After nearly 50 years at the university of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Jeffrey Romoff can look back at what he has created with a sense of accomplishment that few, if any, people in Pittsburgh during that period can match. He is the visionary leader who, along with the man who hired him 48 years ago — the late Dr. Thomas Detre — has turned a loose affiliation of six Pittsburgh health care institutions into the 40-hospital giant known now as UPMC.
During an era when decline has been the byword in nearly every corner of the Pittsburgh region, Romoff has provided the striking counter example, fashioning a $23 billion enterprise with affiliates in Ireland, Italy, China and Kazakhstan. With 92,000 employees, UPMC has become Pennsylvania’s largest non-governmental employer, recruiting medicine’s best and brightest to Pittsburgh.
Romoff is also the person most responsible for the catalytic creation of the Pittsburgh Promise, which has buoyed city population by helping untold thousands of city high school students attend higher education through scholarships that UPMC has largely funded.
And yet, he has only ever received grudging credit locally for these enormous boosts to Pittsburgh. Some found fault with his top-down style, or his personality, or that he didn’t welcome unions with open arms, or the zeal with which he battled crosstown rivals Allegheny General and Highmark, which merged to form the competitor Allegheny Health Network.
The litany of complaints and criticisms recall Jonathan Swift’s quote: “When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.” That may be hyperbole, but the fact is that Jeffrey Romoff has created a world-class healthcare system and an economic titan that’s not likely to go away as so many others here have. For that, he deserves the respect and gratitude of all western Pennsylvanians.
Death in the desert
The Carnegie Museums recently asked for public feedback about the diorama originally known as “Arab Courier Attacked by Lions,” but which was renamed in 2017 to “Lion Attacking a Dromedary.” The museum had removed the exhibit from public display in July 2020 because of the Black Lives Matter movement and concerns the display might offend people.
Our feedback for the museum is that this diorama, which was considered to be the masterpiece of French taxidermist Edouard Verreaux and a gold medal winner at the Paris Exhibition of 1867, should be displayed in plain view by the museum. In a heartbeat, the dramatic work shows viewers what life might have been like for courier, camel and lions alike — regardless of shortcomings found by academics and social justice advocates.
Explainers that alert visitors to historical inaccuracies and perceived insensitivities are in keeping with the museum’s educational mission. Just don’t obscure the view. We applaud the museum’s July decision to remove the ridiculous veil that had surrounded the exhibit (as if the 154-year-old work was simply too shocking and controversial for today’s delicate audiences).
When in doubt, re-read your history on America’s founding, specifically James Madison’s Federalist 10 about the tyranny of factions, both majority and minority. Let’s not let fear of factions of any kind determine what can and can’t be seen in Pittsburgh.
American Middle East Institute
Thanks to the American Middle East Institute, Pittsburgh is under major consideration to host in September of next year one of the largest advanced manufacturing conferences in the world, the Global Manufacturing and Industrialisation Summit (GMIS).
Expected to attract thousands and accelerate post-COVID revitalization of Downtown, GMIS brings together global investors and decision makers, including heads of state. It’s a great opportunity to showcase to the world Pittsburgh’s universities and corporations, its technology ecosystem of robotics and artificial intelligence, and how all those pieces can improve clean energy manufacturing in multiple industries.
Regional leaders should support this effort and help make it happen.