Audio Insights: Chat with the Chair: An Interview with Scott Beck

In this "Chat with the Chair" podcast, William Morice, II, M.D., Ph.D., Chair of the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology (DLMP) at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and President of Mayo Clinic Laboratories (MCL), sits down with Scott Beck, Associate Administrator of DLMP and Senior Vice President of MCL, to welcome him into his new role. Connect with Dr. Morice on Twitter @moricemdphd to let him know what you would like to hear next.


William Morice, II, M.D., Ph.D.: Hi everybody, this is Bill Morice, the Chair of the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology (DLMP) here at Mayo Clinic as well as the President of Mayo Clinic Laboratories, coming at you with another “Chat with the Chair” podcast. I am joined today by Scott Beck, who has been part of our team now for well over a year but has more recently ascended into the position of Associate Administrator for the department as well as Senior Vice President of Mayo Clinic Laboratories. Welcome, Scott.

Scott Beck: Happy to be here.

WM: You know DLMP, and you’ve been on the job for six weeks. What things have you learned, how has it gone, and how do you see things going forward?

SB: Those are great questions, and I ask myself them every day. What am I learning, and what do I need to know? What I know is that this is a great opportunity for me. I have really enjoyed the opportunity to get to know the staff and the people that I have had the pleasure of working with already. I’m trying to get around and meet as many people as possible. I’m spending some time downtown in the Hilton Building, and I’m spending time at Mayo Clinic Laboratories’ Superior Drive location every week as well. It’s such an impressive operation that it has been fun to get out and learn as much as possible, as quickly as possible. I’ll probably be doing that for the next 10 years judging by the size and the complexity of what happens here.

WM: Excellent. I know that I can relate completely. I still feel like I’m learning about our department as well. I’ve been in this job for almost four years now, and I’ve been in the department since 1995—so a long time. Has anything surprised you about the job since you’ve been in it that you didn’t expect when you accepted the position? I’m sure there are a lot of things, but is there anything that really jumps to mind?

SB: I don’t know that I’ve been surprised by anything. You know, I’ve been at Mayo Clinic 26 years now, and I’ve had a number of rotations around the organization in my career. I think one of the things that I’ve been a little surprised by in my first six weeks is how comfortable the environment is. I feel very comfortable in the environment. First of all, people have been very welcoming, and, like the rest of the institution, it is a relationship-driven area. It’s about people working as part of a team and about us pulling on all the resources to address whatever the problem happens to be. From that perspective, I feel as though I’ve been welcomed as a member of the team, and I’ve been able to bring other people together around specific problems and priorities or around goals we’ve talked about achieving and we think are important. But the comfort level of the team-based approach within DLMP has been a very natural transition for me, and that has really helped given that it’s a new vocabulary for me. All of the processes and activities are clearly impressive in both their scale and their complexity, but I have felt a little bit more comfortable in terms of the kind of personnel interactions than I thought I would have when I started.

WM: Excellent. It has been interesting for me to have a new administrative partner, especially since Marie [Brown] had been in the role for so long, and she was a great comfort blanket for me. To be breaking in someone new to the department makes me realize how much I really have come to understand. I learned a lot from Marie [now retired] and understood a lot, in large part because the department is such a dynamic place and people really are quite welcoming. The other thing that’s struck me is just how unique your job is and my job is and our department is. I can’t imagine any other chair or administrative partner role where in one morning you’re talking to a room full of salespeople who are all over the world, then you come back and have discussions with academic chairs about how to structure our academic work, and then you go over to the center and understand how to collaborate, since we touch so many areas. My thought is that our roles are unique in that way. It’s fun and really speaks to the strength of the department that we deliver on so many different areas.

