Wilbur Parker Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient
When Percy Allen II joined the University Hospital of Brooklyn as CEO in 1989, the state facility was losing money and struggling with employee morale. Allen immediately set to work, buying state-of-the-art equipment, developing a strong management team, and improving customer satisfaction.
He also reached out in simple ways that spoke volumes: He sent all the hospital’s employees cards on their birthdays, and then, each month, he randomly selected 12 staff members who had just celebrated their birthdays to have lunch with him. And he hosted occasional breakfasts for the medical staff and community leaders.
“That all went a long way to improving the relationship and developing their trust,” Allen says. “When you get people involved in the process, then they feel they are part of the solution.”
Allen, who also served as CEO of Bon Secours Baltimore Health System and is a lifetime fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives, was honored with the Wilbur Parker Distinguished Alumni Award for outstanding professional achievement and commitment to his community at the 2014 Diversity Awards gala, held Oct. 24 in the Sage Hall atrium as part of Johnson’s 5th AnnualDiversity Symposium. “This is indeed a humbling experience for me,” said Allen upon accepting the award. “Mr. Parker was a true trailblazer. He didn’t just crack the doors open, he pushed them wide open and made things possible for people like me.”
Allen began his career in 1975 as the first African-American hired in an administrative position at Parkview Memorial Hospital in Fort Wayne, Ind., one of the top private hospitals in the country. “At that time, African-Americans were either getting jobs at black hospitals or public hospitals,” says Allen, who graduated from Cornell’s Sloan Program in Health Administration (then housed in the Graduate School of Business and Public Administration, Johnson’s predecessor; the Sloan program is now housed in Cornell’s College of Human Ecology). “Very few of us were hired at private, not-for-profit hospitals.”
After seven years at Parkview, Allen became vice president for administration at Sinai Hospital of Detroit. Three years later, he was appointed to a senior executive position at the New York City Health and Hospital Corporation, the largest municipal healthcare organization in the country.
In 1999, Allen, who lives in Virginia Beach, had planned to retire but was asked once again to revive a failing hospital, this time at the helm of the Baltimore Bon Secours Health System. Over the next seven years, Allen upgraded the intensive care unit, expanded its emergency department, boosted employee morale, and developed three senior-citizen housing complexes in the neighborhood.
“It changed the image of the hospital,” he says. “It became a winner. It made people feel that we had improved the quality of patient care and the quality of life of the community.”
Creating an energetic and committed organizational culture by empowering the medical and hospital staff was a key factor in Allen’s success in turning around three declining healthcare organizations in New York City and Baltimore. He was recognized for his accomplishments over a 30-year career in 2011, when he was inducted into Modern Healthcare’s Health Care Hall of Fame, and in 2006, when he was inducted into the National Association of Health Services Executives Hall of Fame.
“The thing I want to leave you with tonight, he said to the audience of students and prospective students as well as faculty and staff at the Diversity Awards gala, “is never rest until your good gets better, and your better, best. Be yourself. Be humble. Be accountable. Be courageous. Be proud. Be respectful. Be the change in the world you want to see. And last but not least, have fun. Thank you so very much.