At the Frontline: 2009 ASIS President Michael Cummings

Cummings discusses the future of ASIS and his security responsibilities at Aurora Health Care recently caught up with Michael Cummings, CPP, the 2009 president of ASIS International, and the Director of Loss Prevention Services for Aurora Health Care in Milwaukee, Wis. Mr. Cummings shared with us his vision for ASIS in 2009, and discussed what he’s facing in the world of healthcare security and security management.

A member also of the International Association for Healthcare Safety and Security (IAHSS), he oversees security for Aurora Health care, which is a not-for-profit affiliation of healthcare, hospital and pharmacy organizations in Wisconsin. Mr. Cummings faces security challenges and compliance mandates for some 14 hospitals and over 100 clinics and over 100 pharmacies. The people he has to protect include some 3,400-plus physicians who practice at the Aurora group of hospitals, plus all of the support staff, nursing staff, pharmacy staff and all of the patients, and friends and family members of patients who visit the Aurora hospitals, clinics and pharmacies. Despite what sounds like more than seven days of work each week, he has found time to become highly active in ASIS International and even volunteers his services as president of the organization. We’re pleased that he also took the time to share insights into ASIS and healthcare security with the community:

SIW: How did you start in the world of security?

Michael R. Cummings, CPP: I began my career in my senior year of college as a part time job. My first security job was as a store detective on a part-time basis. After graduation I had the opportunity to move to a full-time position with some additional responsibilities and I took that. I ended up moving to a manager position in my first location, and then I transferred laterally to Chicago where I managed one of the more challenging stores there for about five years.

After over 12 years in retail, I was offered an assistant director of security position in healthcare. I was ready for a change of "pallets" on which to practice my profession, but knew I didn't have a wealth of healthcare security insights. I looked to ASIS right away and joined the Healthcare Security Committee , as it was known back then. I figured that is where the knowledgeable people within health care lived and worked. Over the intervening years -- that was 1985 [when I made the change into healthcare security] -- I moved first to the director level position and then experienced the growth of my role within the company as the company’s operations and scope grew. In some meaningful ways, the job has morphed about every five years, which has kept me fresh and interested and challenged.

You’re heading security at Aurora Health Care at a time when hospitals seem busier than ever. What does your position entail and what are some of the security concerns you’re having to deal with on a regular basis?

When I first began in healthcare, my responsibilities were connected to the security needs of a single hospital. After that hospital joined to form Aurora in 1987 I needed to adapt to be able to provide security leadership in many healthcare-related settings, each having their own set of needs. For example we have 14 hospitals, over 100 clinics, over 100 pharmacies, a visiting nurse division and other smaller single and multi-location functions, including a business office. An ongoing challenge has been to assess the many differing needs of these types of businesses within the business and match the right combination of people, technology and procedural elements to meet the needs in a cost effective manner. I have been blessed by having a very supportive senior leadership team who have provided the financial support that has allowed me to build the infrastructure to use technology in a very effective manner.

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