SB: It is, and that’s what makes the environment really cool to think about and to work in. I mean, there’s never a dull moment. There’s never a lack of opportunities to do some really fun and challenging things, and that’s what’s really neat about working in this space. What you and I had the chance to talk about, both as a part of my interview process and as we’ve been getting to know one another and working together, is how do we take all of the things that we could be doing and distill them down to the handful of things that we really think are most important from the departmental perspective. We’ve talked about three major areas. I know you and Marie worked really hard to depict the DLMP and Mayo Clinic Laboratories organizations as a triangle, where at one point you have the "research and development" that fuels the second point, which is the "operational activities," which fuels the third corner, the "sales and marketing activities," which completes that triangle activity. As we think about that at a high level, we’ve talked a lot about wanting to ensure we have growth, innovation, and integration going forward as the areas that we really want to focus on. Growth is really around our Mayo Clinic Laboratories operations and all of the great opportunities we have going forward in the next few years to continue to connect Mayo laboratory knowledge with people who never come here in a way that provides them higher quality and the best value care where they sit from a laboratory perspective. So what we’re continuing to do in growing international activities and extending what we do internationally, and what we’re doing with potential interactions with biopharma as well, is developing an opportunity to work into laboratory benefit management and testing people more efficiently. So that’s the whole growth area on the one triangle. The innovation area is just a continuation of what we’ve been implementing from our innovation strategy, which is really around new test development and innovation as the Advanced Diagnostics Lab and other activities come on. Then integration is really around our existing operations. How do we do a better job of integrating, not just across the enterprise and three different departments we have in DLMP currently. It’s really about how do we break down walls between labs and between divisions, and how do we make sure that we really are working together as a more singular team as opposed to 65 different laboratory-based activities that just happen to be loosely confederated into divisions and departments.

WM: Yeah.

SB: And I think as we can continue to break those barriers down and get more discussion around what these opportunities are, it really positions us well to be continually successful going forward.

WM: Great observations, and a couple of thoughts come to mind. I’ve always thought of myself as a Mayo Clinic physician who works in laboratory medicine, not as a pathologist who works at Mayo Clinic, and one of the things that was always disappointing to me was the sense that the institution didn’t really see what it had in us. We have this dynamic environment that we’re responding to. We want to transform our image institutionally to say we really are engines and drivers. We’re not just throwing fuel in the engine, we actually are the engine, and it feels like we are viewed that way. That is our perception because people like you come in and help share that. We talked about this idea of using Mayo Clinic knowledge to improve patient care for those patients who may never receive our care directly. So I think one of the things that people listening to this might wonder is now that you’re up in the cockpit in one of the pilot seats, where do you see us going forward? Many people know that you’ve worked with our incoming CEO Dr. Gianrico Farrugia. What do you see as our potential in the next three to five years, in terms of where we’re going to go?

SB: With a change in our leadership, the question that we ask is, what’s going to be different going forward with Dr. Farrugia than we’ve had with Dr. John Noseworthy, M.D.? With Dr. Noseworthy, what we saw was this integration from a holding company to a single operating entity and the idea that all of the organization was going to be working more as a collective one. That’s going to be a huge mark of his tenure and a very consequential mark in the history of Mayo. I think Dr. Farrugia coming in on the back of that will take what Dr. Noseworthy has done in terms of an integrated activity and really seek to figure out how we can take that more simplified structure and innovate and expand more quickly going forward. So, I think his messages that we’ve already begun to hear are going to be around simplification and innovation. From a DLMP perspective, I think it’s a perfect time for us because we’ve articulated an innovation strategy, we’ve spent the last year really working to get the right organizational pieces in place, and we’re beginning to move that innovation strategy forward. If we can collectively continue to move behind that innovation strategy and come up with the right approach and ways that we can deliver innovation in the form of downstreaming new tests, we have a very receptive leadership group that’s going to want to continue to make those investments and allow us to do that.

WM: Yeah.

SB: I think that what we’re doing on the innovation side is really going to resonate with Dr. Farrugia.

WM: I think it’s a super exciting time.

