Ghaferi sets UMMG on a transformative path

January 26, 2022  //  FOUND IN: Strategy & Leadership, ,
A conversation with Amir Ghaferi, M.D., M.S., chief clinical officer, U-M Medical Group

Last year, Amir Ghaferi, M.D., M.S., became chief clinical officer for the U-M Medical Group. In his role, he oversees clinical strategy and operations for the medical group and ambulatory care.

Recently, Headlines caught up with Ghaferi to learn about his career, what challenges and opportunities lie ahead for UMMG, and how he reflects and recharges in his personal life.

Here’s what he had to say:

Q: What are you most excited about as you take on this new role with UMMG?

AG: I am most excited about the endless possibilities to innovate and help lead our medical group into the future. COVID-19 has revealed how vulnerable the health care industry is to change and its need for structural and technological transformation — a path we had started on prior to the pandemic and has been accelerated during the last two years.

Several areas of focus for us include improving equitable access by empowering our patients through innovative technology and services, enhanced interoperability and data sharing to accelerate quality and safety improvements, and increased attention to preventive care and population health as our patients’ ages and needs evolve. These are prime examples of how we will continue to build our BASE moving forward.

The best part is the ability to collaborate and innovate with our talented faculty and staff.

Q: What opportunities exist within UMMG?

AG: We are in a unique period in our history where we have weathered — and continue to weather — a pandemic; reimagined the organization of our clinical enterprise; continue to train the best and brightest students and house officers; and push the envelope in our academic endeavors. UMMG represents the entirety of our faculty and our ambulatory care services’ health care providers and support staff. There are innumerable possibilities that start with our continued transformation into an integrated health care delivery system that sees no boundaries between our world-class inpatient hospitals, our amazingly talented and nimble ambulatory care teams, and the patient’s home with our hospital care at home initiatives. Capitalizing on the rich history and innovative spirit of our organization will help us lead the cultural revolution in health care.

Q: What advice would you give providers and staff dealing with burnout as we continue to fight this pandemic?

AG: Unfortunately, I do not think anyone has the right answer. What I can say is this: we are in it together. How each of us copes with the many challenges before us and the support we each need are very different.  

Something we can all do as part of the Michigan Medicine community is to listen and share more with one another. We are social creatures and value personal interactions that allow us to express our feelings — whether of joy or despair — and create valuable connections through our shared experiences. We have seen our teams rise to the challenge day after day. While we seem to always find a way, we cannot stop acknowledging the immense and extraordinary work our teams are doing.

I would encourage everyone to take a moment each day to give each other space, offer a listening ear or simply learn something new about one another. I am also here to listen and will always be supportive of our teams as the backbone of our organization.  

Q: What inspires you to be a physician and a leader at Michigan Medicine?

AG: We learned a lot about our teams and ourselves during this challenging period as we grappled and continue to grapple with the realities and unknowns of the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps most striking was the immediate sense of duty we all felt in March 2020 and the ensuing months. COVID-19 had a major impact on all of us and not just as health care professionals, but as citizens and community members. The pandemic has unfortunately disproportionately impacted some members of our professional and personal community. For example, women bearing the undue burden of a society still fraught with gender inequity; minorities struggling with the realities of systemic racism; and young professionals seeking to establish their careers in an uncertain world. We continue to ask more of our health care system — both here and across the country — despite the challenges I outlined.

Bearing witness and personally being a part of how our teams rallied to care for thousands of patients while supporting one another day in and day out is the most inspiring part of being a member of the Michigan Medicine family. I am truly humbled by the opportunity afforded to me in this role and promise to listen, share, and walk alongside you.

Q: What do you do to disconnect from work and recharge?

AG: I am an avid Peloton member and have grown to love both cycling and running. I use the time on the bike or treadmill to clear my head and reflect on work and life in general. I started with the bike about three years ago and it has been life-changing…of course the competitive aspect of the Peloton platform can be fun and engaging too!

Q: Do you have any other hobbies?

AG: Basically anything that involves spending time with my family. Growing up, martial arts were my passion and I practiced Hapkido for nearly 20 years. It taught me so much about self-discipline, empathy and perseverance. I would not be where I am today without it. I now live vicariously through my children who are rising in the ranks of Isshin-ryu karate and learning many of the same lessons.

Q: Do you have a favorite book? Podcast? Television show?

AG: Well, given my passion for martial arts, I am addicted to Cobra Kai. I was able to enjoy the original Karate Kid series while growing up and now love watching my kids get so excited about Cobra Kai. It also helps that I love the 80s throwbacks in the show!