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Truman Medical CEO John W. Bluford ’75 was honored in November with the National Center for Healthcare Leadership’s Gail L. Warden Leadership Excellence Award.

John W. Bluford

An ounce of prevention

Truman Medical CEO John W. Bluford ’75 takes the early approach to health and wellness

By Brandon Campbell

11/18/2013 - “Altruism,” says John W. Bluford ’75, is what drove him into the medical field. Well, that and a few “timely scholarships.”

Not long after graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn., a recruiter from Northwestern approached him about going into hospital administration.

"He convinced me that [it] would be more productive than serving as a physician and that I could impact the lives of many more people," he says. "I think he was correct.”

Focus on prevention

Today, Bluford is CEO of Truman Medical Centers in Kansas City, Mo., and a pioneer in creating access to quality care and premier services. Starting in the late ’70s, Bluford has become synonymous with making innovative programs widely available in the communities they serve.

Also the former chair of the American Hospital Association and the National Association of Public Hospitals, Bluford pushes a “think out of the bed” philosophy at Truman that focuses on preventative measures. For example, the hospital is opening a full-service grocery store to bring healthy food choices to an urban area of Kansas City where finding affordable, high-quality food is difficult.

“We’ve been preparing for a totally different [patient care] delivery system that really stresses health and wellness, promotion and prevention, keeping people out of the hospital,” Bluford says. It’s a plan that he says dovetails nicely with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act .

His efforts have not gone unnoticed. This November, Bluford received the National Center for Healthcare Leadership’s Gail L. Warden Leadership Excellence Award. And earlier this year, the Healthcare Information Management Systems Society and Modern Healthcare awarded him their CEO IT Achievement Award.

Leadership as a team sport

Even in light of those personal achievements, he maintains that leadership is a team sport.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have a high-performing team under me in practically all of the positions I’ve held, particularly as a CEO,” Bluford says. “And many of those people have stayed with me for an extended period of time, which makes for a sense of continuity and achievement as a team.”