New Leadership at NEOMED

By Neil Allen
Thursday, January 9, 2020

John Langell, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., was appointed by the Northeast Ohio Medical University Board of Trustees on July 24, 2019 to become the Northeast Ohio Medical University’s seventh president, effective October 1, 2019.

Dr. Langell has more than twenty years of experience in higher education and has served in senior leadership positions in academic health care, industry, nonprofit organizations and the federal government.

A U.S. veteran, surgeon, educator, health care leader and entrepreneur, Dr. Langell most recently served as vice dean at the School of Medicine at the University of Utah, where he also founded and served as executive director of the Center for Medical Innovation. He was tapped to lead NEOMED as its seventh president, succeeding Jay Gershen, who retired at the end of September.

“We made it very clear: Jay Gershen had done a remarkable job in growing NEOMED from what was NEOUCOM at the time into what NEOMED is today. We weren’t looking for another Jay Gershen. We were looking for that leader who can now take what Jay had built and transform it into what we need for the next level going forward,” says Robert J. Klonk, in a Crain’s Cleveland Business story by writer Lydia Coutré. Klonk was chair of the NEOMED board during the presidential search, which he led. His term as chair ended Oct. 1, but he remains a board member.

Dr. Langell proved to be that leader Klonk and his team were seeking, securing a unanimous recommendation from the search advisory board, made up of community members, faculty, staff and board members. Klonk, in the Crain’s article, added that Dr. Langell is “a visionary” who brings energy into a room, drives execution strategies and can really transform NEOMED as an institution.

Dr. Langell sees the university as uniquely positioned to educate future health care providers who will fix the country’s ailing health care system, reported Plain Dealer health reporter Julie Washington.

“What NEOMED can do is change the paradigm,” Dr. Langell, 55, said during a news conference following his installation as NEOMED’s new president. Washington’s story in the Plain Dealer noted that he chose to come to the health sciences university in Rootstown because he thinks it represents the future of health care. The country’s current health system is facing major challenges and the education system has a role in solving them, he said. The health system is good at diagnosis and treatment of disease but needs to improve in the areas of prevention and equal access to affordable treatment, he said.

“It all starts with the student,” Dr. Langell says. “How do we change the future of health care? We do it by creating physician and pharmacy and nursing leaders who understand business models and leadership skills as well as the practice of medicine. That’s what the university can do.”

“I am both humbled and excited to join the talented team of students, staff, faculty and alumni that makeup the NEOMED family. In collaboration with our community and academic partners, we will continue to build upon NEOMED’s strength as a community-based academic health care institution, while innovating to build a vibrant and sustainable future.”
— Dr. John Langell

For the past 13 years, Dr. Langell had been with the University of Utah, where he built out the Center for Medical Innovation, a health care-focused technology commercialization and process improvement program that aimed to improve health care quality, access and the development of new technologies.

According to the story in Crain’s, Dr. Langell already has ideas for NEOMED’s future, including building dynamic future leaders.

“From the student side, what we need to do that we’re not doing well at any institution in health care education is how do we teach them to be real leaders, to be change agents?” Dr. Langell says. “And that includes empowering them through education that’s not just focused on here’s the great way for you to treat disease processes but understand the business of the world that you’re going to be entering into.”

To some extent, NEOMED is doing that well today, Dr. Langell adds, noting that many of the university’s graduates are in major leadership roles.

“So we’ve done something right, but I’m not sure anybody here knows exactly what that strength is yet. It’s just been part of our fabric,” he says. “Now, we’re going to work on developing changes to our curriculum to push really intentional pathways of development around this and to grow whatever that secret sauce is and add to it strategically and thoughtfully.”

In his most recent position, Dr. Langell served as vice dean for the School of Medicine as well as founder and executive director of the Center for Medical Innovation, both at the University of Utah. He was recruited to the University of Utah’s Department of Surgery in 2006 as its director of acute care surgery and not long afterward also served as chief of general surgery at the George E. Wahlen VA Medical Center.

During that same period, Dr. Langell, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, maintained his reservist status while serving as CEO (Commander) of Air Force Health Care Facilities. Over the course of 11 years (2006 to 2018) he led four separate Air Force Reserve medical facilities. He was responsible for the leadership and management of all medical and allied health professionals as well as administrators.

John Langell, M.D., and his family

Dr. Langell has specialized expertise in the treatment of diseases of the upper gastrointestinal tract, biliary tract and endocrine system (thyroid, parathyroid and adrenal glands). His clinical focus is in the application of advanced minimally invasive surgical techniques in laparoscopic surgery with special focus on diseases of the stomach, intestines, liver, gallbladder, pancreas and biliary tree. Additionally, he has expertise in the minimally invasive treatment of hernia disease, including abdominal wall and groin hernias, hiatal hernias, thyroid, parathyroid and adrenal glands.

Dr. Langell is well-known for his work as a minimally invasive gastrointestinal and endocrine surgeon, tenured educator, developer of advanced medical education programs, and federally funded researcher. But he is equally known for his effective, appreciative and inclusive style as a leader; his expertise as an innovator and operator; and his forward-thinking approaches as a change agent and Lean-Six Sigma Black Belt.

With more than a dozen patent filings (six of which are licensed), three software copyrights and five companies of which he has been a founding partner, Dr. Langell is a supporter of research, enterprise, development and innovation.

Dr. Langell received his Bachelor of Science Degree at the University of California at Los Angeles. He received both his Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) at Drexel University.

Dr. Langell completed his surgical residency at Stanford University Medical Center and a residency in Space and Aerospace Medicine at NASA/ University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB). During this period, he earned his Master of Public Health Degree at UTMB while researching pharmacological countermeasures for space radiation toxicity. He also has a Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) Degree, which he obtained in the Executive MBA program at the University of Utah.