Art and Soul
Getting to know Ora Hirsch Pescovitz
You can often tell a lot about a person just by the décor of his or her office. Walking into the office of our new executive vice president for medical affairs was pretty surprising. The windowsill is lined with colorful glass art. The walls are covered with paintings. There are family photographs and a plaque that says, “Mending the World.” And, in the midst of the old and new books lining her bookshelves, there’s a hand grenade.
In addition to her new role as head of the Health System, Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, M.D., is a wife and mother of three grown children, a collector of art, a pianist, a scientist, an author and by all definitions a leader.
IV: What is the best part about moving to Ann Arbor?
OHP: Of course I was thrilled to accept the position, but whoever scheduled me to come to Ann Arbor in the spring did a smart thing. It’s a beautiful and welcoming and warm community. There is the right mix of small, adaptable, easy to get around and friendly.
This summer was my first time at the art fair and that was great. My son has a degree in art and used to work in metalsmithing and jewelry-making. He’s in architecture now, but still makes jewelry on the side. I get great gifts from him.
IV: What was your most memorable moment as a medical student?
OHP: I learned how medicine offers a myriad of experiences and that there is so much creativity in medicine. When I was young, I didn’t know whether I wanted to study medicine or become a concert pianist. In medical school, I was part of a chamber of music group. I learned that creativity is everywhere. In medicine, the career opportunities are endless.
IV: Did you have to attend the Michigan Traditions and Values orientation like everyone else?
OHP: I did! It was great to attend because I needed to be oriented to the place just like everyone else. After we did introductions at the table, I think a few people got a little nervous.
IV: What is your favorite item in your office and why?
OHP: This book my husband gave to me called The Pituitary Body and its Disorders by Harvey Cushing. Endocrinology is my specialty and this book was written in 1912. What’s amazing is that it shows how a group of really smart physicians can use the power of observation and curiosity, careful documentation, creativity and discovery to make extraordinary advances that lead to whole new fields of science and medicine that transform everything we know. Many of the diseases in the book are fully understood today. The next hundred years will be even more exciting given the power of the scientific tools we have.
IV: What is up with the hand grenade on your bookshelf?
OHP: Another dean at Indiana University gave me that as a joke for when faculty came to my office and started demanding things. It says, “Complaint Dept. Take a Number” and there's a number tag attached to the pin. Blowing people up really wasn’t my way of dealing with difficult faculty members. I replaced the grenade with a painting called “The Death of Narcissus,” to more subtly remind me of the occasional faculty member that thinks that he or she is a prima donna. In general, though, it is my experience that our faculty at the University of Michigan Health System work toward the common good to do what is best for the system and that is why I am so very excited to be here.
IV: How do your personal and professional philosophies intertwine?
OHP: I’ve always believed that you should aim high. If you shoot for the stars and end up landing on the moon, that’s great. You just might discover something else.
I wanted to make my contribution as a researcher early on. With time, I realized maybe I had something unique to contribute as an administrator. This was a bit of a compromise for me – to think I wasn’t going to do it by myself. But over time I began to see it is equally satisfying to enable others to do great work. I want everyone at this institution to collectively reach their highest potential.
IV: What is your overall vision for the Health System?
OHP: Since I arrived in May, I've been learning a lot about this place and its people. There is a wealth of intellect, passion and potential in this Health System and together, I think we can create the future of health care through discovery. I’d like to build upon the great things happening here to move us forward. I want us to become THE national leader in health, health care reform and biomedical innovation.
Look for more interviews with Dr. Pescovitz in future issues of Inside View.
Written by Beth Johnson
Inside View Editorial Advisory Group
Constance Bridges, Office of the Dean, Medical School
Paula Greeno, Office of the EVPMA
Teri Grieb, MSA Office of Research
Judy Hallberg, S.P.H.R., UMMS Human Resources
Kelly, UMHS Human Resources
Erin Koenigsknecht, UMHS Marketing Communications
Eric Kratochwill, UMHHC Office of the CEO
Allison Krieger, Public Relations and Marketing Communications
Rick Krupinski, Editor, Medicine at Michigan
Alisa Morningstar, UMHS, MFit Health Promotion
Sara Nielsen, Safety Management Services
Tammy Nipper, UMMS Human Resources
Juanita Parry, Nurse Recruitment & Retention
Steve Raymond, UMHHC Leadership & Staff Development
Karen Schlueter, Livonia Health Center
Connie Standiford, Medical School Administration
Carole Strong, House Officers Association
Public Relations & Marketing Communications Staff
Michael Harrison, chief public relations and marketing officer
Kara Gavin, director of public relations
Beth Johnson, editor and senior writer
Jessica Soulliere, assistant editor
Geoff O'Connor, Web developer
Anne Rueter, senior public relations representative
Mary Masson, senior public relations representative
Cathy Mellett, contributing writer
Haley Otman, contributing writer
Juliet Fuller, photography coordinator
Bruce Spiher, information technology writer