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Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare--Philip Ozuah: Healthcare leadership is a calling, not merely a job

By | December 19 th,  2016 | physician executives, population health, Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, ACA, healthcare system, Modern Healthcare, Montefiore Medical Center, pediatrics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Blog, chief operating officer, health disparities, Nigeria, Philip Ozuah | Add A Comment

 

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

 

The plan was relatively straightforward.

 

After he entered medical school at age 14 in Nigeria and eventually earned his M.D., Philip Ozuah’s objective was to get extra training in the U.S. or the U.K. before returning to his homeland to collaborate with his father on building a hospital, which the younger Ozuah would run.

 

But the plan hit a snag when Ozuah became smitten with his pediatrics work in the Bronx at Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where he has spent his entire career and now serves as chief operating officer.

 

“I was always driven by the desire to make a difference, and to make a difference in underserved populations,” Ozuah says now. “That was actually one of the factors in remaining and practicing in the Bronx, because I realized I could serve an underserved population right here in New York, and that deepened the resolve and the passion for doing that work.”

 

Ozuah’s father was an engineer and his mother was a school principal in Nigeria. They stressed the importance of education to their children, and Ozuah’s older brother was the first member of the family to travel to America to attend university. When Ozuah came to the U.S., he set to work on a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Southern California and eventually earned a doctorate in leadership. But the degree of poverty in the U.S. surprised him.

 

“Obviously, I came to the U.S. from a place where there’s immense poverty on the one hand and immense wealth on the other, and they could be juxtaposed right next to each other,” he says. “But there is an image of the U.S. as the richest country in the world, which it is. And so, the extent of some of the privation here can initially be puzzling. You say, ‘How can this be?’ ”

 

Eliminating health disparities has been a lifelong focus for Ozuah, so he is pleased to see population health taking on much greater prominence under the ACA. And, if some of that emphasis has its roots in fiscal issues, he’s fine with that. Just alleviate suffering, he says.

 

“I’m not surprised as much as gratified because I think the focus on population health is long overdue,” he says. “Of course, it’s being driven as much out of necessity as a sense of mission, but it doesn’t matter to me what the motivating factors are. As a nation, I think we need to focus more on keeping people well and not simply figuring out how to do more things to them when they are ill.”

 

Ozuah made his mark as a world-class pediatrician, with a special interest in asthma, obesity, and environmental exposure. He once told the New York Daily News that the knee-jerk response to counsel poor families to get rid of their cats because of the allergy/asthma factor was overlooking the fact that having a cat had the significant health benefit of eliminating rodent issues.

 

It was that type of astute medical knowledge combined with an uncanny common sense that accelerated Ozuah’s rise. And, in addition to his administrative acumen, he won a slew of teaching awards for his work training the next generation of physicians at Einstein, where he also served as professor and university chair of the pediatrics department.

 

“I’m one of those doctors who loves all aspects of medicine,” he says. “Even though I am a pediatrician, I enjoy surgery just as much, as well as adult medicine and psychiatry. I find medicine to be challenging, exciting, rewarding and gratifying.”

 

While he still sees some patients, Ozuah says his primary job “is to make sure the 6 or 7 million patient encounters that take place at Montefiore every year all go well. Now, if there were 600 hours in a day, I would still be a full-time clinician and full-time teacher and researcher as well.”

 

With his Ph.D. in leadership, he has enjoyed the move to the administrative side, a transition that more and more clinicians are embracing these days.

 

“I always enjoyed reading the autobiographies of military or industry leaders,” he says, “because there were always nuggets about management in there. When I was asked by the hospital to take on my first role in leading the medical student training program, I found that I not only seemed to have an aptitude for it but also that I actually enjoyed the challenge of solving problems and trying to figure out solutions when there were not an infinite amount of resources.”

 

Perhaps someday Ozuah’s story may end up in a biography too. He himself admits that “it is a kind of a miracle” that an immigrant from west Africa could, in two decades, become the COO of a multi-billion-dollar healthcare system in the U.S. But the short version of his tale includes plenty of difficulty that’s easy to gloss over more than 20 years later.

