Jeff Bokser serves as the Vice President of Healthcare and University Programs at Hagerty Consulting, Inc. (Hagerty). The Disaster Discourse Team conducted an interview with Jeff to learn more about his professional background and the valuable expertise he brings to the Hagerty Team.
How does your previous experience contribute to your role as the Vice President of Healthcare and University Programs?
I have obtained a vast amount of experience throughout the past two decades of my career in all aspects of healthcare operations, finance, crisis management and recovery. I started my career in a New York City hospital in healthcare administration three months prior to September 11th, 2001. I was quickly placed in the hospital command center and helped the hospital respond to the events and the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks. Throughout my career, I have advanced performance in clinical and non-clinical settings and led innovation in daily operations and care delivery processes.
I have since led hospital staff in planning, executing, and responding to significant emergency events including Ebola, Hurricane Sandy, H1N1 Pandemic, (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) SARS, anthrax scares, mass-casualty surge incidents, and deploying disaster response teams and telemedicine nationally. This has prepared me for public health emergencies and the response and recovery Hagerty is providing during COVID-19. It is my experience in running complex healthcare organizations, deep understanding of public health and my passion in emergency management that contributes to my role at Hagerty and ability to help advise and shape healthcare organizations, universities and public health departments across the country as they respond to the most significant multi-faceted public health disaster in recent history.
In our country’s current COVID-19 environment, what do you believe are the most important steps to help clients in the healthcare industry?
Right now, hospitals and healthcare systems are facing significant financial challenges from the effects of COVID-19 testing, treatment, and care. In addition, to the cost incurred for caring for COVID-19 patients, hospitals face a loss in revenue from a drop in non-COVID-19 patient visits. They are dealing with recovery in the midst of what is going to be a prolonged response. Normally there is a time when an emergency ends and recovery begins; right now, they seem to be blending. Hagerty is unique – we have vast experience in disaster response and recovery, and we are bringing them both to the table for our clients during COVID-19. Currently, the most important role we are helping with in financial recovery is identifying ways to work with federal and state funding streams to help with short-term cash liquidity and positioning for long-term financial recovery. We are also starting to see a shift to work in preparedness including After-Action Reports (AARs) for hospitals and healthcare associations, emergency operation plan enhancements and response work for planning of field hospitals, testing sites and vaccination planning.
Most of our hospital clients are still in the heat of battle with COVID-19, but we need to have a paradigm shift for the future. This Public Health Emergency (PHE) comes down to the recognition that we all have to adapt to this new normal, while recognizing that even if it doesn’t affect you as an organization now, at some point it will. We all have to work together to make a strategic change and build a stronger public health infrastructure. Historically hospitals have operated independently; we need to have a collective goal to take care of people across the country.
We also need to understand that this PHE is not just about the immediate aspects of caring for COVID-19 patients or caring for COVID-19-related job loss. We are seeing the economic impact and social isolation results that will play out for years. We are going to see individuals during this time who are putting off their health needs. It is far greater than just the immediate threat of COVID-19. This PHE has societal impacts; the faster and better we can help all those components, the better off we will be.
What led you to emergency management and your public service mindset?
I have always felt that helping others is a huge part of who I am and is embedded in my DNA. My appreciation for emergency management was born out of tragedy. As a teenager, I was involved as a passenger in a serious car accident and lost a friend. The accident set in motion my desire to make a difference in others’ lives.
In times of crisis, I have always been someone who has remained calm, which is key when stress steps in during an emergency. I always try to be prepared for whatever might come next and what needs to be addressed in advance to be threat ready. There is no such thing as complete preparedness, yet each day we need to be thinking through plans and requirements for whatever emergency we may face next. As emergency managers, we can never fall into the mindset of “we just responded to the biggest emergency,” there is always something new on the horizon. In this job, you can never become complacent.
What do you find most rewarding about working in the field of emergency management?
You have to enjoy what you do. Because of my passion and connection, I have always gravitated towards community management. I’ve always felt that when you work in our field, the work you do contributes to the fulfillment of a larger and more meaningful purpose. Our work at Hagerty – with our healthcare partners and universities across the county – is contributing to helping society and is enhancing individuals lives during what will likely prove to be one of the most trying times in our nation’s history.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love to spend time with my daughters and wife, travel, golf, and work on projects around the house. Last summer I built a deck on my yard. It has come in handy with all the time we have been spending at home.
JEFF BOKSER is Hagerty Consulting’s Vice President of Healthcare and University Programs and has strategic expertise in all aspects of healthcare operations, finance, crisis management, and recovery. Jeff currently leads Hagerty Consulting’s Healthcare and University practice focused on COVID-19 response and financial recovery and is working with public health departments, hospitals, healthcare systems, and universities across the country.