If you ask Wright Lassiter, III what he’s passionate about, it won’t take long for the subject to turn to innovation and precision medicine. Lassiter is the President and CEO of Henry Ford
Health System in Detroit, MI, a $6 billion health system comprised of six hospitals, more than sixty clinical locations, a health insurance plan, and a wide range of ambulatory and retail services. The storied organization is just off its centennial celebration.
“When I first arrived at Henry Ford, we were getting ready to celebrate 100 years of serving the wonderful people of Southeast Michigan and beyond,” says Lassiter.“What Henry Ford has meant to this community is really remarkable. Now, what I often say to our team is, ‘We must take that sense of pride and accomplishment and channel it into our next 100 years.’”
His advice is well-timed, given Henry Ford Health System broke ground in June 2017 on a new destination cancer facility, which will be located across the street from Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and connected via skywalk. A six-story, 187,000 square-foot facility, the new home of the Henry Ford Cancer Institute, will house ambulatory cancer treatment, precision medicine, clinical trials and research, and enhanced support services for patients. Lassiter calls it a crucial step in advancing Henry Ford’s cancer care program.
“It’s important for people to know – this project extends far beyond brick and mortar. Henry Ford is revolutionizing the whole approach to cancer care and making it accessible to patients, no matter where they live.”
That unprecedented accessibility is coming primarily through a combination of precision medicine and advancements in virtual
care and telehealth. The journey to bring precision medicine to the Midwest was introduced in June 2016 by the White House as part of the Cancer Moonshot Initiative led by former Vice President, Joe Biden, who announced that Henry Ford would be part of a global coalition in the fight against cancer.
A few months later, the National Institutes of Health appointed Henry Ford to lead a five-member research consortium to expand the geographic reach and diversity of the NIH’s Precision Medicine Initiative Cohort Program, a landmark research effort aimed at advancing personalized healthcare by studying how individual differences in lifestyle, environment and genetics influence a person’s health and disease risk.
Technological advancements and innovations are an integral part of Henry Ford. Examples include:
- Collaboration with Ford Motor Company to implement driver alertness and impairment technologies for safer vehicles and an application called LifeSYNC that automatically links an individual’s electronic health record with Ford 911 Assist.
- CareTrail, a secure, patient-center mobile communication platform that allows medical teams to engage in real-time “Twitter-like” communications regarding patient conditions and treatments.
- New treatments for heart disease, including 3-D technology that is improving the preciseness and outcomes of heart surgery, and new devices, drug therapies and stem cell treatments for heart failure.
With Henry Ford’s new cancer facility opening in 2020, the health system has sparked a vital part of the area’s revitalization, which includes a 300-acre campus expansion project in Detroit’s Midtown neighborhood that will include retail, office space and housing.
“We’ve had a long-standing commitment to the city of Detroit and it’s really exciting to be part of this extraordinary transformation,” says Lassiter.“That’s one of the things that really drew me to this community.”
Lassiter joined Henry Ford in December 2014 as President and assumed the role of President and CEO in January 2017. Prior to that, he was CEO of Alameda Health System in Oakland, CA and has more than 25 years of experience with large complex health systems. Over the last seven years, Modern Healthcare named him among the“100 Most Influential People in Healthcare,”and
twice honored him among its list of“ Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare.”