Wednesday, February 7, 2007

A Tribute to Robert Holmen, MHA, 1937-2007

Bob Holmen, my friend, confidante, and advisor, died at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, on Monday, February 5, of complications of a glioblastoma multiforme, an aggressive brain tumor.

Bob was the ultimate realist. He would have wanted me to mention the precise cause of death. But Bob was the consummate sentimentalist, too. He would have wanted me to say he died at his beloved Mayo. He served Mayo off and on for two decades, and he thought of Mayo as the finest medical institution in the world, as a place where hospital administrators and physicians worked together closely to advance medical progress. Indeed, his latest project was promoting and participating in Mayo Forums, dedicated to reforming U.S. health towards a more universal model based on a market-driven, consumer-based, physician-led system.

Bob had a genius for genuine friendship. He was candid, earthly, and accessible. He teemed with ideas and energy. He seemed to know everybody worth knowing in the policy, delivery, and health care business world. He thrived on interacting with them and bringing them together, and he had a sharp sense of implications for society of what they were saying.

I thought of Bob when I read Malcolm Gladwell’s book, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference. Gladwell said the most important people tipping events towards a better world were connectors, mavens, and salesmen. These three individuals made it possible for innovators to connect with early adopters. Bob was all three – a connector, maven, and salesman - wrapped up in one accessible easy-to-open package,

Bob was a translator, He took ideas and information from a highly specialized world and translated them into language the rest of us could understand. He dropped extraneous details and extravagant information, Without the chaff, his message acquired a deeper meaning.

Bob was an organizer. For several decades, he served as the host for a group of seven or eight multispecialty clinics that met once a year in the American West to share ideas. Bob Smoldt, Mayo’s chief administrative leader, until he retired last year, says, “ I called these meetings ‘Holmen’s Seminars.’ They were the best meetings I ever attended, and I only missed one over the years.”

Mr. Holmen received his MHA (Masters in Hospital Administration) from the University of Minnesota and his Bachelor of Science from Gustavus Adolphus College.

He was actively engaged in the health field since 1960. His early career included administration of community hospitals as well as a large multi-hospital complex. He developed and advanced early managed care delivery models. From 1973 on, he consulted with a variety of health industry clients. He contributed to numerous conferences and seminars and served on a variety of corporate boards.

Bob was a critical student of strategic productivity issues in the health industry. He served clients in purchaser, provider and government arenas. He specialized in new health information systems, innovations in healthcare, and cost-effective models of self care.

Bob held office at the Center for Policy Studies, a private, non-profit health policy research and application center. He was responsible for implementing the Pennsylvania state-wide health data initiative of the Pennsylvania Business Roundtable and the state’s hospital and medical associations. Bob actively advanced the personalizedlongitudinal medical record designed to afford higher levels of access, information flow, and industry connectivity.

Bob consulted with Mayo on strategic and national health policy, as well as purchaser, information, and networking initiatives. He was a senior consultant to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota. He was an associate of Dr. C. Everett Koop, a consultant to the C. Everett Koop Institute, and a developer of He served on the editorial board of Business & Health. He worked on Consumer Directed Health Plan developments, Telecare and remote practice electronic connections, consumer health records, and privacy issues and innovative developments in cardiac diagnostics.

Bob’s latest and perhaps his greatest contribution was as a principal of Cardiac Risk Analysis Associates, who have developed, in conjunction with the Mayo Clinic, a medical device called SHAPE (Superior Heart and Pulmonary Analysis). This device will make it possible to evaluate, without the risk of the traditional coronary stress test, the heart fitness, pulmonary fitness, and prognosis of millions of Americans.

I will miss Bob. I will miss talking to Elaine, his beloved wife and designated telephone receptionist. I will miss our frequent chats. I will miss the belly laughs, the deep insights, and the generous referrals to the high and mighty in the health care world.

I cannot say goodbye to Bob. Somehow, some way, he will always be at my side and on my mind, nudging me towards a deeper understanding of health care.

Richard L. Reece, MD


Carlos M. Garcia said...

It is always sad to hear about a friend passing due to cancer, more if since the beggining is a lost battle such as GBM (glioblastoma) which is one of the most devasting types of brian tumors.

It is so unfortunate that the latest therapeuticas to be tested in Phase 3 trials failed. Neopharm, Ely Lilly and Xenova, have anounced recently that their products under testing did not meet end points vs. standard care, which basically takes ua back to square one.

It is our understanding that the NCI is currently testing several novel products, one of which seems to work very well, due to its low molecular weight and its capacity to cross the blood brain barrier.

This could open the door for compounds that can actually kill the bad cells without damaging normal cells.

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