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Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare--Ketul Patel: A sense of mission fuels the best leaders in healthcare

By | December 22 nd,  2016 | CHI Franciscan Health, chief executive officer, Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, Hackensack University Medical Center, health system, Kenya, Modern Healthcare, SafetyFirst Initiative, Blog, Catholic faith, Catholic Health Initiatives, clinician, collaborative, leadership, mission, safety, Ketul Patel, patient experience, quality | Add A Comment

 

Classic content: One in a series of interviews with Modern Healthcare's Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare for 2016.

 

Every month or two, CEO Ketul J. Patel journeys to the convent where the Sisters of St. Francis live and spends some time with the religious women who provide the missional context of the organization Patel leads, CHI Franciscan Health in Tacoma, Wash., part of the Catholic Health Initiatives system.

 

“I leave energized every single time I go there because of the amount of passion they have for this organization,” he says. “I have always felt that faith-based organizations have an extra touch of focus and mission than others. I couldn’t have asked for a better set of sisters to work with.”

 

Patel was raised in the Hindu faith but went to Catholic grade schools and high school growing up in Johnstown, Penn., 60 miles east of Pittsburgh. In an earlier role, he also worked for several years at a Catholic hospital in Chicago run by another group called the Sisters of St. Francis, this one based in Indiana.

 

“The Catholic faith has made a pretty substantial imprint into not only my career, but my life,” he says. “It’s given an extra allure to this type of organization for me.”

 

It’s also given a sense of urgency to the strides Patel hopes to make in reshaping CHI Franciscan and the other CHI hospitals he oversees as senior vice president of divisional operations for the Pacific Northwest Region. His goal, he says, is to have a top-performing organization with a mission-based focus on quality, safety and patient experience.

 

“We want to have a system of the most talented providers and innovative services in the Pacific Northwest,” Patel says. “Because of that, we just went through a significant structural reorganization to focus on those areas.”

 

Chief among the changes is the SafetyFirst Initiative, what Patel calls “a system-wide effort aimed at eliminating all preventable safety events.”

 

“We’ve branded it throughout the entire CHI system, and we’re seeing declines in serious safety events at all of our hospitals that have implemented SafetyFirst. It’s something our clinical staff is very proud of.”

 

The sense of service that Patel believes is a necessity for healthcare leaders comes from his parents, he says. Patel was born in Kenya, as were both his parents. His father is a retired physician. His mother, who passed away last year, was a nurse.

 

“When my father was practicing in Kenya, he would take my mom, brother and me to some remote areas of East Africa and provide care,” Patel remembers. “A lot of it was done under the umbrella of what was then the Lions Club.

 

“I have some very vivid memories – people who were missing hands, people with significant diseases with no access to care. The impact of that was substantial and that’s what prompted and inspired me to get into this type of role.”

 

His family moved to the U.S. in 1979 when Patel was eight. His brother went into medicine – he now heads cardiac surgery at the University of Michigan – and Patel started pre-med courses to head down the same path at Johns Hopkins. He also took a job as a research assistant to Nobel laureate Christian Anfinsen and, while it was a wonderful experience, he says, he couldn’t summon the same enthusiasm for it that he had for a couple health administration classes he took. He was reluctant to tell his parents he didn’t want to be a clinician.

 

“I thought it was going to be one of the toughest conversations I ever had with my father,” Patel says now, chuckling. “Instead, my father said, ‘We’ve been waiting for you to say this. All these years, we didn’t think you wanted to be a doctor.’ ”

 

The move to the administrative side has been a good fit. Patel got his first VP role at 26 and hasn’t looked back. He came to CHI Franciscan from Hackensack University Health Network and Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey, where he served as executive vice president and chief strategy and operations officer.

 

Patel says his leadership style has evolved in his 20 years in administration. “You have to be a born leader, to some extent, but I think your leadership style and your abilities change as you are exposed to different areas and experienced with varying challenges.”

