Dr. John Langell named NEOMED president, puts focus on fixing health care

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ROOTSTOWN, Ohio — Dr. John Langell, the newly appointed president of Northeast Ohio Medical University, sees the university as uniquely positioned to educate future health care providers who will fix the country’s ailing health care system.

“What NEOMED can do is change the paradigm,” Langell, 55, said during a news conference Wednesday. The university board of directors voted to approve his appointment earlier that day.

Langell, who starts his new position on Oct. 1, said he chose to come to the health sciences university in Rootstown because he thinks it represents the future of health care. The country’s current health system is facing major challenges and the education system has a role in solving them, he said. The health system is good at diagnosis and treatment of disease but needs to improve in the areas of prevention and equal access to affordable treatment, he said.

“It all starts with the student,” Langell said. “How do we change the future of health care? We do it by creating physician and pharmacy and nursing leaders who understand business models and leadership skills as well as the practice of medicine. That’s what the university can do.”

Large teaching hospitals “all practice a model that is failing,” Langell said. NEOMED isn’t tied to the current health care system, so it can prepare students to look for ways to improve the quality of health care while containing costs.

The country’s shortage of primary care physicians is part of the health care crisis, because medical students aren’t eager to specialize in primary care because of relatively low pay and long hours. “Right now, I don’t think we do a very good job in incentivizing students” to explore that specialty, Langell said.

Langell, a native Californian, is currently executive director of the Center for Medical Innovation at the University of Utah and vice dean of innovation at the University of Utah School of Medicine.

At NEOMED, he will replace Dr. Jay Gershen, who retires as president in late September. Langell was chosen from four finalists after an seven-month search.

Gershen had been NEOMED president since 2010. During his tenure, the university’s budget doubled to $80 million and its student body rose from 600 to nearly 1,000.

Currently, it is in the midst of a $36 million construction project, including a new medical office building.

Keeping student tuition low will be a primary focus of Langell’s first year in office. He plans to explore whether NEOMED students can provide clinical services for the community, in turn providing a funding source for the university.

Langell, who has more than a dozen patent filings, looks forward to expanding the university’s RediZone, a program that unites entrepreneurs and biomedical startups with university resources to further the development of biotechnology.

He gained experience in biomedical entrepreneurship as director of Xenocor Inc., a company that developed a disposable laparoscope. Langell will remain on the company’s board of directors, he said.

Langell is a U.S. Air Force veteran with four advanced degrees. His wife, Dr. Sara Whittingham, served as an Air Force flight surgeon; she retired earlier this year. They have two daughters. The family plans to move here from Salt Lake City at the end of September.

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