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by Cliff Illig
Published on July 9, 2018

Today marks one year since my friend and business partner, Neal Patterson, passed away. I’ve thought about him often. After 44 years of having our lives and careers intersect, I often hear his candid voice as I go about my work and life.

Our friendship began in 1973, years before we left our jobs to start Cerner together with Paul Gorup. Over time, Paul and I got to see Neal’s entrepreneurial business drive turn into a true passion to innovate and improve the way health care is provided across the globe. His passion was contagious.

As many of you know, “health care ultimately becomes personal,” was a mantra Neal used to remind Cerner associates that what we do is more than a job. He lived it. Personal experiences such as his sister-in-law’s tragic death from sepsis, his wife Jeanne’s 10-year battle with cancer and his own relatively brief cancer fight only increased his hunger for improving care, inspiring meaningful innovations. It’s a principle that lives on inside Cerner.

Leadership transitions always present new opportunities, and I want to publicly thank Brent Shafer for doing a great job of nurturing the founding legacies within Cerner while also introducing his own brand of client-focused leadership. In 2015, Neal wrote, “Today I see Cliff in associates who have never met Cliff, Paul in associates who have never met Paul.” It’s the same for Neal. Whenever we hear passionate, impatient associates, we know he is still here. Neal would be proud and energized by the work we’ve done and will continue to do as we innovate together with our clients.


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