Joann Strobbe at forefront of building business foundation for MCOM, USF Health

NOTE: The USF Health community is invited to a reception celebrating Strobbe’s career at USF to be held 4 to 6 p.m., this Thursday, March 29, in the USF College of Nursing Rotunda.

During nearly 29 years at USF, Strobbe participated in the business administration details leading up to many milestones at the Morsani College of Medicine and USF Health.|Photo by Freddie Coleman

When Joann Strobbe joined the University of South Florida College of Medicine as its founding business manager in August 1989, the health side of campus was quite a different place.

The then USF Health Sciences Center consisted of three colleges – medicine, nursing and public health. There were no networked computers, and if you wanted a financial report you needed a computer programmer who knew COBOL. The budget for the College of Medicine (renamed the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine in 2011) was about $90 million, and its faculty practice group included about 250 physicians.

Over nearly 29 years, Strobbe, has witnessed a tremendous trajectory of growth and successes at USF Health and the entire university. On May 1, she assumes a new job as chief financial officer and senior associate dean of finance and administration for University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) School of Medicine. The new public medical school, part of a citywide effort to create a leading Las Vegas Medical District, admitted its charter class of 60 students in August 2017 and is working to earn full accreditation next year.

“Joann’s unwavering passion to advance our missions of teaching, research and patient care is clearly evident in her many accomplishments that have positively shaped USF Health’s future over the past 28 plus years. We were extremely fortunate to have had a leader with such unique administrative expertise guide us through several of our key milestones,” said Dr. Charles J. Lockwood, senior vice president for USF Health and dean of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine.

“While she is leaving USF Health and will be greatly missed, I have the utmost confidence that Joann will excel in her new endeavor as chief financial officer and senior associate dean of finance and administration for the newly-created University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) School of Medicine.  She is really perfect for this role, and I wish her continued success at UNLV and all the best in what comes next.”

Strobbe, USF Health senior associate vice president and vice dean for finance and administration at Morsani College of Medicine, said leaving is “bittersweet,” because she will miss many people she has worked with at USF over the years. “But the UNLV opportunity really intrigued me, because how often do you get to be part of starting a medical school from scratch?” she said. “And, the (Las Vegas) community has really embraced a new level of health care they see coming with the addition of an academic medical center.”

Strobbe moved to Tampa after completing her bachelor’s degree in economics and master of science degree in higher education administration at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Ill. She began her tenure at USF doing budget consulting work for Phyllis Marshall at the University Center (renamed the Phyllis P. Marshall Student Center in 1994 in honor of the long-time director).  When Strobbe saw an opening for a new position at the USF College of Medicine, she applied and was hired to manage the college’s fledgling business office. Her first hire was Jean Nixon who came on board in 1990 as a senior accountant, and for a while, Nixon recalls, they worked out of a conference room with one computer. It would be a couple of years before Joann could hire her first assistant Phyllis Ridgeway (who now works as office manager for the MCOM Office of Student Affairs).

Halloween costume day 2017 at the CMS building (Dean and VP area), from left: Strobbe with Kyra Snyder, Diane Havel, Leigh Ann Drexler, and Gretchen Koehler.

One of Strobbe’s first major projects at MCOM was to establish a common pay source for the college’s graduate medical education program. At that time all the residents were hospital employees and their paychecks and benefits stopped and restarted every time they rotated into a new institution for training.

“We created contracts with all the hospitals where residents trained, allowing USF to hire the residents so they would have a consistent paycheck and insurance and then we started billing the hospitals for resident services,” she said.

In the midst of that project, she delivered her first son at Tampa General Hospital with the help of USF obstetric residents under the supervision of William Spellacy, MD, then chairperson of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

During her tenure at MCOM and USF Health, Strobbe has worked for 11 different deans and vice presidents, including interims.

When she arrived, Ronald Kaufman, MD, served as both medical dean and vice president for health sciences – but soon after the Board of Regents (since replaced by the Board of Governors) decided to split the two roles and Wilton Bunch, MD, was recruited as dean of the College of Medicine.  After Dr. Kaufman left in 1994, Strobbe worked on returning the USF Health vice president and medical dean jobs to one combined position overseeing the entire health sciences complex— which is how it remains today. Change is inevitable, but “some things come full circle,” Strobbe said.

In the mid-to-late 1990s, Strobbe hired the first chief information officer for the Health Sciences Center and centralized the information technology network and services among medicine, nursing and public health.  The small IT team “crawled up through the ceilings to stretch 24-gauge cable wire,” she recalled. “Using telephone lines (to connect computers) was a new technology.”

