Faces of Security

Faces of Security: Scott Levy from Mayo Clinic

Because of a family business during his childhood, Scott Levy was raised in the security industry; it’s in his blood.

Now a nationally recognized healthcare security expert, Scott serves as Senior Manager of Global Security and Visitor Support for Mayo Clinic locations in Arizona. He also serves on the enterprise security leadership team for Mayo Clinic, one of the largest and highest-rated academic health systems in the U.S. In Arizona alone, Mayo Clinic takes care of over 100,000 patients annually.

Before moving to Phoenix for his current post, Scott held senior leadership roles at three Level I trauma centers in Chicago. Most recently, he served as Director of Public Safety at University of Chicago Medicine, where he helped design and implement a strategic security plan for the launch of adult trauma services. 

In Total Security Advisor‘s latest “Faces of Security” interview below, Scott discusses his career and shares insights into some of the biggest threats facing not only Mayo Clinic, but the healthcare industry overall.

How did you get your start in the field?

It is fair to say that I grew up in the security business. My parents founded a contract security business before I was born, Levy Security Corp., which ultimately became one of the largest privately held security businesses in the region until we sold it. I worked for our company on and off growing up. Nothing glamorous—making copies, filing, picking up lunch. I eventually worked my way up to working as a security officer on night shift at a client site that was a gated community. 

Unfortunately, my father died when he was 42 years old (I was 15). My mom, who had been involved early in the company’s history, returned as Chairwoman and CEO. She was very supportive of my pursuing my early career plans in college, politics, and children’s advocacy. 

I returned home to Chicago to complete my MBA and got more involved in day-to-day operations of the business. I worked in various marketing, communications, and operational roles, ultimately leading to my first healthcare security leadership role as Director of Public Safety at Prentice Women’s Hospital, part of Northwestern Medicine. Even after we sold the company, I have remained connected to the security industry in a number of interesting roles in government, university, and healthcare settings. 

Who is/was your biggest influence in the industry?

My biggest influence in the industry was my dad: Barry W. Levy, CPP. My dad was a Deputy Sheriff in Cook County, Illinois—rose through the ranks to become director of training (No. 3 in the department). He started doing some consulting on the side, and from that came the genesis of Levy Security Corp. My dad saw an opportunity to improve the caliber of private security officer services in Chicago and beyond, applying some of the lessons learned through his law enforcement career and his own innovations. We did not have “guards”; we had “Public Safety Officers.” In fact the term “guard” was almost a dirty word in our house growing up. 

My dad enjoyed conducting inspections of his officers at all hours of the day and night, and on weekends. He instituted very rigid uniform appearance standards (the “Levy look”), and lord help you if your shoes weren’t shined to a mirror polish or your uniform shirt was wrinkled. I am proud of the many thousands of security professionals who built their careers with our companies, who hold on to those values and help bring forward the next generation of security leaders. My dad set the example for leading with integrity and defining the concept of “service excellence.”

What’s your best mistake, and what did you learn from it?

I wouldn’t call it a “mistake,” but rather an “unplanned happy accident.” I never anticipated living and working in Arizona, but the opportunity to lead a security program for Mayo Clinic was something I could not pass up. 

Mayo Clinic had always seemed like the Disney World of hospitals to me—world-renowned medical care, outstanding research, and top-ranked medical education. To be able to play a small part in such an historic and iconic institution is truly special. 

I have learned that you can “take the kid out of Chicago” but not “take Chicago out of the kid.” Chicago will always be home, but my family and I have enjoyed making our new home here in Phoenix. It was reassuring that whatever skillset I have to offer seems to be transferable.

What are the biggest security issues at your organization? Are there any unique challenges compared to some other organizations?

One of our biggest security issues at Mayo Clinic is workplace violence. Violent incidents are on the rise within healthcare organizations nationally, and Mayo is no exception. We have seen year-over-year increases in reported incidents of violence. The primary scenarios we see are patient/staff; visitor/staff; and domestic violence (patient/visitor). 

While the number of reported incidents is trending up, we believe that the true number of events is higher. Many healthcare organizations have this challenge of underreporting of violence from staff. We are working to address this cultural issue—to disabuse the notion that getting hit/kicked/cursed out is “part of the job.” It’s not okay, and it needs to be reported to unit leadership and the security team. The other side to that is people need to see action being taken when something is reported.

Here at Mayo Clinic Arizona, we are establishing a new Workplace Violence Program. This will build on existing work and resources, but adding dedicated staff; enhanced training for all personnel based on job role; and better data collection and analysis. We will align with and surpass some new regulatory requirements on workplace violence from The Joint Commission. It has been exciting to be part of the team helping to get this effort off the ground, and there is real enthusiasm across our practice for this program.   

How did the COVID-19 pandemic change the way you operate? Did priorities shift? Were there any specific steps you took to address the health and security issues?

Our Global Security team has been involved from very early on in our overall COVID-19 response plan. Hospital Incident Command System was activated, and I serve as the Security Branch Director. 

