Providing diagnostic insights for healthcare professionals

July 25, 2017
Steve Rusckowski President, CEO, and Chairman,Quest Diagnostics


•CEO and President of Quest Diagnostics since May 2012. Elected Chairman of the Board in December 2016.
•Prior to Quest Diagnostics, I served as CEO of Philips Healthcare, which became the largest unit of Royal Philips Electronics under my leadership. I joined Philips in 2001 when it acquired the Healthcare Solutions Group I was leading at Hewlett-Packard/Agilent Technologies.

•Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute
•Master of Science degree in Management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management.

I enjoy skiing, golfing, running, and spending time with family.

In explaining Quest Diagnostics to someone who is not familiar with the organization, how would you characterize its primary areas of expertise? We provide diagnostic insights that inspire people to take action to empower better health. These insights, which are derived from the world’s largest database of clinical laboratory test results, reveal new avenues to identify and treat disease, inspire healthy behaviors, and improve healthcare management. For this reason, we say our business is about helping people know more about their health, so they can take action. Our 43,000 employees annually serve one in three adult Americans and half the physicians and hospitals in the United States. In addition, many of the world’s leading health systems turn to Quest to provide laboratory testing and management for their most complex and challenging cases.

What are the major categories of clinical laboratory services that Quest provides? Quest provides a broad menu of testing services. But we also specialize in many areas that are critical to healthcare today, including genetics and genomics and molecular, which we provide through our advanced diagnostic services. We also provide a range of healthcare information technology solutions through our Quanum portfolio to help providers and health plans harness insights from diagnostic information to improve patient care.

Last year, the company was the first commercial laboratory to receive FDA emergency use authorization for a molecular Zika test. How has this impacted the national response to Zika? Quest is a leader in molecular and infectious disease as well as women’s health diagnostics. That expertise, coupled with our national scale and reach, allow us to quickly develop new test services and make them widely available for clinical use. Because of this, Quest is uniquely positioned to complement the response of public health labs and influence the treatment and management of emerging infectious diseases.

The Zika experience is a good example. Last year, when Zika was first detected, we were able to move quickly to bring a molecular test to physicians with FDA emergency use authorization. This meant that patients and physicians could access testing from Quest in addition to public health labs. Had demand for Zika testing overwhelmed public health labs, Quest would have been ready with its national scale.

Quest began in 1967 as a small business operated out of a small apartment in New York City. Can you give us the short version on what has happened since then? Quest Diagnostics was founded in 1967 by Paul A. Brown, MD, a pathology resident at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, with a $500 loan from his father-in-law. Dr. Brown’s vision for the new company was to provide laboratory testing which would improve accuracy and reduce costs for patients and area hospitals in New York. The headquarters for the new enterprise was a modest apartment in Manhattan’s Washington Heights section; a bathtub acted as the staining area for Pap test slides for cervical cancer.

Over the years, Quest Diagnostics has grown as a result of its focus on innovation, quality, and strategic collaborations and acquisitions. The company has helped to introduce physicians and patients to many innovations ranging from molecular viral load testing for HIV to, more recently, tumor sequencing informed by the cognitive computing abilities of IBM Watson. In many ways our success and longevity is due to our fidelity to the principles that Dr. Brown founded the company on: integrity, leadership, innovation, quality, and

Dr. Brown also recognized that Quest’s impact on the world is about more than a lab test result. It’s about providing insights from which major life decisions are made.

Quest celebrated its 50th anniversary with a ceremony in New Jersey in April. What were some of the highlights of that day? To me the highlight of the day was experiencing the passion of our people, and the pride of our founder, Dr. Brown, as he witnessed for himself that the vision he had 50 years ago had been brought to life by a group of employees committed to empowering better health. Dr. Brown talked about how he started the company in a two-bedroom apartment in New York City. His wife was his first courier, driving specimens around with her kids in the car. And here we are, 50 years later, a 43,000-employee strong company that provides critical health services to about one-third of American adults each year. It is astonishing and humbling to be part of an organization that has such a favorable impact on the lives of so many people.

You have served as president and CEO since 2012. What directions for the company have you established or emphasized in your tenure so far, from an organizational and/or a business perspective? First and foremost, it’s about empowering better health with diagnostic insights. It’s about bettering people’s lives. Leading an organization that is creating a healthier world is something I am very proud of.

When I joined Quest Diagnostics in 2012, I was excited because I recognized this was an organization with many strengths, but also untapped potential to make an even greater mark in healthcare. It was my goal to elevate the ambition of the company from a laboratory provider to a company that provides diagnostic insights that shape healthcare. I think we’ve been very successful in doing that. Since I’ve been at Quest, we’ve also been able to strengthen our operational effectiveness, simplify our organization, use our capital more effectively and, of course, refocus on growth. All of this hard work has translated into better service, new innovations, and an overall more positive experience for our clients and patients.

What new responsibilities and opportunities came with your election as chairman of the board last year? As chairman of the board, I ensure that the company’s duties to shareholders are being fulfilled, by acting as a link between the board and Quest’s upper management team. Because of my role as CEO, I am able to provide a direct line of sight from the board to the company and vice versa that mutually benefits our shareholders and customers.

What do you see as some of the broad trends in the industry—technological, demographic, reimbursement-related—that may have impact in the near future? How is Quest preparing itself to meet the challenges ahead to serve its customers? There are several emerging trends affecting our industry, and Quest Diagnostics is well-positioned to address these with new innovations and services. Patients are becoming more consumer-oriented, and they expect more in the way of convenience and transparency, as well as cost efficiencies. Physicians are trying to transition to a value-based healthcare system, and that requires looking at data in new ways. Hospitals are reconsidering how they provide lab services, and seeking providers who can partner with them to provide high quality, advanced services more cost effectively. Health plans want to know that innovations deliver cost as well as health benefits. Pharmaceutical companies are seeking ways to use diagnostic data to create new therapies and get them to the right patients. And employers, who absorb much of the nation’s healthcare expenditures, want solutions that help create a healthy workforce.

In each of these areas, Quest is providing solutions to help people harness diagnostic insights to create better health and better lives. Partnerships are a big part of our approach because if you want to provide the best service, care, and innovation possible, you cannot always do it alone. Healthcare is too complex.

Fostering precision in healthcare is also a key priority for Quest, and we are taking strides to improve precision medicine in cancer, heart disease, and other areas through advanced diagnostics, such as genomics and novel molecular services. Our industry is breaking new ground nearly every day with new innovations. I’m proud that Quest is helping to lead the charge to improve healthcare with diagnostic insights.