Christine Schuster has been running Emerson Hospital in Concord for nearly 19 years, an extraordinarily long tenure for any hospital leader.
Now, the Emerson Health chief executive has all of the state’s hospitals to worry about — not just her own.
Schuster just started a 12-month tenure as chair of the board of the Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association at one of the most challenging times for the industry. Hospital leaders have struggled with staffing shortages, particularly amid high burnout levels. They’ve run into budgetary problems as they’ve increased pay levels or turned to outside contractors. State lawmakers in November set aside $350 million from an economic development bill to help financially strapped hospitals. But that money can only go so far.
Working with the MHA staff led by chief executive Steve Walsh, Schuster is carving out an ambitious agenda for the association. Her to-do list includes returning to the State House for more assistance, addressing provider burnout and health care inequities, increasing the state’s hospital bed capacity for behavioral health, and working with state officials to build a talent pipeline to fill open nursing roles and other necessary jobs. These issues existed before COVID-19, but the pandemic exacerbated all of them. Schuster is an avid chess player, and understands the parallels between her pastime and her profession, in terms of thinking through the various consequences that could follow each major move.
Schuster got her start in health care as a critical care nurse, but she says she drove her manager crazy with efficiency ideas. After five years, she went to get her MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, and then went into health care consulting at Coopers & Lybrand (now PwC). She returned to the hospital scene in the 1990s, with executive positions at for-profit provider Tenet Healthcare, and then for the now-shuttered Quincy Medical Center.
“The nursing part of my background is always there, always a reminder about the people side of it,” Schuster said. “I get the [business] side of it: ‘no money, no mission.’ But I do think there’s a way to balance it so you can take really good care of patients.”
Her nearly two-decade tenure leading Emerson is notable in part because the hospital has remained independent amid years of industry consolidation, although it has strong clinical ties to the Mass General Brigham group.
Schuster originally got involved with the MHA at the suggestion of Andrew Dreyfus, the former chief executive at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. (Before Blue Cross, Dreyfus was an executive at the hospital group.) She was on the board for a three-year stint that ended in 2008, and she returned about six years ago.
People regularly ask her if she suffers from burnout herself, particularly during the stresses imposed by the pandemic. Not to worry, she tells them.
“When you enjoy what you do, it isn’t really like work,” Schuster said. “Also, . . . I feel like I’m working with great people trying to solve really hard problems.”
Tesler takes expertise back to school
Jamey Tesler is heading back to school.
Tesler had been one of Charlie Baker’s top transportation advisers for most of the former governor’s eight-year tenure at the State House, including most recently as Baker’s transportation secretary. Now, with Gina Fiandaca in that role for Maura Healey’s administration, Tesler is heading to Harvard University.
Tesler joined Harvard this month in a part-time role, as a visiting fellow with the Taubman Center for State and Local Government, at the Harvard Kennedy School. He’ll mentor master’s students, do some writing, and convene groups to discuss public policy issues.
He recently filed a disclosure with the state Ethics Commission that he was interviewing for the job, because he interacted with Harvard regarding the realignment of the Mass. Pike in Allston. But this new fellowship has no connection to Harvard’s grand development vision for that neighborhood.
“I’m really excited about connecting with the students and the faculty and sharing their ideas, and sharing some of the things I’ve learned in my time in government,” Tesler said.
Percelay has questions for planning chief
Mayor Michelle Wu’s top planner, Arthur Jemison, again found himself on the hot seat defending the Wu administration before the commercial real estate industry.
At a forum at the Westin Copley Place last week hosted by industry publication Bisnow, developer Bruce Percelay peppered Jemison with questions about the administration’s policies — bringing back rent control, raising affordable housing requirements for developers, increasing fees charged for lab projects, among them. Percelay also wanted to know how City Hall can help revive a moribund downtown.
As Jemison gamely responded to the questions, he made it clear he’s well aware of the challenges developers face, particularly with rising interest rates, and signaled an openness to ideas from the people in the room.
“Without question, Arthur was able to hear the collective concerns held by the real estate industry in Boston and will hopefully share those concerns with the powers-that-be,” Percelay said later.
The real estate industry has been frustrated by unanswered calls left at the mayor’s office. But Jemison is keeping the conversation going: Percelay and Jemison were already making plans to meet and continue the discussion after the event ended.
Rough weekend for Regan
It was a tough weekend for Regan Communications. Like many businesses, the North End-based PR firm had a loan with Silicon Valley Bank, and was left wondering who should get the next mortgage check for the office when SVB was taken over by the feds.
But there was another bank-related twist for Regan, this one involving a robbery attempt.
Turns out a black Chevy Tahoe of Regan’s was somehow connected with an attempted robbery at the Citizens Bank branch in the Stop & Shop at the South Bay shopping center in Dorchester. The Tahoe had been part of a fleet of 10 company cars Regan Communications keeps parked in a Union Wharf parking lot, but was just stolen late last week.
The would-be bank thief was caught at a routine traffic stop on Saturday night. George Regan, the PR firm’s founder, said he expects damage to the car would be covered by insurance.
“I’m told the car was totally ransacked,” Regan said. “Between that and trying to figure out who we send a mortgage to for one of our office condos, it was a bad time at Union Wharf.”
Iron Man takes a seat on Aura’s board
As Tony Stark, actor Robert Downey Jr. built a high-tech computer system known as J.A.R.V.I.S. But how would it match up against Aura’s defenses?
For now, everyone’s favorite Iron Man is putting his money on Aura, a cybersecurity company based in the Seaport. The firm announced last week that Downey has invested in Aura and taken a seat on its board of directors. As intended, the news brought plenty of attention to the 500-person startup, which makes a digital protection platform for consumers. Downey moderated a panel at the South by Southwest conference in Austin on Saturday that included Aura chief executive Hari Ravichandran, he was featured in a Fast Company article about the company, and he’ll appear in an Aura TV ad later this year.
Downey came to Aura through his friend, movie mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg. Katzenberg was already an Aura investor and board member, through his VC firm, WndrCo.
“I don’t know how me being on the board is going to be that helpful — you know, I crack jokes,” Downey told Fast Company. “I do have feedback, and I think I can help with messaging . . . I have a pretty good platform.”
That’s putting it mildly, considering Downey’s platform happens to be as a member of Hollywood’s most well-known and lucrative force of superheroes.
Jon Chesto can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.