Tom Mihaljevic, MD, a cardiac surgeon who previously served as CEO of Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, became the new CEO and President of Cleveland Clinic on Jan. 1.
“To be CEO of Cleveland Clinic is a great responsibility,” Dr. Mihaljevic says. “Our patients come to us with tremendous expectations. We must meet and exceed those expectations, and assure that every patient who comes to us has the best outcome and experience.”
In his new position, Dr. Mihaljevic leads an $8 billion healthcare system that includes a main campus, 10 regional hospitals, 18 family health centers, and facilities in Florida, Nevada, Toronto, Abu Dhabi and, soon, London. He succeeds Toby Cosgrove, MD, who led Cleveland Clinic from 2004 to 2017 and now serves as executive advisor to the new administration.
"Tommy is his own man,” Bob Rich, Chair of Cleveland Clinic's Board of Directors, is quoted as saying in an article in The Plain Dealer. “But he has a keen appreciation for what the culture is, what brought us to where we are and what we have to do to stay in a leadership position. I think he's going to be a great leader not only in medicine around the world but in Cleveland, Ohio.”
From Croatia to Cleveland, With a Few Stops In Between
Dr. Mihaljevic's route to Cleveland Clinic’s top office took him from Croatia, to Switzerland, to Boston, to Cleveland, to Abu Dhabi, and now back to Cleveland.
Born in Zagreb, Croatia – then part of communist Yugoslavia – Dr. Mihaljevic earned his medical degree at Zagreb University. Because his family was anti-communist, his job options were limited. Dr. Mihaljevic volunteered where he could, and found work as a nurse assistant.
“I’ve done all the worst possible jobs you can have in a hospital,” he says. “I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.”
He was accepted into the graduate program at Zurich University in Switzerland, where he trained with Marco Turina, MD, a leading cardiac surgeon in Europe. In 1995, out of a pool of 600 applicants, Dr. Mihaljevic was one of the five who were selected for surgical residencies at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
Dr. Mihaljevic went on to become an associate surgeon in the Division of Cardiac Surgery, Director of the Cardiac Surgery Research Center, and assistant professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School. During much of that time, he was being recruited by Dr. Cosgrove to join Cleveland Clinic. In 2004, he joined the staff of Cleveland Clinic’s No. 1-ranked heart team.
“I had a gut feeling that Cleveland was the right place for me to be.”
An Experienced Leader
In 2010, he accepted Dr. Cosgrove’s invitation to join the soon-to-be-opened Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi as Chief of Staff and Chair of its Heart & Vascular Institute. He led a recruitment effort there that drew 5,500 applications for 175 physician posts, and he went on to launch the most advanced cardiovascular program in the Middle East.
As CEO of Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi from 2015 to 2017, he oversaw the opening in 2015 of the 365-bed hospital and clinic, with 3,000 caregivers. In the summer of 2017, the Board of Directors chose him from a large group of candidates to be the next Cleveland Clinic CEO.
Dr. Mihaljevic, who has given up his surgical practice to devote himself to his job as Cleveland Clinic's CEO and President, performed nearly 3,000 operations over the course of his career. He specialized in minimally invasive and robotic-assisted procedures, valve replacement and repair, image-guided surgery, heart failure and cardiac transplantation.
Continuing a Culture of Caring
“I’m an enthusiastic American,” Dr. Mihaljevic says. “And to me, Cleveland Clinic embodies all the ideas that make America great. That includes the opportunity to be the best you can, based on your individual merits and not your background.”
Today, Dr. Mihaljevic is busy meeting and learning from caregivers and members of the Cleveland Clinic community.
“I look forward to preserving and enhancing the culture and dynamics of this great organization,” he says.
His first official message to caregivers on New Year's Day reflected his determination to continue Cleveland Clinic’s culture of caring.
“Treat Cleveland Clinic and its resources as if they were yours,” he said. “And treat every patient as if they were a member of your family.”