Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

An Answer to the Question, “How are you doing?”

August 25th, 2021

Hey Rox,

I’m doing okay now, thanks.
I’m just bored with COVID restrictions brought on this time by the recalcitrant warriors of the uninformed.  With 20+ years of experience working with RNA specialists, I’m totally dispirited that social media and politics have homogenized to form some type of perverse love-match to place us in this Ground Hog Day-type circular firing squad again created by massive conspiracy theories about mRNA and tracking devices.
I anxiously watched my six-year-old grandson get on the bus to head to an “It’s up to you if you want your kid to wear a mask” school district, and I pray he doesn’t become a pediatric statistic in one of the hospitals that is totally understaffed, overworked, and psychologically drained.
Then I got a call from my kid that someone else in the office who chose to avoid the “satanic vaccine” is infected with COVID and that may mean going into quarantine.
It’s like re-living the political and racial turmoil of 1968 capped with the fear of the Black Plague of 1346, topped by the Afghan situation with the Taliban’s religious beliefs of the 7th Century.
We may have smart phones containing access to all of the knowledge ever accumulated in human history but our tribal instincts and irrational thinking are reminiscent of an evening of chair throwing at a WWE fight combined with a fiery day at NASCAR, all wrapped up in the garbage left behind at a Pittsburgh Heinz Field, Kenny Chesney concert.
I love the James Baldwin quote, “I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”
Wow, I guess that was a long answer to a short question.  No need to reply. Sometimes it’s good to be older!
Take care,



As the Pandemic Wanes, Our Youth Cry Out for Help

July 28th, 2021

Western PA Guide to Good Health Summer Edition
Suicide, Social Media Addiction, Mental Health Issues Result of Covid Isolation and Stress
By Nick Jacobs
As we as a society examine the negative impact of the past 15-plus months, one group that needs specific atten- tion is our young people.
A recent article in Becker’s Hospital Review helped sound the alarm as hospitals are inundated with kids attempting suicide. As stated by Jena Hausmann, CEO of Children’s Hospital Aurora, Colorado, her pediatric emergency and inpatient units are being “overrun with kids attempting sui- cide and suffering from other forms of major mental health illness.”
If that’s not a societal and cultural statement, nothing ever will be. The article went on to explain there has been an increase of 90 percent in the demand for behavioral health treatment.
The combination of isolation and stress from the COVID pandemic has contributed to this phenomenon and turned what would have been low- level anxiety and depression into suicide attempts. The chief medical offi- cer of this Aurora-based Children’s Hospital went on to explain that the top reason for emergency room visits over the past several weeks has been sui- cide attempts. He went on to explain, “The kids have run out of resilience – their tanks are empty.”
One of my long-time physician friends, Dr. Scott Shannon, a pediatric psychiatrist from Colorado, says, “We need to take action. Physical inac- tivity, deteriorating diet, lack of adequate sleep, and fraying of family rela- tionships are similar threats pounding our kids. This has been a long train coming.
“We tend to ignore the issues of children and women in our culture and this is an example of that and what denial and avoidance brings when a syn- ergistic crisis arrives to stress an unprepared, poorly funded and non-func-
tional system.”
Nor is this challenge limited to Colorado.
Not long after my contact with Dr. Shannon, another close friend and
pediatrician, Dr. Matt Masiello, called me from Massachusetts where he said the challenges are similarly alarming. He indicated that young patients are sometimes kept in holding situations for days at a time before they can find psychiatric beds.
I then spoke with a local administrator from Southwestern PA and was informed they are seeing a situation that is also approaching the emergency level with the primary challenge of finding appropriate facilities and pro- fessionals to help these kids.
We have all become critically aware of the challenges this pandemic has created when it comes to the lack of socialization, required home school- ing, and the loss of significant activities such as dances, sporting events, and recognition and celebratory ceremonies. Besides that, if you’re a teenager challenged by living with parents who are insensitive, abusive, or just stressed from attempting to deal with the pressures of working all day from home, the level of isolation experienced can be overwhelming.
Beyond these first, most obvious causes feeding this wildfire of psychi- atric challenges among our young people, can we point a finger at anything else? Maybe we should look at the addictive nature of social media as another potential contributor.
To quote a friend and Ph.D. Psychologist Gregory Rys, “Media is now deliberately designed to be addictive. Especially since we have entered the age of instant feedback via phone, table, PC, internet, and cable TV.
“Marketers are deliberately using principles of neuroeconomics and learning theory to economic decision making and consumerism at a macro and micro level. Social media platforms know how to effectively utilize these principles for advertising.
“Once you have someone addicted to a device and platform you can shape their emotional state and influence their behavior. There is a newly emerging disorder that psychologists are treating. It is called Social Media Addiction, and just like other addictions, you can use the addiction to weaponize its users. And it occurs on a daily basis: to suppress facts or to invent them. And the addicts will believe what they are told as long as the drug keeps being delivered.
“The ironic thing is, most of us don’t believe these principles apply to us, just other more gullible people. That is exactly where the architects of social media drugs want us.”
Of course, you don’t have to be a physician, a scientist, or a behavioral health professional to realize we are in a time of significant turmoil where the primary societal infrastructure has been significantly disrupted, and it is time for serious change. Otherwise, we risk losing a whole generation to the residue impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
If that happens, we effectively can say goodbye to any chance we have of ever returning to “normal” – whatever that is.
> Nick Jacobs is a partner with SMR, LLC, a senior leadership healthcare consulting firm. He was a founding member of the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine, former board member of the American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine. A former hospital CEO and founder of two
genetic research institutes, Jacobs maintains a website,


