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Creative Leadership

Good Shepherd welcomed Michael Spigel, PT, MHA, as the new president and chief executive officer on August 3, succeeding Gary Schmidt, chairman, board of trustees, who served as interim president and CEO since November 2018. Michael comes to Good Shepherd with experience as a physical therapist before he transitioned to a long and distinguished career in health-care administration, focused almost exclusively on rehabilitation. Prior to joining Good Shepherd, Michael was president and chief operating officer at Brooks Rehabilitation in Jacksonville, Florida. Michael is a self-proclaimed fitness buff with a passion for reading, writing and supporting educational opportunities at the high school and university levels. He and his wife Pam have a daughter Isabell, a junior at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. A dog and two cats round out the family.

In a virtual interview, Michael talked about his background, what attracted him to Good Shepherd, his leadership style, and his vision for the organization.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. I met my wife Pam, while we were both working in a rehabilitation hospital on a spinal cord injury team in Washington, D.C. I worked as a therapist for about five or six years, then thought about going back to school and teaching, but the path wasn’t going to work out easily. Eventually, I began managing two small therapy clinics for a large hospital system, which is how I began to make the shift into leadership. I learned many lessons in this first management position that have held true to this day. Along with this, I obtained a master’s in healthcare administration.

What led you to the rehabilitation field?

When I was in college I didn’t know what I wanted to do. My father gave me an article about physical therapy. I read it and thought it sounded like a profession I’d like. When I was a physical therapy student, one of my internships was at the National Children’s Center in Washington, D.C. I was the physical therapist for a 12-year-old boy who was paralyzed from a spinal cord injury from an accidental shooting. What attracted me to the field was seeing (patients) through the lens of a very active person. One minute they’re fine, the next minute they have a devastating disability. Their entire world is never the same. That’s when it clicked that working with people who had significant disabilities is the population I want to work with, which is what I did by specializing in treating people with spinal cord injuries.

What attracted you to Good Shepherd?

I had a couple of absolute requirements. Number one was I would only work for a rehabilitation system that had a great reputation. Number two: I’m very attracted to organizations that have long histories. They understand the focus. They have incredibly deep roots that really guide them and help instill the values and the culture. So when I got the call, I knew those two things about Good Shepherd, and there are not a lot of organizations like that in the country. Those things are why I put my hat in the ring.

What impression do you have of Good Shepherd’s culture and our associates?

As I was going through the interview process and talking to people, one of the things I kept hearing about was a strong mission and history, connectivity and being part of an organization that wants to be part of the future. How do we reimagine, rethink rehabilitation? What is it going to look like in the future? That’s the path we should be going down. A couple of weeks ago I met someone who said Good Shepherd delivers care in a value-based way, not in terms of payment, but in terms of the level of care. If you do what’s right for your employees, ensuring they are connected, respected and recognized, it’s easier to deliver great patient care.

What excites you most about your new role?

So many things excite me about my new role. The chance to work in an environment where people care so much for what they do, the energy and optimism I’ve felt during my first couple of weeks here, the vast opportunities through our partnership with Penn Medicine, just to name a very few. Finally, to be part of a team that leads Good Shepherd to be nationally recognized for compassionate and progressive care while providing life-long solutions to our patients.

What is your vision for Good Shepherd?

Good Shepherd in 2030 will have reimagined what rehabilitation means to our patients. In today’s world, rehabilitation is an episodic event. I believe that the future of rehabilitation is that we as a provider are as integral to a patient’s life as their primary physician. We are with them the rest of their life helping them manage their health and wellness. They rely on us as they age. I think that’s where the great rehabilitation organization of the future will excel. Our great buildings, staff and technology will blaze a path forward for how people recover.

Philanthropy is an important cornerstone in supporting our mission and has a long legacy starting in 1908. What do you see as your role in furthering this mission, and what do you think will compel donors to support Good Shepherd?

I believe I can support our fund-raising efforts in several ways. Number one is making sure Good Shepherd has a strong foundation and is an excellent organization delivering what our patients and community expect from us. Number two is being able to communicate that, being able to stand up there, across the table, and talk about it, telling compelling stories about the impact we have on the lives of people. And that’s where you get into philanthropy to inspire, elevate and excite potential donors about Good Shepherd and what we’re doing. Number three is finding out what genuinely interests donors and potential donors, and creating connectivity in those areas. Overall, I think what will excite donors to support Good Shepherd is knowing we are a just organization that cares for people, that we operate responsibly with a vision for the future while we achieve remarkable outcomes for our patients, residents and those we serve.

What are the biggest challenges facing Good Shepherd?

It’s a very competitive environment, lower reimbursements and changing regulations. But smart organizations navigate around that, adapt and thrive. Competition should motivate you to do better, and stimulates creativity and innovation. As a rehabilitation organization we need to perform at a higher level every day and stimulate creativity. This is why it’s so important to create an engaged workforce that can develop and grow. There is nothing more exciting.

What are the biggest opportunities? 

Our population is growing and particularly, older adults, so the overall demand for rehabilitation is going to increase. Number two, people want to be well and live a full life and will seek out services like we provide to help achieve that goal. But what’s also important and often overlooked are advancements in technological and scientific development that will allow people to take advantage of rehabilitation services when in the past, this may not have been possible. Consumerism in healthcare is another opportunity. In the past, most people went the most linear route in the health-care system. More and more, data and information is available to consumers thereby allowing them to select the best organization from which to seek care, and Good Shepherd can become the beneficiary of these advancements.

What do you want people to know about you, as a person and a leader; your philosophy and approach?

I am a believer that the most important part of my role is creating an environment where people can do their best. To do this, one must lead with their heart, with empathy. How can I create a culture where people feel respected and recognized? I am always challenging the process. How can we change? What can we do better? I am always thinking about innovation and creativity. One of the reputations I have is using a lot of creativity to push the process. When I was in my most recent position, whenever somebody got promoted, I would always seek them out and give them the three most important lessons. One: Treat people genuinely well. If you do, you are 80 percent of the way there. Two: Use your common sense when you make a decision. Don’t over-complicate it. Three: Whatever your role is in management, how can you make it better? The teaching side of me has never changed. When people ask me, what gives you joy in work, my answer goes back to helping others develop, being a teacher, helping people be better clinicians, better leaders. My people have to love where they work, because that leads to great patient outcomes. My job is to give people confidence in themselves, find what gives them joy and help them develop to become better clinicians and leaders.