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The Future of Healthcare: “Initially it is all about assembling all of the voices or demands for healthcare changes before we set upon our path” with Sam Terese, CEO of Alverno Laboratories

In order to affect change, we really need to get to a common goal or objective. At times we refer to developing a shared vision of the future state. In essence, it is not possible to start a journey without a sense where we are going. At least it must be directionally correct and hopefully […]

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In order to affect change, we really need to get to a common goal or objective. At times we refer to developing a shared vision of the future state. In essence, it is not possible to start a journey without a sense where we are going. At least it must be directionally correct and hopefully we can fine tune it along the way. So initially it is all about assembling all of the voices or demands for healthcare changes before we set upon our path.


As a part of my interview series with leaders in healthcare, I had the pleasure to interview Mr. Sam Terese, MBA, MT (ASCP). Sam holds the position of Chief Executive Officer of Alverno Laboratories. He has more than 40 years of experience in the laboratory environment. His laboratory leadership experience encompasses community hospitals, academic medical laboratory and research-based organizations with the last seven years as the Chief Executive Officer at Alverno. Mr. Terese holds an M.B.A. from the University of Illinois at Chicago and Bachelor’s degrees in Medical Technology from Rosalind Franklin University Chicago and Biology from the State University of New York at Buffalo.


Thank you so much for doing this with us Sam! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

This is quite an interesting question because where I started is in a much different direction than where I ended up. My original passion going back to high school and college was science, especially biology. Most of my early career decisions revolved around the pursuit of enriching that scientific experience. So, after a few years I found myself running a very small lab — I think maybe a staff of 3 or 4. At some point in those early days, a colleague asked if I ever thought of focusing more on the business aspect and he told me “you seem to be pretty good at it, maybe you should go back to school”. Thankfully I listened and for a fair number of years now I been able to meld both passions into a career.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

A story is difficult, but I’ll be happy to share a lesson learned. Most of us in leadership have a great awareness of the impact of culture and spend a fair amount of time shaping it. As Alverno has grown, our company has become a blended family of laboratorians from our various health systems who share similar mission and visions. One might think that similarity would be enough, but it was amazing just how false that assumption turned out to be. Even the subtle differences were absolutely paralyzing to the organization. One of the very first things we did was to tackle this cultural divide. All that Alverno has achieved was only possible by overcoming that challenge and it is the one that is least talked about.

Can you tell our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the healthcare field?

I don’t know that I am necessarily an authority but very kind of you to include me in that category. I think in order to find yourself in this category you need to be on a continuous quest for knowledge, not only in your specific area of expertise but in a very expanded circle around that central knowledge point. From there it is about an ongoing discovery how the entire system interconnects. From there it is a never-ending set of experiments of sorts, both successes and failures, that has lead to a growth in knowledge that leads to expertise.

What makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

For Alverno it is about staying on the leading edge, but it is not necessary about just the current technology, it is about doing things that can have an impact on the care of patients, not only today but in the future. A few years back we were looking at the practice of microbiology and the focus at first was all about automating some of the manual tasks which would make an impact on efficiency. However, the innovation of automation was realized in the advancement of organism identification that lead to the breakthrough of a 24 to 48 hour reduction in the diagnosis of sepsis. Which means as a laboratory we may be saving lives by our ability to significantly reduce turnaround times and that is what makes Alverno special.

Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to and/or see in the healthcare industry? How do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo? Which “pain point” is this trying to address?

Today what we are most focused on is the move into the digital age. We recently launched a digital pathology initiative that will have us converting from traditional microscopy, looking at samples on a glass slide through a microscope, to looking at a computer screen and having pathologists making a diagnosis from the desktop. That is quite incredible but just think of the journey that might take us on over the next few years. How might AI (artificial intelligence) help us better interpret what we are seeing and what that might mean for patient care? Think about what this can mean in a world of collaborative medicine with the potential of experts around the globe assessing some of the most difficult cases and at lighting speed, in real time, nearly instantly. I am not sure at this point we fully understand the positive impact this technology possesses.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

I honestly can say there is nothing that comes to mind. It would have taken away so many valuable learnings that I might have missed. Yes, even some of the painful lessons and possibly some failures, which are often the best teachers.

Let’s jump to the main focus of our interview. According to this study cited by Newsweek, the US healthcare system is ranked as the worst among high income nations. This seems shocking. Can you share with us 3–5 reasons why you think the US is ranked so poorly?

This is a difficult question and I am not convinced that anyone could respond because if we could come to any sort of consensus of a reason, or maybe five or ten reasons, it would imply that the solution might be simplistic.

I think one could even challenge the conclusion of the study. Yes, the US does spend a great deal on healthcare that is directed at treating disease, but it also spends far less on factors and social programs that prevent disease. In contrast other developed countries spend less on healthcare but far more on factors and social programs that prevent disease. The debate about healthcare is not necessarily a new topic; one can find evidence of discussion of it in almost every government administration going back the early 1900’s. With all that said, we find ourselves still in a state of experimentation and discovery, trying to balance all the competing priorities. What is noteworthy is that we are seeing fundamental changes in how care is delivered and perhaps getting closer to delivering fundamental improvements in the system. One last thought is that a key driver in the improvement of healthcare will be for the individual to take some level of responsibility for his or her own health when possible.

You are a “healthcare insider”. Can you share 5 changes that need to be made to improve the overall US healthcare system? Please share a story or example for each.

In order to affect change, we really need to get to a common goal or objective. At times we refer to developing a shared vision of the future state. In essence, it is not possible to start a journey without a sense where we are going. At least it must be directionally correct and hopefully we can fine tune it along the way. So initially it is all about assembling all of the voices or demands for healthcare changes before we set upon our path.

Thank you! It’s great to suggest changes, but what specific steps would need to be taken to implement your ideas? What can individuals, corporations, communities and leaders do to help?

Of all the questions this is the hardest. For Alverno it is a continual effort to find ways to improve the health of the communities we are blessed to serve. I think if we all start there, we have the potential to affect change by focusing on keeping people healthy to begin with.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better healthcare leader? Can you explain why you like them?

I must admit I don’t have any favorite inspirational books, but I do have an affinity for multiple listservs that cover a diverse set of topics, both within healthcare but also across a far range of topics and industries. From there I can deep dive into any subject. It is easy to find inspiration, you just need to look around for everyday experiences and interactions. Whether it is a person making your coffee at your favorite coffeeshop, your local dry cleaner or the people that work in our laboratory and it is the passion they bring every day that you strive to match.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I must admit that I do not have a social media presence. Alverno Laboratories can be found on Facebook and LinkedIn if readers would like to know more about our laboratory.

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

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