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Thursday, April 17, 2014

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Video: Laura Forese: Engineering after Princeton

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Laura Forese discusses how communicating openly at all levels helps her lead the New York-Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center. View more alumni videos.

Video Closed Captions


My name is Laura Forese. I'm Class of '83, civil engineering and operations research.

I'm currently the chief medical officer and chief operating officer at New York-Presbyterian Weill Cornell.

At New York-Presbyterian, I'm responsible for the Weill Cornell campuses.

It's about a thousand beds on two different sites, and I have the honor of essentially

making things go. The chance to talk to patients and to staff really at all levels is one of

the most important things that I do. My assistant would tell you that she often can't find me

because my favorite thing is to escape and just wander around the institution.

Right after I left Princeton, I went immediately to medical school, and there it was pretty

clear to me that I wanted to be a surgeon. The field I ended up in is orthopedic surgery,

where my engineering background was a tremendous asset. Matthew Larson was a little boy that

I knew well who was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age two, and he fought a valiant

effort for about five years, but ultimately he succumbed. His family started the Matthew

Larson Foundation for Pediatric Brain Tumor Research. Currently, I'm chair of the medical

advisory committee. We've been able to raise millions of dollars for this foundation, and

we're delighted to be able to sponsor cutting-edge research. I hope that we'll be able to cure

this disease so that no children, no family will be affected in the same way that I've

seen the Larson family affected. I think surgery has a lot of parallels that I can draw on

when I think about leadership. As a surgeon, you are the captain of the ship, but you are

not there alone, so you need to have a team with you. You need to delegate, otherwise

you won't be successful; that patient won't make it. Now, you have got to be transparent

and explain to people what you need done, because no one can understand completely what

you, as the surgeon, are thinking. But you have got to be willing and able to be decisive.

You know, in an O.R., the patient's not going to make it if you just stand there. And similarly,

as a leader, sometimes you don't have all the information that you want. You have got

to be willing to say, "I am going to go with the best information that I have. I am going

to make the best decision that I can. And if we were wrong, we'll admit it and we'll

fix it, but we won't just stand there." My name is Laura Forese, and

I'm a Princeton Engineer.

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