Renowned UPMC Interventional Radiologist Moves to Rival Highmark’s Hospital

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Mark H. Wholey, MD, a leading interventional radiologist, formerly of UPMC, is moving to Allegheny General Hospital, a West Penn Allegheny Health System hospital whose long-time rivalry with UPMC turned into a legal battle last year when insurer Highmark announced plans to merge with West Penn Allegheny.

UPMC, formerly the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, threatened to not renew its contracts with Pittsburgh-based Highmark, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, arguing that it was against their interest to support a rival provider. A deal was reached to avoid forcing UPMC patients who had Blue Cross plans to switch providers, at least for now, but competition between the rival hospital networks remains fierce.

Wholey specializes in peripheral vascular procedures and is well known in the field of interventional radiology for having founded medical technology companies, and developed medical devices. He has practiced for 53 years in Pittsburgh.

He was co-founder of MEDRAD Inc., a company that distributed the angiographic injector system he helped invent, and helped form Endotex. He also created the Wholey Wire for vascular procedures, collaborated on the creation of the first dedicated carotid stent, and with his son, Michael Wholey, M.D., worked to develop Attache, the carotid balloon delivery system.

He has received awards from the Pittsburgh Academy of Medicine, the Argentinean Society of Cardiology, the Pennsylvania Radiological Society, the American Board of Radiology, the ISET Distinguished Career Award and the Society of Interventional Radiology. In 2009 he was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Board of Radiology. This was followed by the VIVA Live Award in 2011 and the SCAI Distinguished Service Award in 2012.  
 
As a Highmark staff physician, he will be both director of the hospital's Center for Vascular and Neurovascular Interventions and have a leadership role at Allegheny General Hospital's Cardiovascular Institute.


Recruiting Wholey is a largely symbolic victory for Highmark and Allegheny General Hospital that does not by itself mean a whole lot to independent providers that work with both UPMC and the West Penn Allegheny Health System says Timothy Stampp, MBA, a manager, consultant and strategist for radiology businesses who is also founder and chief of corporate development for Medical Imaging Specialists. However, he adds that it is significant in that it is part of a broader strategy by Highmark to lock up the market in the greater Pittsburgh area.

Health systems that are big enough to control their local market are free to engage in steerage, where referring physicians employed by the health system are encouraged to only refer patients to other providers within the system, Stampp explains. He also adds that an insurer that can make its affiliated health system one of the only games in town has tremendous power in setting reimbursement rates.

“They can say, here is the new reimbursement schedule for radiology, take it or leave it,” Stampp says.