Newly at the helm of Roper St. Francis Healthcare, Dr. Jeff DiLisi brings clinical experience, broad interests, family tradition and a mean golf swing
PHOTOGRAPHS BY Scott Henderson & (graduation) courtesy of Dr. Jeff Dilisi
WRITTEN BY Stephanie Hunt
Dr. Jeff DiLisi’s new title may be President and CEO of Roper St. Francis Healthcare, but the internal medicine doctor-turned-administrator isn’t giving up his other gigs, namely serving as caddy for his 11-year-old son and weekend chef for his family. “I make pasta from scratch, just like my Sicilian grandmother,” he says.
Upholding family traditions seems par for the course for the DiLisi crew. Just as his son’s passion for competitive golf mirrors his own (Dr. DiLisi captained his high-school golf team and still enjoys playing), he followed in his father’s footsteps as a doctor. “My dad’s family moved from Sicily when he was 14,” he says. “He was a hard-working immigrant who pursued medicine because he wanted to work for himself.” Dr. DiLisi’s father graduated medical school when his son was five months old and established a family practice out of their home in the small borough of Pitman, New Jersey—population 10,000. “It was very much a house office, so I’ve been around patient care all my life,” says Dr. DiLisi, the eldest of three.
When he enrolled at Duke University, though, Dr. DiLisi’s academic focus was math, not medicine—until a pesky freshman requirement derailed him. “Some days have profound impacts, like the final drop/add day that spring semester. I hadn’t gotten the course I wanted and instead was stuck with Mathematical Modeling for Medicine,” he recalls. On the last day to change classes, he sat in on eight hours of lectures trying to find a better one, to no avail. “I ended up loving that class. It opened my eyes to how math can be applied to medicine.” Soon, this math major was on the pre-med track.
His Duke days were far from just math equations and chemistry labs, however. Outside class, Dr. DiLisi, who began piano at age four and played the lead in his high-school musical, joined the Duke Chorale, even traveling to China and Italy to perform. These days, he channels that love of music into helping his son and nine-year-old daughter with their piano lessons.
Duke basketball also played into his free time as an undergraduate. As one of the “Cameron Crazies,” this diehard Blue Devils fan camped out for tickets in the student-occupied tent city known as “Krzyzewskiville.” One benefit of applying early to Jefferson Medical School in Philadelphia his senior year? “I knew by December that I’d been accepted, which freed up time for basketball,” laughs the former occupant of Tent #14. Duke lost the national championship that year to the University of Connecticut but certainly not for lack of faithful fans.
Following medical school, Dr. DiLisi stayed on at Jefferson Medical Center for his internal medicine residency. He was also accepted into their gastroenterology fellowship. “But I started questioning whether that was the right move,” he says. With the support of his bride-to-be, a Harvard Law School-trained estate law attorney named Wendy, Dr. DiLisi began exploring other healthcare-related fields, including pharmaceuticals, research, consulting and business. He took the GMAT on a lark, scored well and applied to business school. After getting in, he had to tell the head of gastroenterology “basically thanks but no thanks,” regarding the fellowship. “It was scary but also exciting,” he recalls.
Back at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, Dr. DiLisi worked as a hospitalist on weekends and interned with a healthcare venture capital firm in Research Triangle Park. “I loved it. Learning how to do pro formas and the ins-and-outs of investment management was formative,” he says. After earning his MBA, he took a job with a healthcare-specific hedge fund outside of Philadelphia, just in time for the 2008-2009 market collapse. “On the first day of my wife’s third trimester with our first child, our hedge fund closed,” he recalls.
The young family moved to Northern Virginia, closer to Wendy’s parents, where Dr. DiLisi found work as a hospitalist at Virginia Hospital Center. Soon after arriving, he introduced himself to the Chief Medical Officer, letting him know he had a math and business background, should it come in handy. “Good timing,” replied the CMO, who had just implemented a new documentation program and needed a physician champion.
“I’m a big believer that you’ve got to prepare yourself well. You never know when opportunities will arise,” says Dr. DiLisi. His analytical skills paid off; soon he was a codirector of the hospitalist group, and just two years after starting at Virginia Hospital Center, he was named Chief Medical Officer. The small executive team of the 394-bed hospital system handled all of the strategic planning and oversight, which expanded the breadth of Dr. DiLisi’s responsibilities far beyond those of a hospitalist. By 2017, all procedural areas of the hospital were reporting to him. During his 11-year tenure at VHC, Dr. DiLisi successfully lead an initiative for the hospital center to become part of the prestigious Mayo Clinic Care Network and earned recognition in the Joint Commission’s Top Performers on Key Quality Measures for consistently high levels of evidence-based practice.
All of this, he says, prepared him well for his new role at Roper St. Francis. Even though he can analyze data points on a spreadsheet with the same finesse as rolling out fettuccine and the same precision as practicing forehands with his daughter (a budding tennis star), Dr. DiLisi remains grounded in what first drew him to healthcare. “As a teenager, my very first job was as a patient transporter. I’ve seen healthcare from all angles, but I’m a physician first and foremost,” he says. “I know what it’s like to share tough news with a family and to help a nurse lift a patient at that bedside.” Indeed, it was the Roper St. Francis Healthcare mission statement that sold Dr. DiLisi on the CEO position, which he stepped into last December. “It resonates with me so strongly. To me, it’s more than a mission—it’s also a strategy,” he explains. “If we can execute on healing all people with compassion, faith and excellence, then we’re doing pretty well. Staying true to that is my goal.”
Name: Dr. Jeff DiLisi
Position: President & CEO
Outside the office, find him: Golfing with his son, playing tennis with his daughter, cooking for his family and cheering on the Duke Blue Devils