 

But one absolute imperative, he says, is to be a collaborative leader.

 

“People support what they help to create,” he says. “If a staff member feels they’re part of a decision-making process that is helping to move the organization in a certain direction, they’re going to unite behind that.”

 

He says he especially loves the ideas that come from clinicians. “They’re the ones who are at the bedside.”

 

Besides, he says, his parents always loved to tease him about the importance of the front-line staff.

 

“I’d be on the phone with them and my dad would say, ‘By the way, just remember that the only reason you have a job is because doctors bring patients to your doorstep.’ Then my mom would get on the phone and say, ‘Don’t listen to your dad. The only people who know what’s going on with the patients are the nurses.’

 

“I give them a lot of credit for that.”

 

 

2016 Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare: After a complex merger, Ruth Brinkley works to build a new culture at KentuckyOne Health

By | November 28 th,  2016 | merger, Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, Modern Healthcare, Ruth Brinkley, Blog, Catholic Health Initiatives, CEO, CHI, diversity, leadership, Louisville | Add A Comment

 

Classic content: One in a series of interviews with Modern Healthcare's Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare for 2016.

 

Mergers and acquisitions are complicated equations when just two organizations are involved. But three? That’s a daunting challenge for anyone. Small wonder that Catholic Health Initiatives turned to a veteran CEO like Ruth Brinkley to choreograph the complicated venture and lead the new KentuckyOne Health system.

 

Brinkley, who revamped the sprawling organization to survive and thrive under reform, says the bumps in the road are beginning to get fewer and farther between. “I’m a big believer in culture and the impact of culture on strategy and on building excellence,” she says. “One of the things we have consciously worked on since the very beginning was to shape a desired culture. I would say we’re 60 to 70 percent of the way there.”

 

KentuckyOne Health is comprised of the former Saint Joseph Health System, the former Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s HealthCare, and the University of Louisville Hospital and James Graham Brown Cancer Center. It is a complicated arrangement. Catholic Health Initiatives is a majority owner of KentuckyOne. The other owner is Louisville-based Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence. But the individual hospitals that were Jewish hospitals are still Jewish; the Catholic ones are still Catholic; and the university hospital remains secular. The partnership with the university was held up by former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, who initially challenged a full three-way merger over concern that the public university hospital would be required to follow the Ethical and Religious Directives of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. And that, in turn, slowed down the process and the culture work by about a year.

 

Daunting? Absolutely. But Brinkley’s eyes were wide open from the beginning.

 

“I did expect this to be a big job, a big bite, so to speak,” says Brinkley, who left Carondelet Health in Tucson, Ariz., to return to Louisville and CHI. “I believe in the merger, in the vision of what we set out to do. When the days or the issues get tough, I go back to the belief in that vision.”

 

Brinkley had already achieved much in her career as a CEO and a lauded leader in Catholic healthcare for many years. Her resume was full. But the prospect of the merger energized her, moved her geographically closer to her children and grandchildren, and brought her back to her what she calls her extended family at CHI.

 

 

“The real draw was the excitement of the vision for this merger and what it was to accomplish. And it felt familiar. It felt good coming back to CHI. It’s always been a wonderful place to work. You see the mission come alive, and you see the values in people’s hearts.”

 

While the work of the merger more than filled her days, and many of her evenings, it was a temporary diversion from a personal tragedy.

 

“I had experienced a big loss in my life; my husband passed away when I was in Arizona,” she says. “Time is a great healer and work is a great healer, if you use it correctly. But I will also tell you that we all eventually have to pay the debt of grief. I like to say that grief can be delayed, but it won’t be denied. The work gave me something to focus on, but we each have to go back and deal with the issues we need to deal with, and I did that as well.”

 

Brinkley’s career has taken her from rural Georgia, where her grandparents raised her, to urban Chicago as a student and a nursing leader, to a number of other settings. So she is well-versed in the many types of populations that KentuckyOne serves, from Appalachia to Louisville. “The needs are very different across the state,” Brinkley says. “We try our very best to represent and reflect the communities we serve.

