Friday, October 28, 2011

My Ride

More than three years ago I began two projects, one personal and one professional. I started full-time work as ACPE’s first physician CEO, and I began restoring an old Toyota Land Cruiser. As my last day at ACPE approaches, I’m thinking about the similarities between those projects.

Both ACPE (1975) and the old Cruiser (1979) were born about the same time. In geologic time, both came into existence before Mt. Saint Helens erupted. In political history, both were new during the first oil crisis in the US in 1979.

The craftsmen and women who built these legendary entities had pride and vision for the future. The core components of each (physician leadership education; classic 4WD mechanical components and reliability) deserved to be retained. But after more than 30 years of change and progress, each required some remodeling to needs of today.

For the Cruiser, my son and I found a diesel engine to replace the old, inefficient gasoline engine, and decided to repair a few other things that needed attention. Little did we know that a LOT more parts needed an upgrade. The short version of the restoration is the cover story in the Winter Edition 2011 of the magazine 4x4 Garage.

Brake lines needed to be replaced. Damage from boulders hidden under layers of bondo required new sheet metal and welding. The transmission frequently popped out of first gear on steep downhill grades.

We found a Toyota diesel mated to a more modern 5-speed transmission from Australia. That nearly tripled the gas mileage, and the added turbo now makes for a quick old 4 x 4! We found a canvas top made only in Pakistan (by a company owned by Ehsan - a physician) that’s an exact replica of the original Toyota soft top. We had help from several people across the globe with far more expertise than either of us. We shared our mistakes, and admitted what we didn’t know. Actually, it was my son who did most of that on his build thread on the online forum IH8Mud.

The venture into social media meant the world was able to see what was happening in my New Mexico mountain shop. Those connections brought us into contact with many interesting, courageous and creative people.

Meanwhile, at ACPE, we began the process of imagining what a more modern College might look like for physicians with a passion for learning, leading, and innovating. We got rid of some old traditions, such as tuxedos and evening gowns for the Induction Ceremony. We switched from paper ballots to on-line voting for ACPE Board candidates. We made some changes to our board: adding ex-officio members with younger and different perspectives.

Our board, blessed with some very strong Chairs during my tenure, grappled with what author Jim Collins called the Hedgehog Concept: What are we passionate about? What can we be the best in the world at? What drives our economic engine?

On the day I signed my contract to become CEO, Lehman Brothers collapsed. The early months of the recession forced us to develop a more efficient engine. That modification continues to get high miles per gallon since the recession has eased, and will serve the College well in the years to come. Dr. Peter Angood, who will begin on November 15, will be able to install the turbo charger for the next phase at ACPE, and maybe change the sheet metal for the next model years!

Your staff and I had help from many of you in this “resto-mod”. Through the Board Task Forces, expanded networks, and feedback on surveys, we found new curriculum, faculty, and topics that led to lively sessions, and even a new certificate program (HIT).

The Physician Executive Journal of Medical Management became PEJ. The topic of physician leadership made it to the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and NPR, indicating greater relevance for the College and its members.

I’m going to write one more blog for ACPE before I leave for the next phase of my life after our Board meeting at the Fall Institute in Scottsdale next week. For those of you who find yourself in a CEO role someday, I want to share some of the important lessons I learned about the unique challenges inherent in “the corner office” – even though there are no corner offices in the cylindrical building that houses ACPE headquarters here in Tampa.

If you see the sky blue Cruiser with the Pakistani soft top somewhere in the U.S. over these next few years, wave to me and smile.


  1. I am a Family Physician and working on my CPE. I turned 50 this weekend and got myself a scooter (my ride). I enjoy reading your blog.

  2. Barry, how did you order the Pakistani soft top?

  3. Good choice in restoring the Land Cruisers. Those vehicles are very rugged and reliable - easy to maintain and repair. It's fun to drive an all-manual Land Cruiser, even in 2011.

  4. From Pakistan to Australia – that’s pretty wide for a canvass research, wasn’t it? What I like about this FWD SUV is its retro style. Their appearance is perfect for a rough road trip adventure. Before I forget, how’s your Cruiser doing and where in the U.S. are you residing by now? If you don’t mind, I’d like to see your vehicle up-close and personal.

  5. I couldn't agree more, Land Cruisers are very reliable for off-road expeditions, most especially if it's Toyota! Anyway, we all know that your 4WD is getting old, and repairs could be troublesome. I would suggest you to take care of it and don’t take it out on long journeys. Finally, drive safely!

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