Transition in Leadership for UMass Memorial Medical Group

I’m pleased to share the news that Shlomit Schaal, MD, PhD, MHCM, Professor and Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, has been appointed as the new President of UMass Memorial Medical Group (UMMMG), effective December 1, 2020. She is succeeding Steve Tosi, MD, Chief Physician Executive, who has served in the role since 2013.

Gratitude to Dr. Tosi
I want to thank Dr. Tosi for the tremendous job he has done leading the Medical Group over the past seven plus years and for his continuing service as Chief Medical Officer and Chief Physician Executive for UMass Memorial Health Care. Dr. Tosi will also continue to serve as Medical Director for our captive insurance company and our system risk management function.

Dr. Tosi has held multiple leadership positions in his 17 years of service at UMass Memorial, but none have been as important to me personally as when I asked him to take on the role first as interim president and then as president of UMMMG in 2013 at a time when we were undergoing significant financial challenges. Dr. Tosi has led the Medical Group with a thoughtful, committed and steady hand. I want to express my deep gratitude for his extraordinary leadership and selfless dedication to our physicians and to our entire system, and in particular, for agreeing to stay in this position through the COVID-19 crisis that delayed our search to find a successor.

Selection of Dr. Schaal
Dr. Schaal emerged as the ideal candidate to take on this important role because of her exceptional leadership skills, her dedication as a clinician-scientist and her strong voice as an advocate for our physician community.

Since becoming Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences at UMass Memorial in 2016, she engaged in multiple opportunities to support the institution at large by serving on numerous strategic committees and promoting key institutional initiatives. She has demonstrated relentless personal commitment to transforming health care through excellence in patient care, medical research, medical education, and community collaborations. She is known as a creative, dynamic, and bold leader who teaches leadership courses at the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC), and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

As Chair of Ophthalmology, she led and instituted a significant departmental culture change and financial turnaround with a focus on excellent patient-centered care, including improving access to care. Together with her team, she alleviated access issues with the establishment of a same-day open access clinic. As a certified LEAN Six Sigma Black Belt, she used a team-driven approach and LEAN management tools to engage her entire team to redesign processes to eliminate waste and increase value in clinical operations. She led the Eye Team to win the Innovators of the Year Award in 2017 and 2019. Under her stewardship as chair, the department went from the lowest performing team to one of the best in the Medical Group, simultaneously reaching the highest engagement and alignment scores for physicians and staff, and a high ‘likelihood to recommend’ from patients.

Dr. Schaal also started a new partnership with Boston Children’s Hospital Pediatric Ophthalmology. This required adopting a new mindset of clinical operations for the benefit of the children of Central Massachusetts and their parents. From an idea, this initiative became a robust service that now includes three providers who travel from Boston to take care of children (clinic visits and surgeries) right here in Worcester, eliminating the need to travel to Boston.

In addition to excelling in the clinical arena, she remains true to all other mission areas of an academic department and led significant change to achieve our mission-based goals. For example, under her leadership the ophthalmology research division has increased the research funding of the department from $0 in 2016 to more than $14 million in 2020, placing UMass Memorial Ophthalmology as one of the top ophthalmology research-funded departments in the nation. Under her leadership, UMass Memorial Ophthalmology started an inaugural ophthalmology residency training program, which is the first new ophthalmology training program approved by ACGME in the nation during the past 20 years.

Another important accomplishment has been Dr. Schaal’s Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine (ELAM, a year-long leadership development program) project that focused on increasing physician engagement at UMass Memorial. The product of this effort was the establishment of a Physician Engagement Committee that included representation from the Medical Group, the Medical Center, and the Medical School with three arms to address the following areas: (1) Communication, (2) Burnout, and (3) Community to benefit all our physicians from different specialties within the organization. More than 100 front-line physician faculty were actively engaged in the process and they developed more than 50 recommendations to be considered for implementation. The establishment of the Chief Experience Officer role was one of the major achievements of this committee, and in the recent Press Ganey Survey in 2020, physician engagement scores have improved significantly.

As a leader at UMass Memorial, she co-chaired the Academic Excellence and Innovation Committee of UMass Memorial Medical Group, which selects the winners for the Prize for Academic Excellence and Collaboration (PACE) award. This is an innovative $200,000 annual award that is given to reward excellent academic collaboration between departments led by members of the Medical Group. Leading this committee allowed her to work across the institution to reward work that crossed departmental lines while inspiring the next generation of clinician-scientists to continue their quest of discovery by encouraging collaboration and combining clinical work with academic scholarship and research.

For more details about Dr. Schaal’s background, click on her brief bio. Because of Dr. Schaal’s clinical and research background, her commitment to advancing our academic mission and her bold leadership talents, I am confident she is the right person in this role to partner with the leadership team of the Medial Group and the system to reimagine the future of UMass Memorial Health Care. She will continue to serve as Chair of Ophthalmology as she takes on this new role.

Please join me in thanking Dr. Tosi for his service and dedication and congratulating Dr. Schaal for this well-deserved promotion.