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Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare--Debra Canales: The best leaders put people first in the mission of healthcare

By | December 27 th,  2016 | Debra Canales, Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, Catholic healthcare, chief administrative officer, executive vice president, integrated talent, Modern Healthcare, Providence Health & Services, taking risks, women leaders, Blog, chief people and experience officer, diversity, human resources, leadership, medical assistance, mission, Trinity Health | Add A Comment

 

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

 

Shortly before making the move into faith-based healthcare, Debra Canales remembers giving her former boss the business book “Jesus, CEO” by Laurie Beth Jones. He was grateful for the gift – but hid it in a brown paper bag.

 

“He didn’t feel safe,” Canales remembers now. “It was a pretty revealing moment.”

 

Years later, Canales is earning bouquets of accolades for her bold, holistic leadership at Providence Health & Services in Seattle, where the spiritual aspect of healthcare and work is welcomed as a natural byproduct of being human.

 

“What continues to draw me to healthcare is being able to bring my whole self to work as I center myself and think about a bigger purpose,” she says. “Leadership is not just from the neck up.”

 

Canales’ heartfelt worldview is expressed in very tangible ways at Providence, where in just two years as executive vice president and chief people and experience officer she helped achieve a 50 percent increase in women in senior leadership roles. She also led efforts to provide monetary assistance for employees coping with the high cost of healthcare premiums.

 

“I came to Providence because, when I talked with Rod Hochman (Providence’s CEO), he put people as the number one pillar of his strategic plan,” she says. “That was significant. It was a deeply rooted commitment, and part of that was shaping our talent strategy to be reflective of our communities.”

 

The medical assistance program offers free or reduced premiums tied to household income and the federal poverty level. Caregivers (which is what Providence calls all of its employees) who are at less than 250 percent of the federal poverty level pay no premiums or deductibles and are given seed money to cover out-of-pocket costs. Employees at 250 to 400 percent of the federal level get a 50 percent break on coverage.

 

“When we think about extending and revealing God’s love to the poor and the vulnerable, we need to take care of our own and extend that compassionate service to them as well. There has been an outpouring of gratitude and support, especially from a lot of single mothers and fathers,” Canales says.

 

On the practical side, she’s seeing reduced turnover levels as staff members choose to stay, as well as the highest level of employee engagement and satisfaction in a number of years.

 

“It goes back to our integrated talent strategy – we want to lift up our people as one of the most important elements in how we extend our mission,” she says, “We want to continue to build those enduring relationships with our caregivers and take care of what’s important to them so that they can, in turn, extend that experience to all who come through our doors.”

 

The mission of Providence is key to Canales’ passion.

 

“Mission is the number one factor for us,” she says. “In our engagement surveys, people say that is what brought them here and what keeps them here. It’s that yearning for something more in terms of spirituality and connectivity – the charisms of mind, body and spirit. That is certainly what differentiates us from a Fortune 50 company.”

 

Before she became a respected leader in healthcare, Canales had plenty of experience among such corporate heavyweights. She rose through the ranks as a human-resources executive in retail (R.H. Macy’s Inc.), food service (Yum Brands/PepsiCo), and high-tech (Hewlett Packard/Compaq). She moved into healthcare with Centura Health, then spent more than 10 years at Trinity Health, where she rose to chief administrative officer.

 

She’s become known for leading the charge to make human resources valued as a strategic partner for CEOs, for positioning corporate cultures for change management, and for facilitating resiliency. Yet while taking risks has paid off for her, it was not easy, she allows.

 

“A lot of my movement in my career has been to volunteer for the opportunities no one wanted to take,” she says. “I’ve worked for some very strong, driven bosses. I was always trying to work toward a shared understanding – that’s been my whole approach throughout my career.”

 

It’s an approach some would call courageous. In that, she says, she was influenced by her Aunt Trini, the sister of her grandfather, who was the provincial of a convent – a religious woman who had a lot in common with the Sisters of Providence, who began the health system where Canales now works.

 

“I keep her picture near me as an inspiration,” she says. “When things are hard, I look at her photo and it gives me that confidence to do what’s right. One of my hallmark traits is standing on principle. That’s not always been popular. But for me, that conviction and integrity gives me confidence and self-assurance.”

 

Canales says the woman she was in her 20s climbing the corporate ladder is far removed from the peace she now experiences, influenced not only by Catholic faith but also by the teachings of Buddhist nun and author Pema Chodron.

 

“Back then, I couldn’t take as many risks,” she says. “I could not be as vulnerable as I wanted to be. I followed the success pattern to get promoted and, for me, that was what was more important at that time. It was not always authentic. That’s not who I am now.

