Coming from Monroe, Dan Wakeman took the helm as president and chief executive of St. Luke's Hospital in February and has become a celebrity of sorts.
That's because he appears in the Maumee hospital's frequently run television ads, in which he urges area medical insurance plans to include St. Luke's in their coverage.
Last week Mr. Wakeman, who was president and CEO of Mercy Memorial Health System in Monroe, regaled his audience at the Perrysburg Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon with some of his observations on the perils of fame, and discussed more serious topics too.
"I can hardly go anywhere without some guy going 'There's the guy in the commercial,' " he said, to laughter at the Carranor Hunt and Polo Club.
Once, in the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan, a man stared at him from across the bar and wondered aloud where the two of them had met.
It turned out he was from Oregon and had seen the commercial. Another time, a St. Luke's employee, upon seeing him in the hospital, exclaimed "You really work here. I thought you were an actor."
The hospital boss assured his listeners that he had not sought the glare of the kliegs. He appeared in the commer-
cial at the insistence of the commercial's producer, who compared him to Lee Iacocca, the storied auto industry executive who is credited with saving Chrysler during the 1980s.
The producer told Mr. Wakeman that Mr. Iacocca's appearance as a pitchman in Chrysler's ads daring people to buy a better car if they could find one triggered the greatest market share shift in automotive history. "That was the whole rationale for how I got into the commercial," Mr. Wakeman explained.
Mr. Wakeman told his listeners that as small-business people they were "the core, the root of the American economic system." Then he asked what he, as a health-care provider, could do to make them more competitive. The reply came quickly: "Reduce health-care costs."
Mr. Wakeman then discussed what he called the health-care value equation, which involves consumers taking more responsibility for paying for their care and holding down costs.
"Until you really become part of the value equation and have to pay for your services, do you really think about this?" he asked.
He said normal market forces are not working in health care in northwest Ohio because of the domination of a couple of large health-care systems. He did not name names and declined when asked later to identify them.
Mr. Wakeman said in Michigan a certificate of need must be obtained before a medical facility can expand or be added to the market.
Ohio, he noted, had no such requirement, and as a result there are nine medical helicopters in northwest Ohio versus seven in all of Michigan. There are 57 MRI units in northwest Ohio, and 47 in all of Michigan.
"To me, it's unbelievable how services are duplicated over and over and over again in this community," he said.
Mr. Wakeman predicted the country is about to be hit with a serious shortage of primary care physicians. "Kids going into medical school don't want that lifestyle, and they are paid half of what specialists earn," he said.