General Surgeon, Lee A. Forestiere, M.D. took on the role Jefferson Regional Medical Center’s Chief of Staff at the beginning of this year. Dr. Forestiere is a man of integrity and insight. He is as kind as he is consistent and as compassionate as he is skilled.
Dr. Forestiere says he was probably born with the disposition to be a surgeon, but it took a little longer to convince him to become Chief of Staff. “I’ve turned it down several times before,” he said. “There never really seemed to be a good time for me. I felt like I’d reached a point of time in my career that if I was ever going to do it, then it needed to be now. I owed it to the people that have carried me over the years.”
He said he plans to spend his term leading by example and setting the tone at JRMC. This includes engaging and encouraging employees, continually asking what’s next— and most of all — always doing what’s right for JRMC patients and the JRMC Medical Staff.
Although JRMC has made significant improvements in the past two years, Dr. Forestiere says positive transformation is a continual journey, rather than a destination. “I think the biggest thing for us moving forward is to continue what we’ve already established,” he said. “We’ll keep figuring out what we can do next to keep making our hospital better.”
Dr. Forestiere says that each employee has the power to define patient experiences, and encouragement empowers employees to continue making a positive impact. He says excellent patient care is directly related to employee recognition.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re pushing a mop or changing light bulbs,” Dr. Forestiere said. “If you’re doing the job well, you’ve got a great attitude and you’re helping people, then that’s what needs to be recognized. In the long run, those things transform into patient care. Patients see hard work, and they appreciate personalities that engage them.”
In fact, Dr. Forestiere makes it a priority to make it known when he sees employees doing their jobs well. “I think it starts at every level,” he said. “If you see somebody out there doing a good job, tell them. Find out what their name is. Tell them you appreciate their dedication and recognize that. Tell their supervisors about them. People love to be addressed, thanked and recognized for what they do.”
Dr. Forestiere especially believes in supporting nurses. “I’m a big advocate of nurses — I married one,” he said, laughing. “I live their lives and their stories every day. Guys like me — mid-level managers, senior-level managers and administrators — we all get to go back to our offices and do other things. But patient care nurses are there 24/7 in some capacity, defining the patient’s experience. If we take the time to think, ‘How can I help the nurses in this situation, what can I do to make their jobs easier and to support them?’ Those kinds of things make a big difference. Nurses get taken for granted sometimes because people think, ‘that’s their job. That’s what they’re supposed to do.’ Okay, I get that — but it doesn’t hurt to go out of the way to look for the good of what’s being done.”
Dr. Forestiere’s thoughtful attitude towards those around him is also seen in his interactions with patients on a daily basis. “We’re always seeing patients in the worst times of their lives — the critical and near-death times,” he said. “But after that, you get to celebrate the rest of their lives with them.”
While Dr. Forestiere celebrates his patients’ lives, they certainly celebrate his as well. Lori Freyer said, “He saved my life, not once but twice beginning when I was only 17 years old and he opened me up and found me full of cancer. He cried with my family when he told them it was cancer. That, you do not see often.”
Teresa Mutzberg-Haustein said, “He diagnosed me with Thyroid Cancer in 2012, within a week of my diagnosis he removed my thyroid. Now he follows up with me yearly. He said at the beginning that he couldn’t guarantee me a lot of things, but would guarantee he would take care of me — and he did just that. Hands down the best of the best.”
Dr. Forestiere is not only loved by his patients, but his family as well, which includes his three beautiful granddaughters, who he says are at the very top of his interests outside of work. He fondly describes them as “God’s gifts to our family that I love more than anything else right now.”
In addition to his three grandchildren, he has two sons and one daughter he travels to see often. His eldest son is a surgeon, his middle child and youngest son was an officer in the marines and is now getting an MBA degree and plans to work for the FBI. His daughter, his youngest, was a nurse in Texas until she decided to take a leave of absence from the nursing field to stay home and raise her children for the time being.
No matter where Dr. Forestiere’s life and medical practice takes him, he knows one thing: he will never stop learning. “Being a surgeon is extremely fulfilling,” he said. “It’s an awesome responsibility and a lifelong learning process. Whenever you quit asking questions, whenever you quit trying to learn and transformationally change how you do things, that’s probably when you need to retire.”
Dr. Forestiere says that his role as Chief of staff requires learning and leading. He says he believes a good leader has to do what’s right — not only medically, but also morally. “I’ve always lived the idea that if you do what’s in the patient’s best interest, you will lead well,” he said. “Do what’s right for the patient. Everything else will take care of itself.”