COPIC Comment: A fond farewell: Lessons learned as COPIC’s CEO

Thursday, November 01, 2018 12:33 PM
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by Ted J. Clarke, MD, Chairman & CEO, COPIC Insurance Company

As I work with Dr. Gerald Zarlengo in preparation for him to take over as CEO, he consistently asks me what I learned during my 14-year tenure. I reiterated that experience is the best teacher, and the best experiences are rooted in learning from your mistakes. I have no doubt that Dr. Zarlengo will do an excellent job and here are a few words of wisdom I shared with him.

Mission, mission, mission

It is your true north. Whenever you try to address a problem or initiate an effort, always ask whether the solution or objective adds to COPIC’s mission. Quality pays for itself as patients with good outcomes are not litigious. I have always thought that the ultimate confirmation of our mission would be when our policyholders proudly advertise that they are COPIC-insured.

Articulate your vision

To use an analogy from Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great, you are the bus driver. Your passengers include our board, our staff, our customers and a variety of other stakeholders. Everyone wants to know where the bus is heading and, as you look around, you will find that all eyes are on you. Your vision and COPIC’s vision must focus on where we are going.


You have more than 9,000 doctors, more than 160 facilities and numerous stakeholders who may have answers for current challenges. Listen to what they have to say because you never know where a solution may emerge and what perspective you may not have considered.

You are a doctor, and I believe you should stay a doctor

My predecessor and mentor, Dr. Jerry Buckley, strongly encouraged me to keep my hand in medicine. He correctly reasoned that such involvement would increase my awareness of the issues confronting the health care system, and this has proven to be true.

Trust your team

As a physician and surgeon you had to develop an independence. “The buck stops here” is a surgical mantra, and believing and accepting that you are ultimately responsible underlies much of one’s success in medicine. However, your role at COPIC will be far different. You are working with a staff of more than 100 who have been recruited for specific company needs. There are times when it will seem overwhelming, primarily because it is. But trust those around you; they are here for a reason.

Be true to yourself

You were picked for this position in part because of your values. Your resume attests to your commitment to the health care delivery system, and your numerous activities outside of medicine confirm your commitment to our community. You were also picked because of your personality that fills the room with your warmth, enthusiasm and humor. Just as you nourish your brain by learning new ways and mastering new challenges, so too must you nourish your soul to maintain and grow your inner self.

Enjoy your time (it goes by fast)

I hope you have as much fun with this job as I have had. Somehow, I imagine you will.

Dr. Clarke was named COPIC’s chairman and CEO in 2005 and has served on its board since March 2002. During his tenure, COPIC reinforced its role as an industry leader in patient safety and risk management, expanded services into multiple states, and successfully grew the COPIC Medical Foundation to support health care initiatives.

Posted in: Colorado Medicine | COPIC Comment


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