Global Perspectives—and Beyond
Nov 13, 2023 Heitham Hassoun, MD
With the end of the calendar year not far off, I’ve been reflecting on how far we’ve come at Cedars-Sinai International and the extraordinary opportunities that lie ahead.
Since the mid-1990s, Cedars-Sinai has been among the first academic medical centers to recognize the need for a dedicated international department. Under the leadership of Spencer Koerner, MD, the Cedars-Sinai Center for International Health developed an excellent program that was designed to provide international patients at our medical center with differentiated services, financial coordination and concierge support to enhance their patient journey. It was a dedicated, quality-driven team that successfully drew patients from around the world to the medical center and laid the groundwork for the program we are building today.
Since November 2018, when I became the leader of this amazing team, our focus has been on establishing the foundational capabilities, key data resources and necessary integration into Cedars-Sinai’s strategic and operational infrastructure to set us up for success.
"While change is constant, the one element that has not changed and never will is that the patient is at the center of all we think, plan and do."
The driving ethos of Cedars-Sinai International is impact—both on the care that patients receive and on the healthcare environments in our partner countries. Currently, we are beyond fortunate to have the support of the immensely talented doctors, nurses, researchers and managers who comprise the diverse and inclusive culture of Cedars-Sinai. They care for patients from more than 100 countries each year.
Our global services efforts, on the other hand, focus on collaborating with peer organizations to enhance the healthcare environments in the regions they serve. At the onset, we’ve prioritized key strategic regions—including Mexico and Canada; the Arabian Gulf states; China, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Rim; and Latin America—where we are working to build strong clinical, research and educational networks with peer organizations.
What does our future hold? We had a fantastic retreat in July 2023, which we intentionally named “and beyond” because it is abundantly clear to all of us that the sky is the limit for Cedars-Sinai International. Our growing team now has roughly 40 outstanding professionals, including several global consultants, and we are making great strides in representing Cedars-Sinai on the international stage.
In the near term we will be establishing new regional offices in Mexico, Shanghai, Abu Dhabi and Singapore; extending our reach into Indonesia and Southeast Asia; and exploring relationships in new regions, including South America, Central Asia and beyond.
As we continue to grow, our challenge over the next five years is to roll up our sleeves and—boldly and creatively—integrate our resources and capabilities into a global network that encompasses collaborative international relationships with private and public hospitals and universities. It will be no easy task, but the opportunities ahead truly are boundless. We will keep listening and learning. We’ll deploy emergent technologies like AI to develop connectivity in patient-care processes and outcome measures, and we will create new forums for sharing knowledge with our partners.
Four basic lessons will serve us well as we grow.
First, “culture eats strategy for lunch” every day of the week. We must know our customers and strive to understand and honor their values and traditions.
Second, we cannot attempt to sell a product or service that we are not capable of providing at a high level of quality. Attempting to offer services internationally that we haven’t honed at home is not a formula for success.
Third, we are better together. As we strive to build relationships in different cultural settings, it is vital to stay mindful that there is so much we don’t know. Humility and a willingness to learn are essential in international partnerships. There is no success without collaboration.
Fourth, change is inevitable and, in our 21st century world, its pace is constantly accelerating. Our success will depend on our willingness to embrace the unknown.
While change is constant, the one element that has not changed and never will is that the patient is at the center of all we think, plan and do.
Now is our time. The pandemic has dispelled any doubts about the critical importance of healthcare. Globally, the investment in our field is, quite frankly, off the charts. There is no higher calling than the wellbeing of our fellow human beings. Through our present and future collaborations, Cedars-Sinai International will continue to bring excellence in healthcare to patients around the world.