On Thursdays, we highlight an oral history featuring a health care leader who shaped the past and laid the foundation for the future. Since 1978, the AHA has conducted more than 100 interviews as part of this project, and transcripts are available in the oral history collection on the AHA’s Resource Center webpage. The following oral history with Austin Ross comes from an interview conducted in 2011.

Austin Ross — a veteran, health care leader, and professor — laid the foundation for successful health care administration nationwide. His ideas on leading and managing health care have guided numerous health care leaders and administrators across the country. Upon completing undergraduate studies at the University of California Berkeley, Ross enlisted during the Korean War and trained as a Medical Service Corps officer – his first experience in the medical field. Looking back at this experience, Ross shared that he “learned more in the military than I did at college. I learned about myself and how to deal with obstacles that I thought might have been impossible.” After serving in the Medical Service Corps, he returned to obtain his MPH degree from Berkeley’s hospital administration program. 


Ross began his hospital administration career with Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle as an administrative resident in 1955, where he stayed for more than three decades in various leadership positions. By 1968, he was the hospital administrator and, in 1977, he became executive administrator, a position he held until his retirement in 1991. Ross’ leadership put Virginia Mason in the national spotlight as a leading example of how to integrate a multispecialty group practice with a hospital. Following a career in administration, Ross became a clinical professor, Department of Health Services, at the University of Washington. 

Ross also maintained extensive involvement in professional associations throughout his career, including the American College of Healthcare Executives, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Medical Group Management Association and the AHA. In 1983, he was honored by the MGMA with the Harry Harwick Award and, in 1989, he was the recipient of the American College of Healthcare Executives Gold Medal Award.


In this oral history, Ross reminisces about the physicians who led the Mason Clinic and how the Clinic was organized. He describes the development of the Consortium, which was an attempt to develop linkages between hospitals in urban and rural parts of Washington State. 


To read the full oral history transcript, click here.