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Ferniany returning to the South as CEO of UHC

Jackson — The University Hospitals and Clinics (UHC) has a new CEO, Dr. Will Ferniany, who intends to help “push UHC to one of the foremost healthcare institutions throughout the Southeast.”

UHC encompasses the teaching hospitals for all University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMC) education programs and a 665-bed diagnostic and treatment referral center for the entire state. Inpatients total approximately 26,000 annually with more than 360,000 outpatient and emergency visits every year.

Ferniany, who also assumes the position of associate vice chancellor for health systems, joins UHC with 31 years of healthcare administration experience. He began his career as an assistant administrator at Bryce State Psychiatric Hospital in Tuscaloosa, Ala. He then served as vice president for planning, research and development at Healthcare Services of America in Birmingham, Ala. In 1987, he became CEO of Hill Crest Hospital in Birmingham. He served as executive administrator of the Department of Psychiatry and CEO of the UAB Psychiatric Hospital from 1988-1990, when he was promoted to associate administrator of strategic planning and market development.

Ferniany comes to UHC from the University of Pennsylvania Health System (UPHS), which he joined in 1992 as associate executive vice president of marketing and strategic support, and in 1999 was promoted to senior vice president of professional services over the practice plan and primary care system. The same year, he also was promoted to chief administrative officer.

A native of Mobile, Ala., Ferniany earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Alabama and a master’s degree in hospital and health administration and Ph.D. in administration-health services at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

At press time, Ferniany and his wife, Dana, were preparing for the move to Mississippi. The Mississippi Business Journal caught up with the busy CEO by phone in Pennsylvania, and asked him why he chose healthcare administration as a career, his management style and his goals and plans for UHC.

Mississippi Business Journal: What led you into the healthcare field, and what has kept you there for more than 30 years?

Will Ferniany: I originally went to college to be a dentist, but decided it wasn’t for me. I got in healthcare administration because of the desire help people, combined with my skills sets. I have the personality for leadership and administration.

I was looking for a CEO position where I could make a difference. At Penn, I was the chief administrative officer. That’s great, but it is one step removed from the doctors, nurses and patients. I accepted the position at the Medical Center to get closer to those groups.

MBJ: Describe your management philosophy and style. How do you motivate your people?

WF: Very cooperative. Very inclusive. My approach is to give people as much resources as possible to do the job.
UMC has a lot of great people. One of my goals is for the hospital to be an employer of choice as well as the place to go for healthcare. What I want is, if you walk up to anyone on the street in Mississippi who has a serious illness and ask them where they are going to go for treatment, they’ll say UMC. That will only happen if we have great people.

MBJ: What are your plans and goals for the organization? What do you believe will be the key to future success?

WF: I have been impressed with the physical plant and the people at the Medical Center. It already is a great institution, but, like everything, it can be even better. I want to see it become the institution of last resort in a number of ways. One, I want it to be the institution of last resort in such areas as transplants and cancer treatment. (I really want to see a strong, robust transplant program. Too many Mississippians are going out of state for those services, and it doesn’t need to be that way.) And two, I want the hospital to be an institution of last resort for those who can’t afford healthcare.

The hospital should be the tertiary referral center for the entire state. I plan on reaching out to all the hospitals in Mississippi to see how we can serve them and their patients better.

The Medical Center plays a number of roles, teaching being an important one. It also has a role as an economic force for the entire state through its research, employee base and all that it does. All academic hospitals are wonderful resources, and none are more valuable than the one in Mississippi.

MBJ: When not at work, what do you like to do?

WF: I like to kayak, which my wife likes to do with me. No whitewater — I used to whitewater. I used to rock climb, too. I really like to bicycle ride. I am really looking forward to riding the Natchez Trace. I know I won’t get run over out there.

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at northway@msbusiness.com.

About Wally Northway

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