Q&A with Rider’s newly elected Board of Trustees member

President of Penn Medicine Princeton Health Barry Rabner was recently elected to Rider’s Board of Trustees. He will serve on the Academic Affairs and Enrollment Management and Facilities committees.

What was the process like of your election to the Board of Trustees?

I don’t know how my name came to be put forward. My daughter was a graduate student at Rider, and I was given the opportunity to present in the course at the university. Some years ago, I was invited to serve on an advisory committee to the business school. Maybe it was from any or all of those things that my name came forward. I was called by President [Gregory] Dell’Omo months ago. We met, and I provided him with background information on myself. Then the board discussed my candidacy and, fortunately, decided I might be able to help and invited me to serve.

How has your experience at Penn Medicine Princeton Health prepared you to join the Board of Trustees?

I think the biggest surprise for me – after having gone through the orientation for new trustees and then having attended one board meeting and a couple of committee meetings – was how remarkable the parallels are between how a university operates and hospitals and health systems. It’s stunning to me. I’ve been working in hospitals getting near 40 years.

Everything the university does is in the interest of the students, like everything we do is in the interest of our patients. Our view at the hospital, and I believe it is the same at the university, is that the job of management is to make sure that the people who are actually providing the care to patients have the resources and the support necessary to be their best, and I think that’s how university leadership looks at their job — as creating an environment that enables the faculty and others who are responsible for serving the students as well as they possibly can.

Another thing that struck me was the faculty – and please, just another caveat, this is just one board meeting and one orientation, so I don’t want to overstate things. It struck me because the similarities between physicians and faculty are stunning to me. Physicians act with significant autonomy, and the hospital works closely with physicians to make sure that we are coordinated in our efforts. Both the faculty members, as I see it, and the physicians are very well educated, usually [have] lots of experience, and [are] functioning at a very high level again with significant autonomy.

The third similarity is that both educational institutions and health systems are under tremendous financial pressures.

What expertise of nonprofit work do you think will benefit Rider and contribute to the ongoing conversation about Westminster Choir College being sold to a for-profit entity?

Between 2003 and today, we sold our old hospital and had it rezoned. We bought a 171-acre campus to build a $650 million hospital. We are developing that campus for other health-related uses. I participated directly in over 100 sessions with the community to describe our strategic plan which led to building the new hospital. I was involved in a very successful capital campaign that raised $172 million; that was the most successful capital campaign of any hospital in New Jersey or the country. That fundraising experience was invaluable. We built a new hospital, so we’ve made huge capital investments and continue to.

More recently, after almost 100 years of being an independent hospital, we made the decision to become part of the University of Pennsylvania. Through that process, I had experience of negotiating for the hospital to make an affiliation agreement with Rutgers and agreements that we have with now 75 colleges and universities around the country. We teach medical students and residents and others in various health professions – therapists, nutritionists, nurses and others. We have a significant teaching role, and I’ve been involved in various ways with that.

What is one thing about the university’s current structure that you would like to change, improve upon or praise?

That’s a great question, and I’d love to answer it when I think I know enough to. It would be presumptuous to answer that. What I can say is that I was really pleased with the orientation I received. I felt that I learned an awful lot in a short time, and from the committee meetings I have been to and the one board meeting, I was impressed by the engagement of the trustees and the candor of the management. I just want to be careful to acknowledge that I’m a newbie. I’m looking forward to serving. I think it’s a wonderful institution, and I hope I can help. I’m really honored to have been invited to serve on the board.

Reporting by Shanna O’Mara

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