 

“In the long run, my wholeness is what I value. It’s a freeing sensation to be able to live life in this way, and to help set others free as well gives me such joy.”

 

 

Revisiting the Top 25: Leon Clark helps guide the transformation of Mayo Clinic

By | September 28 th,  2016 | Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, chief administrative officer, integrated medical group, Mayo Clinic, Modern Healthcare, transformation, Blog, leadership, mentor, Leon Clark | Add A Comment

 

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

 

For many years, Mayo Clinic has been arguably the leading brand in patient care. But as it has evolved over the past two decades, Leon Clark has had a hand in the transformation process.

 

He’s now chairman of the research administration department, where he’s in charge of a $675 million operating budget. When he joined in 1997 after stints at Ameritech and American Express, he was a unit manager in accounting. Clark has had a steady rise at Mayo, and he remembers the smart evolution of a respected American institution.

 

“At that time, Mayo started to realize that, if it were sustain its full tripartite mission – practice, education and research – that it would need to diversify its activities and generate income from sources other than just practice,” he says.

 

Among Mayo’s purchases back then were a continuing care retirement community that included retirement homes and skilled nursing facilities, and a medical transport company. Clark joined Mayo to help the controller align and assess the diverse businesses.

 

That led to opportunities to become the operations director of Mayo’s health plan and third-party administration operation and the chance to run the OB-GYN clinical department at Mayo. Over the last decade, working in research at Mayo, he is helping to engineer another round of reinvention.

 

“We’ve started to reposition research at Mayo to be more aligned with a traditional R & D operation,” Clark says. “One of the challenges for academic medical centers is, how do we reposition research assets to drive transformational change in patient care? So what we have are scientists who, in many cases, work in university environments where the incentives are misaligned with the goals of the clinical practice.

 


“They’re rewarded based on grants and publications, and not necessarily on improvements in patient care or creating products and services that advance patient care and differentiate the operation.”

 

So what Clark and his team are doing is looking at Mayo Clinic through a completely different lens.

 

“My physician partner and I approach it from the perspective that Mayo Clinic is an integrated medical group practice first,” he says. “Our research and educational activities essentially underpin the practice and we are creating new capabilities that will contribute to the advancement of patient care and ultimately differentiate Mayo in the marketplace.”

 

That’s an important distinction in the post-Affordable Care Act era.

 

“As healthcare payment reform takes shape, there’s a greater likelihood that many patients who would benefit from care at Mayo would be locked out due to a narrowing of their network or for other reasons,” Clark says. “So what we have to do is create compelling and differentiating capabilities that will inspire people to come out of their network and seek care here because, in my view, they’re going to be better off in the long run.”

 

Clark is glad he himself came to Mayo himself almost 20 years ago. He credits former chief administrative officers Jeffrey Korsmo, now the CEO at Via Christi Health in Wichita, Kan., and recently retired Shirley Weis for being invaluable mentors in his leadership journey.

 

“Early on in my career, Jeff took an interest in me personally and wanted to make sure I had a successful career at Mayo,” he says. “But the other thing he did for me was to run interference for me when I needed it and to point out landmines when he knew I was on a path that would probably lead to me stepping on one. I found out after the fact that he had conversations with other leaders about me as well.”

 

That was crucial, he says, because diverse executives don’t always get second chances after they’ve made a mistake.

 

“All of us make mistakes in our careers,” he says. “In fact, I worry about people who don’t make mistakes because that means they’re not stretching enough to make a difference. Our industry needs folks who are innovative and who think transformationally. That might lead to making mistakes and the question is, how do we recover? If you’re a member of a minority group, historically, it’s been more difficult.”

 

Mayo is a big company ($8 billion) but a small community. It’s governed primarily by committee, and some of that work allows executives to expand their exposure to the entire organization and to get involved in things that aren’t necessarily part of their day-to-day purview. In that setting, relationship management is important, and Clark says that is one reason he has flourished there.

 

“People know me, and they know I’m well-intentioned,” he says. “So even if I step on a landmine, I tend to get a little bit of grace.”
He’s committed to passing that on.

 

“I think it’s an obligation of every leader to identify, coach and mentor the next generation of leaders, so I’ve been very intentional and active around that,” Clark says. “The demographics are changing – Mayo wants to serve every patient who benefits from our care, and those people are increasingly diverse. We want to give them the full Mayo experience. So how can we do that? We need to diversify our employees so we can better understand our patients and serve them better.”