 

“We know that healthcare does not begin and end inside the walls of a hospital, so we’ve developed outreach programs to decrease the use of the emergency room for routine care, and to decrease readmissions. We’re starting to focus more on the social determinants of health.”

 

Brinkley says she learned many key lessons on leadership from her grandmother, who encouraged her to become a nurse, as she was growing up in Georgia – in fact, in 2009, she wrote a children’s book called “Grandma Said” to honor the woman who shaped her early life. But in Georgia, Brinkley also saw the sad results of those aforementioned social determinants, as family and friends dealt with suffering brought on by health disparities. Thus, she makes it a key priority to move her organizations upstream into the communities whenever possible.

 

“We know that a hospital only impacts 20 or 25 percent of health status,” she says. “The rest are social determinants. So, for example, at our St. Mary’s facility in west Louisville, we are starting a community garden. It’s a somewhat challenged area with a lot of immigrants. The city is leasing us 4 or 5 acres of land. We are going to engage the community and staff and hopefully be able to help people grow their own vegetables, because we had found through our community health assessment that this was a real need.”

 

Another need that Brinkley has been talking about for a number of years is the push to increase diverse leadership at the highest levels of healthcare organizations. Patients, she says, benefit greatly from diversity.

 

“It’s where our greatest opportunity is to serve the community,” she says. “It’s so important for our patients to have people in leadership who look like them and can relate to them. We have a lot more work to do, but we’ve made a good start at KentuckyOne.

 

“You have to let people know through word and deed that you understand their experience.”
With a wealth of experiences to draw from, Brinkley is trying to do just that.

 

 

A sense of mission drives Ketul Patel at CHI Franciscan Health

By | August 10 th,  2016 | CHI Franciscan Health, chief executive officer, Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, Hackensack University Medical Center, health system, Kenya, Modern Healthcare, SafetyFirst Initiative, Blog, Catholic faith, Catholic Health Initiatives, clinician, collaborative, leadership, mission, safety, Ketul Patel, patient experience, quality | Add A Comment

 

One in a series of interviews with Modern Healthcare's Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare for 2016.

 

Every month or two, CEO Ketul J. Patel journeys to the convent where the Sisters of St. Francis live and spends some time with the religious women who provide the missional context of the organization Patel leads, CHI Franciscan Health in Tacoma, Wash., part of the Catholic Health Initiatives system.

 

“I leave energized every single time I go there because of the amount of passion they have for this organization,” he says. “I have always felt that faith-based organizations have an extra touch of focus and mission than others. I couldn’t have asked for a better set of sisters to work with.”

 

Patel was raised in the Hindu faith but went to Catholic grade schools and high school growing up in Johnstown, Penn., 60 miles east of Pittsburgh. In an earlier role, he also worked for several years at a Catholic hospital in Chicago run by another group called the Sisters of St. Francis, this one based in Indiana.

 

“The Catholic faith has made a pretty substantial imprint into not only my career, but my life,” he says. “It’s given an extra allure to this type of organization for me.”

 

It’s also given a sense of urgency to the strides Patel hopes to make in reshaping CHI Franciscan and the other CHI hospitals he oversees as senior vice president of divisional operations for the Pacific Northwest Region. His goal, he says, is to have a top-performing organization with a mission-based focus on quality, safety and patient experience.

 

“We want to have a system of the most talented providers and innovative services in the Pacific Northwest,” Patel says. “Because of that, we just went through a significant structural reorganization to focus on those areas.”

 

Chief among the changes is the SafetyFirst Initiative, what Patel calls “a system-wide effort aimed at eliminating all preventable safety events.”

 

“We’ve branded it throughout the entire CHI system, and we’re seeing declines in serious safety events at all of our hospitals that have implemented SafetyFirst. It’s something our clinical staff is very proud of.”

