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New Vice Chair for Clinical Operations: Richard K.J. Brown, MD

By Michael Mozdy

Our mission as an academic medical center is to achieve excellence in three areas: clinical care, research, and education. To this end, the Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences provides strategic attention and leadership in each area.

Recently, University of Utah Health expanded as a clinical system and our department hired over 20 new faculty members, growing our full-time clinical faculty membership 150% over 5 years. Our clinical environment is complex: we are embedded in nearly every facility and service line across the health system. To best meet the diverse needs of our clinical operations, we are happy to announce that we have hired Dr. Richard K.J. Brown to serve as Vice Chair for Clinical Operations after an extensive national search.

Dr. Brown comes to us after 16 years at another academic medical center, the University of Michigan, but he also brings with him 18 years of previous private experience. In private practice, he served as a Chief of a group and also Director of Nuclear Medicine.  “I believe that Rich’s well-rounded perspective and strong experience from both academic medicine and private practice are a real asset for us as we seek to be patient-centered and innovative in our clinical work,” says Satoshi Minoshima, MD, PhD, the Anne G. Osborn Chair of Radiology and Imaging Sciences. “Plus, he’s a genuinely nice guy,” he adds with a laugh.

Brown received many awards at the University of Michigan for his work in imaging and his quality initiatives. There, he served as the Clinical Director of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular imaging and served as the editor of the Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging section of RadioGraphics. What’s more, he has authored 80 peer-reviewed publications.

Upon accepting the position at the University of Michigan, Brown was presented with the challenge of a significant backlog of patients waiting for PET scans “I actually love when people complain to me,” he explains, “Because it means they respect me enough to think I can make a change for the better.” Despite skepticism that the backlog dilemma could be solved, he dug into the issue. After studying the mix of patients who were being scanned, he soon realized that many patients were routine and could be flexible in terms of scheduling. He requested that the team keep a few slots open each week to allow for emergent cases to be fit in. With just this small change, they found that their backlog problem was improved to the satisfaction of both patients and the referring physicians.

It is this type of open thinking about clinical operations that Minoshima is excited about. Brown’s to-do list includes working within the hospital environments to continue our department’s close enmeshment with other service lines as well as expanding the services we offer at our diverse neighborhood health centers ranging from South Jordan to Farmington to Park City. This business extension of the varied diagnostic and treatment tools offered by Radiology and Imaging Sciences is a top priority. One of Dr. Brown’s first observation was that we have an extraordinary team-oriented culture at the University of Utah. On the faculty side, there are extremely talented section chiefs as partners and on the hospitals and clinics side, he has dedicated administrators and service line directors who are keen to help make improvements and steps towards ever-improving quality and efficiency. Working well with others is one of his strengths. “You have to be in touch with patients, colleagues, and your staff to understand their ideas to help solve problems,” he says. “Everyone’s a problem solver, you have to give them the space to do that.”

Brown is quick to point out that it’s not entirely about the bottom line. “Our ‘business’ is to care for patients,” he asserts. One of the things that makes him excited to be at the University of Utah is the variety of the assets on our campus that can be leveraged for an exceptional patient experience. Take for example our world-renowned computer science program and the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute, not to mention the excellent research and tools in the other Colleges in the Health Sciences. For someone open to new ideas like Brown, the assets available at the University of Utah create endless opportunities to enhance the patient experience. “I relish the ability to be at an institution that has so many assets throughout campus and most importantly in the Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences,” he says. “We have lots of opportunities for collaboration and innovation.”

Brown notes that one of the most exciting aspects of the University of Utah Health System is their pioneering work in the field of quality improvement. For instance, our Associate Chief Medical Quality Officer, Yoshimi Anzai, MD, successfully made us only one of 17 organizations in the USA to be selected as a Provider Led Entity by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS). This allows us to create our own appropriate use criteria for our diagnostic scans. This honor was only bestowed on the highest caliber institutions like Johns Hopkins, Massachusetts General, and the University of Utah.

Minoshima is happy to have him on board: “Rich is such a quick learner and high-level thinker. We’re lucky to have him in our outstanding team of faculty and staff.”

For his part, Brown relates, “It truly is an honor to be a part of the team here at the University of Utah.”