 

 

Debra Canales strives to put people first in the mission of healthcare

By | August 17 th,  2016 | Debra Canales, Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, Catholic healthcare, chief administrative officer, executive vice president, integrated talent, Modern Healthcare, Providence Health & Services, taking risks, women leaders, Blog, chief people and experience officer, diversity, human resources, leadership, medical assistance, mission, Trinity Health | 1 Comments

 

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

 

Shortly before making the move into faith-based healthcare, Debra Canales remembers giving her former boss the business book “Jesus, CEO” by Laurie Beth Jones. He was grateful for the gift – but hid it in a brown paper bag.

 

“He didn’t feel safe,” Canales remembers now. “It was a pretty revealing moment.”

 

Years later, Canales is earning bouquets of accolades for her bold, holistic leadership at Providence Health & Services in Seattle, where the spiritual aspect of healthcare and work is welcomed as a natural byproduct of being human.

 

“What continues to draw me to healthcare is being able to bring my whole self to work as I center myself and think about a bigger purpose,” she says. “Leadership is not just from the neck up.”

 

Canales’ heartfelt worldview is expressed in very tangible ways at Providence, where in just two years as executive vice president and chief people and experience officer she helped achieve a 50 percent increase in women in senior leadership roles. She also led efforts to provide monetary assistance for employees coping with the high cost of healthcare premiums.

 

“I came to Providence because, when I talked with Rod Hochman (Providence’s CEO), he put people as the number one pillar of his strategic plan,” she says. “That was significant. It was a deeply rooted commitment, and part of that was shaping our talent strategy to be reflective of our communities.”

 

The medical assistance program offers free or reduced premiums tied to household income and the federal poverty level. Caregivers (which is what Providence calls all of its employees) who are at less than 250 percent of the federal poverty level pay no premiums or deductibles and are given seed money to cover out-of-pocket costs. Employees at 250 to 400 percent of the federal level get a 50 percent break on coverage.

 

“When we think about extending and revealing God’s love to the poor and the vulnerable, we need to take care of our own and extend that compassionate service to them as well. There has been an outpouring of gratitude and support, especially from a lot of single mothers and fathers,” Canales says.

 

On the practical side, she’s seeing reduced turnover levels as staff members choose to stay, as well as the highest level of employee engagement and satisfaction in a number of years.

 

“It goes back to our integrated talent strategy – we want to lift up our people as one of the most important elements in how we extend our mission,” she says, “We want to continue to build those enduring relationships with our caregivers and take care of what’s important to them so that they can, in turn, extend that experience to all who come through our doors.”

 

The mission of Providence is key to Canales’ passion.

 

“Mission is the number one factor for us,” she says. “In our engagement surveys, people say that is what brought them here and what keeps them here. It’s that yearning for something more in terms of spirituality and connectivity – the charisms of mind, body and spirit. That is certainly what differentiates us from a Fortune 50 company.”

 

Before she became a respected leader in healthcare, Canales had plenty of experience among such corporate heavyweights. She rose through the ranks as a human-resources executive in retail (R.H. Macy’s Inc.), food service (Yum Brands/PepsiCo), and high-tech (Hewlett Packard/Compaq). She moved into healthcare with Centura Health, then spent more than 10 years at Trinity Health, where she rose to chief administrative officer.

 

She’s become known for leading the charge to make human resources valued as a strategic partner for CEOs, for positioning corporate cultures for change management, and for facilitating resiliency. Yet while taking risks has paid off for her, it was not easy, she allows.

 

“A lot of my movement in my career has been to volunteer for the opportunities no one wanted to take,” she says. “I’ve worked for some very strong, driven bosses. I was always trying to work toward a shared understanding – that’s been my whole approach throughout my career.”

 

It’s an approach some would call courageous. In that, she says, she was influenced by her Aunt Trini, the sister of her grandfather, who was the provincial of a convent – a religious woman who had a lot in common with the Sisters of Providence, who began the health system where Canales now works.

 

“I keep her picture near me as an inspiration,” she says. “When things are hard, I look at her photo and it gives me that confidence to do what’s right. One of my hallmark traits is standing on principle. That’s not always been popular. But for me, that conviction and integrity gives me confidence and self-assurance.”

 

Canales says the woman she was in her 20s climbing the corporate ladder is far removed from the peace she now experiences, influenced not only by Catholic faith but also by the teachings of Buddhist nun and author Pema Chodron.