 

The sense of service that Patel believes is a necessity for healthcare leaders comes from his parents, he says. Patel was born in Kenya, as were both his parents. His father is a retired physician. His mother, who passed away last year, was a nurse.

 

“When my father was practicing in Kenya, he would take my mom, brother and me to some remote areas of East Africa and provide care,” Patel remembers. “A lot of it was done under the umbrella of what was then the Lions Club.

 

“I have some very vivid memories – people who were missing hands, people with significant diseases with no access to care. The impact of that was substantial and that’s what prompted and inspired me to get into this type of role.”

 

His family moved to the U.S. in 1979 when Patel was eight. His brother went into medicine – he now heads cardiac surgery at the University of Michigan – and Patel started pre-med courses to head down the same path at Johns Hopkins. He also took a job as a research assistant to Nobel laureate Christian Anfinsen and, while it was a wonderful experience, he says, he couldn’t summon the same enthusiasm for it that he had for a couple health administration classes he took. He was reluctant to tell his parents he didn’t want to be a clinician.

 

“I thought it was going to be one of the toughest conversations I ever had with my father,” Patel says now, chuckling. “Instead, my father said, ‘We’ve been waiting for you to say this. All these years, we didn’t think you wanted to be a doctor.’ ”

 

The move to the administrative side has been a good fit. Patel got his first VP role at 26 and hasn’t looked back. He came to CHI Franciscan from Hackensack University Health Network and Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey, where he served as executive vice president and chief strategy and operations officer.

 

Patel says his leadership style has evolved in his 20 years in administration. “You have to be a born leader, to some extent, but I think your leadership style and your abilities change as you are exposed to different areas and experienced with varying challenges.”

 

But one absolute imperative, he says, is to be a collaborative leader.

 

“People support what they help to create,” he says. “If a staff member feels they’re part of a decision-making process that is helping to move the organization in a certain direction, they’re going to unite behind that.”

 

He says he especially loves the ideas that come from clinicians. “They’re the ones who are at the bedside.”

 

Besides, he says, his parents always loved to tease him about the importance of the front-line staff.

 

“I’d be on the phone with them and my dad would say, ‘By the way, just remember that the only reason you have a job is because doctors bring patients to your doorstep.’ Then my mom would get on the phone and say, ‘Don’t listen to your dad. The only people who know what’s going on with the patients are the nurses.’

 

“I give them a lot of credit for that.”

 

 

After a complex merger, Ruth Brinkley works diligently to build a new culture at KentuckyOne Health

By | June 3 rd,  2016 | merger, Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, Modern Healthcare, Ruth Brinkley, Blog, Catholic Health Initiatives, CEO, CHI, diversity, leadership, Louisville | Add A Comment

 

One in a series of interviews with Modern Healthcare's Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare for 2016.

 

Mergers and acquisitions are complicated equations when just two organizations are involved. But three? That’s a daunting challenge for anyone. Small wonder that Catholic Health Initiatives turned to a veteran CEO like Ruth Brinkley to choreograph the complicated venture and lead the new KentuckyOne Health system.

 

Brinkley, who revamped the sprawling organization to survive and thrive under reform, says the bumps in the road are beginning to get fewer and farther between. “I’m a big believer in culture and the impact of culture on strategy and on building excellence,” she says. “One of the things we have consciously worked on since the very beginning was to shape a desired culture. I would say we’re 60 to 70 percent of the way there.”

 

KentuckyOne Health is comprised of the former Saint Joseph Health System, the former Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s HealthCare, and the University of Louisville Hospital and James Graham Brown Cancer Center. It is a complicated arrangement. Catholic Health Initiatives is a majority owner of KentuckyOne. The other owner is Louisville-based Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence. But the individual hospitals that were Jewish hospitals are still Jewish; the Catholic ones are still Catholic; and the university hospital remains secular. The partnership with the university was held up by former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, who initially challenged a full three-way merger over concern that the public university hospital would be required to follow the Ethical and Religious Directives of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. And that, in turn, slowed down the process and the culture work by about a year.

