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Community: Newhall Memorial names Dr. Richard S. Frankenstein as interim chief medical officer

Posted: March 13, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: March 13, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital has hired a new interim, part-time chief medical officer, a board-certified physician in the areas of pulmonology and internal medicine with a track record for evaluating hospital standards at the national level.

He will replace the interim CMO, whose appointment stirred long-simmering differences between the administration/policymakers of the Santa Clarita Valley’s only hospital and at least some voices within its community of doctors.

The new CMO’s name is Dr. Richard S. Frankenstein, pronounced Franken-STEEN — unlike the monster-building doctor in Mary Shelley’s classic story.

The hospital’s latest top appointee has served as a commissioner of the national Joint Commission — formerly called the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations — where he chaired the Standards and Survey Procedures Committee.

Frankenstein began work Monday as the hospital’s chief medical officer and is expected to continue working part time in that capacity until a permanent full-time CMO is chosen, said hospital spokeswoman Andie Bogden.

Like Dr. Richard Corlin, who recently joined the hospital’s board directors, Frankenstein once served as president of the California Medical Association.

“They’re both ‘big guns,’ ‘heavyweights,’ and experienced,” Bogden said.

If recruiting “big guns” refers to getting leaders who help craft policy affecting doctors across the nation, then Frankenstein is the second big gun to be appointed by the hospital in the last month.

Both Corlin and Frankenstein bring to the table experience that addresses urgent medical issues affecting tens of thousands of California physicians and their patients.

This latest appointment by the hospital comes at a time when its administration has come under fire by some physicians who have complained publicly that they, as a body representing Newhall Memorial doctors, are being marginalized.

The idea of creating the chief medical officer position at Newhall Memorial was generated by the medical staff leadership, supported by administration and agreed to by the board, said Bogden.

“I really want to emphasize that the CMO role enhances the work of the chief of staff, and does not replace the chief of staff. The chief medical officer and chief of staff roles are optimally designed to work as partners to improve patient safety and satisfaction,” she said in an e-mail to The Signal.

Frankenstein, who is a consultant to the board of directors of the California Medical Association’s Institute for Medical Quality, takes over for CMO Dr. Susan Reynolds, whose six-month contract with the hospital expired last Sunday.

“Chief medical officer is an officer of the hospital on the administrative team, as you would find a chief operating officer, or chief financial officer, or chief nursing officer, etc.,” Bogden said. “Seventy percent of best practice hospitals have this position, as do most hospitals with more than 200 beds.”

Since her appointment on Sept. 7, Reynolds has defined the CMO’s role for the hospital.

She was hired specifically for the short term.

“Her job was primarily to set up the chief medical officer position from a structural standpoint and educate the rest of us on what the role entails and how it benefits the community and the hospital,” Bogden explained.

“She actually has a full-time job already so we were very fortunate to have her for this short time,” she said. “She made some improvements to the medical staff office department functioning — they are the department of the hospital that supports physician governance activities and such.”


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