As vice president and chief medical officer for innovation and digital health at OSF HealthCare, Dr. John Vozenilek leads the Jump Trading Simulation and Education Center, which is focused on improving quality and safety in healthcare while reducing healthcare costs through simulation. He also serves as the Duane and Mary Cullinan Endowed Professor for Simulation Outcomes at the University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria (UICOMP).
Under the direction of “Dr. Voz,” OSF HealthCare and UICOMP have created tremendous organizational capabilities and infrastructure, building resources for engineers and educators who wish to use innovative technologies for the improvement of clinical performance. He has been in this field since 1999, leading simulation programs for Northwestern University. In 2012, after four years as director of the Northwestern simulation program, he joined OSF HealthCare, as well as UICOMP and the University of Illinois College of Engineering.
- Words to live by: I have a favorite quote that keeps me going: “If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.” It is attributed to Albert Einstein, though it is possibly not even something he said, but perhaps a modern interpretation of something he should have said. My life experience has been that there are many wildly absurd things that produce remarkable and at times glorious results. I am surrounded by remarkable and innovative people, and the joy in creativity is in seeking why things could be, rather than why things shouldn’t work.
- Favorite aspect of central Illinois: I’ve been to many places around the world and I have seen some of the most brilliant sunsets here in central Illinois. Key West, Florida would be envious—no kidding.
- Favorite film: The Outlaw Josey Wales. It is a Clint Eastwood western, where the mysterious hero shows his merit and achieves redemption with a mixture of boldness and humanity. It reminds me of another quote about leadership which I have pinned to my laptop: “Leadership is a matter of intelligence, trustworthiness, humaneness, courage, and discipline… Reliance on intelligence alone results in rebelliousness. Exercise of humaneness alone results in weakness. Fixation on trust results in folly. Dependence on the strength of courage results in violence. Excessive discipline and sternness in command result in cruelty. When one has all five virtues together, each appropriate to its function, then one can be a leader.” — Sun Tzu
- Favorite retreat: There is nothing so peaceful as being on a lake. I do love to fish, but even enjoying a cup of coffee and looking on the water is so peaceful. I aspire to someday wake up to those kinds of views. I think it’s restorative in the quiet noises of water, the brief flutters of birds, and the occasional splash of a fish grabbing a snack off the surface of the water.
- My life is… rich, and I am blessed beyond my ability to have planned it. I only hope that my creativity somehow affords others an opportunity to see their own lives as rich and blessed—and use their own talents to help others and pay it forward.
- Favorite occupation: I am in my favorite occupation. The interesting thing is that there is no easy classification for it, or even a decent name or title for it. I went to school for a very long time to take care of people as a physician, and trained even harder at my selected discipline of emergency medicine, but I found myself always working to improve the quality, safety, efficiency and experience of healthcare. I leveraged my interests in design and engineering, and now work for remarkable organizations building new and better ways to serve patients. In remarkable ways I have been able to use my talents to help others, but I would never have been able to do one thing without the grace of God.
- Most embarrassing moment: I’ve had a great number of really interesting and embarrassing moments, perhaps because I am so willing to put myself out there. I will say I was quite embarrassed and learned quite a bit from my brief stretch as a skydiver in college. I was never able to quite get the perfect landing. There are some who touch down on earth light as a feather and walk away from their parachute as if they were stepping out of their front door. Not so for me—my grand finale was my landing astraddle a young pine tree. The tree got the best of it.
- Childhood dream job: I was very interested in being a fighter pilot as a youth. I loved the idea of flying and going incredibly fast. Interestingly and laughably, a “medical error” erroneously ended that potential career path. A mistake by my optometrist had me as having my younger brother’s eyesight. (He requires a hefty prescription lens.) I only found out a couple decades after I was unable to be a candidate for pilot school due to my “poor vision” that I have 20/15 or better vision.
- What social issue fires you up? I am intensely interested in social disparities in health, or otherwise stated inequities in health. We know the majority of factors that predict disease and poor outcomes in health are really not at all “clinical” determinants. They are social. That is, in cases where long health and wellness could be enjoyed, those outcomes are not achieved for non-medical/non-genetic reasons. The effect of food insecurity, violence and personal safety, education, and even living in rural areas dramatically affect quality and length of life, and they have a dramatic effect on disease outcomes like cancer. In these COVID-impacted days, we see these conditions remarkably amplified. The good news is that I work for an organization which is interested in doing something about it, and I have been blessed to gather remarkable people and resources to get some work done to address these inequities.
- Favorite sport to play/watch: I am a longtime (non-bandwagon) Cubs fan. When I was in Chicago, I had a wonderful opportunity to be the stadium doctor and watch the Cubs play. Technically I was employed by the Cubs, which makes me smile. My strongest sports affiliation is football, however. I played center and nose tackle and would have played in college, but decided to “get serious” for my future studies as a doctor.
- BONUS QUESTION: What song always makes you happy when you hear it? I’ve really become fond of the Zac Brown Band—especially since seeing them live at the Civic Center. The song “Keep Me In Mind” has special significance to me. It is a cheerful and hopeful song which was playing when I proposed. PM