 

Daunting? Absolutely. But Brinkley’s eyes were wide open from the beginning.

 

“I did expect this to be a big job, a big bite, so to speak,” says Brinkley, who left Carondelet Health in Tucson, Ariz., to return to Louisville and CHI. “I believe in the merger, in the vision of what we set out to do. When the days or the issues get tough, I go back to the belief in that vision.”

 

Brinkley had already achieved much in her career as a CEO and a lauded leader in Catholic healthcare for many years. Her resume was full. But the prospect of the merger energized her, moved her geographically closer to her children and grandchildren, and brought her back to her what she calls her extended family at CHI.

 

 

“The real draw was the excitement of the vision for this merger and what it was to accomplish. And it felt familiar. It felt good coming back to CHI. It’s always been a wonderful place to work. You see the mission come alive, and you see the values in people’s hearts.”

 

While the work of the merger more than filled her days, and many of her evenings, it was a temporary diversion from a personal tragedy.

 

“I had experienced a big loss in my life; my husband passed away when I was in Arizona,” she says. “Time is a great healer and work is a great healer, if you use it correctly. But I will also tell you that we all eventually have to pay the debt of grief. I like to say that grief can be delayed, but it won’t be denied. The work gave me something to focus on, but we each have to go back and deal with the issues we need to deal with, and I did that as well.”

 

Brinkley’s career has taken her from rural Georgia, where her grandparents raised her, to urban Chicago as a student and a nursing leader, to a number of other settings. So she is well-versed in the many types of populations that KentuckyOne serves, from Appalachia to Louisville. “The needs are very different across the state,” Brinkley says. “We try our very best to represent and reflect the communities we serve.

 

“We know that healthcare does not begin and end inside the walls of a hospital, so we’ve developed outreach programs to decrease the use of the emergency room for routine care, and to decrease readmissions. We’re starting to focus more on the social determinants of health.”

 

Brinkley says she learned many key lessons on leadership from her grandmother, who encouraged her to become a nurse, as she was growing up in Georgia – in fact, in 2009, she wrote a children’s book called “Grandma Said” to honor the woman who shaped her early life. But in Georgia, Brinkley also saw the sad results of those aforementioned social determinants, as family and friends dealt with suffering brought on by health disparities. Thus, she makes it a key priority to move her organizations upstream into the communities whenever possible.

 

“We know that a hospital only impacts 20 or 25 percent of health status,” she says. “The rest are social determinants. So, for example, at our St. Mary’s facility in west Louisville, we are starting a community garden. It’s a somewhat challenged area with a lot of immigrants. The city is leasing us 4 or 5 acres of land. We are going to engage the community and staff and hopefully be able to help people grow their own vegetables, because we had found through our community health assessment that this was a real need.”

 

Another need that Brinkley has been talking about for a number of years is the push to increase diverse leadership at the highest levels of healthcare organizations. Patients, she says, benefit greatly from diversity.

 

“It’s where our greatest opportunity is to serve the community,” she says. “It’s so important for our patients to have people in leadership who look like them and can relate to them. We have a lot more work to do, but we’ve made a good start at KentuckyOne.

 

“You have to let people know through word and deed that you understand their experience.”
With a wealth of experiences to draw from, Brinkley is trying to do just that.

 

 

Diverse leadership key to solving health disparities, says Woods

By | August 25 th,  2014 | American Hospital Association, Furst Group, St. Joseph Health System, Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, executive, faith-based, health system, Modern Healthcare, Blog, Catholic Health Initiatives, chief operating officer, Christus Health, diversity, Equity of Care Committee, health disparities, leadership | Add A Comment

 

One in a series of profiles of Modern Healthcare’s Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare (sponsored by Furst Group)

 

As a board member of the American Hospital Association and chair of its Equity of Care Committee, Eugene Woods has an opportunity to see up close how health disparities affect far too many people in the U.S.