July 5th, 2021

Crying Out for Help

By Nick Jacobs

Let me begin with a caveat. In this article there will be a proposed “beginning of a solution” that you’re going to read about but it is not in place yet. This article is a solicitation to help our elected officials know how much and why we need their support to make this happen.  We need everyone to help make it a reality.

Many of us have been touched by the challenges presented from the COVID-19 epidemic, but it has wreaked special havoc on those with behavioral health challenges. Jena Hausmann, CEO of Children’s Hospital Aurora, Colorado, said in a recent article in Becker’s Hospital Review that her pediatric emergency and inpatient units are being “overrun with kids attempting suicide and suffering from other forms of major mental health illness.”There has been an increase of 90 percent in demand for behavioral health treatment.

Because of stress, isolation, and family challenges what might have been low-level anxiety and depression has become suicide attempts. When a poor diet, inactivity, lack of sleep, and challenging family relationships enter the picture, life can become too much to handle.

There are no easy fixes for this, but we are backing an opportunity to at least begin to address the issues before they become more serious.

In the United States, we depend on the police to respond to mental health emergencies. This requires an enormous amount of resources and can often result in a negative outcome for the victim and for the police.  For example, in 2017, over 20% of police staff time was consumed responding to individuals with mental illness. The most disconcerting statistic is that people with mental illness that has not been treated are over 15 times more likely to be killed during police encounters with other citizens.

In 2020, Congress passed legislation that would create an easily remembered phone number that can be used for a mental health emergency, a three-digit mental health crisis line, 988 which is an easily remembered alternative number to 911. The problem is one that we are all too familiar with, funding.  Every State needs to pass the necessary legislation to help ensure that a fully-funded crisis response system supporting 988 will be in place and operable.

This system would include call centers available 24/7, mobile response teams, and crisis stabilization services that connect patients to care.

The actual system will become available nationwide by July 2022, but this system will not be functional in Pennsylvania without your help. Advocates like you are needed to call or write your representatives to encourage them to enact this supportive legislation. It can’t and won’t happen without you.

Highlands Hospital is a well-recognized center for behavioral health treatment, but this effort to put a functional State-wide system in place takes more than the encouragement of one healthcare organization.  It takes you, the public, to let your elected representatives know how important connectivity to 988 could be for you and your family, your friends, and your friends friends.

