Throughout my career, I’ve known many amazing leaders and colleagues who have the knowledge, background and talent to help countless people through our field. I’ve also known a few who possess those attributes along with the natural ability to connect with and inspire others.
Kevin Sowers, the recently appointed president of Johns Hopkins Health System, is one such leader.
Joining us from Duke, where he spent the last 32 years, Kevin began his career as a staff nurse in oncology. Over time, he was invited to serve in various positions of increasing scope and responsibility, until ultimately becoming the president and CEO of Duke University Hospital. His journey is truly remarkable.
Among the many things that struck me about Kevin in our first brief meeting was his extraordinary openness, respectful demeanor and the precision with which he communicates. During the press conference announcing his arrival, all who watched online and in person could hear his clarity of vision coupled with his drive for helping others. He eloquently—and passionately—spoke about “the kind of teamwork that changes people’s lives.” He deftly answered questions with seemingly no preparation at all. During that event alone, Kevin displayed profound empathy paired with a concise executive mind.
Anecdotally, everyone I’ve talked to at Johns Hopkins agrees. The buzz about Kevin’s arrival is that people are genuinely excited for the future.
In fact, following the press conference, something that might seem small but is really quite telling happened: During the reception I thanked the catering staff members, who, at the time, I did not realize were part of an outside company. One lady replied: “Thank you. Now I want to come work for Johns Hopkins. Your new president just came over and thanked all of us, too!”
To me this is a display of humility and grace, characteristics of an empathic leader who is dedicated to others. That same commitment to humanity is clearly spelled out in Johns Hopkins Medicine’s vision. And with Kevin’s arrival, I feel as confident as ever when I quote that vision in saying that “Together, we will deliver the promise of medicine.”