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Friday, May 24, 2024
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Executive Q & A: Dr. Patricio Frias, Rady Children’s Hospital

New title: Recently named president and CEO of Rady Children’s Hospital and Health Center

Current job: COO of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

Alma Mater: Undergraduate at Creighton University; medical degrees at University of Nebraska College of Medicine

Family: Dr. Frias and his wife have a daughter and three sons

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Dr. Patricio “Patrick” A. Frias’ is a physician-turned-executive, a path that helped land a new gig as the president and CEO of Rady Children’s Hospital and Health Center.

Frias is currently the COO at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, where he’s spent his entire career. A pediatric cardiologist/electrophysiologist, he moved from patient care into administrative roles.

His background, according to hospital officials, resembles that of Dr. Donald B. Kearns, who is retiring as president and CEO and will take on an advisory role.

“We found that Dr. Frias’ career path has many similarities to Dr. Kearns’: both spent their entire bedside medical careers at a single children’s hospital and understand their organizations from multiple perspectives; that of the patients, families, physicians, nurses and clinical staff and administration,” Michael Peckham, chair of Rady’s board and co-chair of the search committee, said in a statement. More than 60 people participated in the interview process.

Frias will take the helm by the end of the year. In an interview, he indicated Rady’s is in no need of a turnaround; he said that he’s looking to build on a positive trajectory.

In this Q&A Frias talks about what’s next for Rady’s pioneering genomics work, similarities between Atlanta and San Diego in pediatric care, and challenges facing children’s hospitals.


Q: In your first year what would you like to accomplish at Rady? 

A: I would certainly want to make sure I’ve gotten to know everybody in the system and that I get an understanding of what folks feel are the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities. I want to get to know all the partner institutions as well as further develop the vision for innovation and enhancing clinical care. 

Q. Rady’s has emphasized using genomics to diagnose and treat patients, including being part of Guinness World Records for sequencing genomes in record time. What’s next for Rady’s on the genomics front?

A: First of all, I think genomics and precision medicine are really the future. It’s a very exciting platform to build upon, and now it’s a matter of taking genomics and seeing how it can be further applied across various disciplines. And then it’s how we take that and grow it regionally, nationally and internationally. 

Q: So you see Rady’s as something of a proof of concept for other children’s hospitals? 

A: I’m not sure if it’s proof of concept. I see the genomics opportunities as Rady being a leader and innovator and to partner with other children’s hospitals as being the leader in this arena. 

Q: What are some of the more exciting areas you think genomics will be applied to in the future?

A: Some of the areas it would make sense to apply include cancer therapies, in behavioral health, in pharmacogenomics to understand what medications might be preferable for patients, in cardiology, in diagnostics and treatments, and various other disciplines like that. 

Q: Of course you have to be able to pay for genetic tests. So what’s the reimbursement picture like there?

A: Like many tests in health care, genetic testing can be expensive. It certainly is resource intense. I need to get a deeper understanding of the reimbursement picture in California. But I know that one of the areas that we as a system will need to engage is assuring the sustainability of the genomic institute, including securing adequate reimbursement for the testing. 

Q: Do you have a sense so far of how Atlanta’s market for children’s care is different from that of San Diego?

A: Actually, Atlanta and San Diego are fairly similar when it comes to pediatric health care. There is a freestanding children’s hospital in Atlanta, similar to San Diego, that’s the primary provider of care for children in the region. And like Rady, in Atlanta we have a strong partnership with a top medical school, similar to the relationship Rady has with UCSD. And there are also many partners for innovation, similar to what exists on the (Torrey Pines) Mesa. 

That was one of the draws for me: the similarities and opportunity to further build upon a great trajectory. 

Q: What would you say is the biggest challenge facing Rady and how do you plan to tackle that? 

A: The biggest challenge facing all children’s hospitals at this time is reimbursement. When your mission is to care for every child, regardless of ability to pay and where they’re coming from in your community, certainty we need to focus on ensuring the sustainability of the enterprise and that we can secure adequate reimbursement to continue with that mission.


Q: To increase reimbursement, do you see that as a matter of advocacy with the federal government, for instance? Or what are some avenues you plan to tackle that? 

A: I think it can be through advocacy with the federal and state governments. It’s also ensuring good partnerships with various commercial payers, and it’s also working with the philanthropic community to ensure there are adequate resources to carry out those missions and programs that are not otherwise reimbursed. 

Q: Hospitals across the nation are facing reimbursement struggles. What’s unique to children’s hospitals there? 

A: Children’s hospitals deal with a greater proportion of Medi-Caid, and Medi-Caid actually differs from state to state, but generally does not pay in the range of Medi-Care, which is more common for all the adult-oriented hospitals. And Medi-Caid has often been on the chopping block throughout various years.

This Q&A was lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

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