This is about saving lives, preventing broken hearts, and helping not only our caregivers but also our police. Please reach out to your elected official and ask them to support 988.

Nick Jacobs is a partner with Senior Management Resources, LLC, a senior leadership healthcare consulting firm. He is a co-founder of the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine, former board member of the Integrative Health Policy Consortium. He was a former hospital CEO, founder of two genetic research institutes, and a Trustee at Southern California University of Health Sciences. 


New Look at Memorial Day

May 31st, 2021

As we celebrate Memorial Day 2021, let me challenge you to consider what more this holiday may represent and further challenge you to look at things just a little differently than we have since the inception of this day of remembrance. This year our Memorial Day, our lives, our country, and our world position, vision, and influence has been forever changed.

In a recent article by Margaret Renkl in the New York Times, she explored the failure of our nation to meet the challenge of a different type of patriotism, patriotism to care for and defend our fellow man for the good of the country.

Not unlike what we did to preserve our nation, our belief system, and our future in times of war, in 2020 we had the opportunity to show a type of patriotism, human caring, and common good that would serve to present an example of what should and could be a positive pathway for life in America for generations to come.

She described the COVID pandemic as “the moral equivalent of war” where we were engaged in a battle to save lives, a battle that was not brought on by an actual war but by a pandemic that did not care about any individual human being.

In her opinion piece she alluded to the politicizing of this pandemic by our political leaders and by, as she described them, “craven commentators” who encouraged Americans to refuse to do anything to stop the spread of this disease because they should see themselves as patriots. As she stated, these self-proclaimed patriots continued to have social gatherings, would not stay at home, wear face masks, and now are rejecting the vaccine, a decision which could allow the virus to continue to mutate to the point of no return.

She stressed the fact that, excluding the Civil War, with one estimate as high as 900,000 COVID-lives lost, more Americans have died from COVID-19 than in all of the other wars we have ever fought as a country. We were engaged in a literal war, fighting for our lives against a virus, and the result was aptly described as a national calamity, an invasion of “a destructive and unstoppable force” that could have been met ever so much more humanely and intelligently than it was.

Our handling of the COVID-19 virus truly could have been a time for us all to come together on behalf of our fellow citizens, and to demonstrate our ability to sacrifice on behalf of others. But we did not, and now it is time to mourn the immeasurable losses caused by this war on our health, and as she described it, not mourning just for life but also for “security, camaraderie, and the capacity for hope.”

When we consider all of the teachers, healthcare workers, first responders, and essential workers who lost their lives due to the daily sacrifices they made to protect, feed, educate, and help their fellow man, we see true patriotism. Then you can add to that the millions more of us who were compliant and took whatever measures necessary to protect our most vulnerable citizens from this disease. It is that knowledge that makes us even more aware of the chasm that exists between our fellow citizens who did not and who would not even consider changing their behavior in even the tiniest ways to protect or help their fellow man.

Maybe, as the author suggested, we need a new kind of Memorial Day to commemorate those who did the right thing by working collectively to protect and defend our neighbors, friends, and strangers but also to remember all of those whose lives were lost because of those shellfish decisions by others. The fact that our idea of national service has become so self-centered, so politicized, so cold and heartless, demonstrates where we currently are as human beings in a society that is struggling to remain a nation.

As she stated, “There is more to mourn today than I ever understood before.”


The Legacy of the Covid-19 by Jan Jennings

March 31st, 2021

The title of this missive would suggest that the Covid-19 nightmare is over.  Not at all.   Here is a statistical update.  Worldwide, as of March 1, 2021, there have been 2,650,000 deaths and 120,000,000 cases. In the United States, there have been 534,000 deaths and 2,940,000 cases.  To put this in perspective, in the six years of World War II, the United States lost 407,316 U.S. servicemen and women.

The coronavirus has been an unbelievable disaster throughout the world, but the American citizens have borne a disproportionate share of the pain.  Why?

