CLEVELAND, Ohio – In just a few months, a changing of the guard will take place at the Cleveland Clinic.
After 13 years, Dr. Toby Cosgrove will step down as president and CEO of the Clinic, making way for his successor Dr. Tomislav “Tom” Mihaljevic. Mihaljevic has spent the past six years at the Cleveland Clinic’s multi-specialty hospital in Abu Dhabi, first as chief of staff and then as CEO. He will take the reins from Cosgrove Jan. 1, 2018.
“This is a great honor, and this is a great responsibility,” Mihaljevic said. “I’m very positive about the future of the organization.”
Cleveland Clinic Board of Directors Chairman Bob Rich sees Mihaljevic as someone who will further the Clinic’s mission, use his experience to innovate and drive diversity through recruitment.
“Tommy is his own man, but he has a keen appreciation for what the culture is, what brought us to where we are and what we have to do to stay in a leadership position. I think he’s going to be a great leader not only in medicine around the world but in Cleveland, Ohio,” Rich said. “I can’t wait to get up and see the Mihaljevic years.”
Known as an empathetic, compassionate and driven doctor, Mihaljevic quickly rose through the ranks as a cardiac surgeon. First at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital at Harvard Medical School in Boston, then at the Clinic, he has held numerous leadership positions in cardiac surgery and has developed an expertise in minimally invasive and robotically assisted cardiac surgeries.
“Tommy is one of these people that I think could do anything he wanted to. He’s an incredibly competent individual who, even in a trainee’s role, inspired and motivated others,” said Dr. Stan Ashley, chief medical officer at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “He’s a decisive thinker, but also somebody who is able to adapt pretty quickly to changes and able to work with just about anybody.”
Mihaljevic expects there to be challenges in transitioning the 50,000-employee health system to a new top executive, but he is prepared to face them. The Croatian native plans to give up his practice to focus entirely on leading the Clinic.
“I think that once a person decides to take on a leadership position, it is no longer about me and my career. My responsibility now is the well-being of an entire organization,” Mihaljevic said.
Mihaljevic will work with Cosgrove for the next four months to prepare for the passing of the Clinic torch in January, after which time Cosgrove will stay on as an adviser.
“I’m looking forward to a very smooth transition,” Cosgrove said. “He has an intellectual grasp of the issues and an emotional intelligence that will allow him to interact with a large group of people regardless of location or socioeconomic class.”
The Clinic’s Rich said that while cardiac surgery is what initially brought Mihaljevic to the Clinic 13 years ago, it wasn’t a prerequisite for becoming CEO of the health system. The two previous CEOs – Cosgrove and Dr. Floyd Loop – also were cardiac surgeons.
“I really think it’s happenstance,” Rich said.
“This is not about being a cardiac surgeon. This is about trying to find the the best available player at any position,” he said.
The healthcare world awaiting Mihaljevic will not be an easy one.
“We have to continue to drive up the quality of care and continue to make care more affordable,” Cosgrove said.
Brigham and Women’s Ashley sees Mihaljevic as capable of handling that challenge.
“We’re all dealing with a new healthcare environment that requires new approaches where we don’t even know where were going. He’s someone who can do that sort of thing,” Ashley said. “Although Tommy has been within the Clinic system for a while, he also brings a lot of new perspectives that I think may add to what the Clinic does. He is a strategic outside-the-box kind of thinker.”