White House may tap Clinic CEO for VA secretary

WKYC Senior Health Correspondent Monica Robins has confirmed through her sources that the White House is considering nominating the Cleveland Clinic's Dr. Toby Cosgrove to be the next secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

NBC News reported Cosgrove has been contacted by the Obama Administration in a preliminary conversation about the Department of Veterans Affairs. Sources say the job of secretary of Veterans Affairs has NOT been offered to Cosgrove but initial conversations did occur within the last several days.

Cosgrove has been CEO and president of the Clinic since 2004. The article cited "people familiar with the matter."

The Cleveland Clinic isn't confirming or denying this speculation at this point.

The next secretary will replace Eric Shinseki who resigned last week amid a scandal involving substandard timely care and false records.

RELATED STORY: Toby Cosgrove gave his annual speech to employees in February

One thing that can't be argued: Cosgrove is an ideal candidate: He's got the experience, he's a decorated Vietnam veteran and he's a Republican -- likely to be accepted on all sides to clean up the VA health system.

Cosgrove has spent the last decade perfecting how to run a major hospital system -- like the $6.2 billion dollar enterprise right here.

Cosgrove is credited with reorganizing services around the patient experience, like same-day appointments and centers specific to organs and diseases.

RELATED STORY: Toby Cosgrove sat down for "7 Minutes with Russ Mitchell" in November

He's overseen large-scale new construction projects here in Cleveland and around the world.

His project Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is scheduled to open next spring.

He's been here since 1975.

He served as a surgeon in the U.S. Air Force in Vietnam. He was awarded the Bronze Star and the Republic of Vietnam Commendation Medal.

And he's close to this administration. President Barack Obama has used the Clinic as an example of health care reform.

RELATED STORY: Cleveland Clinic layoffs coming as part of cost reductions

Cosgrove's own doctors, like Wellness Institute Chair Dr. Michael Roizen, wrote in his U.S. News and World Report column on the VA's troubles just two weeks ago:

"I do know how to solve the problem. Just get Toby Cosgrove to lead the VA. (And those of us at the Cleveland Clinic hope he doesn't accept.)"

We talked to people here on campus tonight who had heard the rumors, but, paying attention to company policy, they wouldn't comment on camera about their leader.

The city also declined to comment because they haven't confirmed these reports.

Cosgrove is 73 years old and has unfinished business here in Cleveland but could he be going to Washington? We'll be watching closely.


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