Strobbe and fiance Tom MacQuarrie pose with Rocky D. Bull at a recent USF Night at the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Strobbe participated in the business details leading up to many milestones at MCOM and USF Health, including, to name a few, the addition of a research section to the original College of Medicine facility; the opening of two state-of-the-art outpatient care facilities, the Frank and Carol Morsani Center for Advanced Healthcare and the South Tampa Center for Advanced Healthcare; renaming of the medical college the Morsani College of Medicine in honor of philanthropists Frank and Carol Morsani; creation of the SELECT MD program by USF and the Lehigh Valley Health Network; the launch of the technologically advanced simulation center known as CAMLS, which was one of USF’s first major presences in downtown Tampa; the start of the School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences, the College of Pharmacy, and the Physician Assistant Program; and planning for the new downtown USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute facility now under construction in Water Street Tampa.

She also was part of the strategic planning process that transitioned the USF Health Sciences Center (at that time, the relatively separate colleges of medicine, nursing and public health and faculty practice plan) in 2005 to a new, more collaborative model for education, research and health care: USF Health.

“At the time, we were one of the academic leaders in making that bold move – bringing all our health colleges under one umbrella,” Strobbe said.  “Now you see it more routinely.”

In the early years, Strobbe developed and implemented many systems that changed the business processes in MCOM and USF Health from a small operation to the sophisticated operations in place today.  The following are just a few:

  • Initiated and oversaw implementation of an all-source, mission-based budgeting system in the College of Medicine
  • Co-led with Dr. Charles Paidas and Paula Knaus a pay-for-performance model for College of Medicine faculty that was implemented in 2006. During an audit of the faculty practice plan (USF Physicians Group) that same year, Deloitte and Touche cited AIMS as one of the most comprehensive pay-for-performance models the firm had seen in medical schools across the United States.
  • Converted the faculty practice plan from a cash to an accrual financial operation.
  • Was the brainchild behind the integrated data warehouse system known as HART, which allowed the college to generate a range of reports containing key personnel and financial information
  • Coordinated $70 million in bond offerings for USF Health buildings:  the Morsani Center, College of Nursing, South Tampa Center and Faculty Office Building

Throughout her career here, Strobbe progressively advanced to become part of the senior leadership team, eventually managing a budget exceeding $700 million for USF Health.  She has served on several university committees and as an elected member for the USF Physicians Group Finance Committee and chairs several IT and facilities groups. She was treasurer for the USF Health Professions Conferencing Corporation and vice president of the USF Health International Council with international offices in Panama.

She has also been an effective bridge between USF Health and the USF campus, organizing various groups with great tact and efficiency.

“I’ve always tried to break down walls, even when people might not agree on a particular point or funding issue,” Strobbe said. “I go in saying ‘you love USF, and I love USF, so let’s try to work out something together.’”

Joann Strobbe, founding business manager for the College of Medicine, was one of several USF Health Sciences Center employees presented with Outstanding Staff Awards in 1992. She is pictured with Althea Cheaves, (center) senior grounds keeper, and Mary Taylor, secretary at the College of Nursing.

An inaugural season ticket holder for USF football and avid supporter of all things USF, Strobbe said she never really thought about going elsewhere, because all the growth at MCOM and USF Health brought new challenges and exciting opportunities.

“That’s what is really special about working at a university that is still relatively young and on the move,” Strobbe said. “Staying here never became stale, because we were always establishing new facilities or programs. If you wanted to launch something and you thought it through and developed a good business plan, the administration often gave the green light.”

One of Strobbe’s professional highlights was serving in 2003-04 as national chairperson for the Association for American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Group on Business Affairs (GBA), representing 125 U.S. and Canadian medical schools. In that role she got to introduce then U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona, who was dressed in full uniform, before a speech he made at an annual AAMC meeting.  She has also served as Southern Region chair and as a member of the Professional Development Steering Committee for GBA.  Recently, Strobbe was national chair for the Association of Academic Health Centers, representing finance officers.

Now, Strobbe heads out West for a new adventure – bringing the university financial administration expertise she honed at USF to a new academic medical enterprise eager to build an experienced leadership team.  She plans to keep her condominium on St. Petersburg Beach as a summer home – and return to the Tampa Bay area to visit family, including her two grandchildren.

The John Strobbe Scholarship, created by Joann to honor both her father and mother (who was an intensive care nurse), will support scholarships for qualifying full-time nursing students on the USF Tampa campus. For more information, please visit the USF Foundation website.

Joann Strobbe with colleagues from the MCOM Business Office at the reception celebrating her career. She was presented with a plaque recognizing her outstanding leadership and service to faculty, staff and students at MCOM and USF Health. | Photo by Eric Younghans

What they said about Joann:

Joann has been a technology visionary for USF Health and responsible for some of USF Health’s most successful technology transformations that will have a lasting impact for our faculty and students. Her passion for students, faculty and staff was always evident when she pushed us as a technology group to do better than we did the year before. Joann was also a friend and mentor to many in IT leadership, and we will all miss her personal touch and grace.