There are probably many reasons, but two come to mind:

Citizen Response:  I have family members who say they would rather have the disease than the vaccine.  That is a quaint position.  The only problem with this position is that one of the side effects of the coronavirus is death.  Several days ago, I watched my beloved Pittsburgh Pirates in a Spring Training game at LECOM Field in Bradenton,  The television camera drifted into the outfield and focused on a bar and grill above the centerfield wall.   There were 25 patrons enjoying the game.  Only three were wearing essential protective masks.   What were they thinking about?  The coronavirus and the more recent variants are so lethal, particularly in Florida.   I love a good baseball game, but not enough to put my life and the lives of others in danger under the current circumstances.

Former Administration: I have no interest in politicizing this missive.  The fact is that the Former President had advanced knowledge that the coronavirus was coming to the United States and that it was lethal. In an interview which appears in Bob Woodward’s second book about President Trump, he is quoted as saying “I did not want to reveal this information to the American People because I did not want to set off a panic.”  

 Later, various arbitrary dates were selected when the disease would simply disappear.   It was also suggested we might inject into our bodies various chemical or biological agents.    

Where did the coronavirus come from?  The first known infections from SARS-CoV-2 were discovered in Wuhan, China.   Because many of the early infected patients were workers at the Huanan Seafood Market, it has been suggested that the virus might have originated from the market.  However, additional research revealed that the disease may have been introduced into the Huanan Seafood Market by anyone from any country.  The actual genesis of the coronavirus remains a mystery, but there is no proof the disease was manufactured as a biological weapon.

 Covid-19 or the coronavirus has inflicted incalculable mass destruction to the world economy, over $17T in the United States alone as well as extraordinary devastation to public health and citizen safety.

 We are now in a race to develop effective and safe vaccines for the mutations that are occurring in South America, South Africa, England, California, and other geographic areas as we work to immunize all willing citizens.   Why is this so important?   We only need to look back to the Flu of 1918 and 1920.   One pig in Iowa may have been responsible for 50,000,000 world-wide deaths.  In the United States, 20-30 percent of all citizens contracted the disease and 690,000 U.S. citizens died.  The only way America could achieve herd immunity was by so many of its citizens contracting the disease and surviving, and even then mask-wearing and social distancing was controversial. 

 Immunization for Covid-19 offers the hope that we might achieve herd immunity before the end of 2021.  It is by no means certain. 




March 28th, 2021

I’ve been trying to get my head around mass-shootings for a long time. With more than 100 gun-related deaths every day in this country, and even when our children are being shot in their classrooms, we are still a country divided over the majority of gun laws.

In spite of the fact that 33 percent of mass shooters were individuals who were legally prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm, many of us remain steadfastly resolved that no gun law is a good gun law. Some believe politicians want to take away all of their guns and restricting gun rights in any way is not only unacceptable, it is un-American.

Well, guess what, I have no plans to say anything about the increased numbers of deaths that have occurred since military-style weapons and high-capacity magazines were legalized, and I’m not going to talk about the fact that 54 percent of mass shooting incidents were domestically related.  I’m also going to carefully avoid the data point that a large of number of the shooters are mentally ill young, white men.

Why? You might ask. Well, it’s because I have a bigger fish to fry. Actually, it’s not even a fish.  It’s a freakin’ whale.  We’re going once again to discuss masks. I know. Not again.

In my research I came across the description of the mind-set of those individuals who seek personal autonomy at all costs, those people who argue in favor of total civil liberties and a reduction or elimination of the power of the state. The magic phrase that seems to have recently been cut out of their philosophical conviction is a restricting clause that says, “Unless it damages or interferes with the public good, or the benefit or well-being of the public.”

That’s the whale, the elephant in the middle of the room, or the Babe Ruth candy bar in the swimming pool. “Unless it interferes with the public good.”

Here’s a question for you. Why is it a problem to drive impaired? Why is it illegal to yell fire in an auditorium where there is no fire?  I think I know. It’s because it interferes with the public good. Any one of those things could result in someone else being negatively impacted because of a decision to drive drunk or cause a panic in a crowded room.

