Q&A: Martin Stallone, Cayuga Medical Center's next President & CEO

From left: John Rudd, president and chief executive officer of Cayuga Medical Center and Cayuga Health System; Martin Stallone, MD, vice president of physician operations at Cayuga Medical Center and president of Cayuga Medical Associates (Photo: Provided)

On Wednesday, Cayuga Medical Center President & CEO John Rudd announced his plans to retire in the fall of 2019.

We recently spoke with his planned successor, Martin Stallone—who currently serves as vice president of physician operations at the hospital and president of Cayuga Medical Associates—on his plans for the Ithaca-based health network.

When did you first learn you would be taking this new position?

This started in discussion at least a year ago, when John asked me if I'd be interested in the role, and I was indeed. My focus kind of changed from that which was directly in my sphere to more of a global look at the organization. I have had free and unfettered access to the senior leadership team, so it was easy to work with my current and future colleagues to learn about what they do. I've basically been learning what experts they are in their current domains. I have a team of experts working for and with me going forward. It's been a very good process and John has been an excellent mentor along the way.

When did you know you wanted to become a physician?

I decided I would go to medical school while I was attending Cornell University in the 1990s as a biology major. I wanted a career that was grounded in sciences but also be able to work with people and help them, and was interested in a field in which I could teach and interact with colleagues. I went to the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and was influenced by some early military experience I had as an administrator. I was a medical service corps officer, and I liked that work and the operations involved. I decided I would specialize in medical operations. I did do an internal medicine residency at UPenn and then joined the lifespan system and was involved in some leadership at that system.

I took a job at Cayuga Medical Center in 2009 as director of the hospitalist program. That gave me early hospital operations experience. Subsequent to that, I had very valuable experience at our group practice at Cayuga Medical Associates (CMA). I also took a job on the senior leadership team at the hospital as Vice President of Physician Operations. For at least six years, I've been medical director of Cayuga Area Preferred (CAP), and that's at the network and insurance product level. The value-based purchasing and team approach to health care that the hospital engages in, in cooperation with all the physician practices in Tompkins County.

"I think there's a lot of bright points in our region's healthcare delivery system, but there's certainly room for improvement. We're not an exception to that, but I do see us as a leader in cooperative collaborative care."

How has Cayuga Medical Center expanded its services into Cortland County?

CMA has a presence at several locations in Cortland, and an affiliation with Family Health Network. We are totally engaged in community and population health, and FHN is thriving as the largest primary care presence and practice in Cortland County, and we provide medical and subspecialty care to those patients in Cortland. We see them as entirely complimentary to us in that market. We consider, recognize, and regard the city of Cortland as our primary service area, but a great number of patients come from Cortland County, so we're invested in that community and we seek to extend our model of care to it. We've had wonderful success recently. Our clinically integrated network, CAP, was recently recognized as the top quality and lowest cost of councelable care organization in New York State. That speaks to our efforts at population health and providing accessible high quality affordable health care to our organization.

How do you view the state of healthcare and access to quality care in central New York? Can access to services be improved?

I think there's a lot of bright points in our region's healthcare delivery system, but there's certainly room for improvement. We're not an exception to that, but I do see us as a leader in cooperative collaborative care. That's our forte. We work well as a hospital and as a physician network, while we take responsibility for a population, including a partnership with an insurance company. We do a very good job at coordinating care across the many parts of our health care system. Health care is becoming more of a team sport when it's done at its best. We are all about forming relationships, and we are about respecting physician services. It's about being an easy institution to work with. We want the patient experience to be seamless and comforting.

What do you view as John Rudd's lasting legacy at Cayuga Medical Center? How do you plan on building on what he started?

I think he was an expert at realizing and understanding where the community needs were not being met and filling in those gaps. He did that time and time again. Many services were brought into this community, whether it's interventional cardiology, neurology, the Cayuga Wellness Center, investing in primary care, and forming relationships with other health systems across service lines where they were best in class. He was a very astute administrator and a servant of the community.

I'd like to do the same. There's going to be some things that the community requires and needs that are not being met at present. We're here on behalf of the community. We are the community hospital. That's an organization that plays an important role in society. We want to be there for our friends and for ourselves. We want us to be an accessible and high quality organization when people are at their most vulnerable. I'm honored in the trust that's been placed in me by the board of directors.