LAS VEGAS - In his closing keynote at HIMSS16 on Friday, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, the reigning Super Bowl champ, spoke about leadership, teamwork and battling through adversity.
"I've been on the receiving end of your efforts," the often-injured quarterback told the crowd of healthcare professionals. "I can't even come close to doing what you do."
The five-time NFL most valuable player and two-time Super Bowl winner was in Las Vegas to talk about leadership, communication and hard work, he said. But first, he couldn't resist getting in a couple jokes about his side-gig as a commercial pitchman for Nationwide Insurance and Papa John's Pizza.
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"I cannot give you any business advice, but I can tell you that due to some recent law changes in Colorado, the pizza business has been pretty good," said Manning, alluding to the recent legalization of marijuana in the state. "A lot of late night orders."
As for Nationwide, that sing-song seven-note tagline has "taken on a life of its own," he said. "People don't speak to me, they jingle to me."
The quarterback is the most important position in sports, and as one of the greatest the game's ever seen, Manning said he'd learned some lessons on leadership dating back to his time as a freshman at University of Tennessee, where he was taught that leadership is something that's earned.
Through his career, Manning, the NFL's all-time passing yardage leader, said he's learned that leaders need to evolve according to circumstances.
"When the environment changes drastically around you, no one, including a leader, can take anything for granted," he said. That point was driven home as late career injuries forced him to adjust his strategies. "I was keenly are of my strengths, but also my physical limitations. By the time my injuries caught up to me, I had to rely on my attitude."
Leadership is important, said Manning, but so is teamwork.
He said the Broncos "got off to a dominant 7-0 start last season, but the streak ended with a loss in the eighth game. As our offense struggled to learn a new system, the defense became even more dominant. The team had layers of depth that allowed us to adjust."
Likewise, "in an orchestra there are up to 20 different kinds of instruments, as many as 100 musicians, and a conductor," he said. "Everyone has to synchronize very specific combinations for the music to wow its audience."
In a hospital, meanwhile, "a team of personnel is key to a successful surgery," he said. “Doctors, nurses and staff each perform individual roles. But unless they work together, and the IT systems provide critical intelligence, patients will suffer a less than optimum outcome."
When teams "work in unison, toward the same goal, each playing his specific role at the highest level possible, the results often defy the odds," he said.
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After three neck surgeries that could have ended his career, he keenly understands what that means.
"Based on what the medical world has done to put my neck back together, I lean toward taking the word 'impossible' from the dictionary," said Manning – who added that, based on his time in the healthcare system, "I can fully appreciate the value of information systems to keep hospitals functioning."
For that, he thanked the crowd for their work in transforming the way healthcare is delivered through technology. Such "commitment to a lofty cause blows my mind," he said. "Football is a game. Revolutionizing healthcare is a mighty endeavor."
After Manning's speech, he was joined onstage by a physician, for a discussion that touched on the NFL's electronic health record system, the portals that allow players to access their medical and imaging data, the analytics used to help keep them safe on the field.
That doctor was Robert Heyer, MD, team physician for the Carolina Panthers.
Heyer chuckled at the idea of sharing the stage with the QB who'd beaten them in Super Bowl 50 barely a month ago. "It's all good," he said.
This story is part of our ongoing coverage of the HIMSS16 conference. Follow our live blog for real-time updates, and visit Destination HIMSS16 for a full rundown of our reporting from the show. For a selection of some of the best social media posts of the show, visit our Trending at #HIMSS16 hub.