If you live in Pennsylvania and want to ride your motorcycle without a helmet, the state says that’s okay, but if you are severely injured and live, there’s a chance the state might have to provide medical care, financial support, and public assistance for you for the rest of your life. In other words, if you do it only to you, the state will pay for that, but don’t do it to other people, the public good.

Back to the whale. So, when did it become acceptable to defy “the public well-being” by refusing to wear a mask during a pandemic? When HIV/AIDS was first recognized, people were arrested for spitting on other people and charged with attempted murder, but if you don’t wear a mask, that’s somehow supposed to express your independence, your freedom, your libertarianism?  Instead, it allows COVID and now its mutations to spread. And guess what? That spread has killed nearly 514,000 Americans and continues to kill every day. WTH? Is it machismo? Or machisma?

When did knowingly potentially infecting someone that results in their illness or death become acceptable? When did freedom to kill become part of the public good? What if we just called it what it is, not selfishness or stubbornness, or independence, but attempted murder?

Only about 33,000 people die from guns in the U.S. in a year. That’s 6 percent of those killed by COVID this year. I’m sorry. Logic is not part of either equation, but sociopathic attempted murder might be.


Serendipity, Devine Intervention, or Karma – In Memorium Dr. McLeod

March 20th, 2021

In 1999 as the relatively new CEO of Windber Medial Center, I was invited to have dinner at the home of one of our physicians.

I was seated beside Congressman, John Murtha.  As I began to elaborate on my dreams  for the hospital, Mr. Murtha said, “Nick, why don’t you check to see if you can find someone who will work with Windber from Bethesda or Walter Reed? Then, maybe I can help.”

Although I knew he was a U.S. Representative, I had no idea he oversaw the Appropriations Subcommittee which funded the Department of Defense.

My board chair, Judge David Klementik and I visited the then Bethesda Naval Hospital where the liaison officer we met with diplomatically explained the Navy was not interested in working on research projects.

A few months later, I decided to cold-call the former Walter Reed Hospital. It’s important to interject that I was not a Veteran and had never been there  before.  Consequently, I had no knowledge about protocols, chain-of-command, or even who to contact.


Pre-9-11, things were still pretty informal for visitors at Walter Reed. So, I cautiously walked into the ground floor of the hospital. As I entered the building, the realities of military medicine hit me. The place was packed.

Almost immediately, I saw a white coat in front of me with the letters M.D. embroidered at the end of the name. It was one Colonel David G. McLeod, MD.


Considering how many doctors worked in that building and how many would not have acknowledged me, the next few moments positively changed not only my life but possibly the lives of thousands and maybe someday millions of people forever.

I said, “Hello, doctor, my name is Nick Jacobs, and I am the President of a hospital in South Central Pennsylvania. Our Congressman had recommended that I come to Walter Reed to see if there was anyone here who might be interested in working with us.” 

Dr. McLeod replied, “What’s your Congressman’s name?” I said, “Jack Murtha.” He looked at me and said, “Follow me.”

Little did I know that saying Mr. Murtha’s name would get that type of reaction from the first doctor I ran into at Walter Reed.

Of course, I also did not know this amazing Vietnam War Veteran, attorney, researcher, and physician had founded the Center for Prostate Disease Research at the Uniformed Services University. There was also no way for me to have known that he knew exactly what to do for both Windber and Congressman Murtha.

Most importantly, I didn’t realize he would go on to guide another young physician, Craig Shriver, to assist in forming the Clinical Breast Care Project, a Congressional initiative which would collect over 100,000 plus breast tissue samples used in part by the National Cancer Institute to map the Human Breast Cancer Genome.

It was about a year later when I first met Dr. Shriver. He came to formally ask me what I wanted to do with the grant that our hospital was about to receive for the study of breast cancer. 

Having been a candidate for the CEO position at a research hospital where I had seen my very first genetic analysis laboratory seven-years earlier, I looked at him and said, “I want Windber to partner with Walter Reed to become the genetic breast cancer research center for the Department of Defense.” 

