Ramin Davidoff, M.D., Kaiser Permanente: Ascendant Path for True Believer in Team-based Care

MHE Publication, MHE July 2021, Volume 31, Issue 7

Ramin Davidoff, M.D., co-CEO of the Permanente Federation, has applied lessons he learned as a child. “There is no substitute for working hard and to always treat your people kindly, professionally and respectfully.”

Climbing the Career Ladder: Fourth of 10 profiles of healthcare executives and their careers.

Threats of violence and virulent anti-Semitism were the future for then-11-year-old Ramin Davidoff had his family stayed in the city of Urmia in northwest Iran as the nation’s revolution unfolded in 1979.

His parents, however, decided to flee for a month or two until the revolution subsided, and headed for northern Utah, where his uncle was attending Utah State University. The revolution dictated that the short stay would become permanent.

With the chance to fully use his talents, Davidoff would soon be on a steep ascent that in January 2021 landed him as co-CEO of the Permanente Federation, a consortium of all the Permanente Medical Groups in the nation, supporting nearly 23,000 Permanente physicians.

“We were very fortunate to move to the United States, which really has become for me a land of opportunity, although at 11 I did not realize that,” Davidoff says.

Davidoff’s career path has been on an upward trajectory. He went to University of California, Irvine, for eight years, first as an undergraduate and then as a medical student, completed his residency training in urology at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center and chose to remain in the system.

“Medicine for me truly was, right from the beginning, about what’s best for the patient,” Davidoff says. “When that happens in training, then it stays with you, and I truly appreciated that brand of medicine.”

Davidoff never envisioned going into administration. His opportunity came at Baldwin Park Medical Center when he took on the role of physician director of risk management and patient safety. He saw it as a way to improve patient care more broadly by focusing on safety. Tearing down the pyramid structure that saw the physician at the top was part of his strategy. “I wanted it flattened, a system where every member of the team had an opportunity to have a say in the care,” Davidoff says.

Davidoff would rise to become assistant medical director. When he was elected to the Southern California Permanente Medical Group board of directors, which he now chairs, he suddenly had an additional perspective on care, this time from the governance angle.

“That was also a very important lens,” he says. “That’s where the strategy, the business, the finance, the competitive landscape — all the things that are important to run a higher-performing medical group — came into play.”

Davidoff was fortunate to be given nine months to transition into his role as co-CEO of the Permanente Federation. Unfortunately, it coincided with the pandemic.

“I’ve always focused on our people, but even more so in the early part of the pandemic,” he says. “These people have fear. They’re worried about coming into work, eventually getting infected and taking the infection back to their families. So there was a real importance of communication and being real and genuine with them, really being visible.”

The lesson of the pandemic, he said, was innovation. The system has pivoted toward telehealth and virtual work. Many patients who normally would have been hospitalized, it turned out, could be managed safely at home with monitoring systems.

Through it all, Davidoff says, the values he learned as a boy are the same ones he urges those in the medical field to follow today.

“There’s no substitute for working hard and to always treat your people kindly, professionally and respectfully,” he says. “That will allow them to be who they are in work environments and brings out the best in them.”

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