The Class of 2017 profiles the women and men who joined the AHA board this year.

In a rapidly changing health care environment, hospitals and health systems – with the AHA’s support – must focus on building partnerships that advance the health of individuals and communities, says AHA board member Ramanathan (Ram) Raju, M.D.

“The AHA is part of the historical changes happening in this country, and I think we need to lead and redefine what the ‘H’ in hospital means,” says Raju, president and CEO of New York City’s Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) – the nation’s largest municipal health care system. He says the hospital of the future will be less about the four walls of the building and more about integrating care throughout the community, including population health.

“You can’t do population health by providing just medical care,” says Raju, who joined the AHA board in January. He says it is important for hospitals to lead initiatives to address community issues such as poverty, unemployment, transportation, housing, access to healthy foods and other socioeconomic factors that are essential to achieving population health.

Raju has led HHC since 2014. The health system includes 11 acute care hospitals, five nursing homes, six large diagnostic and treatment centers, more than 70 community-based health centers, a large home care agency and its own health insurance plan, MetroPlus, one of the region’s largest with almost half a million members. Before taking over the top post at HHC, Raju led Cook County Health & Hospitals System in Chicago, which is the nation’s third-largest public health system.  

One of the most important ways the AHA can help the field improve quality of care and reduce costs is by being “a repository for resources and best practices,” says Raju. For example, AHA’s Hospitals in Pursuit of Excellence produces guides, webinars and other educational resources to accelerate performance improvement and support delivery system transformation. In addition, Raju says being able to connect with and learn from peers at AHA member organizations across the country is “extremely helpful to the health care community.”  

Raju is the vice chair of the Greater New York Hospital Association and a board member of the Asian Health Care Leaders Association. He also serves on the AHA’s Equity of Care Committee, where he works on issues that he is passionate about – eliminating disparities in health care and diversifying the health care workforce.  

“Disparities in health care should not be accepted,” said Raju. “They should not be part of doing business, and we have to do everything possible to eliminate health care disparities.”

In 2011, the AHA joined the Association of American Medical Colleges, American College of Healthcare Executives, Catholic Health Association of the United States, and America’s Essential Hospitals in a national call to action to eliminate health care disparities by increasing diversity in health care governance and leadership; cultural competency training; and collection and use of race, ethnicity and language preference data.

In addition to his experience leading two large health care systems, Raju also brings the perspective of a physician executive to the AHA board. After attending two AHA board meetings, Raju says he has “never seen a group of such dedicated and smart people on a board,” and learning from his fellow board members will make “me a much better health care leader.”