Betty Chu, M.D., M.B.A.

Chief Medical Officer and Vice President of Medical Affairs, Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital, part of Henry Ford Health System

 “I’ve always loved traveling. In my career, it has helped increase cultural awareness, helped me be more empathetic and it has challenged me to think about different ways to solve healthcare problems.”

“I’ve always loved traveling. In my career, it has helped increase cultural awareness, helped me be more empathetic and it has challenged me to think about different ways to solve healthcare problems.”

Dr. Betty Chu has been a driven leader since she first went to school. Whether she was guiding the marching band as a drum major in high school, dominating the volleyball court as an undergraduate or excelling in math and science to enter an accelerated medical school program, she knew what she wanted to do and where she wanted to go next.

Today, after years as a private practice obstetrician and gynecologist, she is a member of a team of strong female leaders helping to guide the clinical activities of Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital, an important component of Detroit-based Henry Ford Health System’s group of hospitals, medical centers and affiliated health and home care services. As a corporate leader, she helps ensure the effective and efficient care of hospital patients and provides oversight of corporate strategy design and implementation in regard to clinical operations.

“When I graduated medical school, I wouldn’t have dreamed that I would one day go into administration. I was truly focused on being the best physician I could be.” Dr. Chu found the doctor-patient relationship highly rewarding, but eventually realized she had more to offer. Then a Beaumont physician, she served as a founding chairperson of the executive committee for Oakland University’s new medical school and later, as a clinical assistant professor. “There I did a lot of mentoring of medical students and was energized by their creativity and innovative ideas. Medical students today are thinking of healthcare from a global perspective.”

“I believe the challenge of the next decade will be to solve the problem of care coordination. The faster we can get patients to see the medical professionals they need to take care of their medical problem, the more we can reduce the anxiety they feel. And, if we can’t eliminate their problem entirely, then we need to make sure we guide patients through their treatment as smoothly as possible.”

Dr. Chu has seen enormous technological changes in the healthcare industry. “When I first started in the profession, one of the challenges was reading a doctor’s handwriting. Now we e-prescribe. While we have always had ‘cool’ medical devices, many medical errors could be traced to simple failures in communication.”

In short, technology has supported more accuracy, clarity and speed in medical communications, she says. “Today, with telemedicine, we can sit with a tablet in a remote room, prescribe a medication over the phone for a urinary tract infection and send it over to the drugstore of your choice. Tomorrow, your family doctor can see it in your electronic medical record.”

• M.D., University of Michigan Medical School
• M.B.A., University of Michigan Stephen M. Ross School of Business
• Member, Board of Directors, Michigan State Medical Society, Area Agency on Aging 1-B, Walsh College, Asian Pacific American Chamber of Commerce

“A turning point for me as a physician came when I was exposed to the culture and leaders I met at U-M’s Ross School of Business. Since the program is not specifically healthcare-focused, I interacted with leaders from multinational companies and other industries. Huge learnings can be derived from industries like the military and airlines in terms of safety measures and innovation. I think Henry Ford Health System, with its Innovation Center, is intent on leveraging the advantages that can be derived in our industry from such innovative thinking.”

– Interviewed by Julie Baumkel