Know Your Audience (Podcast)
Richard Parker, MD, President of Cleveland Clinic’s Hillcrest and Mentor hospitals, discusses leadership lessons as well as his experience as team physician for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
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In a new episode of the “Beyond Leadership” podcast, Brian Bolwell, MD, interviews Richard Parker, MD, about what he has learned about leadership during his time as Chair of Orthopaedics and in his current role as President of Cleveland Clinic Hillcrest Hospital and Mentor Hospital.
Leadership is about being present, says Dr. Parker.
“It’s learning how to communicate in the manner in which someone needs to hear communication,” he says. “You need to lead by example and you need to be an active listener. You need to know when to escalate something and when to manage it at the level at which you are at. What I find is that it’s easiest if you just are transparent and honest, because it’s so much easier to remember things by how they really are instead of sugarcoating it or making up a story.”
Dr. Parker also has been head team physician of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Dr. Bolwell: Tell us a little bit more about the Cavs. When did you become their team physician and go to every single game? Ultimately, I wouldn’t mind hearing a little bit about when they won the championship in ’16.
Dr. Parker: I started working with them in 1994-95, and I backed up John Bergfeld, who was the head team physician. In 1996 they said “We’re going to have a WNBA team, The Rockers.” At a staff meeting, Bergy asked if anybody wanted to take care of them, and I said, “I’d be happy to.” I jumped at the opportunity and took care of them for the five years or six years until they dissolved, and it was great. Incredible group of women and experienced some winning seasons and some great people.
In 2000, Dr. Bergfeld came to me and said, “You know, Rick, I want to stay focused on the Browns. I want you to be focused on the Cavs. Would you be the team physician? They really like you.”
So I started in 2000 and stayed in that role until about 2018 going into 2019. There are 41 home games, They went through some really bad years. Then, as the years went on, we got better. LeBron James came with us, and we kept getting better and better.
Anyway, we ultimately got really good and went to the finals several times. I remember thinking I really needed to bring in a junior associate and teach him the ropes so that when my time came to an end that, I could turn it over and it would be just an easy transition. For seven years, Jim Rasnick was my assistant. I began having him cover more and more games but would always cover over 30 games a year because you have to be visible, and you have to be there. So, he was part of it when we won the [NBA Championship.]
But in 2016, what you read is really true. We were down three (games) to one, the general manager really united everybody, as did the players and the coaches. We won one game at a time and all at once it was 3-3. We’re back, we were staying in San Francisco, but the game was in Oakland. I remember Sunday, the day of the game, and I got up and I’d read enough, just enough talking about it. I literally went out, and if you know downtown San Francisco, I walked from downtown San Francisco all the way to the other side of the Golden State Bridge, turned around, and came all the way back in time to get cleaned up, get my stuff together and take the bus over. I ended up having over 40,000 steps that day. Yeah, it was crazy. And we ended up winning the game.