He looked very thoughtfully at me and said, “As long as we’re researching genetics, there’s a new science called proteomics that we should study, too.”  My reply was, “Yes, we should. I don’t really know what either of them are, so you be the doctor, and I’ll be the administrator.”  

It was Dr. McLeod who then helped Dr Shriver operationalize the Clinical Breast Care Project. 

Thank you, Colonel McLeod. “You continue to make lives better every day.”


The Bookcase

March 3rd, 2021

Discovering knowledge on bookcases

Nick Jacobs

Published Tue Mar 02, 2021 8:23 PM EST

One morning my back, leg and knee felt like I was either in my 70s or a retired professional football player. One outta two ain’t bad, and no, I never played professional football. There was no valid reason for these creaky feelings based on activity, inactivity or injury.

Consequently, I attributed it to being an ole dog and headed not to the couch but went instead to our post-flood basement hangout where we had recently installed a set of bookcases that contained at least half of the books we had collected over the past several years.

I’m sitting across from this eclectic compendium of books that range from the complete collection of Mark Twain to the Bible. There are dozens of books about running hospitals, marketing, self-help, cooking, deep science, leadership, and plenty more that are biographies and autobiographies. We have John Adams, Lee Iacocca, Jerry Seinfeld, Abraham Lincoln, and even Steve Jobs.

What isn’t visible in this collection of stuff ranging from modern to ancient is impact. What’s not visible is the collection of thoughts, ideas, and that very ethereal thing most of us long for, knowledge. What have we learned from exposure to the writing contained in these books and how has it impacted our lives? This collection represents less than one-fifth of the books we’ve consumed over the past 50 years, and now many of our reads occur on Kindles or iPads and don’t even result in collectibles.

Where am I going with this? I’ve met thousands of people in my life who have almost zero intellectual curiosity, people who get their information from the equivalent of tabloids. And when it comes time to share conversations with them, I’m always stunned by how dug-in they are on their beliefs and opinions. The one thing I’ve learned from the thousands of books I’ve read is to keep an open mind. These books have contributed to two very important aspects of my personality: be humble and flexible because no one has all the answers.

As a young child, I longed for stability in the form of yes and no, black and white, go or no go answers that gave me absolute direction and certainty of process. My church, parents, teachers and their rules were the basis of my survival. By the time I got to high school and was exposed to classical literature, music, thinking, and the questions each evoked, I knew I was headed into a sea of change, challenge, and hopefully a mental synthesis of new ideas and premises.

Then I hit college where philosophy, literature and science classes all took a piece of my belief system and made me seriously question where I was going and why. And that was a good thing.

I learned about situational ethics, semantics, modern music fans impressionistic artists. These exposures to what some would consider toxic pieces of life, art and literature taught me that no one way is the right way, and we have the ability to design our own futures. They taught me the relevance of being open-minded.

As we head into what could be the Rise of the Phoenix from a psycho-social, cultural and business perspective, and move through what is hopefully the end of this particular pandemic, we have the opportunity to revisit our beliefs. Our beliefs that in some cases were carefully drilled into us by people who could gain financially by our cooperative acquiescence to their stories.

Take a step back and explore everything you’ve read, been taught and heard, and realize that middle ground is a great place to be. Open-minded middle ground is a happy place to take refuge while we sort out the realities of our new-found selves, and work toward some type of peaceful co-existence.

This journey is hard enough. Let’s be friends and embrace our commonalities. And remember, the most rewarding life is a purpose-driven life.


On Leadership – Dr Danny Friedland

February 17th, 2021

Two young friends, both in leadership positions, had explained similar experiences in their work lives this past week that could only be described as job crises. Interestingly, after listening to both of them in separate conversations explain their situations, I was struck by how similar their experiences had been.

Maybe not ironically, this morning, I received the most recent book on leadership written by a third friend, Dr. Danny Friedland. As I sat to read that book, the introductory paragraphs presented a vivid description of a meeting in which I had been a significant player.

