Last year, Lassiter learned some 3,000 of the system’s 33,000 employees were homeless, so he approached the board and raised the minimum wage for all employees to $15 per hour. Costing a little more than $6 million, Lassiter told Crain’s the minimum raise increase wasn’t about added expenses but about social justice and economic empowerment.
Henry Ford Health was also the first major system in the state to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for all 33,000 of its employees and contractors. The mandate was immediately met with pushback, including a brief lawsuit from about 50 employees that was later withdrawn.
Lassiter was also largely responsible for the September 2021 return of the Mackinac Policy Conference during the pandemic. The Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual conference went on hiatus in 2020 due to COVID-19 and its occurrence in 2021 was unsure. But with Lassiter as its chair last year, the conference was able to institute a vaccine mandate for attendees. Coupled with the presence of Lassiter and his management team, the event would go on in the middle of a pandemic with reassurance that no major breakout would occur.
Henry Ford also opened a medical facility in partnership with Aldara Hospital and Medical Center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, last year. Months later, it opened a specialty hospital in Vellore, India, with Pearl Human Care Pvt. Ltd.
But it is the signing and extending of a partnership with Michigan State University that will seal Lassiter’s legacy at Henry Ford.
In January 2021, the organizations finalized a 30-year partnership agreement that will create an MSU medical school and innovation campus near Henry Ford’s Detroit hospital. Earlier this year, MSU approved faculty appointments for 115 researchers at Henry Ford. But it’s the groundbreaking of a $150 million joint research institute in the next 15 months and the simultaneous creation of a four-year medical school in the city that is the linchpin to the partnership. The research center will house researchers and physicians on translational research — specifically looking at cancer, neuroscience, women’s health, imaging and public health.
Henry Ford physicians and nurses will act as faculty in the program that will house upward of 25 students in human medicine and another 50 in osteopathic medicine and represent the first major medical school expansion in Detroit in more than 100 years.
Lassiter will miss the groundbreaking and completion of the new school; it will be the next CEO’s shining moment. For that, Lassiter laments.