Gary West on San Diego’s West Wireless Health Institute and ‘Always On’ Medicine

10/7/09Follow @bvbigelow

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continuing education requirements for physicians, nurse practitioners, and others. He also expects to use conventional methods to help the organization sustain itself, such as seeking additional donations from other philanthropists and applying for federal grants to do certain kinds of work.

“I don’t want to count on it,” West says. “It’s not guaranteed money. But that’s money that is out there.”

West has had some experience in the field. He began his career in hospital administration, and founded a number of telemarketing companies, including West TeleServices, which became customer relationship management specialist West Corp., with more than 35,000 employees and $3.5 billion in annual sales. West and his wife formed the Gary and Mary West Foundation in 2006, after the Quadrangle Group and Thomas H. Lee Partners took West Corp. private.

To accomplish the ambitious goals that West has set for the institute, he also has been personally driving the CEO recruitment search with fellow board members Don Jones, a Qualcomm vice president of health and life sciences, and Dr. Eric Topol, a prominent cardiologist at Scripps Health in San Diego and director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute. (Scripps Health is the West Institute’s healthcare affiliate and Qualcomm is the Institute’s corporate technology sponsor.)

“We want somebody who is passionate about changing the way we think about healthcare, and the way healthcare is delivered,” West says. “This is a big, big job that is about a whole range of things—from changing the way government reimburses things to the way physicians conduct their practice.”

West says the board is looking for a “superstar-quality” person. “We want to find somebody with a medical background, who understands [health insurance] reimbursement, re-insurance, and how physicians buy things, and who also has a strong analytical background coupled with wireless technologies and its limitations and opportunities…Right now, it’s really hard to find a perfect candidate that really scores high in all those areas.”

Filling the institute’s CEO position “is the one thing that really keeps me up at night,” West says.

In the meantime, West says remodeling of the institute’s 30,000-square-foot building—including research labs, engineering areas, and more than 75 offices—is near completion. Institute staffers are expected to move in next month, and the facility should be open for business by Jan. 1, 2010.

Says its founder, “When people see the institute, their jaws are going to drop, their eyes are going to open, and they are going to say, ‘Wow, this is the real deal.’”

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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