SB: Absolutely. Dr. Farrugia really was the instigator of our Center for Innovation activities. He wound up co-writing a book. It was all about how do you think big, start small, and move quickly. I think that certainly the work we did in individualized medicine was predicated on that philosophy of how do you bring resources to bear, how do you make decisions quickly, how do you fail quickly, don’t be afraid to take those first few steps, just make sure you’re moving in the right direction and adjust as you go, and being a little bit more agile in what you do and how you go about doing it. I think that DLMP is going to be following that same path, and we certainly have that same opportunity to open up our aperture for risk a little bit on the innovation side.

WM: Yeah.

SB: And really be able to bring resources to bear around things that might help us differentiate our practice and provide cutting-edge diagnostics to help fuel not only our internal clinical practice and meet our patient needs here but also meet patient needs elsewhere through Mayo Clinic Laboratories. If we do that well and we’re making a lot of those choices, some of those are going to fail, and that’s okay. That’s exactly what we want the innovation stuff to be able to do—to be that environment where we’re taking these great ideas and we’re really proving them out. Some of those will prove to be hopefully the next greatest products and services that we’re able to bring to market for our patients, and some of those will fall by the wayside in that they were successful, they just didn’t lead us to the right outcome.

WM: Yeah.

SB: You know, the outcome we thought we were going to have. They were successful in their own way.

WM: I look to you to give a couple closing thoughts. I will say I’ve enjoyed working with you before, but I’ve really enjoyed working with you in this role already. I think we’re going to have a lot of fun, which is important because I think everyone in this department and in Mayo Clinic Laboratories should have as much fun as possible at work because we spend more of our time at work than we do at home, unfortunately.

SB: Absolutely.

WM: Any closing thoughts, then?

SB: I’ll pick up on the fun thing. Look, we work too hard every day not to be able to enjoy and have a good time doing what it is we do. I’ve felt great in the last six weeks knowing that this opportunity and my coming into the role was absolutely the right thing for me to do, and I’ve enjoyed having time to work with you even more closely. The energy that we have as a leadership group is palpable. What’s great for me is, as I continue to talk with people and get around and learn more and more about the organization, that the operational efficiency that’s here, the excellence in what DLMP does and has always done, shows we’re at the top of our game. We’re coming in that now at a time when the institution is going to be looking for the things that we have to offer.

WM: Yeah.

SB: As a laboratory, how are we going to innovate? How are we going to define the practice of medicine going forward? How are we going to extend outside the walls of the institution? How are we going to grow internationally? And how are we going to take clinical knowledge and turn that into products and services that other people are going to want and benefit from? Those are not only things that other areas of the organization might aspire to, they are things that DLMP and Mayo Clinic Laboratories have been doing.

WM: Yeah.

SB: I mean, we’ve been doing this now, in some respects, for 40 years or so, and on the innovation side going all the way back to Louie B. Wilson, right?

WM: Yep.

SB: So we’ve had such a long track record of doing this. What I’m excited about is that the best days for DLMP and Mayo Clinic Laboratories are ahead of us, and what’s really exciting for me is being able to get up every day and come to work with a bunch of people who are excited about what it is they do and who can help us continue to do what we do well and grow and change going forward.

WM: Great. Well, I can tell you I just met with Dr. Noseworthy last week, and he shares the view that you have and that we have of ourselves, which I think is shared by institutional leadership as well, and he sees Dr. Farrugia as someone who is really going to help carry forward many of the concepts that his leadership has worked towards under his tenure. He sees us as being a big part of that and a big contributor and the wind in the sails for that. So, it’s not just us that feel this way about ourselves, the institution feels that way about us, too, as you have said already. So thanks a lot. This has been great.

SB: Thank you.

William Morice, II, M.D., Ph.D. (@moricemdphd)

William Morice, II, M.D., Ph.D.

William Morice, II, M.D., Ph.D., is the Chair of the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology (DLMP) at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and President of Mayo Medical Laboratories. Dr. Morice received his M.D./Ph.D. degrees from the Mayo Graduate School in 1993 and completed his subsequent pathology residency and hematopathology fellowship at Mayo Clinic.