 

“Back then, I couldn’t take as many risks,” she says. “I could not be as vulnerable as I wanted to be. I followed the success pattern to get promoted and, for me, that was what was more important at that time. It was not always authentic. That’s not who I am now.

 

“In the long run, my wholeness is what I value. It’s a freeing sensation to be able to live life in this way, and to help set others free as well gives me such joy.”

 

 

Leon Clark helps guide the transformation of Mayo Clinic

By | April 15 th,  2016 | Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, chief administrative officer, integrated medical group, Mayo Clinic, Modern Healthcare, transformation, Blog, leadership, mentor, Leon Clark | Add A Comment

 

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

 

For many years, Mayo Clinic has been arguably the leading brand in patient care. But as it has evolved over the past two decades, Leon Clark has had a hand in the transformation process.

 

He’s now chairman of the research administration department, where he’s in charge of a $675 million operating budget. When he joined in 1997 after stints at Ameritech and American Express, he was a unit manager in accounting. Clark has had a steady rise at Mayo, and he remembers the smart evolution of a respected American institution.

 

“At that time, Mayo started to realize that, if it were sustain its full tripartite mission – practice, education and research – that it would need to diversify its activities and generate income from sources other than just practice,” he says.

 

Among Mayo’s purchases back then were a continuing care retirement community that included retirement homes and skilled nursing facilities, and a medical transport company. Clark joined Mayo to help the controller align and assess the diverse businesses.

 

That led to opportunities to become the operations director of Mayo’s health plan and third-party administration operation and the chance to run the OB-GYN clinical department at Mayo. Over the last decade, working in research at Mayo, he is helping to engineer another round of reinvention.

 

“We’ve started to reposition research at Mayo to be more aligned with a traditional R & D operation,” Clark says. “One of the challenges for academic medical centers is, how do we reposition research assets to drive transformational change in patient care? So what we have are scientists who, in many cases, work in university environments where the incentives are misaligned with the goals of the clinical practice.

 


“They’re rewarded based on grants and publications, and not necessarily on improvements in patient care or creating products and services that advance patient care and differentiate the operation.”

 

So what Clark and his team are doing is looking at Mayo Clinic through a completely different lens.

 

“My physician partner and I approach it from the perspective that Mayo Clinic is an integrated medical group practice first,” he says. “Our research and educational activities essentially underpin the practice and we are creating new capabilities that will contribute to the advancement of patient care and ultimately differentiate Mayo in the marketplace.”

 

That’s an important distinction in the post-Affordable Care Act era.

 

“As healthcare payment reform takes shape, there’s a greater likelihood that many patients who would benefit from care at Mayo would be locked out due to a narrowing of their network or for other reasons,” Clark says. “So what we have to do is create compelling and differentiating capabilities that will inspire people to come out of their network and seek care here because, in my view, they’re going to be better off in the long run.”

 

Clark is glad he himself came to Mayo himself almost 20 years ago. He credits former chief administrative officers Jeffrey Korsmo, now the CEO at Via Christi Health in Wichita, Kan., and recently retired Shirley Weis for being invaluable mentors in his leadership journey.

 

“Early on in my career, Jeff took an interest in me personally and wanted to make sure I had a successful career at Mayo,” he says. “But the other thing he did for me was to run interference for me when I needed it and to point out landmines when he knew I was on a path that would probably lead to me stepping on one. I found out after the fact that he had conversations with other leaders about me as well.”

 

That was crucial, he says, because diverse executives don’t always get second chances after they’ve made a mistake.

 

“All of us make mistakes in our careers,” he says. “In fact, I worry about people who don’t make mistakes because that means they’re not stretching enough to make a difference. Our industry needs folks who are innovative and who think transformationally. That might lead to making mistakes and the question is, how do we recover? If you’re a member of a minority group, historically, it’s been more difficult.”

 

Mayo is a big company ($8 billion) but a small community. It’s governed primarily by committee, and some of that work allows executives to expand their exposure to the entire organization and to get involved in things that aren’t necessarily part of their day-to-day purview. In that setting, relationship management is important, and Clark says that is one reason he has flourished there.

 

“People know me, and they know I’m well-intentioned,” he says. “So even if I step on a landmine, I tend to get a little bit of grace.”
He’s committed to passing that on.

 

“I think it’s an obligation of every leader to identify, coach and mentor the next generation of leaders, so I’ve been very intentional and active around that,” Clark says. “The demographics are changing – Mayo wants to serve every patient who benefits from our care, and those people are increasingly diverse. We want to give them the full Mayo experience. So how can we do that? We need to diversify our employees so we can better understand our patients and serve them better.”

 

 

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