Officially, Edwin Crosby, M.D., never sported the title of purchasing or materials management or supply chain management, but as early as 1933 when he served as an intern at Ellis Hospital, Schenectady, NY, he operated like one with a sense of passion. In fact, that passion – and support for supply chain – continued through his medical career in the late 1940s at Johns Hopkins Hospital (right before Bellwether Class of 2010 inductee George Gossett joined the facility), the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals in the 1950s and finally the American Hospital Association in the late 1950s through the 1960s, where his dedication led to what is now known as AHRMM. Arguably, AHRMM would not be in existence today – with Gossett as its first president in 1962 – were it not for the support and stature of someone like Crosby.
Supply Chain professionals certainly benefited from Crosby’s contributions as they were granted official recognition by the AHA as a designated contributor to hospital operations. Furthermore, hospitals benefited from his contributions as purchasing professionals were able to learn how to “buy wisely,” as Crosby insisted. Finally, patients benefited from the supply chain support as clinicians were able to access the appropriate supplies and tools to do their jobs and provide care.
In addition to previously mentioned accomplishments, Crosby reinforced how supply chain professionals could benefit both hospitals and patients by “buying wisely.” In his own words in the inaugural issue of “Hospital Purchasing Agents’ Newsletter” (Vol. 1, No. 1, November 1957), Crosby wrote the following: “Hospitals in this country are spending some $2 billion this year on supplies, services and equipment. The men and women responsible for dispensing this enormous sum are faced with a formidable task. They must buy wisely, keeping in mind the best interests of both patients and the hospital. The program planned for the American Hospital Association personal membership department for purchasing agents marks an attempt to aid the purchasing agent in his task of buying wisely.”
1934-1936: Assistant Superintendent, Ellis Hospital, Schenectady, NY
1937-1952: Assistant Director, then Director, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore
1952-1954: Founding Director, Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals
1954-1972: Director, then Executive Vice President, then President, American Hospital Association
Among all the various national committees, commissions and advisory boards in health and research, Crosby also served as a president of the International Hospital Association, on the National Health Council. As AHA head, he launched the AHA’s Special Committee on the Provision of Health Services in 1969, which focused on the issue of national health insurance, regional integrated delivery systems and capitation. This led to legislation being introduced in Congress in mid-1972, following Crosby’s death, that failed to pass.
One might argue successfully that Crosby really had little to do with in-the-trenches supply chain work, short of his early career and the debut of AHRMM’s predecessor organization at the AHA. That would be short-sighted, however. Crosby’s influence brought a sense of legitimacy and respect to a profession that sorely needed it. Outside of such Bellwethers as Guy Clark, George Ainsworth and Charles Auslander (all Bellwether Class of 2009), George Gossett (Bellwether Class of 2010), Paul Farrell (Bellwether Class of 2012) and Dean Ammer (Bellwether Class of 2008) from the 1920s through the 1970s, respectively, Purchasing largely was regarded as a miscellaneous “support” profession where administrators and executives would “assign” people to serve who may not have qualified to be anywhere else. Crosby helped to shed light on that mischaracterization.
From early on in his career, Crosby did it bluntly, directly and matter-of-factly, but with well-informed guidance, intentions and opinions. If anything, Crosby emphasized the need for purchasing agents to “buy wisely.” If he were in Supply Chain that would be his epitaph: “Buy wisely.”
Crosby served as the executive champion for AHRMM’s forerunner even as he was not the top leader at the AHA. He helped to convince the AHA president at the time of the need for a national organization for purchasing agents even as the purchasing committee chairmen were more involved directly in the day-to-day foundational work and ongoing operations, starting with Franklin D. Carr, administrator, Detroit Memorial Hospital, and culminating with Mark Berke, director, Mount Zion Hospital, San Francisco.