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The Catalyst

President reflects on MUSC career

Dr. Greenberg says it’s time for a change, heads to The University of Texas System

By Ashley Barker
Public Relations

The first day as president of MUSC for Raymond S. Greenberg, M.D., Ph.D., was Jan. 1, 2000, the same day that many people around the world predicted Y2K doom.

Dr. Ray Greenberg, who has been president of MUSC since 2000, will step down at the end of August.
Dr. Ray Greenberg, who has been president of MUSC since 2000, will step down at the end of August.

“It was a big day for the hospital,” he said. “All the way down to the computer chips in things like IV pumps had to be checked. It was a non-event, but we were working hard to make sure there weren’t going to be any problems in any of our systems.”

Although he remembers having to deal with Y2K, the main priority for Greenberg was getting MUSC out of the “terrible financial situation” that it was in at the time.

The Balanced Budget Act was passed in 1997 but the MUSC budget cuts, which were much worse than the administration anticipated, didn’t have an impact until around the same time that Greenberg transitioned from provost to president.

“They lowered the reimbursements to hospitals for taking care of uninsured patients and also reduced the teaching funds that they give us,” he said.

His first two years in office were spent focusing on those fiscal challenges. He helped create and get legislation passed for the Medical University Hospital Authority to be exempt from some state rules that make it hard to compete in the marketplace. He also restructured parts of the organization and began a construction overhaul of the campus.

Construction 101

Dr. Greenberg joined members of the community and MUSC staff during the Oct. 12, 2007 dedication of Ashley River Tower. With the addition of ART, 650,000 square feet of clinical space was added to the campus.
Dr. Greenberg joined members of the community and MUSC staff during the Oct. 12, 2007 dedication of Ashley River Tower. With the addition of ART, 650,000 square feet of clinical space was added to the campus.

In his 13 years as president, Greenberg has been a part of many construction projects. Ashley River Tower, a 650,000-square-foot center for heart, vascular and digestive diseases was built; Charleston High School was renovated into a College of Health Professions facility; a new College of Dental Medicine was constructed with space for a dental faculty practice; five new research buildings were added and the NCI-designated Hollings Cancer Center was expanded.

Plans are also in place to build a new College of Pharmacy facility and renovations are in progress at the College of Nursing.

“The next hospital phase that we’ve talked about is a women and children’s hospital. The main thing slowing that down is how much additional debt service we can take on to build a new hospital. But that will be several years off,” Greenberg said. “I hope we’ve laid the foundation for someone else to come in and carry that ball across the goal line.”

Emphasis on collaborating

Greenberg also has put an emphasis on expanding collaborations with other universities, hospitals and organizations.

The MUSC College of Pharmacy teamed up with its counterpart at the University of South Carolina to create a South Carolina College of Pharmacy during his tenure, and a Bioengineering Alliance was developed with Clemson University so that engineers and clinicians could work side by side on both campuses.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley presents outgoing MUSC President Dr. Raymond Greenberg a proclamation declaring Aug. 9 as "Dr. Ray Greenberg Day."

Records can now be shared among area hospitals when a patient enters an emergency room thanks to the Carolina eHealth Alliance. The program has been in the works for nearly two years and required Greenberg to negotiate with leaders from Trident, Roper St. Francis, Summerville and East Cooper.

Because of the need for a large population of patients in order to do adequate research, the country’s first statewide research network called Health Sciences South Carolina was developed with a goal to transform the quality of health care, health information systems, the future workforce and patient outcomes. The network includes the state’s three research universities and four largest teaching hospitals.

During his time as the eighth president of MUSC, Greenberg has emphasized removing the geographic barrier for patients who want to receive quality care but aren’t in an urban center by implementing a telemedicine program. He said that approximately 4,000 stroke consultations have taken place with MUSC doctors and patients in other parts of the state, and more than 700 patients have received life-saving help without physically being in an MUSC facility.

“Probably the best developed part of that program is the stroke telemedicine program,” Greenberg said. “The idea is it links the stroke specialist at MUSC with the emergency room doctors in hospitals around the state, particularly those in rural parts of the state. With a stroke it’s really a race against the clock, just like with a heart attack. The blood isn’t getting to a part of the brain, and the longer it takes to restore it, the more damage can occur.”

Two past presidents

While dealing with the finances, construction, collaborations and the every day duties of being president, Greenberg tried to capture the best traits of his two mentors – Emory University President Emeritus James Laney, D.D., Ph.D., and MUSC President Emeritus James B. Edwards, DMD.

MUSC President Emeritus Dr. James B. Edwards, right, joins Drs. Ray Greenberg, left, James B. Edwards College of Dental Medicine dean Dr. John Sanders, and wife of James B. Edwards, Ann Edwards.
MUSC President Emeritus Dr. James B. Edwards, right, joins Dr. Ray Greenberg, left, James B. Edwards College of Dental Medicine dean Dr. John Sanders, and wife of James B. Edwards, Ann Edwards.

Laney, who served as president from 1977 until 1993, had a “strong moral compass,” according to Greenberg, who was the founding dean of the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory from 1990 to 1995.

“He was a person who I would characterize as being a great orator, somebody of the highest moral standards, an academician in every sense, a person who had a commanding presence and persona,” he said.

Edwards – a former governor of South Carolina, secretary of energy in the administration of U.S. President Ronald Reagan and MUSC president from 1982 to 1999 – had a much different style of leadership.

