Over a two-decade career in health care administration, each new job Matthew Cantonis takes is also a brand new job at the organization he joins. This time around, the organization itself is also brand new and Cantonis sees great potential for the future.
Cantonis is the first senior vice president of operations at USF Tampa General Physicians (USFTGP), the partnership organization that USF Health and the Tampa General Medical Group have formed to collaborate on efforts to build a world-class academic medical center.
USF Health and Tampa General announced plans for the organization in July 2020. Two years later, Cantonis’ hire is a key step in putting their plan into action. There is a strong foundation on which to build. The USF Morsani College of Medicine is the No. 46 medical school in the country for research in the US News & World Report rankings for 2023, while Tampa General Hospital is nationally ranked in five adult care specialty areas.
In a recent interview to mark his impending arrival on the job, Cantonis discusses his goals at USFTGP, his professional background and his Tampa Bay ties.
“I’m excited about this,” Cantonis says. “The possibilities for this group are really phenomenal. USF is a large academic institution and TGH is a large academic medical center, bigger than I have experience with to date. That is really one of the allures to the job. It’s at the forefront of medicine. It is still an art and that’s where it’s in its state of greatest innovation and improvement. This is the largest academic medical group on the west coast of Florida. For people who are looking to be seen by providers who are knowledgeable in the current evidence-based best practices, who are training the next generations of clinicians and doing the research on meaningful care improvements, this is the place you want to be seen. That is very exciting to me. It also created this interesting operational challenge in that we are likely to have more people who want to come see our physicians than we are capable of seeing in our current capacity. So, in my job, really adaptable, adroit operations will be required to meet the community need. The nice thing about that is meeting that need has such a great benefit of making our community a better place to live and a healthier place.”
As a new hire in a new position at a new organization, Cantonis will not have a road map to follow. But that is nothing new for him.
“This is something that has been consistent throughout my career,” he says. “I’ve never taken a job that somebody was in prior to me being in it. So it would be nice if I could say, ‘My predecessor focused on x,y and z and I’m going to focus on x, y and z, plus this.’ The job, to a high degree, with the organization being new, has a lot of work ahead of it. Obviously, key focuses in the near term will be building the administrative infrastructure to support that high-level physician enterprise. That involves all of the things you think it’s about. It’s about a variety of human resources things. Hiring remains very challenging in this environment from a macro perspective. We’ll have to focus on that. We have to look at access points and whether we are able to deliver the quality of care that our patients desire and frankly deserve. Those are key strategic discussions. Technologically, are we efficiently using our tech in ways that improve access and quality of care. What other innovations can we deploy to make life easier for our clinicians and improve quality of care?”
Cantonis says the goal is to build an organization that supports research education and the delivery of high-quality care. He says Tampa General Hospital President and CEO John Couris and Morsani College of Medicine Dean and USF Health Senior Vice President Dr. Charles Lockwood are committed to making the necessary investments to get there. With that commitment and the leadership of Dr. Mark Moseley, the president of USFTGP and vice dean of the Morsani College of Medicine, Cantonis says, “We have a chance to do something here in Tampa that is really special.”
“It’s not going to be easy, but it’s going to be fun,” he says. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. But it is not a pie-in-the-sky goal.”
Tampa Bay ties
This is a homecoming of sorts for Cantonis. He grew up in Clearwater and graduated from Berkeley Preparatory School in Tampa in 1999. He has not called Tampa Bay home in more than 20 years but still has family in the area.
After high school, Cantonis attended Emory University in Atlanta, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and a minor in philosophy. Later, he earned an MBA from Vanderbilt University’s program for healthcare professionals.
“I worked as a nurse recruiter in northern California and a physician recruiter in Alabama,” Cantonis recalls. “That’s how I got into hospital and large medical group management. I was then encouraged by some mentors to go to business school. That was a logical next step. Healthcare administrators are largely either clinicians by background or MBAs by background.”
Bringing a clinician’s perspective to business decisions
Cantonis comes to USFTGP after 11 years at Scripps Health in San Diego, Ca. He served in a variety of positions there, most recently as assistant vice president for Clinical Service Lines and Accountable Care. There, his focus was on four key areas: clinical quality improvements, patient experience, fiscal responsibility and delivery of care in a fiscally responsible way.
“My role at Scripps was one that straddles the relationship between the clinical perspective and the corporate functions of business management that are required in health care,” Cantonis says. “I engage clinical leadership to include their perspective in corporate improvements and advancements that not only support clinical quality advancements. but also efficiencies to deliver care. I bridge that gap and, in many ways, use that clinician perspective as one of the most important factors in innovation or operational efficiencies. I bring that back to the front of the corporate burner and negotiate for resources to support those opportunities. Care is delivered at the bedside, in the hospital, in the exam room and in an ambulatory setting. It’s important that the key decision-makers and leaders who make the decisions on resourcing initiatives and improvement efforts really understand what is happening in those settings.”
Cantonis says at USFTGP he will continue to work to ensure a clinical perspective is included in business decisions. He looks forward to helping build an organization to support a logical partnership.
“You have USF who predominantly do their work at Tampa General and Tampa General Physicians who do it all at Tampa General,” Cantonis says. “They have a lot of the same goals. Now they’re executing on those same goals through the same organizaton. They can achieve them more efficiently when everyone is rowing in the same direction.”
For more information go to USF Tampa General Physicians.
This story is underwritten by USF Health and Tampa General Hospital in a new partnership with 83 Degrees. USF Health and TGH underwrite stories about their new partnership, USF Tampa General Physicians, and their collaboration to advance academic medicine and research.