As a trustee of a major medical membership certification organization, my role had been to represent that group as they moved into a collaborative relationship with another significant group of medical professionals. This meeting had occurred in San Diego about four or so years ago, and on the morning of what was intended to be the final vote and announcement of this new relationship, due to Dr. Friedland, everything literally “went off the rails.”

Danny who was the chairman of one of the groups and the author of the book I just received, explained in detail what had caused the derailment.  He had had a very frustrating exchange with his 14-year-old son that morning which caused him to question not only his own parenting skills but also his abilities as a leader, a facilitator, and a consultant.  It made him believe that if he couldn’t deal with his own family, how was he qualified to lead a national organization of physicians and other medical experts and professionals.

According to his explanation of what followed, his crisis of leadership evolved into a reactive, survival-oriented, negative sense of self-doubt where his fear of being exposed as a imposter was magnified exponentially in his own consciousness. This resulted in his confronting the leader of the other group in a way that pulled the entire meeting into a negative spiral and nearly nullified the potential partnership.

In his description of what had happened, his frame of mind had devolved into what he described as a reactive mindset that put him in a survival mode. Because he had been experiencing a threat response to the stress of the morning., his feelings of self-doubt were significantly magnified. Since he was not prepared to lead well that morning, his feelings of stress and self-doubt only intensified. As Danny described it, “My ego, seeking power and fighting for control, was in the driver’s seat. And this reactive mindset would soon find its way into the room—and affect everyone in it—taking our collaboration to the brink of dissolution.”

In retrospect, Dr. Friedland analyzed what occurred next.  The other leader called for a break where he, Danny and I went outside to discuss what had happened. It was during that time that he realized his reactive mindset triggered by stress, uncertainty, and self-doubt in others had resulted in the breakdown.

After that break where self-introspection and self-analysis prevailed, we returned to the room and that day, the relationship, and the partnership were all saved. He had moved from a reactive to a creative mindset that, in his words, “of conscious-awareness, self-compassion, and courage lead to growth, inspiration, energy, and empathy, enabling the team to work well together with transparency and trust and become aligned in a shared vision to more fully focus its collective energy to serve others and something larger than themselves.”

Why am I telling this tale? Neither of my young  friends were on the receiving end of a compassionate, self-aware partnership. Both had been bullied, attacked, and denigrated by their co-workers who persisted in their reactive mindsets. In my leadership roles, I’ve had to fire about 50 people, all of whom were incapable of introspection, who always blamed others for their problems, and who were incapable of handling their own insecurities.  You may want to buy Danny’s book, “Leading Well From Within,” and secretly place it on their desks.




From Guide to Good Health

January 19th, 2021

Want Better Health? Look Around You

By Nick Jacobs


As individuals look for ways to improve their healthy, most often the focus is inward: on what we eat, how we breath, what vitamins or supplements to take or by tracking our heart rate, blood pressure or other vital signs.

That’s all good. But when we concentrate only on our bodies for health, we often forget to look outward, at our environment, and what it may be contributing—or detracting—from our overall wellbeing.

One of my first AHA! moments on the impact of environment on health came early in my adult life while I watched my father lose his battle with lung cancer at the young age of 58. For me, one of the most profound outcomes from the experience of watching dad die in the hospital was my repulsion at the surroundings. Rather than being warm and comforting, they were cold and foreboding. There was nothing healing about the environment, and I knew some of my feelings of helplessness were caused by my realization that even then, in 1975, it simply didn’t have to be that way.

A dozen years later, as CEO of a Convention and Visitors Bureau, I saw up close and personal true hospitality and client-centered attention to detail. I marveled at the attention each guest received. I helped train employees on the art—and it is an art—of caring for our guests, who we immersed in an attentive, beautiful, soothing and nurturing atmosphere.

When I entered hospital administration, I immediately tried to create such a healing environment. Unfortunately, my first three CEOs vetoed my efforts, preferring instead to retain institutional green walls and white sheets, curtains, towels and uniforms. None of which were soothing to our patients.

