University of Vermont

UVM to CEO: Alumnus, President of GE Healthcare to Give Dean's Lecture Sept. 19

John Dineen
John Dineen '86. (Photo courtesy of GE Healthcare)

Across the globe, the world’s healthcare systems are facing a near-crisis scenario. While people are living longer, they are also developing chronic diseases – the care of which is placing a massive burden on the under-resourced healthcare systems. Meanwhile the healthcare systems are under increasing pressure to lower costs, creating a tension between the quality of care they can deliver and the increased demand for greater access to medicine.

Enter John Dineen, president and CEO of GE Healthcare and alumnus of the UVM Class of 1986. As the leader of an $18 billion healthcare enterprise, Dineen and the GE team are using their unique position as the technology leaders in both medical diagnostics and biosciences to develop new medical solutions that produce better clinical outcomes at a lower cost.

“Improving the cost and quality of healthcare simultaneously, while delivering better clinical outcomes, is the essence of what we’re doing,” said Dineen in a telephone interview from GE Healthcare headquarters in London. “For a long time in the medical industry the goal was, for instance, inventing CT technologies that delivered even more precise images. It was like an arms race for the best image possible, and no cost was spared. Today, the goal is to provide doctors the best clinical outcome at a lower economic cost.”

Dineen graduated UVM with degrees in biology and computer science -- and he puts that knowledge to work every day in his current job. He cites the example of a new GE mobile ultrasound device as how the intersection between those two disciplines is relevant in today’s medical industry. Only by understanding how the software and biology work together can GE invent medical devices that are globally relevant. In this case, that means building a $5,000 device for remote regions while a hospital-sized ultrasound would cost upwards of $200,000.

“We’re taking very complex ultrasound capabilities and putting in handheld units that can be used in small villages in Africa or Indonesia,” said Dineen. “Now midwives can look at pregnant women, understand who’s going to have a complex pregnancy and get those patients back to city hospitals for the right care.”

Dineen will discuss GE's technological advancements and how his UVM experience contributed to his success on Thursday, Sept. 19 at 11:45 a.m. at the School of Business Administration Dean’s Leadership Speaker Series in Billings Library's North Lounge.

Making a difference while climbing the corporate ladder

Two years into Dineen’s GE career he was asked to take part in the company’s Corporate Audit Staff, an advanced leadership development organization which has produced all of GE’s CFOs and many CEOs. A grueling but rewarding program, it would propel Dineen to vice president and general manager of plastics at GE Advanced Materials prior to becoming president and chief executive officer of GE Transportation in 2005.

“The Corporate Audit Staff program was really extensive and is the equivalent of getting an internal MBA,” said Dineen, who has worked and lived in China, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, France and the UK. “You work hours like a medical intern -- 80 hours a week for five years -- at GE businesses all over the world. The entire company is your sandbox. If you do well, you move quickly to higher levels within the company and work on projects with very senior people like Jack Welch. It affords you a high degree of visibility early in your career.”

Dineen’s current business, GE Healthcare, specializes in diagnostic imaging, healthcare IT and life sciences. This broad range of diagnostic hardware products, software and services enables healthcare providers to better diagnose and treat cancer, heart disease, neurological diseases and other conditions earlier.

UVM’s new executive MBA program in sustainable entrepreneurship is focused on making business an integral part of the solution to serious world problems such as unequal prosperity, climate change, and access to clean water and air. During his discussion, Dineen will discuss the importance of addressing critical social challenges through large-scale innovation and how current GE growth initiatives -- including its six-year, $6 billion Healthymagination commitment -- are focused on providing better health for more people at a lower cost through technology and innovation.

“There’s a social and business aspect to Healthymagination that provides a counterbalance to the historical behavior of the industry… where people were just pushing expensive technology,” said Dineen. “We’ve got 50,000 people, and it’s easier to motivate people in this business than it might be in, say, the meter business or the air conditioning business. They know that they are doing things that can help change societies. They come to work every day with the goal of being at work for a healthier world.”

A "regular guy" from UVM

Dineen, who describes his UVM experience as a “terrific time at every level: academically, socially, and athletically (skiing and hiking)," said he felt well prepared for corporate America coming out of UVM. “I had a solid education in computer technologies, coupled with an ability to run hard, a desire to want to make a difference and really do something special. That strategy has served me well over the years.”

Dineen also developed what he refers to as a “common touch” at UVM that has benefited him throughout his career. “I didn’t have an overwhelming resume or personality but was just a person who people liked and enjoyed working with -- someone who’s often described as a regular guy. It’s definitely an advantage. Part of it is the way you grow up, but I think UVM had a significant impact on my leadership style.”

During his lecture, Dineen will stress to students that they will be prepared and capable of competing at the highest levels of business after graduating from UVM.

“To tell you the truth, I had doubts about whether I could compete with graduates from MIT and Harvard, but it made me work harder,” he said. “It’s alright to feel like you have to run a little bit harder at first -- and maybe you do -- but the disposition you develop at UVM can make a difference. I think for me it’s been a combination of preparation, hard work and a couple lucky breaks. Every time I got a break and a door opened up, I was ready to run through it. You've just got to be ready for it.”