Mike McCall

Francisco Velazquez insists on symmetry. Even sitting at a huge table flanked by leather-backed chairs and a jumble of expensive video equipment, he makes sure his Blackberry and iPhone (the former for business, the latter for pleasure) are situated in neat symmetry with each other.

It makes sense, in a way: As the new CEO of Pathology Associates Medical Lab (PAML), ensuring that the supply chain for his labs remains orderly and on-time will be key to growing the business. And growth is what he’s here for.

“Our goal is to build the portfolio and the expertise that we need to become high-tier,” Velazquez, 55, says. “The way I like to call it is to become the premium product, premium service provider. We will have the best. We may not have the best in everything, but certainly we’re going to try.”

A pathologist by training but a health care executive by choice, as he puts it, Velazquez’s path has taken him from Madrid, Spain, his birthplace, to Puerto Rico, where he was raised, to Dallas, Southern California and other places in between.

He came to PAML from Quest Diagnostics, where he served as managing director and vice president of two different institutes owned by the company. PAML recruited him from there.

“PAML has a lot of potential for growth,” Velazquez says. He cited its proximity to hospitals like Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Deaconess Medical Center as assets to the lab. “PAML is more close to where care is being provided.”

Quest was a good gig, but PAML appealed to him for the chance to truly lead the company, and for the fact that it was privately owned.

“In the publicly traded arena, there is a certain amount of focus on product performance and bottom line. I’d like to take more of a longitudinal view,” Velazquez says.

From their headquarters in a Spokane office park just off of Trent Avenue near the growing University District, Velazquez wants to expand PAML from a regional entity to a national one. Though they already have labs in Kentucky, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, Velazquez wants to expand and bring PAML on par with Quest and the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

“Mayo Clinic has a brand identity, and one of our goals is to make sure PAML has the same kind of recognition,” Velazquez says. “Our goal is to propagate our model throughout the country.”

Part of this is centralizing services. Under the program “Powered by PAML,” the company partners with hospitals to draw blood and test it on the premises. If a hospital doesn’t have expertise for a particular test, it can be sent to PAML’s lab in Spokane.

They also offer direct-to-consumer testing called “Results Direct,” which allows a customer to bypass a doctor and order a test themselves for, say, cholesterol or hormone levels. Velazquez says they plan to expand that service nationwide.

“That’s what a high-tier provider does. It doesn’t compete with the hospitals locally. It brings to the hospital access to services they cannot afford,”

Velazquez says. Velazquez believes in a culture of excellence, not as a word but as a business virtue.

“Excellence means, if you’re given gifts and talents, you have a responsibility to use those for the benefit of all. That’s excellence,” he says. “I think health care is probably the best example of the pursuit of excellence that you can find.”

There are different ways that philosophy is manifest. One is urban renewal. Velazquez says the company plans to remodel adjoining buildings to expand their office space, which will take another piece of empty real estate off the market.

“We’re going to rehabilitate that building by the fall, and we’re going to inaugurate that as PAML’s national corporate headquarters,” Velazquez says. “We’ve made a commitment to this area. We want to be part of the urban renewal of this whole neighborhood. It’s very important that we do that because health care… and higher education are economic engines in many communities.”

Though he still owns a home in Dallas, Velazquez, who started his job in January, is hoping to sell it. He may not be moving again.

“For the next many years,” he replies, when asked how long he plans to stay. “I have a lot to do.”

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About The Author

Chris Stein

Chris Stein is a staff writer at The Inlander. He covers social services, downtown Spokane, Eastern Washington and Spokane city hall. His work has been published by the Associated Press, VeloNews and the Santa Barbara Independent. He was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area.