Omar Lateef, D.O.’99, was not one of those people who knew since grade school he wanted to become a doctor. An undergraduate religious studies major, he later found himself at DMU nervously “surrounded by all these very smart people.” He coped by working as hard as he could, an approach that fostered his career success and, in January, landed him his new position as chief medical officer at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.
In that role, Lateef is charged with helping design, implement and ultimately oversee the organization’s clinical quality, patient safety and performance improvement initiatives. No small tasks – but he’s excited by the challenges.
“Historically, everybody in medicine lived separately. But now that we’re seeing increasingly complicated patients, medical teams have to work together,” he says. “If we improve communication and break down silos across the departments, we’ll achieve better patient care and outcomes. That represents a paradigm shift in medicine, thinking around patients and not departments.”
Board-certified in pulmonary disease and critical care medicine, Lateef had been associate chief medical officer at Rush since 2009, senior vice chair of the department of medicine since 2012, and associate dean of medical sciences in Rush Medical College since 2013. He also has served as program director for the pulmonary and critical care fellowship program and director of the medical intensive care unit. He continues to see patients and teach residents and fellows.
“Dr. Lateef is a master clinician to begin with, so he has instant credibility with others in the very complicated environment of pulmonary medicine,” says Michael Dandorph, Rush executive vice president and chief operating officer who announced Lateef’s appointment. “But the way he connects with people really makes him special. He’s driven by ways to find solutions and to marry data with any changes we need to make. He also has an incredible way to keep us on task that we’re all here to take care of patients.”
Lateef and his colleagues are working to drive innovation from a position of strength: Rush is widely recognized for its quality, equity of care, and patient safety and centeredness. The ongoing changes and challenges in health care, though, don’t allow any health care center to rest on its laurels.
“I like to translate patient care into commonsense and get the right people around the table to solve problems,” Lateef says. “We need to focus on enhancing communication and using honest approaches in population health.
“Rush has an awesome reputation and is growing its footprint,” he adds. “It’s exciting to be part of that team.”