Aaron J. Byzak
In Memory of C. Duane Dauner
It is important for me to acknowledge the sudden passing of C. Duane Dauner—a titan in the world of influential healthcare leaders, an astonishingly well versed and successful advocate on behalf of hospitals, and the consummate distinguished gentleman. Duane, as he was known to all, was remarkably connected at the highest levels of power and brought those experiences and insights into every discussion.
Duane was, among other things, a health policy historian, an eloquent communicator of policy vision and design, a dapper dresser, and one of the busiest professionals you’ll ever meet—yet seemingly never too preoccupied to make time for you.
Even in the early days of my career when my professional roles lacked impressive titles or status, when others would blow me off or forget who I was and what I did for a living, I was surprised that Duane, the longtime CEO of the California Hospital Association and a nationally-renowned heavyweight in the industry who represented hundreds of hospitals and health systems, would always remember my name and my areas of responsibility. He would see me and instantly jump into a discussion that was germane to my current work challenges. It almost seemed as if he had an ear piece through which someone was feeding him information about my whereabouts and efforts. As time went on, I rose in my career which led to me having the opportunity to work with him more closely and get to know him better. Throughout, I continued to marvel at his ability to connect with people at all levels.
Whether I was sitting among hundreds of other healthcare leaders listening to Duane speak at a conference, or discussing issues with Duane one-on-one, I would often feel a sort of kinship with him as his impressions and interpretations of the issues of the day often aligned with my own. When you haven’t yet ascended to a high level of influence and respect in the world of healthcare advocacy and policy—and when your evaluations and conclusions often run counter to the prevailing wisdom and the conclusions of many of your colleagues—having a person of Duane’s experience and status agree with you can give you the courage to stand by your contrarian analysis. Additionally, Duane was among a number of thoughtful leaders whose conclusions and thought process sometimes ran counter to my own, causing me to question and reconsider my own assessments.
As someone who started from nothing in this world of healthcare public affairs—merely a former EMT with a dream of being influential in the development of health policy—I can’t help but have a deep appreciation for Duane and the many others who have given of themselves to help me grow and expand my understanding, skills, and abilities. Now, as I reflect on his tragic and sudden passing, I can’t help but acknowledge how privileged and grateful I am for any opportunity I was afforded to learn from him.
Rest in Peace, C. Duane Dauner.