New clinical leadership announced at Health Center

by Kristina Goodnough

Dr. Peter Albertsen has been named medical director of the UConn Medical Group, a 350-member multi-specialty physician practice, and James Thornton has been named director of the 224-bed John Dempsey Hospital, creating a new leadership team for the Health Center’s clinical enterprise.

“Both are committed to leadership that is considerate and sensitive, collaborative, systems-based, data-driven, and empowering of the skills and intelligence of others,� says Dr. Peter Deckers, executive director of health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, who announced the appointments late last month.

Albertsen and Thornton replace Dr. Steven Strongwater, who filled both roles until his resignation in December to become chief executive officer of Stony Brook University Medical Center in New York.

“Their familiarity and experience with the Health Center, combined with the perspective each has gained from work on national committees or at other hospitals, make them qualified to help us continue to build and expand our clinical practice and create a safer and more efficient university hospital,� says Deckers.

Albertsen, who recently celebrated 20 years at the Health Center, also serves as associate dean for clinical research planning and director of the urology residency program, and has developed an international reputation for his research in the treatment of prostate cancer. On the national level, he is a trustee of the American Board of Urology and immediate past president of the American Association of Clinical Urologists.

Albertsen, who served as head of the UConn Medical Group in a part-time capacity for several years in the early 90s, says his new job is a demanding assignment.

“We have to prepare ourselves for a new set of challenges as health care places greater emphasis on clinical outcomes and moves toward paying for performance, he says.

“We also have to continue to centralize and improve our business practices as we adapt to the reduced flow of dollars into health care.�

Thornton joined the Health Center in 2003 as controller of John Dempsey Hospital and director of procurement services for the Health Center.

Since December 2005, he has been on assignment from the Health Center to serve as chief operating officer of Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford to assist the executive management team.

previously served as president and chief executive officer of Brandywine Health Services, a hospital and trauma center in Coatesville, Pa., and as chief financial officer at several other hospitals in Pennsylvania.

Thornton says the university hospital is moving into a much more competitive era.

“We are competing with stand-alone programs out in the community, so we have to run a little harder and faster to keep up,� he says.

The role of the hospital administrator is to facilitate the practice of medicine and surgery, Thornton adds.

“I cannot deliver patient care, but I can help put into place systems that make our doctors, nurses, and other caregivers better.�

Albertsen says an academic health center has a special mission.

“Not only are we training the physicians of tomorrow, but we are working out how to translate new knowledge into actual health care,� he says.

“Our role is to help craft solutions to the tough questions our society is facing.�

Albertsen received his medical degree from Columbia University in New York City and completed his residency with the Fifth (Harvard) Surgical Service at New England Deaconess Hospital and the Brady Urological Institute at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

Thornton is a graduate of Villanova University.
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