Healthcare Leader: Michael Scherm, MD, Owensboro Health

Scherm MichaelMichael Scherm, MD

Executive VP and Chief Medical Officer at Owensboro Health

Education: B.S. from Brescia College; MD from the University of Louisville

How do you approach management and leadership in your organization?

All communications and relationships, especially in healthcare, must first lead with respect.  It’s just fundamental to what we do.  Everything in healthcare emanates from the bedside and everything else, quality and safety processes, human resource initiatives, even marketing plans, really exist to support and optimize the patient and family care that takes place at the bedside.

If there is a particular project to complete or a goal to be met, I try to collect all the needed data, but remind myself to continue to listen and to keep an open mind.  That can take a project in an unanticipated direction, but it is vital in developing a good action plan, and ultimately, in building consensus if the plan is to succeed.

What is your very best skill—the thing that sets you apart from others?

I’m a hard worker.  I grew up on a farm with hardworking parents, and was the oldest of seven children.  I had work and responsibilities from the time that I was a small boy.  I don’t really know any other way.

What opportunities do you see for your company in 2016?  What challenges?

The opportunities are to continue to grow as a regional healthcare presence through outreach, especially through enhanced access to outpatient services, and the development of mutually beneficial relationships with regional employers.  The challenges are to maintain and seek to improve our high standards of patient care and patient satisfaction, and to continue to be proactive, and even hopeful, in a healthcare landscape that it extremely volatile.

How do you revitalize yourself?

I would have to say it is through farming.  It’s such a part of who I am.  I spend a good deal of my spare time there, and my wife, Janice, is fine with it because she knows how nurturing it is for me.  Our grandchildren (Annie, 7 and Daniel, 3) live in Louisville, but they both just love the farm.  That has been great for all of us.  Daniel’s “show and tell” at preschool always involves some piece of farm equipment, and his favorite color is “John Deere green!”

What’s one piece of advice that you remember most clearly?

The two great men who had the most influence on my life were my late father, Bill Scherm, and Dr. Hiram C. Polk, Jr., who was the chairman of the Department of Surgery at the University of Louisville where I was trained.  They both taught me to take responsibility for my actions and decisions.  It has served me well throughout my life because when you know you are going to have to take responsibility, you try very hard to get things right the first time.


What was your first job in healthcare?  What did you take away from that job that you use today?

My first job in healthcare was in surgical residency.  The hours were long, and we had to learn very quickly to focus, to prioritize and to get the work done.  It was ingrained in us throughout our training to take responsibility for our decisions.

As a leader, we all face many challenges.  What challenges do you face in your role that are unique because you work in healthcare?

Owensboro Health’s mission is “to heal the sick and to improve the health of the communities we serve.” It is simply stated, but very complex in the doing.  Healthcare is in a tremendous state of flux where the roles of physicians, providers, and payers, both private and public, are rapidly changing.  This creates an anxiety for all the cohorts that can make it difficult for those entities to work together. It is very challenging, but we all have to continually remind ourselves that it is about the patients.

Where do you do your best thinking?

I guess I would still have to say it’s on the tractor or the combine.

What was the most significant event/ development at Owensboro Health in 2015?

It is the evolution of Owensboro Health from a single hospital to a true health system with the acquisition of the hospital operations of Muhlenberg Community Hospital, and various outpatient entities and physician practices under our One Health umbrella.  All of them care deeply about their patients and staff, and we are working together to ensure patient experiences that are consistent, high quality, safe, and easily navigable around the system.  An essential component of that is, of course, staff satisfaction.

If you could eliminate one of the healthcare industry’s problems overnight, which would it be?

That’s a pretty tough choice, but it would be so beneficial to have a universal, user-friendly, efficient, and highly-effective electronic health record.  Good communication across the continuum of care is so vital to patients’ well-being, and it appears going forward, there will be many diverse care access points throughout a person’s lifespan.  We will all need to be on the same page.