Get to Know: Richard P. Shannon, MD

University of Virginia Executive Vice President for Health Affairs

As part of a recent reorganization within UVA Health System, Richard Patrick Shannon, MD, will assume the new position of Executive Vice President for Health Affairs on Nov. 1. While his primary goal will be to position the Health System as a top academic medical center, he will also work to advance the strategic goals of the University as a whole.

To UVA, Shannon brings a wealth of experience leading an academic medical center, most recently as chairman of the Department of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania Health System, and as the Frank Wister Thomas Professor of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. His work in improving patient safety has garnered national attention, and he is the recipient of numerous awards for his work as an educator, researcher and physician.


What about UVA appealed to you?

UVA is a storied medical center that has played an important role historically in the evolution of academic medicine in America. To lead this organization in an era of healthcare transformation – to take all that is good all that has been built and lead when the rules are likely going to change – this is an exciting opportunity for me.


What does it mean to be a leading academic medical center?

As a 21st-century academic medical center, we have to provide the highest quality care to patients. We start that journey by committing that no patient will get hurt in the course of our attempt to cure them. We have to commit to eliminating hospital-acquired infections, medication errors and defects in care delivery that constitute waste in all health systems. If we want to offer the best quality care, first we have to make our organization the safest.

Second is recognizing that we need to expand our narrow view of providing academic medicine within four walls. We must contribute to the health of a population specifically by advancing our clinical footprint, to advocate and nurture health in the population.

Third is to recognize that it is a privilege to train nurses, physicians and medical staff. We want to provide the highest level of expertise in medical care and the highest level of service to our patients. To do so we must train staff to work toward the highest possible performance.


How do we get there?

It begins with me articulating this audacious goal. We aspire to be the safest place to receive care. We see and solve defects that can lead to harm and use lean thinking to organize services. We retrain clinical managers to join our nurses in becoming guardians of safety and we become problem solvers at the point of care.

We consider: ‘What does the patient want and need? How do we deliver on that without defect, error or waste?” All we encounter will be viewed through the polished lens of what our patients want and need. From there, we will undertake a strategic initiative to find partners in the community who share that value and engage in bettering the health of our community.


Why should referring physicians choose UVA?

We consider referring physicians a key customer. All of the benefits, skills and tools used to transform the medical center will be extended to our partners in community, those who choose to work with us. We are a resource to help improve the flow within their own practice and to measure outcomes.

The world is changing. It’s no longer payment for work, but rather payment for outcomes. Practicing and referring physicians will need to develop ways to assess patient outcomes. We will provide the tools they need and learn from each other. I do understand what a trying time it is to be practicing medicine – I have a new vision to move forward and I hope it is exciting to them.


Will you continue to see patients at UVA?

I believe the best way for me to learn about and demonstrate my respect for the UVA culture is to engage in patient care. Leaders can’t simply espouse values – they must practice them. How a leader spends his time is a measure of what matters. Patients matter, and I want to demonstrate that, so I will be attending on inpatient services.

Read more about Dr. Shannon and his role at UVA.