When it comes to the American health care system, Guy Fish knows the business inside and out.
The Greater Lawrence Family Health Center’s new president and CEO, whose tenure began in July, studied biochemistry at Harvard before earning a medical degree from Yale. His resume includes participating in a medical residency at Case Western, opening an internal medicine practice with his wife, returning to Yale’s school of management for an MBA, working as the CEO of Cellanyx Diagnostics and, more recently, Nextstage Therapeutics, spending 17 years as a leader at health care consultancy firm Fletcher Spaght, and working on the trustee, licensing and appeals boards of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Dubai Healthcare City. Despite his schedule, he has found time to run two Boston Marathons to raise money for the Bowdoin Street Health Center in Dorchester.
While Fish enjoyed the connections made while working closely with patients in his private practice, he felt drawn to the executive side of medicine early in his career. “Working with patients was a bedrock for me and everything else that I do,” Fish says. “[But] I recognized that the impact that I could have would be far greater and multiplied if I could effect change at a systems level.”
Through the years, Fish has based his leadership strategy on a lesson that he attributes to Professor Marshall Ganz at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government: “Leadership is being accountable for inspiring and enabling others to achieve a shared purpose under conditions of uncertainty.”
With experience as extensive and diverse as Fish’s, I wondered about his first impressions of the Merrimack Valley. Surprisingly, our region reminded Fish, who grew up in Ohio, of the summers he spent with his grandparents in their small town along the Ohio River — one with an industrial base and a population comprised largely of immigrants.
When he saw there was an opportunity to lead the Greater Lawrence Family Health Center, Fish remembered the reason he wanted to focus on the business side of health care, which was to address the system’s shortcomings, including affordability.
“What was really most fascinating to me when I was introduced to the Merrimack Valley and GLFHC,” Fish says, “was having one organization caring for 50 [thousand] to 60,000 attributed lives in a metro area. As the largest primary care provider in the area, you have an opportunity to initiate programs and move the needle on health outcomes because you’re the principal game in town when it comes to primary care and health promotion.”
Housing, food security, and economic opportunities — all of which lead to health problems in underresourced populations — are among the tasks Fish plans to work on as the new leader of GLFHC.
Though we continue to battle the COVID-19 virus, Fish says the Greater Lawrence Family Health Center is seeing a steady return to normal operations, in part thanks to government funding that has helped push the center to be more resilient. “Before I got here, the leadership team and staff proved their mettle by squarely stepping up to conduct testing operations, [and implementing] telehealth,” Fish says. “Now we’re closing in on 100,000 vaccinations delivered.”
In addition to increasing vaccination numbers, Fish wants to continue finding innovative ways of addressing social determinants of health. “What I hope to accomplish here is to lift the health [of the] community and doing that in ways that create self-actualization for all,” he says. “Community health centers, like the GLFHC, can be a central part in that.”