How Mark Ganz, President and CEO of Cambia Health Solutions, is Building a Legacy Company with Intense Focus, Kindness and a Little Serendipity
By Laura A. Roser
“My dad was a family doctor of the old-fashioned variety,” says CEO and President of Cambia Health Solutions, Mark Ganz. “He truly took the time and really cared about knowing his patients completely. He tended to their spirit as much as he did their body because he knew there was an inextricable link.”
During his school years Mark worked in his father’s office and got to experience the impact his father had on patients. Mark says he always had an interest in health care, but he made the decision in college that he didn’t want to become a doctor. Instead Mark went to law school and graduated with a specialty in health care law. “But after 6 years in health care litigation, I knew I wasn’t making a difference,” he says. So, he joined a nonprofit health plan, Pierce County Medical (which would later affiliate with other companies to form The Regence Group regional health plans), as their general counsel, which he enjoyed.
Then in 2001, he got a phone call one night from a board member of the company who asked him if he was going to put his hat in the ring to take the CEO position that had just opened up. “I totally didn’t expect it.” He laughs. “In fact, I’m not quite sure how I ended up where I am.”
Mark says he’s always followed the philosophy of transforming the job you were hired to do way beyond what the person who gave you the job ever thought it could be. Mark says often people make the mistake of never being satisfied with what they’ve got. They always want more. They are always looking for the next job or the next opportunity. But that has never been Mark’s approach. He has always focused intensely on the job at hand and made it the very best it could be. It is this commitment to excellence that led him to define the company’s cause – to be a catalyst for change, transforming health care to be more person-focused and economically sustainable.
To accomplish this mission, he’s evolved the company from a traditional health plan to a total health solutions company squarely focused on the needs people and their families. As CEO of Cambia Health Solutions (formerly The Regence Group), Mark’s teams are focused on developing and investing in products and businesses that are making improvements in the health care system, impacting the ease and efficiency of health care for everyone. Since Mark’s appointment as Cambia Health Solutions CEO in 2003, he has always remembered those patients his father served, and been inspired to do better by those his company, Cambia, serves.
“The danger of focusing on other opportunities,” says Mark, “is that you take your eye off the ball. You spend all your time looking at what you want, instead of making what you have incredible.”
Caring for Patients’ Bodies and Spirits
Like his father, Mark is very much about improving the lives of individual patients. It is their wellbeing, not the institution, that he puts as his highest priority. It’s that mission that gets Mark out of bed every day.
“I want my children and grandchildren to live and to have a journey in health and in fitness from birth to completion of life where it is all seamless and transparent.” That, he says, is a legacy worth leaving. A legacy that he spends every fiber of his being pushing towards. What makes it even more fulfilling is that Cambia has compiled a team and board of directors who are on fire about this vision.
Mark strongly believes the health care model needs to change and he’s fighting for that shift. “In the current system,” he says, “you get people who come into work and they become a doctor or nurse and they really want to help other people, but all the economic signals cause them to make seemingly logical business decisions that actually lead to suboptimal results for the people they are there to serve. It’s the model that’s the enemy. Not the people working in it. That’s what we want to break and replace with a more virtuous cycle.”
One Act of Kindness Can Make All the Difference
Mark tells the story about when he was a student at Georgetown University and had financial troubles that would not allow him to continue going to school. Mark was friends with a Jesuit priest connected with a school singing group he belonged to. He began telling the priest about his inability to pay for his education. Even with some loans Mark was able to secure, he still wasn’t able cover the gap.
A day or two later, Mark received a call from the University President’s secretary asking if he could meet with the President. When he met with the President, he told Mark that he had been told about his situation and asked Mark if he was okay. Mark told him he was fine. Then the President asked about Mark’s financial situation. Mark explained that he had some loans secured, but there was still a gap. “What’s the gap?” the President asked. Mark told him. He looked at Mark and said, “We’ll take care of it.”
“What do you mean?” Mark asked, in shock. He told Mark he had been a great student and they wanted him to be successful. So, the school would pay for the gap. Mark’s assumption is that they’d give him a loan and started asking about who he needed to talk to about paying back the amount.
The President chuckled. “No. You don’t get to pay this back,” he said. “We’re taking care of it. Because I know you’re going to be successful, the way you get to pay this back is to pay it forward. Make a difference in others lives as you grow older.” Mark has never forgotten that kindness and has made a commitment to pay it forward ever since.
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Mark B. Ganz is the President and CEO of Cambia Health Solutions. Transforming the way people experience health care is the cornerstone of his vision for the industry and Cambia. Since taking the top post in 2003, he has guided the company along a path of re-imagining and reshaping the health care system to one that is accountable to individuals and families.