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The 5 most powerful in health care?

By Carol Gentry
7/17/2009 © Health News Florida

Even though health care is the nation’s hottest political issue, no elected officials are among the five Florida finalists for a magazine contest called the “100 Most Powerful People in Healthcare.” In fact, you may not have heard of some of them.

They include two physicians-turned-executives, one appointed state agency chief, a former hospital administrator who’s on the lecture circuit and the CEO of a hospital company. 

Gov. Charlie Crist, who claims to have invented a successful program for the uninsured in "Cover Florida," didn't make the list. Neither did any state of Congressional representatives nor senators. Florida's Secretary of Health, Dr. Ana Viamonte Ros, isn’t one of them either.

Maybe most surprising is the omission of University of Miami President Donna Shalala, the former Health and Human Services Secretary who chaired the commission that improved Veterans Administration hospitals and now chairs the Institute of Medicine’s Commission on the Future of Nursing. She also was the only Floridian who participated in  Pres. Obama’s health care summit in March.

But the definition of power depends on those doing the defining, in this case readers of Modern Healthcare magazine, who tend to be executives of hospitals and health plans.  The voting ended in June, but the results won’t be announced until next month.

The finalists from Florida are: Holly Benson, secretary of the Agency for Health Care Administration; Gary D. Newsome, president and CEO of Health Management Associates Inc. in Naples; Monica Reed, CEO of Florida Hospital's Celebration Health; Barry Silbaugh, president and CEO of Tampa-based American College of Physicians; and hospital consultant Quinton D. Studor, former president of Baptist Hospital in Pensacola.

1) Holly Benson. The only finalist on the public payroll, Benson is the current secretary of Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration. A municipal bond lawyer, she was the first Republican to be elected to the State House of Representatives from Pensacola. 

There she served as co-chair of the Select Committee on Medicaid Reform in 2005, when then-Gov. Jeb Bush was advocating an overhaul of the Medicaid system to get more recipients enrolled in HMOs. She was considered a key figure in getting that legislation enacted. After six years in the House, she became secretary of the Department of Professional Regulation. In February 2008, Gov. Charlie Crist appointed her to lead the health-care agency.

AHCA houses the state Medicaid program, which has a budget of more than $16 billion, licenses and inspects 36,000 health-care facilities and maintains a Web site that offers information and comparisons of health facilities in the state. 

2) Gary Newsome is president and CEO of Health Management Associates Inc., a publicly traded hospital company based in Naples. HMA operates 56 hospitals in 15 states with 8,000 licensed beds. The company specializes in taking low-occupancy hospitals in rural or suburban areas and making them profitable.

Before taking over at HMA last September, he was a division president at Community Health Systems Inc. of Franklin, Tenn. Newsome has a master's of business administration.

3) Monica Reed of Orlando, a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist, was a television news reporter in Orlando before going into health-system management. She is now CEO of Florida Hospital Celebration Health and a frequent public speaker.

She advocates “whole person health,” which gives equal weight to physical, mental, emotional and spiritual dimensions of health. She was co-author of a book on the subject, The Creation Health Breakthrough

4) Barry Silbaugh, who splits his time between Florida and New Mexico, is the first physician to hold the post of CEO of the American College of Physician Executives. The Tampa-based group teaches and represents doctors who go into management of health-care organizations.

Before this post, he was Vice President of Medical Operations at Catholic Health Initiatives, which operates 70 hospitals in 19 states.

Active in the patient-safety movement, he advocates clearing out bureaucratic clutter in health-care organizations and changing the corporate culture. He has trained doctors all over the world. See his personal mission statement and more at his blog

5) Quinton D. Studer, former president of Baptist Hospital in Pensacola, formed a consulting firm in 2000 that now coaches executives at hundreds of hospitals and health systems on improving operations and service. Studer is a well-known public speaker at national meetings.

A former teacher who overcame alcoholism, Studer is author of three books on business principles, including the 2007 bestseller Results That Last. He and his wife own the Pensacola Pelicans baseball team.