school and early college, I became fascinated with the privilege to help people, seeing medicine as a crossroad between science and humanity. I was a science-focused engineering student, but I loved the humanity aspects of medicine. I started volunteering as an orderly in college at our local hospital. I saw people at their most vulnerable, and I was very attracted to the concept that you could apply science to improve someone’s life.

HCB News: What was the career path that led to being the president of Cleveland Clinic’s main campus hospital?
ES: I was in the air force for 21 years. I started as a urologic surgeon with a busy clinical practice. During my time in the air force, I moved through the leadership structure and was privileged to lead large medical teams culminating as the chief operating officer of the largest Air Force hospital. I think the key fundamental for the start of my journey was to work hard to become a good clinician. Learn the skills of your field. As you progress into leadership, learn how to listen and communicate with people and understand their needs.

After serving in the Air Force, I was chosen to be department chair of urology at Cleveland Clinic. I had the fantastic fortune to work with a great team, and together we built a department that moved to the top of the national rankings. Together we worked to develop clinical service lines, and manage financials of an organization. I was then offered the opportunity to lead our hospital and ambulatory system here in Ohio encompassing 12 hospitals and almost 200 outpatient locations with over 52,000 caregivers. It has been a terrific journey and I continue to learn new things every day.

HCB News: Do you feel your military experience and its regimented structure has benefited you in the hospital setting?
ES: While many think of the military as an environment where direct orders are required, in the vast majority of situations, it is the same leadership style that you need to be successful in civilian settings. That involves working well with teams, understanding how to listen, how to communicate a vision, how to set strategic course with a group, and how to inspire them. All of those are skills that parlay well into successful leadership in civilian healthcare.

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