Collaborating for care--A conversation with new UTMB Health System CEO Dr. Tim Harlin

Sep 17, 2019, 19:34 PM by Jessica Wyble

image of tim harlin in front of jennie sealy hospital SEE EVERYTHING THROUGH THE EYES OF A PATIENT—that’s the mindset and motto Dr. Tim Harlin is using to approach his job of leading the UTMB Health System as its new executive vice president and chief executive officer. 

Appointed as UTMB’s EVP and CEO of the Health System, Harlin officially assumed his role on Sept. 1, although he’s been in Galveston since the middle of July taking notes and strategizing just how he’ll put that motto into motion. 

An experienced leader in the health care field for nearly 30 years, Harlin arrived at UTMB not only well aware of the legacy and standard of Best Care work established at the institution, but also mindful of and excited about the opportunities to grow and expand upon that precedent as UTMB vies to be recognized for the third consecutive year in the 2019 Vizient Quality and Accountability Study. 

“Becoming a five-star academic health center and maintaining that level of care for two years in a row is a stunning accomplishment by UTMB that was noticed across the industry,” says Harlin, who, prior to this role, worked as the chief operating and acceleration officer at Denver Health and Hospital Authority in Colorado. “That reputation and the opportunity to keep the momentum going is definitely something that attracted me to this role and the work that comes with it.” 

When speaking about the task before him, Harlin is frank about the fact that collaboration and innovation will be key in continuing to propel UTMB to the forefront of the ever-changing industry. 

“We all need to come together to chart the right course,” he says. “Across professions, across mission areas, we all have to collaborate so that no matter where a patient enters our system, they can expect the same level of service, competency and expertise.” 

This approach to health care is an emerging one that Harlin has seen evolve firsthand in his career. 

“I look back over the last 20 years and realize just how siloed it all was. That just won’t work in today’s environment, because it is all too complex and moving too quickly now,” he says. “We all have to not only work at the top of our licenses but work to understand and respect each other and the perspectives we bring to the table.” 

That reality is why initiatives like UTMB’s new Health Education Center, which promotes interdisciplinary learning, are so critical and why Dr. Harlin is already working so closely with the leader of UTMB’s Academic Enterpise, Dr. Charles Mouton, executive vice president, provost and dean of the School of Medicine, to ensure the students of today are ready to provide the type of care that’ll be needed tomorrow. 

In addition to banding together internally, Harlin touches on the importance of continued collaborations with our external partners. 

“We shouldn’t try to be all things to all people – that’s a mindset that is trending for lots of institutions across the industry, but it is expensive and unsustainable. Rather, in order to maintain our mission and continue to serve patients far into the future, we need to identify partners who share our values and complement our services," says Harlin. "It is through strategic partnerships that we can reduce the costs and increase the benefit to the patients we serve. I look at the collaboration with MD Anderson as an important first step down a path we need to further explore. ” 

Encouraged by the compassionate spirit and can-do attitude of UTMB’s workforce, as well as the geographical breadth of the UTMB system of care, Harlin is excited about the future of the institution. 

“We are a far-reaching entity and it’s impressive,” he says, reflecting on a tour he took of UTMB locations shortly after arriving in Texas earlier this summer. 

Despite the ever-changing rules, regulations, policies and protocols that come with the world of health care, Harlin offers a reminder that there’s one constant and that’s UTMB’s mission. 

“At the end of the day, the mission doesn’t change,” he says. “But how you sustain it will require innovation and everybody across this entire organization locking arms toward that common goal.” 

To learn more about Dr. Harlin’s breadth of experience, visit https://www. utmb.edu/newsroom/article12073.aspx