 

“The fact of the matter was that I had saved the resources to pay for my first semester at USC, but it wasn’t clear how I was going to actually pay for the rest of my education,” he says.

 

Ozuah eventually earned an academic scholarship to pay for USC. But even when he came to Montefiore as an intern and resident, he found that his status as a foreign-trained physician caused some to question his abilities.

 

“Sometimes, the assumption was that you were incompetent until proven otherwise,” he says. “But I found those things to be motivating and welcomed the chance to prove that I belonged.”

 

Now, he is lionized as a national leader and continues to urge young people to consider medicine as a career despite the concerns that clinicians have about reimbursements, EHRs and regulations.

 

“I think that the next generation is going to move the needle a lot farther than we did. There is no other field where one can make as much of a difference on a daily basis as in medicine. I’m buying medicine stock all the way. I’m all in, because I think it’s a wonderful career.”

 

 

2016 Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare--Patricia Maryland: Taking risks helps leaders grow

By | December 12 th,  2016 | Affordable Care Act, Patricia Maryland, St. John Providence Health system, Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, C-suite, Modern Healthcare, risks, Ascension, Ascension Health, Blog, CEO, chief operating officer, diversity, leadership, Sinai-Grace | Add A Comment

 

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

 

Patricia Maryland is talking about her role as chief operating officer for the Ascension Health system, but her message seemingly echoes the philosophy of her entire career: to grow, you must take risks.

 

“A major part of my role is leading through change,” she says. “The healthcare industry is going through tremendous transformation which requires leaders to challenge the way we deliver care.”

 

While Maryland has been honored with a number of awards during the four years she has served as COO and president of healthcare operations, she says the arduous role that preceded her promotion stretched her in ways that made her current success possible.

 

In 2007, Ascension asked her to leave St. Vincent Health in Indiana and move to Detroit to become the CEO of St. John Providence Health System and Ministry Market Leader for Michigan. The recession was just getting started; General Motors and Chrysler were restructuring their debt through bankruptcy. The economic pain that Detroit became famous for was just taking shape. As a result, St. John was hurting too.

 

“That was the most difficult time,” she says. “A number of our patients who were formerly employed ended up losing their insurance. We had to close hospitals. We had to consolidate programs and centralize services, and that was very risky. I had to lead through the change of reconfiguring the health system to create long-term sustainability given the external factors impacting the region.”

 

It was a difficult professional time. But on the personal side, Maryland says she was taking a risk there as well. “My daughter was going into senior year of high school; my son was going into eighth grade. My husband was transitioning his career as well. I knew I had to make sure my family was settled and comfortable back in Michigan after having been away for 4-1/2 years.”

 

Looking back, Maryland says the sizable risk proved to be more than worth it.

 

“When I took on the role in Michigan, it was larger and more complex than my previous role, and I was further challenged because it was during the worse of economic times. But I felt like I grew so much from a professional perspective. That role really provided me with the experience I needed to prepare for my current role as chief operating officer. If I didn’t have that kind of experience in leading through change, I don’t think I would be as effective in my role today.”

 

With success comes confidence, and Maryland is utilizing her voice as one of the most powerful healthcare executives in the country to take aim at healthcare disparities. Through a series of op-eds she’s written, she is candidly and forcefully encouraging healthcare organizations and patients to build on the momentum created by the Affordable Care Act and work toward equity of care.

 

“Part of what spurred this outreach is that the African-American community has really embraced the ACA,” she says. “I think we’ve made some great progress to expand healthcare access for many minority populations, but we know that coverage alone is not enough to eliminate healthcare disparities.”
To truly be effective, Maryland says, healthcare organizations need to help patients navigate health systems that can be difficult to utilize.

 

“We must mobilize the newly insured to connect them to preventive care,” she says. “It’s really important that we get them into the appropriate setting right from the beginning. If you can get into a system early enough, see a primary care physician on a routine basis, and comply with your medication requirements, you can have a better outcome.”

