The University Record, July 9, 1996

Forsyth to leave Medical Center, will head Iowa health service firm

By Michael Harrison
Medical Center Public Relations

John D. Forsyth, president and chief executive officer of the U-M Health System, has been appointed president and CEO of ISAD Health Services Corp., which does business as Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa, Blue Cross of South Dakota and six subsidiaries, and is the leading health insurer in those two states.

The announcement was made June 28 by Bob J. Slavens, chair of the IASD Board of Directors. Forsyth will assume his new duties in mid-August.

"It is an exciting and challenging opportunity, and one of the few jobs that could have drawn me away from the UMHS," Forsyth says. "The decision to move to Iowa was difficult in light of the many years my wife and I have spent in the University and Ann Arbor. Leaving is truly akin to moving away from a family."

While here, Forsyth led the economic transformation that built reserves from zero to more than $700 million in 10 years, and the Medical Center became one of a handful in the country to be rated AA by Standard & Poor's.

He instituted cost-efficiency programs that reduced costs by more than $150 million during the past 10 years and that are slated to reduce another $200 million by the year 2000.

At the same time, Forsyth's administration developed and implemented a nationally recognized total quality improvement program and an employee empowerment program.

"It has been a great privilege to serve the U-M for the past 26 years," Forsyth says. "It has been particularly gratifying to have been able to participate in the most dramatic transformation of any university hospital in the country. From my perspective, no academic health system in the nation is better positioned to deal with the increasingly market-driven environment of health care delivery.

"The U-M Health System," he continues, "has the best human resources---both staff and physicians---the best physical facilities, the most reserves with one of the highest bond ratings, is a national model for the integration of the physician practice revenues with the hospitals, and has a highly successful HMO plan---M-CARE. Most importantly, we provide exceptional health care to the residents of the state of Michigan and throughout the region.

"Many people have worked very hard to bring these accomplishments about, and I have been extremely fortunate to have served with some outstanding and committed individuals," Forsyth adds.

Commenting on his move to Iowa, former President James J. Duderstadt calls Forsyth "the strongest, most capable academic health care director in the country."

"It has been a pleasure to work with John Forsyth during my years as president. John possesses great leadership skills, with an understanding of finance that has been invaluable to the University.

"In the last decade," Duderstadt says, "John led the University of Michigan Health System during a period of great change. Because of his foresight, we offer the people of Michigan and the entire Midwest world class health care."

Duderstadt said plans for the appointment of an interim successor and a search for a permanent successor will be announced in the coming weeks.

"We want to ensure continuity during this time of change so that the Health System thrives as it did under John's tenure," he says.

Farris W. Womack, executive vice president and chief financial officer, says Forsyth's departure "is a huge loss for the University of Michigan."

"Thanks to his leadership, we are the preeminent academic health center in the Midwest. His energy, vision and commitment have put us on sound financial footing, even as we face the rapid pace of change in health care," Womack says. "It is no wonder that he is one of the most sought-after health care executives in the United States.

"On a personal level, I have counted on John's wisdom and counsel as a senior colleague, and I will miss his financial acumen as well as his friendship."

Forsyth said that while work in creating a cost-effective, integrated delivery system for the U-M Health System is not complete, "I have been pleased to be part of getting us pointed in the right direction."

"I know that over time with the talents, resources and commitment to excellence present at the UMHS, our clinical enterprise will prevail in its position as one of the nation's premier academic medical centers. I will always be proud to have played a part in that success," Forsyth says.

Forsyth, 49, joined the U-M in 1970 and held many management positions through 1976. In 1976_83 he was director of Medical Center Human Resources, assistant director for staff and union relations and policy development, and acting associate hospital director. He was promoted to chief operating officer of the U-M Hospitals in 1983 and executive director of the Hospitals in 1985.

This past February, the Board of Regents authorized the creation of the U-M Health System, naming Forsyth president and CEO. The Health System consists of seven hospitals; the 110 outpatient clinics at the A. Alfred Taubman Health Care Center; a growing network of community-based health centers and practices; M-CARE, the
U-M's health maintenance organization; the Clinical Delivery System, which encompasses the financial, operational and strategic aspects of providing care; and the Michigan Health Corp., the corporate arm that covers potential new business, acquisitions and joint ventures.

"John is a leader in his industry and has a proven track record of improving the financial and operational health of the organization, while paying close attention to the needs of the hospitals' patients," says former Iowa Gov. Robert D. Ray, whom Forsyth is succeeding as president and CEO of IASD. "I know that John will take excellent care of the company and our customers."