Sidney Fernandes
System Vice President/Chief Information Officer
University of South Florida Information Technology/USF Health Information Systems

***

I learned early on from Joann the value of hard work and dedication.  She always said and lived by the phrase “take the high road,” which is not always easy but is so valuable.  The College of Medicine and USF Health were growing rapidly and Joann’s role was expanding with it — at USF Health, USF and nationally.  Joann has inspired me to be better person and to continue to push myself.

Kim Harris
Director, Morsani College of Medicine Business Office, who was hired as an accountant by Joann in 1993 when the business office had grown to four employees.

***

My first week at USF Health, hired by Dr. Marvin Dunn  to create an Office of Faculty Affairs for USF Health, Joann invited me to lunch.  We immediately bonded as the only senior level women in the College of Medicine and USF Health and have been close friends and colleagues for 23 years!  As an administrator, Joann has had a distinguished career over the past 28-plus years.  She has served under 11 deans/vice presidents (six permanent and five interim).  In fact, she is the longest serving non-tenured senior administrator in the College of Medicine and USF Health.  Believe me — that only is the case because of her “smarts,” strong work ethic and impeccable character.

Paula N. Knaus, MA
Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs
College of Public Health

***

With the huge milestone of the 2007-08 LCME accreditation process behind us, Joann began to lobby for me to develop an EVU (Education Value Unit) model for – at least in the beginning- clinical teaching in the Undergraduate Medical Education program as well as a new department funding model for how state funds would be distributed to clinical departments. My life has never been the same since. It’s been one thing after another – all which she pushed to have presented at conferences to get our name and program out there. Joann has been an undying and nonjudgmental advocate for many, many people at USF Health. Her deep knowledge, love for USF, and her caring ways will be greatly missed.

Gretchen Koehler, PhD
Sr. Associate Dean, MCOM and AVP, Health
Academics and Institutional Effectiveness

***

Joann has been a great advocate and stabilizing force for USF Health in so many ways.   She always seems to remain calm despite whatever is going on.  Her service and support to USF Health can sometimes go unnoticed – such things as being a mentor for a student scholarly concentration and establishing a scholarship in her father’s name.  She will be truly missed and we wish her the best of luck in her new position.

Catherine M. Lynch, MD
Associate Vice President for Faculty Affairs, Faculty Development and Women’s Health
Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs and Faculty Development, MCOM
Professor, Obstetrics and Gynecology

***

In my more than 20 years at USF, I never saw Joann lose her temper or patience. She was always gracious and calm during negotiations and meetings… She always cared for her employees. She expected you to step up to the plate to get the work done, but she let you work independently without micromanaging, was always impressed when you did a good job, and gave credit to the people who did the work. She was a team player 200 percent.  I really loved working with Joann… The hardest part of retiring was not having her as boss.

Jean Nixon
Joann Strobbe’s first hire (1990) as a senior accountant for medicine’s new business office. Nixon retired in 2012 as director and assistant dean of administration, MCOM Business Office

***

Joann has been hugely supportive in her finance role. She took great pains to understand the medical projects, asked probing questions, and once convinced, would do everything possible to make things happen. She has been a great ally.”

David J. Smith, MD
Chair, Department of Plastic Surgery

***

Joann Strobbe has been at the forefront of building the business foundation of USF Health for more than 20 years. Her proficiency, commitment, and passion for USF Health have had a profound impact on the growth and excellence that has been built during her tenure here.  I am equally proud of her new opportunity, and saddened that she is leaving.  She has been a friend and colleague for me personally, and she will be missed by all.

Kevin Sneed, PharmD
Dean, USF College of Pharmacy

***

Joann’s knowledge of medical school funding and how it relates to state funding has been of enormous value to the University over the years.  Her passion for USF and her insight will certainly be missed.

Nick J. Trivunovich
Vice President for Business and Finance
University of South Florida

***

JoAnn has been a constant calm within a sea of chaos through at least five administrations. Her contributions to USF are profound in terms of our financial stability, our footprint in the community, our quality and our character.  As she leaves USF Health she takes with her an irreplaceable part of our institutional memory, a part of our character, and a part of our heart and soul. The sea will seem more threatening without her. 

Harry van Loveren, MD
David W. Cahill Professor and Chair
Department of Neurosurgery and Brain Repair
Vice-Dean of Clinical Affairs
CEO Byrd Alzheimer’s Center and Research Institute

Strobbe assumes a new job May 1 as chief financial officer and senior associate dean of finance and administration for the newly created University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) School of Medicine.|Photo by Freddie Coleman