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From Hospital CEO to Mayor of Detroit: How Mike Duggan Is Rebuilding His City

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Managing a hospital system isn't something you'd expect to find on the resume of the typical mayoral candidate; however, for Detroit mayor Mike Duggan, being a former executive for a major hospital system is just part of his illustrious leadership experience. The former president and CEO of the Detroit Medical Center (DMC) is no stranger to rehabilitating a system in decline, which is an ideal attribute to have as the mayor of a city like Detroit. Running on the platform of financial turnaround, crime reduction and economic development, Duggan has vowed to revamp this downtrodden town and create a new and better Detroit.

A lifelong resident of Detroit, the 56-year-old was born in the city and graduated from Detroit Catholic Central High School. He received his bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan in 1980 and went on to obtain a J.D. degree from the institution's law school in 1983. Mike began his political career in 1986 when he was appointed the assistant corporation counsel for Wayne County. From 1987 to 2001, he served as deputy county executive under the late Edward H. McNamara and was elected prosecutor in 2000. In 2004, Duggan switched gears and joined the Detroit Medical Center as president and CEO. Running this facility was no easy task, however, as the hospital system was quite fractured and in a decline when Mike was placed by QLK.

Established in 1985, DMC was organized as a union comprised of Harper University Hospital, Grace Hospital, Hutzel Women's Hospital and Children's Hospital of Michigan. Additional facilities, including the Detroit Receiving Hospital and neighboring partner institutions like the Karmanos Cancer Institute and the John D. Dingell VA Medical Center, completed the DMC campus. When Mayor Duggan took over as president and CEO of the medical center, the system was facing the impending closure of Detroit Receiving Hospital and Hutzel Women's Hospital—two of Detroit Medical Center's major flagship hospitals. In addition, the system was considering thousands of layoffs after losing nearly $500 million over five years prior to Mike's appointment. With Duggan at the helm, the DMC made a profit for the first time since 1997 and has been thriving every year since. This wasn't a new feat for the mayor who, while serving as Deputy Wayne County Executive in Wayne County, Mich., became the architect of a solvency package that aided the county in eradicating a $130 million budget deficit and helped lead the county to 15 consecutive balanced budgets after 17 consecutive years of budget overruns. While serving Wayne County, Duggan also established HealthChoice, a cutting-edge healthcare program for small businesses that granted access to affordable, quality healthcare for nearly 20,000 previously uninsured workers.

Not only was Duggan instrumental in turning the system around financially, he was influential in changing the way patients were handled by the DMC. Upon his appointment, Duggan instituted a guarantee that all patients coming to a DMC emergency room would be seen by a doctor within 29 minutes of their arrival. He also placed emphasis on providing access to all available resources to support anything related to direct patient care, which significantly improved customer satisfaction.

After the DMC was sold to Vanguard Health Systems in 2010, Mayor Duggan resigned from his position as president and CEO in 2012. He then launched a write-in campaign that garnered enough votes in the August primary for his name to be included on the ballot for the November 2013 run-off election. Duggan received 52 percent of the primary vote as a write-in candidate and 55 percent of the vote in the mayoral run-off, making him the 75th mayor of Detroit.

After being elected, Duggan stated, "When you get elected to office, you don't automatically have all the answers," and vowed that he would continue to build on what his predecessor already started, as noted by the Associated Press. With his campaign slogan "Every neighborhood has a future" still resonating in the minds of voters, Mayor Duggan is poised to fulfill his promise of restoring the city of Detroit, starting with neighborhoods such as the North End.

According to a July 2014 New York Times article, a few projects that the mayor has tapped for his term include pushing owners to fix up their abandoned or run-down properties or lose them, tearing down abandoned homes, and paying developers to rehabilitate nearly 40 decimated houses in a 24-block expanse just west of Woodward Avenue. In addition, the Duggan administration is offering financial incentives for employees of Wayne State University and two nearby hospitals to rent or purchase homes in the city's blighted North End, prompting an influx of new residents and organizations.

As of July, Mayor Duggan has taken on three substantial problems in Detroit: bringing new light to city streets, tackling blight throughout Detroit's battered neighborhoods, and improving the city's crippled transit system. So far, the Duggan administration has been successful in managing these projects with more than 9,000 streetlight installations since February at nearly 70 percent less the electricity cost, the demolition of hundreds of rundown houses and the sale of more than a dozen of these homes a week to residents willing to rehab them, and fixing broken down buses and increasing the number of buses to properly serve the city's 100,000 daily passengers.


"Six months ago, we had no strategy and no funding," Duggan told the Detroit Free Press in July. "We're standing here today, we've got the strategy and we're getting started on the funding, and I'm very excited about our future."

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