There is no denying that Maltese people have made their mark on the global business world. From entrepreneurs to academics, Maltese individuals occupy important positions in some of the planet’s leading organisations.
Among them is Dr Gianrico Farrugia, a Maltese native who was recently appointed President and CEO of the world-famous Mayo Clinic – which has been consistently recognised as one of the best hospitals in the US.
With a staff complement of more than 68,000 and revenue of nearly US$12 billion per year, Mayo Clinic cares for more than 1.3 million patients from all 50 US states and nearly 140 countries each year. It is also one of the oldest and largest integrated medical centres in the world.
Prof Farrugia, who was previously Vice-President of the Mayo Clinic and CEO of Mayo Clinic in Florida since January 2015, recently succeeded Prof John Noseworthy, who served as President and CEO of the Mayo Clinic since 2009.
Dr Farrugia and Prof John Noseworthy
Dr Farrugia grew up in Malta, where he studied at St Aloysius College, and received his medical degree at the University of Malta, before leaving the island in 1988. He joined the Mayo Clinic in the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology and the Department of Physiology and Biomedical Engineering.
“Mayo Clinic integrates medical practice, research and education like no other place, and I was fortunate that I was afforded the opportunities to also be involved in research and education here,” Dr Farrugia explains.
His research interests include genomics and the treatment of disorders of gastrointestinal motility, and he has published more than 300 articles on these topics. He is also a professor of medicine and physiology in the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, and served as the President for the American Neurogastroenterology and Motility Society from 2016 to 2018.
He has now been working at Mayo for 30 years and has held various leadership roles within it that helped him prepare for his current position as President and CEO. “I previously served as the Director of the Mayo Clinic Centre for Individualised Medicine, with a focus on integrating genomics into routine clinical practice,” he explains. “I was then named CEO of Mayo Clinic in Florida and Vice-President of Mayo Clinic four years ago, where I led a staff of more than 6,400 members. And before all of that, I was very much involved in launching Mayo’s Centre for Innovation. With my colleagues I co-authored Think Big, Start Small, Move Fast: A Blueprint for Transformation from the Mayo Clinic Centre for Innovation, a book highlighting the need for change in the delivery of health care.”
Dr Farrugia explains that Mayo Clinic is a non-profit academic medical centre where clinical practice, education and research are integrated. “It all started in Minnesota more than 150 years ago, and quickly became the place for hope when there is no hope,” he says. “This reputation lives strongly today, and it is widely acknowledged to be the premier medical institution in the world. We employ 68,000 staff, including more than 4,700 physicians and scientists. We spend over a billion dollars a year on research and education.
“Mayo Clinic is specially known for treating or diagnosing complex cases and solving medical mysteries. We are sometimes referred to as the supreme court of health care. It is therefore a true honour to be asked to lead this organisation and I am humbled by the trust placed in me by our staff and our patients. Any success I have had is due to the people I have been fortunate enough to work with. Their commitment to do the best for our patients drives me to work harder and aim higher.”
Dr Farrugia’s job will be to lead the Mayo Clinic in the next decades while maintaining its values and principles – primarily that the patients come first. “That guides every decision we make,” he says. “I firmly believe that a CEO not only can but must be a servant leader as well as a change agent. Empowering others to innovate and discover the health care of the future, while providing the best possible health care and patient experience, is my main role as CEO.”
With that in mind, Dr Farrugia stresses that his responsibility is to make sure that the Mayo Clinic provides the best possible health care to patients who need it most – patients with complex and serious diseases. “I work with our teams to support them in delivering outstanding care and an outstanding patient experience,” he says. “I love my job. Everyday I hear about a Mayo innovation that has changed somebody’s life. Meeting the teams who made it possible and the patients who benefitted is a privilege I do not take for granted.”
Looking back over his training and career, Dr Farrugia says he has been fortunate enough to have had several mentors in his life. “Starting with my parents, the Jesuits at St Aloysius College (and especially the late Fr Louis Borg), and Prof Michael Camilleri, who gave me the opportunity to come to Mayo Clinic, as well as several research, clinical and business mentors. The current Mayo Clinic trustees include Ursula Burns, the former CEO of Xerox, Alan Mullaly, the former President and CEO of Boeing and Ford Motor Company, Sam Di Piazza, the former CEO of the global consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Bill George the former CEO of Medtronic, the world-leading medical device company. They all have been very generous with their mentorship.”
Asked about the greatest challenges and opportunities facing his sector at the moment, Dr Farrugia highlights the ageing population – with more people living longer and with not just one, but several chronic illnesses, putting a lot of pressure on society. “It creates an increased need for us to deliver care better, faster, and at a lower cost,” he says. “This is where innovation comes to the fore, to create solutions that put the patients’ needs at the centre. Mayo has been successfully doing it for a century-and-a-half, and I am excited to bring this to the next level.
“To achieve that, we will need a coalition of forces – governments, private sector, foundations, academic and medical institutions to redefine how we provide health care. We have a great opportunity to make a meaningful change with the incredible rise of technology. But there will always be the need for a human touch.”
Finally, Dr Farrugia highlights where he would like himself, and the clinic, to be in five years’ time. “I hope I’ll still have this job and be able to enjoy it,” he smiles. “Mayo Clinic will be offering healing and hope in ways we cannot even imagine currently, while also helping patients and consumers across the globe as a global authority in health care. I am excited to lead that change. And when I do look back after my time here, I hope to be able to say that I left Mayo Clinic in a stronger position than it was when I started, having instilled more joy in the workplace and having helped more patients find hope and healing.”
MaltaChamber.org.mt is proud to be serialising MaltaCEOs 2019, a high-profile publication consisting of 50 in-depth interviews with leading CEOs in Malta. Celebrating the most influential business minds in the country, two different interviews will be featured on this business news portal week by week. MaltaCEOs was created by Content House Group in collaboration with the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise & Industry.