Ep 66 – Cleveland Clinic CEO Dr. Toby Cosgrove on Lifestyle, Healthcare, and Persistence

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“I was not a good student. I attribute a lot of that to the fact that I am dyslexic. The thing that got me through it was just plain persistence. I think once you’ve had that trial-by-fire and you get yourself through it, you think you can get through almost anything with pure persistence. So, I work pretty hard, and it has served me well over a long period of time. I never thought I was the smartest, or the sharpest tool in the drawer. But I don’t think a lot of people outwork me. I think that persistence that I learned got me through a lot of situations.” – Dr. Toby Cosgrove

Delos (Toby) Cosgrove, MD is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Cleveland Clinic, an $8 billion health care system. Under his leadership, Cleveland Clinic has consistently been the #2 hospital in America by the U.S. News & World Report.

Dr. Cosgrove received his medical degree from the University of Virginia School of Medicine in Charlottesville and completed his clinical training at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston Children’s Hospital and Brook General Hospital in London. His undergraduate work was at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. He was a surgeon in the U.S. Air Force and served in Da Nang, Republic of Vietnam, as the Chief of U.S. Air Force Casualty Staging Flight. For his service he was awarded the Bronze Star and the Republic of Vietnam Commendation Medal.

Dr. Cosgrove joined the Cleveland Clinic in 1975 and was named Chairman of the Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular surgery in 1989. Under his leadership, Cleveland Clinic’s heart program was ranked No. 1 in America for 10 years in a row (U.S. News & World Report), a ranking it now holds for 22 consecutive years.

He has published nearly 450 journal articles, book chapters, one book and 17 training and continuing medical education films. He performed more than 22,000 operations and earned an international reputation for expertise in all areas of cardiac surgery, especially valve repair. As an innovator, Dr. Cosgrove has 30 patents filed for developing medical and clinical products used in surgical environments.

In 2014, Dr. Cosgrove authored “The Cleveland Clinic Way: Lessons in Excellence from One of the World’s Leading Health Care Organizations,” which takes an in-depth look at today’s healthcare system. It describes the eight trends shaping the future of medicine in this country to be more efficient, more effective and more affordable than it is today. The book acknowledges the challenges facing the industry but takes a “strongly optimistic” view of what lies ahead by illustrating how Cleveland Clinic is helping to shape the future of medicine by working toward one goal: putting patients first.

Dr. Cosgrove is a sought-after speaker worldwide. He has addressed the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting at Davos, Switzerland, and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, in Washington, D.C. He is regularly quoted and featured in national magazines and newspapers such as Time, Newsweek, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. He has appeared on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, NBC, CBS, “The Charlie Rose Show” on PBS, and other national media outlets.

Dr. Cosgrove was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2013. He is also a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (2015) and Castle Connolly National Physician of the Year.

Recent honors include the Deming Cup and Horatio Alger Award. He is a 2016 Fortune Businessperson of the Year (No. 14), and has topped Inside Business’s “Power 100” listing for Northeast Ohio. He is highly ranked among Modern Healthcare’s “100 most powerful people in healthcare” and “most powerful physician executives,” and is an inductee of the Cleveland Medical Hall of Fame.

Dr. Cosgrove has been consulted by successive presidential administrations, serving on the Veterans Administration Commission on Care (2015) and the recent White House Strategic and Policy Forum.

We sat down shortly after my graduation from the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine to discuss Dr. Cosgrove’s background, his contributions to the Cleveland Clinic during his tenure as CEO, and his vision for the future of healthcare in America.

Dr. Cosgrove’s Bio was adapted from clevelandclinic.org

In this episode we discuss:

  • What led Dr. Cosgrove to a career in medicine and eventually cardiac surgery?
  • His influence on policies to promote a healthy lifestyle at the Cleveland Clinic such as refusing to hire smokers and banning sugar-sweetened beverages on campus
  • The impact of these policies on the health of Cleveland Clinic employees
  • His perspective on parallels between the fights against smoking and sugar
  • Reducing the burden of lifestyle-related diseases on a national level
  • The reason behind his early investment in Functional Medicine by building the first Center for Functional Medicine in an academic institution
  • His reaction to the progress of the Center for Functional Medicine over the past 3 years?
  • His vision for the future of healthcare in the US
  • Some qualities and skills that have allowed Dr. Cosgrove to thrive in his many high-stress roles
  • Three things Dr. Cosgrove does on a regular basis that have the biggest positive impact on his health
  • One thing he struggles to implement that could have a big impact on Dr. Cosgrove’s health
  • What a healthy life looks like to him

You can follow Dr. Cosgrove on Twitter or LinkedIn.


Related Episodes:

Ep 7 – Dr. Mark Hyman on Functional Medicine, the Future, and Community

Ep 13A – Umahro Cadogan on Using Functional Nutrition to Create Health

Ep 13B – Umahro Cadogan on Functional Nutrition for Athletes and Recovery from Injury

Ep 22 – Brigid Titgemeier on Functional Nutrition

Ep 24 – Airrosti Drs. Nickleberry and Garrett on Treating Soft Tissue Injury, Partnering with CrossFit, and Creating a New Paradigm

Ep 38 – Micronutrients and Quality Supplementation with Oliver Amdrup and Julius Heslet

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If you like this episode, please subscribe to Pursuing Health on iTunes and give it a rating. I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below and on social media using the hashtag #PursuingHealth. I look forward to bringing you future episodes with inspiring individuals and ideas about health every other Tuesday.

Disclaimer: This podcast is meant to share the experiences of various individuals. It does not provide medical advice, and it is not a substitute for advice from your physician or health care professional.

Question: To you, I’ll pose the same question that I posed to Dr. Cosgrove in this interview: What sort of policies could be successful at reducing the burden of chronic disease on a national level in the US? Do you think policies similar to those that have been instated at the Cleveland Clinic could work nationally to improve our nation’s health? Let me know in the comments below.

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