Remembering Lou Sheffler

The following remembrance was prepared by Michael A. Romansky, J.D., OOSS Washington Counsel upon the passing of Louis I. Sheffler on Sunday, June 15, 2015.  Lou was one of the first non-physicians to serve on the OOSS Board of Directors and was instrumental in shaping the ASC benchmarking and educational programming for the entire ASC team, always with a focus on improving patient care. He co-founded American SurgiSite Centers, Inc., and served as Chief Operating Officer, providing leadership and support to its 13 affiliated ASC.

Friends and Colleagues,

It is with great sadness that I share with you the news that Lou Sheffler passed away this week after a courageous battle with cancer. He was 65 years old.

Lou Sheffler

Lou Sheffler

Lou was a close friend of mine. I met him in 1983 at the third annual OOSS meeting in Grand Cypress, Florida, and for the next decade, we traveled together from workshop to clinic to symposium, extolling the virtues of outpatient ophthalmic surgery. Lou journeyed to Washington on innumerable occasions to assist me in my advocacy efforts on behalf of our Society. He was a great teacher and an integral part of our Society’s educational programming. Having developed or managed more than 150 ASCs, he brought exceptional business acumen to OOSS’s leadership deliberations and to all of us who sought his advice. As our Board would vigorously debate reimbursement and regulatory issues, Lou always reminded us that, first and foremost, we are advocates for the patient. One of our Board members recently referred to him as “the conscience of OOSS.”

When Lou entered the ASC development business 35 years ago, there were fewer than a dozen ophthalmic facilities in operation. While there were other talented consultants and architectural firms engaged in this work, Lou brought to the table the experience of having been an orderly, a scrub nurse, and ultimately, a hospital unit manager charged with expanding a facility’s surgery department from five to nineteen operating rooms. He often said, “You can always create more money, but you can never create more time.” His designs – whether for facilities with one or two or twelve operating rooms or 5,000 or 12,000 feet – always focused on efficiency in space and surgeon time, state-of-the-art technology, effective inventorying, sound practice and financial management, and superlative patient experience. Lou never hoarded his invaluable experience and expertise. With characteristic generosity, he made his early designs available gratis to OOSS members and exercised a career-long practice of graciously answering the calls of anyone, client or non-client alike, with a question or concern about the ASC.

Lou never invented an ophthalmic instrument, nor did he ever extract a cataract. Yet, in his own way, he deserves a space alongside the likes of David McIntyre and Douglas Williamson and Dick Mackool as a visionary in this health care revolution we know as outpatient ophthalmic surgery. He always adhered to his core belief that a patient should be afforded the opportunity to have surgery in a facility that offered the highest quality and most affordable care in a safe and patient-centered environment.

awardI had the pleasure of spending time with Lou outside of our professional endeavors. Lou was a Renaissance man. His passions were diverse, encompassing the New York Yankees and Giants, the fine arts (particularly the Metropolitan Opera), fine wines (only red), and sailing. He was a devoted family man, sharing stories recently about his “dates” with his lovely daughter Cara – bike rides at Jones beach and seats at Wagnerian operas. He adored Nancy, his incredible wife, companion and soul mate for almost half a century, admiring her strength and joie de vivre and relishing her sharp wit and sense of humor.

I visited with Lou six weeks ago at his home in Harrington Park, N.J., and presented him with the Outpatient Ophthalmic Surgery Society’s first Lifetime Achievement Award. He welled up and, with a twinkle in his eye and a broad smile, he quipped that he was glad that the award wasn’t being made posthumously. Lou reminded me that he and I were scheduled to attend the Nationals/Yankees game at Yankee Stadium on June 10. He took delight in hosting me for my first trip to the House of Ruth, like I was a little kid. Regrettably, Lou’s health prevented us from attending. Yet, despite the pain and fatigue, with assistance from Nancy, he kept in touch, advising OOSS Executive Director Kent Jackson, the Board, and me regarding a plethora of OOSS regulatory and business issues. His boundless energy and devotion to our mission served all of us until the day he passed away.

Lou Sheffler was a friend of mine – and a friend to each and every person who ever put spade to ground to build an ophthalmic ambulatory surgery center. We will miss you, Lou.

To share your remembrance of Lou, feel free to leave a comment below.  If you do not yet have a member or partner login please email your remembrance to kjackson@ooss.org.

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In lieu of flowers, the family requests that tax deductible donations be made in Lou’s name to Works & Days Quarterly, Inc., 139 Eldridge St., Suite 2, New York, NY 10002 (www.works-and-days.com), The Harrington Park Volunteer Ambulance Corps, 15 Kline St., Harrington Park, NJ 07640, or the PROCURE Cancer Foundation (http://www.proton-therapy.org/), c/o 103 Cedar Grove Lane, Somerset, NJ 08873, which provides support to proton radiation therapy patients in need of financial assistance by funding non-medical expenses associated with proton therapy treatment. – See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/app/obituary.aspx?pid=175082543#sthash.flLMmVvN.dpuf

11 Comments

  1. Jeffrey June 16, 2015

    Lou was one of the first of my introductions to the OOSS board. He had a way of making you feel welcome–like you have been doing this for years when you first start. Later we got to know him and Nancy at the Colorado retreat–what a loving couple. I only wish I had the chance to know him longer–both to just talk and have fun and learn some of his great wealth of ASC information.

    Yes, Lou will be missed–but he leaves us–OOSS board and members—we are HIS legacy. I am proud to carry his “flag” and OOSS further into our bright future.