 

Maryland is seeing this prescription for good health lived out in her own family. As the oldest of eight children, she was the primary caregiver for her mother, who passed away from diabetes complications at an early age. Three of her siblings are genetically predisposed to diabetes as well, and they and Maryland are determined that their outcomes will be different.

 

“They’re working hard to stave off diabetes,” she says. “They’re exercising, following and complying with their medication regimen, and keeping their weight under control. They’re taking personal responsibility to do what they need to do to stay healthy.”

 

Not every family, of course, has an executive like Maryland to be its advocate. That’s one reason why Maryland also has long been a champion of diversity in the C-suite.

 

“We definitely need to address the pipeline issues of finding more individuals who represent the type of patient we are treating within our organization,” she says. “But it’s also making sure that those who are in leadership roles have the cultural competency to be able to manage populations to which they are providing care.”

 

Such leaders, though, need to have the attributes of servant leadership, Maryland adds.

 

“The nature of our work requires humility,” she says. “The fact that we are taking care of people at their most vulnerable state, when they are entrusting their lives to us, requires a different kind of leader.”

 

Maryland says her mentors Tony Tersigni (President and CEO of Ascension) and Bob Henkel (President and CEO of Ascension Health) have been her role models for servant leadership. In fact, it was Tersigni who identified her as a potential CEO leader within Ascension after observing her leadership style at DMC Sinai-Grace Hospital. Sinai-Grace also was where she’d unknowingly caught the attention of authors James Kouzes and Barry Posner, who ultimately featured her in their book “The Leadership Challenge” because of the work she did in transforming Sinai-Grace by challenging the process of how care is delivered. During this time, she was able to effectively garner the support from the Jewish community to assist in the transformation.

 

“You never know who’s paying attention to you,” Maryland says. “So always do your best – and do it with grace.”

 

 

Philip Ozuah finds his life's calling as he works to eradicate health disparities in the Bronx

By | August 3 rd,  2016 | physician executives, population health, Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, ACA, healthcare system, Modern Healthcare, Montefiore Medical Center, pediatrics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Blog, chief operating officer, health disparities, Nigeria, Philip Ozuah | Add A Comment

 

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

 

The plan was relatively straightforward.

 

After he entered medical school at age 14 in Nigeria and eventually earned his M.D., Philip Ozuah’s objective was to get extra training in the U.S. or the U.K. before returning to his homeland to collaborate with his father on building a hospital, which the younger Ozuah would run.

 

But the plan hit a snag when Ozuah became smitten with his pediatrics work in the Bronx at Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where he has spent his entire career and now serves as chief operating officer.

 

“I was always driven by the desire to make a difference, and to make a difference in underserved populations,” Ozuah says now. “That was actually one of the factors in remaining and practicing in the Bronx, because I realized I could serve an underserved population right here in New York, and that deepened the resolve and the passion for doing that work.”

 

Ozuah’s father was an engineer and his mother was a school principal in Nigeria. They stressed the importance of education to their children, and Ozuah’s older brother was the first member of the family to travel to America to attend university. When Ozuah came to the U.S., he set to work on a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Southern California and eventually earned a doctorate in leadership. But the degree of poverty in the U.S. surprised him.

 

“Obviously, I came to the U.S. from a place where there’s immense poverty on the one hand and immense wealth on the other, and they could be juxtaposed right next to each other,” he says. “But there is an image of the U.S. as the richest country in the world, which it is. And so, the extent of some of the privation here can initially be puzzling. You say, ‘How can this be?’ ”

 

Eliminating health disparities has been a lifelong focus for Ozuah, so he is pleased to see population health taking on much greater prominence under the ACA. And, if some of that emphasis has its roots in fiscal issues, he’s fine with that. Just alleviate suffering, he says.

