University Hospital's New Top Executive Works to Change the Health Care 'Landscape'
Published June 2008
In what little spare time she has, Lee Ann Liska finds relaxation in the yard of her Anderson Township home.
As the new senior vice president and executive director of University Hospital (UH), she’s overseeing a changing landscape of a far different sort.
Fortunately, she’s well equipped to deal with such challenges as declining reimbursements from insurance carriers, competition in the health care market and the changing face of the Health Alliance of Greater Cincinnati.
A veteran of over two decades in health administration, she had already spent almost four years as vice president and executive operations director at UH when she was elevated to the top role in April.
“I think there are clear advantages of coming from within, because I had the support of the medical staff in terms of my appointment, so I already have very well established relationships,” she says. “I think you can get up to speed faster in your new role if you’re internal.”
Liska is clearly eager to continue building the reputation of University Hospital, and she lists service excellence as one of her top priorities.
“We’ll be doing a lot around customer service, patient satisfaction and service excellence over the next two years,” she says, adding that she also wants to improve patient safety and security at the hospital, a Level 1 trauma center in the heart of the city.
Liska, 44, grew up in Cleveland and holds a bachelor’s degree and an executive master’s degree from Cleveland State University. She has an upbeat personality that should come in handy as she monitors the dispute over terms of Christ and St. Luke hospitals leaving the Health Alliance.
Last year, a Hamilton County Common Pleas Court judge ruled that Christ and St. Luke could leave the Alliance. The logistics of the separation remain in dispute. Jewish and Fort Hamilton hospitals are also in the Health Alliance, along with West Chester Medical Center and the Drake Center.
“The undefined future of the Health Alliance is a real challenge,” Liska says. “It undermines our ability to move forward with some of our growth plans. We can’t go to market for any new debt during a litigation. It’s not something that personally I focus on, because I’m just concentrating on the operations of the hospital, but it is clearly a distraction.”
Those growth plans, Liska says, include a new specialty patient care tower for the Neuroscience Institute and Cardiovascular Centers of Excellence.
“We are anxious to build that so we have state-of-the-art patient care rooms, procedure rooms and operating rooms,” she says. “And we need to eventually update our ambulatory operating rooms that are located at Holmes Hospital.”
For that, she says, a new multi-use building would be built near the Goodman Garage and Holmes would be returned to UC.
“These projects are fully planned, they’re just not fully funded,” she says, “so we can’t move forward.”
Prior to the formation of the Health Alliance, the university operated UH. In 1995 the management of the hospital was transferred to the Health Alliance, although the university remains ultimately responsible for the hospital and has a vital interest in its financial affairs.
“I think University Hospital’s relationship to the University of Cincinnati has never been stronger,” says Liska, who adds that she enjoys working with David Stern, MD, vice president of health affairs and dean of the College of Medicine, and talks with him almost daily.
“The relationship is vital to our success, because it is UC’s faculty that brings us patients. Hospitals don’t admit patients all by themselves, so the faculty are very important to our volume, for our success. They are the educators of our residents, our future physicians.”
UH also participated with UC and UC Physicians on a strategic plan, Liska says, and identified four centers of excellence: neuroscience, cardiovascular, cancer and diabetes and metabolic disorders.
“We were pleased to be part of that,” she says.
Away from the hospital, Liska is looking at community involvement opportunities and finding time for relaxation at home with her husband, Joe Ed, a sales vice president for Sibcy Cline, and daughter Catherine, 7, who has leukemia and is a patient at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
“We’re working on a joint cancer center (with Children’s), so interestingly some of the people I meet with at work I also interact with as a parent,” Liska says. “So it gives me an interesting perspective about patient care.”