When I became a CEO at Windber Medical Center, I finally was able to create a healing environment unlike any other at least in our region. I drew on my experience, which also included as a musician and former executive director of an art organization, to take a “plain, white canvass” and make it “as close to home as they could get.” In many ways we mimicked a fine hotel, with healing colors, beautiful artwork and music surrounding our patients and their families.

Our palliative care unit looked like the Ritz Carlton, with balconies, a family area in each room to sleep four, a private kitchen, soft lighting, art and wall hangings. Even roving musicians.

Our lobbies, exam and waiting rooms were decorated by the former hotel manager we hired to oversee housekeeping, dietary and maintenance. We had green spaces indoors and out, elaborate fish tanks, more music, soothing aroma diffusers and fountains everywhere. Tranquility was the order of the day. Each piece of brass glistened and our floors had the warm look and texture of highly polished hardwood.

Our waiting rooms had popcorn or bread-baking machines and herbal tea or coffee services. Our breast cancer center offered dark chocolate and tea and featured a fireplace and decorative wall fountain. Each patient received a specially designed Velcro-clad mammography gown that only exposed one side at a time; dressing rooms featured beautiful, hand-painted privacy screens, mirrored lockers and even deodorant for use post-exam. A private elevator for patients took them from the exam room to their physician’s office without the need to change clothes.

About two years after initiating these changes, something unexpected happened: we had the lowest length of stay, lowest restraint and lowest infection rates of any of our 13 peer hospitals. Even with a hospice, we also had the lowest death rates.

The point of all this is that the environment in which you function can have a profound affect on your well-being. This is true not just in a hospital, but at home, at work and really, anywhere you are. Not long ago, it seemed like everyone was talking about feng shui, which has been defined as a way to live in harmony with the principles of the natural world. In his book, “Make the Impossible Possible,” Bill Strickland, CEO of Manchester Bidwell, a jobs training center and community arts program in Pittsburgh, credits the layout and design of his center as essential to the success he has had in changing the lives of literally thousands of individuals, most from disadvantaged neighborhoods.

“The beauty we’ve designed into our center isn’t window dressing; it’s an essential part of our success,” Strickland wrote. “It nourishes the spirit, and until you reach that part of the spirit that isn’t touched by cynicism or despair, no change can begin. You can’t show a person how to build a better life if they feel no pleasure in the simple act of being alive.”

One more example: For almost 20 years, spanning two careers, I used to drive through a five-block city area littered with some dilapidated houses that it was hard to imagine anyone living there. And yet, in the midst of such despair, sat one house that from early spring to late fall was encircled by a garden of wildflowers so brilliant that the rest of the neighborhood seemed trapped in a 1950s black & white television show. During an otherwise depressing drive, that house provided me with moment, however brief, of pure pleasure and appreciation. It just made me feel good.

I eventually got to meet the woman who tended and nurtured that garden for more than 50 years. Her name was Twyla, a lovely woman in her 80s. I asked her how she found the resolve over all those years to produce such beautiful flowers. What I didn’t add to my question was, “ … in such otherwise depressing surroundings.”

Twyla’s answer was as simple as it was profound.

“I can’t change how my neighbors choose to live their lives,” she said. “I can’t reverse the employment levels in this city. I can’t erase the pain, hopelessness or sadness brewing in people’s hearts. But what I can do is demonstrate each and every day that a positive outlook, a commitment to excellence wherever you live and a desire to make things even just a little better for anyone who drives by or lives near me is possible.”

She paused, then added, “I just try to give them a little hope through the beauty of my gardens.”

It’s undeniable that there exists a link between body, mind and spirit. The more we nurture one, the greater the positive impact on the other two. You don’t have to wait until your sick and hope you end up in a hospital designed for healing, visit the Manchester Bidwell Training Center (although Mr. Strickland has always welcomed guests) or drive through a blighted neighborhood in hopes of finding a mini-Garden of Eden.

All you need do is examine your own surroundings, those you have the power to change, and make an effort to bring more beauty in your life, through art, music and anything else that just makes you feel good in a positive way.