    Jeffrey Whitman,
    Dallas, TX

  2. Kent Jackson June 16, 2015

    Remembrance from Bruce Wallace, MD, President Emeritus of OOSS posted by Kent Jackson:

    Lou always had insightful comments during our many meetings together. He will be greatly missed by OOSS and the incredible number of patients served by our centers. Another reminder that life is precious. Bruce

  3. Kent Jackson June 16, 2015

    Remembrance from Dick Mackool, MD, shared by Dr. Brad Black, MD, Immediate Past President of OOSS, and posted by Kent Jackson:

    “If OOSS had a Hall of Fame, he should be in it. It’s worth starting one in his honor.” Dick

    Note from Kent: As noted in Mike’s remembrance, the OOSS Board of Directors recognized Lou with the first Lifetime Achievement Award. Lou, along with Levy and McIntyre Award recipients, will be included in a new OOSS Hall of Fame at OOSS.org. Be watching and thank you for the suggestion.

  4. Kent Jackson June 16, 2015

    Remembrance from Kent Nanke of Professional Solutions Financial Services posted by Kent Jackson:

    “It was with great sadness today that we read this about Lou’s passing. What a wonderful tribute from Mike.

    I had the pleasure of meeting Lou at OOSS board presentations and also talked to him on several occasions. Lou was always extremely helpful and generous with his time, providing sage advice as we learned more about the equipment Ophthalmic ASCs used and how they financed it. Several of our Equipment Loan representatives worked with Mike on financing for American SurgiSite Centers and we’ve shared this with them. Kent”

  5. Kent Jackson June 16, 2015

    Remembrance from Maria Scott, MD, OOSS Board Member and AAO Councilor, posted by Kent Jackson:

    “Thank you Mike. He was one of a kind and will be missed terribly, both personally and professionally. Maria”

  6. Kent Jackson June 16, 2015

    Remembrance from Bob Nelson, OOSS Board Member, posted by Kent Jackson:

    “We’ve lost a giant in the industry, way too soon. One of the originals. So highly regarded.
    Rest in Peace Lou! Bob”

  7. Kent Jackson June 16, 2015

    Remembrance from Bill Fishkind, MD, OOSS President Emeritus and Chief Medical Editor of The Ophthalmic ASC, posted by Kent Jackson:

    “Although we all knew this was coming the reality is nonetheless sad and distressing. We all have lost a good friend and the industry has lost an exceptional resource. Bill Fishkind”

  8. Kent Jackson June 16, 2015

    Remembrance from Ed Timm, Mobius Therapeutics LLC, posted by Kent Jackson:

    “Thanks for doing this. A great man, a great person. I will miss him. Ed Timm”

  9. Kent Jackson June 16, 2015

    Remembrance from Dave McIntyre, MD, posted by Kent Jackson:

    “Lou was a businessman, a supporter, a contributor, a friend and a very kind man. Even in the early days Lou was always there, and always helpful. We are all fully aware that life has two ends; the beginning we rejoice, the end not so much.

    Lou, I have nothing but good memories, rest in peace friend. Dave”

  10. Kent Jackson June 25, 2015

    Please note that this posting was a remembrance shared by Neil Levinbook on behalf of John Passarelli, M.D., posted by Kent Jackson:

    ” I had the pleasure of meeting Lou Scheffler in 1983 when he approached my late business partner, Rick Messina, M.D., and myself about opening an Ophthalmic ASC in our practice area on Long Island. Lou deserves full credit for introducing us to the novel concept at that time and ultimately having us approved as the first free-standing ASC in New York State. Lou always had incredible foresight to look into the future and anticipate the needs of the patient in an outpatient setting. In this sense, Lou was a true visionary. He was the ultimate problem solver and based on the success of our surgery center, we retained his services to design our LASIK Center in 1999. In addition to owing much of my professional success to Lou, he is also responsible for introducing me to my wife, Heidi. She and I are extremely saddened by Lou’s passing and are forever grateful for all he has done for us both personally and professionally.”

  11. Kent Jackson June 25, 2015

    Remembrance from Richard J. Mackool, MD:

    English is the most complex and expressive language, but as I wrote the following I became aware that mine is at best marginally adequate to describe the unique qualities that endeared Lou to so many of us, and specifically to me during our 33 year friendship. It’s not really possible to describe how his smile, always the largest in any group, immediately increased the happiness level in the room. Or how his infectious laugh somehow made those around him somehow recognize what was really important to humans. Yes, he was absolutely brilliant and truly unique in his profession, but his huge heart and wonderful sense of life – really the best of human qualities – were even more unforgettable.

    Lou learned outpatient surgery from the ground up, mastering the positions of surgical technician, ASC administration and design, government relations and virtually every facet of the ophthalmic surgical profession to such an extent as to become singularly irreplaceable, and for these remarkable accomplishments he deserves to be remembered forever. But a much more important component of the man was one that became apparent to me during our many hours together, and that was the motivation behind his mastery.
    It was Lou’s great capacity, indeed his nature, to empathize with the plight of others. Although he was of course not a physician (though he would have made a great doctor), he never claimed to be the patient’s advocate. He simply behaved like one. During our many hours together in the operating room, his genuine concern was repeatedly expressed to me with questions like “What happens to the patient?”, and “Is he going to be all right?”. This occurred with such frequency that I began to reflexively reassure him of the likely favorable result immediately after every complex case!

    And so it became obvious to me within a short time after we met in 1982 that the imagination and creativity that led him to constantly pursue solutions to problems small and large was a direct result of the discomfort he felt when others were in distress. So many times he would call and ask me a “What if …..” question!
    Lou Sheffler never directly cared for a single patient, but his contributions continue to be invaluable to those of us who do. Indeed they permit us to deliver much better care to untold thousands undergoing eye surgery, and that is quite a legacy.

    Dick Mackool
    Astoria, NY

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