First published in the Oct. 16 print issue of the Glendale News Press.
After holding the interim role since March, Dr. Armand Dorian was named as the new chief executive officer of USC Verdugo Hills Hospital this week and began — or rather, continued — the role immediately.
He now officially replaces Keith Hobbs, who departed the university’s medical system after five years to take the leading role at Torrance Memorial Medical Center. Dorian, who has been USC-VHH’s chief medical officer since 2018, is now the Glendale hospital’s first physician-leader and its first Armenian CEO. In an interview at the time, Hobbs described Dorian as his top choice for replacement, had he anything to say about it.
“To be able to always find a new chapter in your life that involves growth, opportunity and to be able to help people and affect them is always rewarding,” Dorian said in an interview this week. “It really is a great story. This is just a new chapter. The book is yet to be written. There’s a lot more to happen here.”
When he assumed the interim role, Dorian said that he was not necessarily thinking about taking it full time but rather was more interested in leading the ship forward alongside the team Hobbs had assembled in his five years. As the opportunity loomed, Dorian said the idea began to percolate more.
“My goal was to make sure that I would step up for the team,” he said. “There’s always that adage in sports — ‘Next man up’ — and that was my role. During my seven months in that role, that evolved; not only is the ship sailing fine, but how can I take it to the next level?”
That is likely to involve a search to take on Dorian’s continued role as “interim” CMO of the institution, which he joined in 2003 as an emergency room physician. He stressed that he expects to be methodical with this process, a luxury afforded by his leadership team’s inherent strength.
“My goal would be to bring another player to the team. In that role [as interim CMO], I’m basically filling in for myself, but I’m not the person to add more titles to my role,” he said, adding, “I want to bring in key team members. There are definitely people who are better than me at CMO, why not bring them into the team and make it better?”
Moving forward, USC-VHH expects to begin or complete a total of $20 million in upgrades or installations to the hospital, including a catheterization laboratory, or cath lab, currently under construction and a new ambulatory surgery center. These, in addition to other improvements made since Keck Medicine of USC acquired the facility, are part of a long-term plan to redefine the capabilities of a community hospital.
“We’re an academic community hospital, a hybrid. When you think about health care in the future, it’s one of those game changing positions for a hospital,” he said. “Now, the center is becoming more stratified. We’re going to start evolving into being a hub where, instead of having to drive downtown, to UCLA, to Cedars to get that high-level treatment, you can drive to Verdugo Hills. You add the tech with the world class doctors but you also add the intangibles of being a small setting with a personal touch.”
Selecting a medical doctor as the CEO is also a part of this puzzle, Dorian said, as Keck Medicine and other medical systems continue to appoint these physician-leaders in lieu of the business management types. Locally, Huntington Hospital in Pasadena is helmed by Dr. Lori Morgan, while Dr. Bernie Klein is CEO of Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills. Additionally, Jill Welton, a onetime nurse, is president of Glendale Memorial Hospital.
“If you look at the Mayo Clinic, the Cleveland Clinic, they have set a precedent that having physician leaders has proven to make higher quality health care systems,” Dorian said. “If you look at the top-ranking health systems in the country, most have physician leader integration. It’s been part of USC’s plan to do that.”
In a statement, Rod Hanners, the CEO of Keck Medicine, lauded Dorian’s 20 years of experience as a medical leader at USC-VHH.
“He is an indefatigable and inspirational leader, as he just proved by successfully leading the hospital through many challenges during the pandemic,” Hanners said. “With him at the helm, and with his commitment to patient care, staff wellness and community engagement, there is no limit to what USC-VHH can offer our patients, staff and community.”