Interview with Frank Leone, President and CEO. Q&A


Q: These are challenging economic times for many occupational health programs. Why should a program make the investment to come to this year’s national conference? Mr. Leone: Our goal is to offer a conference that occupational health professionals cannot afford to miss. We think of it more as a summit than a conference: a chance to come together, talk things out, pool ideas. We want everyone to leave with a renewed focus on how to turn things around.

Q: Exactly what is RYAN Associates doing in order to make the conference more than just rhetoric? Mr. Leone: A primary focus of the conference is on two pragmatic issues: generating net revenue and minimizing expenses within the context of the highest professional standards. We expect faculty members to generate dozens of recommendations that can be implemented in a variety of settings.

Q: How did you develop the curriculum? Mr. Leone: Our staff convened months ago to address the question: What would the optimal conference need to feature in order to satisfy the critical needs of occupational health professionals in these challenging economic times? We developed and refined the agenda over many weeks and then set out to recruit the most knowledgeable faculty for each topic.

Q: In addition to the focus on financial management, what other aspects of the conference do you consider to be of particular note? Mr. Leone: Another one of our goals is to offer something for everyone, whether they are experienced or new to the field; a clinician, administrator, or sales executive; hospital or independent clinic-based; urgent care, pure-play occupational medicine or blended. Toward that end, we will offer our perennially popular Occupational Health Program Fundamentals course, a special track for California providers and other stakeholders, numerous discussion groups, in-depth training for both SYSTOC and STIX software users, and a special half-day session on mixed-use clinic operations.

Q: Why did you decide to have such an extensive California track? Mr. Leone: First, we want to take full advantage of being in San Francisco – one of the world’s greatest cities – for this year’s conference. It is unlikely we will hold another national conference on the west coast for a number of years. Second, because of its size and global economic influence, California is a bellwether state in many respects. The California-intensive course will be of value, not just to those from California, but from other states as well. Third, there are multiple complex legal, regulatory, and business issues impacting the effective delivery of occupational health services; we didn’t feel we could thoroughly cover all the bases for our California constituents in just a day. Fourth, we offered a similar carve-out session in San Diego in 2005 that was exceptionally well received.

Q: Is it really true that you haven’t missed a single national conference social event in the past 22 years? Mr. Leone: It’s true, and I have every intention of maintaining that record.

Q: What is special about this year’s social events? Mr. Leone: All of our receptions will be first class. I am really looking forward to the Sunday outing to the Sonoma Valley wine country. We are going to tour and taste at two wineries, have a gourmet picnic lunch, and take photos of the Golden Gate Bridge along the way. The Tuesday night reception at the famous Starlight Room will also be a rare treat.

Q: On a more serious note, how do you really feel about the future of occupational health? Mr. Leone: I have never been more optimistic or more excited about our prospects. When I made a commitment to occupational health in 1981 (RYAN Associates began in 1985), it struck me as the optimal public health opportunity. I still believe that. We have the potential to profoundly affect the well-being of millions of Americans on a daily basis. During my 24 years with RYAN Associates, there have been ups and downs, wild economic cycles, and periodic forecasts of doom, but the field always bounces back and becomes stronger than ever.

Q: How do you think national healthcare reform will impact occupational health professionals? Mr. Leone: Healthcare reform is a compelling wild card. At this moment, it appears likely that some form of major healthcare reform legislation will be enacted by the time we meet in San Francisco. With its likely emphasis on care coordination, prevention, and primary care delivery, I expect reform to be a game changer for occupational health programs.

Q: What is your final advice to those who may be on the fence about attending this year’s conference? Mr. Leone: Do whatever it takes to join us in San Francisco. We are diligently working to make this year’s conference a truly worthwhile experience for you and your colleagues.

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