 

“We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that significant inequities exist,” he says, noting a recent study by the Institute for Diversity in Management that indicates only 22 percent of hospitals have utilized data to identify disparities in treatment and/or outcomes between racial or ethnic groups by analyzing one or more of the following: clinical quality indicators, readmissions or CMS core measures. While this is an increase from 20% in 2011, Woods says he wants to see more results from the industry.

 

“The incidence of infant mortality, diabetes and colorectal cancer are in some cases twice as high among African-Americans as compared to whites. We can, and simply must, do better.”

 

Woods, who also serves as executive vice president and chief operating officer for the 33-hospital Christus Health system, comes at the issue of diversity from an interesting angle. His worldview was partially formed through his early years growing up in his mother’s hometown in Spain.

 

“What I learned is that similarities between cultures are much greater than the differences,” he remembers. “And also that, rather than it being something that separates us, we should celebrate our differences because of the richness they bring to human experience.”

 

His own family today reflects those beliefs, he says.

 

“My wife and I come from four distinct cultures – Mohawk (Native American), Spanish, African-American and Dutch. And while each has very unique traditions, all share many of the same important values. So when I look at the work I do in healthcare, though we serve people from all different walks of life, the common denominators are our values with respect to human dignity, respect and compassionate care.”

 


Woods came to Christus after a number of years in Lexington, Ky., where he was CEO of St. Joseph Health System while also serving as Senior Vice President of the Catholic Health Initiatives system. One of the things that drew him to Christus, he says, was the commitment to diversity of CEO Ernie Sadau. In three years, he says, the percentage of diverse leaders at Christus has grown from 10 to 25 percent. Woods played a key role in launching Christus’ inaugural two-year minority fellowship program as well as its executive-in-residence diversity program.

 

“What I appreciate most is that Ernie has made diversity one of his top priorities and that has set a new tone within Christus in a very short period of time,” Woods says. “He walks the talk and the significant advancements we have made at diversifying our board and leadership team, for example, are directly due to his commitment and passion.”

 

Along with growth and clinical integration, diversity is one of three key strategic priorities at Christus.

 

“We sincerely believe that will be a differentiator for us,” Woods says. “We serve such a very diverse demographic that having a culture that is inclusive and an organization that is representative of the many communities we serve is very top of mind for us.”

 

Personally, Woods says ministry is top of mind for him as he navigates his successful career in healthcare. It’s one of the reasons he made the jump from one faith-based system to another.

 

“What I love about both faith-based organizations I have served with is that they were founded by Sisters who remain involved and, above all, help keep you very grounded as a leader. They are all about serving those in greatest need.”

 

A sense of mission also was impressed upon Woods back in 2001 as well. When the 9/11 attacks happened, he had only been on the job for a few days overseeing operations for the Washington Hospital Center. People wounded in the Pentagon attack were brought to the hospital, and Woods remembers many heroes from those days, including two material management workers who drove non-stop from the nation’s capital to San Antonio and back – because all U.S. airports were closed – to pick up supplies needed to treat burn victims.

 

“But perhaps the key leadership reflection for me afterwards was that it shouldn’t take a crisis to bring out the best in people,” he says. “So my leadership approach has been focused on how to build excellence in day-to-day work.”

 

On the AHA’s Equity of Care Committee, Woods says he has had the opportunity to watch a number of healthcare providers create a high bar for standards of care when it comes to eliminating disparities. He ticks off a list of outstanding hospitals – Massachusetts General in Boston; University Hospitals in Cleveland, Ohio; Henry Ford Health System in Detroit; Lutheran HealthCare in Brooklyn, N.Y.; and Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, Calif.

 

“These systems are doing some incredible things around diversity with great outcomes and are leading the field with best practices,” he says.

 

He’s hopeful that these hospital’s examples can be a rallying cry for the industry – and a turning point.

 

“While pockets of progress are evident,” he notes, “we still have a lot of work to do.”

 

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