“I think the skill set that he brought to the job was that he seemingly knew everyone in South Carolina. He is a great politician with wonderful interpersonal skills,” Greenberg said. “He could relate to people from the highest levels of government and business to the every day person on the street.”

Edwards taught Greenberg that honest feedback, whether it was positive or negative, was critical.

“With Dr. Edwards, I learned how to relate to people, how to hire very good people and get out of their way,” he said. “He always believed in loyalty. That was very important to him, and I’ve come to understand how important that is in a job like this.”

Time for change

“Dr. Edwards was in this job for 17 years, and if that’s a point of reference, people may think of my nearly 14 years as not a long time,” Greenberg said. “If you look at people in these jobs nationally, they stay somewhere in the seven-to-10 year range. So I’ve been in this job a fairly long time.”

Dr. Greenberg sits with his former executive assistant Judy Holz.
Dr. Greenberg sits with his former executive assistant Judy Holz.

Greenberg explained that it’s a healthy thing, for the individual and the university, to have turnover.

“You bring in new energy when a person comes on the job, new excitement, new enthusiasm and new ideas,” he said. “I think I still have an idea or two, but it’s always good to have a different perspective. It’s always better to leave a year early than a year late.”

Now that the hospital is financially strong and the university is at a stable moment, Greenberg said it’s the right time for him to move on to his next position as executive vice chancellor for health affairs at The University of Texas System.

“If you look at where MUSC is from a financial point of view, we’re going to finish the year in as strong of a position as we have in as long as I can remember. The hospital has had a remarkable turnaround,” he said. “We’ll be close to a 3 percent operating margin this year, which is where we need to be going forward just to have enough operating cash to make the kind of investments that we need to make in the education and research missions. We’re at a good moment, a very stable moment for making a change.”

Texas, with a population of 25 million people and a system that includes six health universities, is the “logical next step.”

“I wasn’t out looking for a job. The timing was right. The presidents of the six health universities in The University of Texas System will report to me. My role will be to help support them by facilitating and coordinating new initiatives that can go across the institutions,” Greenberg said. “I can back off from the ‘front lines’ or the day-to-day management of activities on campus. The new position is much more strategic and thinking of the long-term vision. There will be six people in jobs like the MUSC presidency who will be reporting to me.”

Finding his successor

Dr. Mark Sothmann

While a search is under way for his replacement, Greenberg is confident in Mark S. Sothmann, Ph.D., who was unanimously appointed by the board of trustees on July 10 as interim president.

“It was my hope that the board would choose Dr. Sothmann for the interim position, because I’ve worked very closely with him for the past three years. I’ve had a chance to see how he operates and how he makes decisions and his style,” Greenberg said. “He’s a thoughtful, deliberate, patient person, and he weighs decisions very carefully. I’ve seen him work through some very sticky issues and do it in an incredibly skillful way. He doesn’t have ambitions to the position long term. His goal is clearly to get us to the next permanent president.”

Greenberg, who is the author of more than 150 scientific publications, believes that there will be national interest in his position and has given the board a suggested list of candidates. He believes that the new president should have vision and be able to look out on the horizon for direction.

“You’ve got to have strong financial skills in a job like this. While I say we’re in a stable position right now, there are clouds on the horizon. Virtually every funding source available to us has some level of pressure on it going forward,” Greenberg said. “When I came into office, we raised $16 or $17 million a year in gifts and pledges. Now we raise about $75 million. We need to be well over $100 million in a year. I think we’ll get there.”

In addition to being able to raise funds, his replacement will need to be able to relate well to political leaders throughout the state and country.

“If you haven’t been in a job like this, you’ve probably had limited exposure to the legislature. So more generally, I think you need someone who has good interpersonal skills because that’s what it really comes down to, how well you relate and communicate with people,” he said. “You’re often the spokesperson for the institution. Ideally, having some experience dealing with the media is important too.”

Farewell to Charleston

In the final days of his time as president, Greenberg has received many congratulatory and well-wishing notes from employees, students, patients and community members.

MUSC President Dr. Raymond S. Greenberg speaks during the 2013 commencement ceremony held on May 17 at The Citadel.
MUSC President Dr. Raymond S. Greenberg speaks during the 2013 commencement ceremony held on May 17 at The Citadel.

“It’s been an amazing privilege for me to be in this job and to represent everyone for the past almost 14 years. The people who work here are incredibly dedicated. I think they’re as good as any of their peers in any institution in the country,” he said. “We may not be as big as some, we may not be serving as large of a population as some, but we’re really second to none as far as the quality of what we do and the dedication that people have to this place.”

He said living as president of MUSC has been a daily educational experience.

“It’s really all about the people. It’s the lives that you, either directly or indirectly, interact with and hopefully benefit. The rest of it is pretty secondary,” he said.

It’s also safe to say that even though Greenberg is leaving MUSC, he will return to this city one day.

“Charleston has become my home. I used to think that Chapel Hill (N.C.) was my home,” Greenberg said. “But both my wife and I feel like we have very deep roots in the Charleston community now and have lots of friends here. I think our hope is to come back and retire here. You can’t get rid of us that quickly.”

All MUSC faculty, staff and students are invited to a farewell drop in to honor MUSC President Ray Greenberg, M.D., Ph.D., on Wednesday, Aug. 21 from 4:30 until 6:30 p.m. in the Colcock Hall lobby. RSVP to Susan Master at or 843-792-1924.

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August 14, 2013

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