One of the main initial challenges was access control and visitor management. Mayo Clinic, like many hospitals, was designed to let people in—not keep people out. So there were some physical security issues, like certain entry doors being programmed to open at set times. Certain lobbies were typically not staffed by security, but by volunteers. 

As the crisis grew, our volunteer services shut down operations and we also established more stringent visitor restrictions and screening requirements. The initial ask of security was not feasible, while maintaining day-to-day operations in the hospital. We worked with administration to limit the designated number of entry points and mobilized additional personnel from our labor pool to support screening activities. It was important to me that we had a security officer present at each of these entry points, especially as we went to a “No Visitors” policy.

Our focus through all of this has been maintaining the safest environment of care possible. We have seen challenges from our patients and visitors in understanding and complying with evolving policies. We also understand the frustration with the extended and ongoing nature of these restrictions. Stress levels are already high in this environment, and adding these restrictions (while necessary) has led to some challenging behaviors. This has also translated into some civil disturbances from external parties—protestors, conspiracy theorists, and the like. We have consistently coached our team that it’s not about personal characteristics, but rather about behavior. Our job through this and other challenges is to help maintain decorum and optimal patient care.

What’s your favorite part about working in the industry? What’s your least favorite part, and how would you change it?

What has sustained me over two decades in the security industry are the many relationships, partnerships, and friendships I have been able to foster in this industry. It is what makes security not just a job but a career and an adventure. 

Some of the smartest people I know work in this industry and, fortunately, are not reluctant to share their wisdom. I always look forward to the annual conferences in our industry like ASIS Global Security Exchange and the IAHSS Annual Conference and have missed being able to attend those events in person during the pandemic. To me, it is all about sharing knowledge and best practices—and it’s about the people and maintaining relationships. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel; someone out there is dealing with the same challenges and has come up with innovative solutions. If you come up with a new or innovative approach, it is incumbent not to keep it to yourself but to share willingly with your network in the security industry.

My least favorite part of the industry probably is the poor perception many have of security. The thinking goes that security is not a profit center, but rather a cost center. This led to slashed budgets and cut corners. So, historically the industry was forced into “low bid” scenarios—and it’s true that you get what you pay for. Like any industry we have our share of knuckleheads and less-than-professional behavior, but that is the exception. What I see every day are some of the hardest-working and most dedicated individuals committed to patient and staff safety.

How can company leaders make security a value within their organization?

Every organization should make security and safety bedrock values. And it’s not just about the traditional 3 Gs: gates, guards, and guns. Comprehensive security programs need to address employees being safe and feeling safe. That extends to making personal safety and security part of every staff member’s professional development. Skills in security awareness, verbal de-escalation, and self-defense are vitally important for every employee. Address facility issues such as lighting, broken door locks, and other “low-hanging fruit” to show that you care for employee safety.

People often ask me, “How many people work in Mayo Clinic Arizona Security?” My answer is always the same: “8,500 and growing.” Every staff member, provider, and learner who carries a Mayo Clinic ID badge is a fully deputized member of the Global Security team. We need everyone to maintain vigilance and situational awareness for themselves and their co-workers. 

Mayo Clinic’s primary value is “the needs of the patient come first.” Mayo understands that in order for the patient to receive optimal care, members of the care team need to feel safe in their work environments.

Where do you see the industry heading in five years? Are you seeing any major trends?

Things will continue to change and evolve at a rapid pace over the next five years and beyond. We will continue to see a push toward more technology and security systems integration—being able to view disparate systems on “one pane of glass.” There have been a number of great developments in security systems such as video analytics, biometric access control, weapons detection, and so much more. 

While technology is wonderful—and we embrace it here at Mayo Clinic—I always remind our team members that at the end of that camera/scanner/alarm is a person who may need our help. We can’t lose sight of the human element in favor of tools.

One of the major trends I think many of us are seeing/experiencing is the pivot to remote work for many personnel.  This has safety and security implications. Staff working from home or another location do not have the typical security response they may be used to. Yet they remain in contact via phone/e-mail/patient portal with people who may make threats of violence. Staff working in dispersed geographic areas need to learn how to engage local law enforcement in their jurisdiction; how to best maintain their personal privacy (e.g., use of a standard company background on video calls vs. visual of their home environment). 

What are you most proud of?

Security is a people business. So I am most proud of the hundreds of people I have worked with and been privileged to lead over the course of my career. I am proud of the contributions we have collectively made to the safety and security of the institutions we served.   

Do you have any advice for people entering the profession?

Security can provide a fulfilling and inspiring career, if you are willing to embrace change. Many professions including security have people who get stuck on “the way we have always done it.” I always encourage people in the early stages of their career to take advantage of the many learning opportunities available—be it through your organization, industry associations such as ASIS or IAHSS, certifications or degrees. There is never a bad time to learn something new, and keep sharpening the saw. Build your network, and get to know people both inside and outside your organization who provide security solutions. 

Are you or a colleague interested in being profiled for the new “Faces of Security” series? Please contact Editor Joe Bebon at JBebon@BLR.com