Dr. Michael Forbes has been named Akron Children’s chief academic officer, a new position that will oversee and align the hospital’s research and medical education strategies and foster collaborative efforts with university partners.
Dr. Forbes joined Children’s in 2006 as an attending physician in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU), where he also led research efforts sharing data with other PICUs to guide quality initiatives and improve outcomes.
Below he shares a little more about his new role and himself.
Who or what inspired you to become a physician?
I was fascinated as a child by the way things work and how stuff fit together. I was mesmerized by a “Visible Human” toy my mom gave me and spent hours paging through the World Book encyclopedias as a kid. My mom demonstrated a servant spirit to me and my 9 siblings. She taught us that anything is possible if you work hard and work together. Today, I am living my childhood dream.
Tell me about the duties of your current role?
I’m accountable for elevating the organization’s academic profile by leading the Rebecca D. Considine Research Institute and providing additional support and leadership to the Department of Graduate Medical Education and Office of Pediatric Global Health. I also have a dotted line as a potent ally with our population health efforts. Academics have traditionally focused on research, teaching, and public service. Pediatric health care academics includes these but also incorporates improvement science. Elevating our academic profile will require even more strategic growth and development in all these areas.
What do you enjoy most about this new role and what are some of the challenges?
We have a special opportunity to advance child health through pediatric discovery and education with a vast pediatric clinical and quality footprint that few can rival. The hope we offer every family comes from our unique Akron Children’s human touch backed by decades of pediatric research. We want to offer more hope to even the most difficult clinical challenges. With our evolution as an accountable care organization, we are more deeply invested in understanding and mitigating the impact of social determinants of health through discovery.
The challenges in living out these charges are many. I’ll focus on 2: cultural change and funding pediatric research. The first is to evolve our culture, elevating the visibility and prominence of pediatric academics while continuously strengthening our outstanding clinical enterprise. Identifying clinical scientists who are already here while strategically recruiting additional scientists and faculty mentors are key to growing pediatric academics, maintaining access for our patients, and protecting the sustained resilience of our workforce. The second is funding pediatric research. At the NIH level, funding to pediatric departments has decreased from 23% to 16% in the past decade with over 60% going to 15 departments nationwide. Further, the bulk of those dollars are awarded to established senior scientists, not junior faculty. Finally, while as much as 65% of studies in adults are funded by the pharmaceutical industry, 60% of pediatric studies are funded by government and nonprofits. Pediatric research investment is an investment in the future of public health, and a commitment to healthier adults. Many of our chronic public health challenges have their origin in childhood and their solutions in pediatric research. At Akron Children’s, we have completely embraced these challenges.
If you didn’t work in health care leadership, what would your dream job be?
A morning DJ or a talk show/podcast host. I love all kinds of music and as a kid remember waking up to great morning shows in N.Y. that got me going for the day. Today the landscape has changed, and I rarely listen to the radio. I love meeting new people, hearing their stories and delighting in the joys of human diversity. I know that sounds corny, but the human experience is incredible, and we can learn so much from one another.
Tell me about your family.
My family is from Kingston, Jamaica. My parents moved to N.Y. and worked in the home of 2 attorneys. One by one, they brought their 10 children to Brooklyn. Today we live from Providence to the Atlanta area to West Hollywood and are military veterans, in law enforcement, and the film industry. I have lost 2 brothers. The first when I was in high school during a military exercise and more recently in 2020 to COVID-19.
Hobbies/things you enjoy doing outside of work?
I love reading non-fiction, movies (follow directors more than actors), and anything my wife and (2 adult) children want to do. I will garden, on occasion (just to be with my wife, actually).
What was your first paying job?
A printer of church materials at the Concord Baptist Church of Christ in Brooklyn.
What keeps you passionate about your job?
Having fun with bright people who use their gifts to solve problems. Also, introducing people who had no clue they were related.
Do you have a favorite quote or mantra you live by?
“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Tell us something about yourself that most people don’t know.
I collect comic books (I own no Golden Age or Silver Age items but am willing to talk).