Celebrating contributions to a “grand and wonderful future”

Senior Associate Dean Tom Heckler is 2015 Dean’s Award recipient

June 16, 2015

Tom Heckler, MBAAristotle is credited with coining the phrase, "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts." With 1,500 clinician-members in specialties from anesthesiology to urology, each bringing their own expertise to Oregon's only academic health center, the adage applies to the OHSU Faculty Practice Plan. It's the largest organized clinical practice in Oregon and its members – physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and other licensed independent practitioners – make essential contributions to OHSU's patient care, research, education and outreach missions every day.

Getting here, though, has taken a great deal of careful planning and leadership. Tom Heckler, MBA, senior associate dean for clinical practice and chief executive officer of the FPP, has been integral to the fabric of the FPP since he joined the OHSU family as CEO of University Medical Group (UMG) in 1993.

Dean Mark Richardson presented Heckler with the 2015 Dean's Award during the all-faculty meeting on June 24. This award is given by the Dean of the School of Medicine in recognition of an individual who has shown a commitment to the School of Medicine.

"It's difficult to imagine the OHSU Faculty Practice Plan without simultaneously thinking of Tom Heckler's leadership, business acumen and deep knowledge of our health care system," said Dean Richardson. "Tom has been, and continues to be, an excellent steward during what can only be called an unprecedented time of change in health care – particularly for academic medicine. I'm grateful for his tremendous contributions to the School of Medicine."

Before becoming an OHSU employee, Heckler worked as a consultant to OHSU during his final four years with Hamilton/KSA, an international management consulting firm. With an MBA from Stanford and a keen interest in health care, Heckler was a forerunner in applying business principles to nonprofit organizations.

"At the time I became involved with OHSU in the late 1980s, the organization faced fundamental questions about whether it could successfully develop its clinical programs or would be forced to scale back due to what was happening in the local health care marketplace," said Heckler.

Despite these uncertainties, Heckler said it became clear early on that OHSU was committed to excellence and further integration between faculty clinicians and the university. "OHSU was on a trajectory that made it possible to see this grand and wonderful future that we now live in."

As CEO of UMG, Heckler oversaw administrative support services for roughly 30 individual departmental/divisional clinical practices. In 1998‐99, OHSU Medical Group was formed as a 501(c)(3) clinical practice organization, with Heckler as its first CEO.

Throughout the next several years, Heckler guided clinical faculty members – practitioners with an inherent interest in care coordination and mission integration – through a number of activities that helped create a robust faculty practice entity. Much of that work formed the foundation on which OHSU's current growth is based. For example, Heckler and numerous faculty leaders helped plan the Center for Health & Healing next to the Portland Aerial Tram – a natural stepping-off point for OHSU's current Schnitzer Campus and future, planned growth in Portland's South Waterfront District.

"Tom was critical during the multi-year planning process for CHH which, in hindsight, was an important opportunity for our faculty members to demonstrate their collective leadership and ability to contribute to OHSU's strategic goals," said Dean Richardson.

In 2009, OHSUMG was incorporated into the School of Medicine as the Faculty Practice Plan and Heckler was named senior associate dean for clinical practice. Today, he is part of an integrated senior leadership team in the Dean's office which guides the school's activities in all mission areas.

Heckler has held faculty appointments at both OHSU School of Medicine and the University of Minnesota, and is a member of the Board of Directors for Southwest Community Health Center. He was a board member and former chair at CareOregon, a nonprofit health plan serving low-income Oregonians, from its formation in 1994 until 2007. He also sang and served on the board of the Oregon Repertory Singers, a community‐ based non‐profit choral arts organization, for many years.  

Past Dean's Award recipients

2014 – Sharon Anderson, M.D. R'82, Professor and Chair, Department of Medicine

2013 – Bob Hitzemann, Ph.D., Professor and Chair, Department of Behavioral Neuroscience

2012 – Jim Reuler, M.D. R '76, MACP, Past Professor, Department of Medicine

2011 – Charles Thomas, M.D., Professor and Chair, Department of Radiation Medicine