Glenn Focht, MD, has what he jokingly calls a “boring librarian’s voice.” It’s calm and gentle, the voice of someone who does as much, or maybe more, listening than talking.
“It was really bad for dating,” he laughs. “But it’s ended up being a gift because I do think it allows people to feel comfortable speaking with me. And if I don’t earn the honor of having someone be comfortable enough to speak with me, I won’t be effective in my goals of being a good chief medical officer.”
That’s the position he stepped into at Anna Jaques Hospital in late November 2021, along with chief operating officer of Seacoast Affiliated Group Practice, a multi-specialty physician organization of Anna Jaques Hospital.
He comes to Anna Jaques with the intention of being a “servant leader” after spending several years at Connecticut Children’s Hospital where he served as president of Connecticut Children’s Specialty Group. Prior to that he was chief medical officer for the Pediatric Physician Organization at Boston Children’s Hospital and has held leadership roles at other organizations throughout New England.
In the weeks since taking on the chief medical officer role at Anna Jaques, Focht has put his quiet attentiveness into action with what he calls a “listening tour,” connecting with caregivers about their priorities, sources of pride, and challenges. Every morning, he walks through the hospital’s clinical areas, like the lab, emergency room, and inpatient spaces, so he can build relationships, meet people, and see firsthand the care that’s being delivered, as well as “start to identify opportunities for areas of support or intervention where I feel like I can be of use to make things run more smoothly.”
“My father had many great examples of wisdom for me. And one of the ones that I tried to use as I entered Anna Jaques was to remind myself that I have two ears and one mouth and to really listen with intention to the individuals practicing here at the bedside,” he says.
What he heard is part of what drew him to Anna Jaques in the first place: That there’s a strong sense of community—both within the hospital and outside it—among the people who work there.
“I was looking for an organization like Anna Jaques that would bring me back into acute care hospital-based medicine but that would also allow me to work within a team of people who really identified as family, and in a setting where community actually meant something,” Focht says. “It wasn’t a hackneyed phrase; it was really an approach to how people manage their relationships with each other as we’re doing the hard work of providing high-quality, safe health care.”
He also heard the excitement among surgical providers about the Anna Jaques Hospital Stepping Forward Project, which expands the hospital’s surgical capacity for the first time in 25 years by adding two new state-of-the-art operating rooms. The project will also renovate the hospital entrance; create a more functional space for central sterile; move the helipad about 25 feet from its current location; and expand the Lagasse Terrace, all with what Focht calls a “historical awareness” of the campus.
He cites this work as part of the hospital’s commitment to providing great health care close to home, which is important to patients and families who might not want or be able to travel, especially when they’re not feeling their best.
“Those priorities really speak to who we are as an organization and the ways that the community has been such an incredible, sustained partner [for] over 135 years, “ Focht says. “Anna Jaques wants to continue to be relevant and embrace its community and make it a place that people want to be because they know they’re going to get great care and that the space is comfortable and welcoming.”
Focht was also impressed by the hospital’s inpatient pediatric psychiatric unit and adult inpatient psychiatric unit, which are evidence to him of a commitment to integrated care that addresses the total medical, surgical, and psychiatric or behavioral health needs of each patient and their family, rather than taking a siloed approach to care that treats every ailment separately and in a vacuum. It’s how he approaches health care quality, which is informed by having an older brother with chronic mental illness.
“Those investments just seemed to really epitomize for me the type of organization that would understand the approach that I have,” he says. “We really want to care for the whole person.”
It’s that holistic approach to care that Focht wants to continue to push in his role as chief medical officer, whether that’s partnering more with providers across the larger Beth Israel Lahey Health system, systemizing ways to help patients and their families manage their health in their day-to-day lives, or ensuring that behavioral healthcare is incorporated into medical and surgical settings and vice versa.
“It’s providing world-class care, with dignity and respect and compassion and the knowledge of our friends and neighbors who come to Anna Jaques for care,” he says. “That sort of hit all the reasons why I originally went to medical school.”