It is with great sadness that we inform you that J. Robert (Bob) Clapp, Jr., MHSA, FACHE, executive vice president and executive director of Rush University Hospitals, passed away on Thursday, Aug. 30. As you may know, Bob had been on a brief medical leave following his diagnosis in March 2012 with pancreatic cancer.
Bob’s death is a great personal loss to those of us who knew him well and a great loss to Rush as an institution. Passionate about his work in health care, Bob was a tremendous leader at Rush and a good friend to many. Bob played an essential role in Rush’s Transformation over the past seven years. His leadership and vision were essential in the planning and opening this past January of Rush’s new Tower. Always a hands-on leader, when the new hospital opened on Jan. 8, Bob personally greeted the first patients as they were transferred from other units.
Early on, Bob was influenced to become a dedicated health care professional by his father, a retired professor of medicine, and his mother, a registered nurse.
Following success in leadership positions for Tenet Healthcare Corporation, a Dallas-based hospital company, and Duke University Medical Center and Duke University Hospital in his hometown of Durham, North Carolina, Bob joined Rush in November of 2005 as senior vice president of hospital affairs. In this role, he was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the hospital. He played a critical role in the early planning for the 10-year comprehensive renovation of our campus.
While managing our hospital operations, Bob always put patients and families foremost in his planning. He directed numerous improvements in processes and procedures surrounding patient care with an emphasis on better accommodating our patients to make their visits to Rush hospitals as efficient and pleasant as possible.
His leadership led to consistent improvement in our financial operating results and our patient satisfaction and quality measurements.
Saying thank you was something Bob did very well. Even in the busiest of times, Bob always paused to acknowledge accomplishments of his colleagues and the dedication and hard work of a team or individual for a job well done.
Bob was a highly valued faculty member in Rush University’s Department of Health Systems Management. Always popular with students, he was highly rated for his classroom teaching and was frequently sought out for mentoring by both students and young managers at Rush. He was an exemplary teacher practitioner.
In addition, Bob led the establishment of and chaired the Rush Diversity Leadership Group, an advisory group whose membership reflects the racial, ethnic, gender, sexual and professional diversity of the thousands of employees at Rush. The group designs and implements initiatives to promote diversity and improve communication and understanding among the members of the Rush community.
Honoring Clapp’s strong personal commitment to this cause, in 2009, Rush established an annual award in his name, which is given to an individual or group for promoting or creating diversity and inclusion opportunities at Rush.
Bob believed that that diversity strengthens Rush. In 2011 he said, “I measure our progress not simply by metrics, but by the quality of our interactions, the success of our efforts to honor our differences, our ability to recruit and retain a more diverse workforce at every level, and our ability to establish a culture that consistently welcomes and values our differences.”
That combination of the personal and professional was characteristic of Bob, who in the midst of the intense activity surrounding the planning, construction and opening of the new hospital always made time to ask about his colleagues’ families or talk about some of his favorite sports teams in North Carolina and Chicago.
As a leader he worked to inspire others and encourage balance in life. In a leadership message on the intranet that Bob wrote in 2010, he said, “While our work may center on Rush, each of us can grow through experience and knowledge of our surroundings and those important to us. In turn, we can embrace new ways to contribute as members of the Rush family and our respective communities. At the end of each day, it is difficult to look back on my own workday, perhaps like a tradesman, surgeon, proceduralist, pharmacist, nurse, therapist or housekeeper, and see the specific outcomes of my efforts. For me, it is about looking back over the past month, or even year, and being proud of what has been accomplished together, with my Rush colleagues.”
Bob is survived by his wife, Laura, and their children, Thomas, David and Michelle.
Private funeral services for the family will be held in North Carolina. A memorial service will be held at Rush in the near future.
The family requests that any donations be made to Rush University Medical Center in support of Rush’s diversity efforts, the Rush University Health Systems Management educational program and/or to the Adopt a Family outreach program. Gifts may be made online at rush.convio.net/BobClapp. Memorial gifts may be sent to Rush University Medical Center, 1700 W. Van Buren St., Suite 250, Chicago, IL 60612. To make a gift by phone, please call (312) 942-6112.