 

“I’m not surprised as much as gratified because I think the focus on population health is long overdue,” he says. “Of course, it’s being driven as much out of necessity as a sense of mission, but it doesn’t matter to me what the motivating factors are. As a nation, I think we need to focus more on keeping people well and not simply figuring out how to do more things to them when they are ill.”

 

Ozuah made his mark as a world-class pediatrician, with a special interest in asthma, obesity, and environmental exposure. He once told the New York Daily News that the knee-jerk response to counsel poor families to get rid of their cats because of the allergy/asthma factor was overlooking the fact that having a cat had the significant health benefit of eliminating rodent issues.

 

It was that type of astute medical knowledge combined with an uncanny common sense that accelerated Ozuah’s rise. And, in addition to his administrative acumen, he won a slew of teaching awards for his work training the next generation of physicians at Einstein, where he also served as professor and university chair of the pediatrics department.

 

“I’m one of those doctors who loves all aspects of medicine,” he says. “Even though I am a pediatrician, I enjoy surgery just as much, as well as adult medicine and psychiatry. I find medicine to be challenging, exciting, rewarding and gratifying.”

 

While he still sees some patients, Ozuah says his primary job “is to make sure the 6 or 7 million patient encounters that take place at Montefiore every year all go well. Now, if there were 600 hours in a day, I would still be a full-time clinician and full-time teacher and researcher as well.”

 

With his Ph.D. in leadership, he has enjoyed the move to the administrative side, a transition that more and more clinicians are embracing these days.

 

“I always enjoyed reading the autobiographies of military or industry leaders,” he says, “because there were always nuggets about management in there. When I was asked by the hospital to take on my first role in leading the medical student training program, I found that I not only seemed to have an aptitude for it but also that I actually enjoyed the challenge of solving problems and trying to figure out solutions when there were not an infinite amount of resources.”

 

Perhaps someday Ozuah’s story may end up in a biography too. He himself admits that “it is a kind of a miracle” that an immigrant from west Africa could, in two decades, become the COO of a multi-billion-dollar healthcare system in the U.S. But the short version of his tale includes plenty of difficulty that’s easy to gloss over more than 20 years later.

 

“The fact of the matter was that I had saved the resources to pay for my first semester at USC, but it wasn’t clear how I was going to actually pay for the rest of my education,” he says.

 

Ozuah eventually earned an academic scholarship to pay for USC. But even when he came to Montefiore as an intern and resident, he found that his status as a foreign-trained physician caused some to question his abilities.

 

“Sometimes, the assumption was that you were incompetent until proven otherwise,” he says. “But I found those things to be motivating and welcomed the chance to prove that I belonged.”

 

Now, he is lionized as a national leader and continues to urge young people to consider medicine as a career despite the concerns that clinicians have about reimbursements, EHRs and regulations.

 

“I think that the next generation is going to move the needle a lot farther than we did. There is no other field where one can make as much of a difference on a daily basis as in medicine. I’m buying medicine stock all the way. I’m all in, because I think it’s a wonderful career.”

 

 

Patricia Maryland: Taking risks helps leaders grow

By | July 8 th,  2016 | Affordable Care Act, Patricia Maryland, St. John Providence Health system, Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, C-suite, Modern Healthcare, risks, Ascension, Ascension Health, Blog, CEO, chief operating officer, diversity, leadership, Sinai-Grace | Add A Comment

 

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

 

Patricia Maryland is talking about her role as chief operating officer for the Ascension Health system, but her message seemingly echoes the philosophy of her entire career: to grow, you must take risks.

 

“A major part of my role is leading through change,” she says. “The healthcare industry is going through tremendous transformation which requires leaders to challenge the way we deliver care.”

 

While Maryland has been honored with a number of awards during the four years she has served as COO and president of healthcare operations, she says the arduous role that preceded her promotion stretched her in ways that made her current success possible.

 

In 2007, Ascension asked her to leave St. Vincent Health in Indiana and move to Detroit to become the CEO of St. John Providence Health System and Ministry Market Leader for Michigan. The recession was just getting started; General Motors and Chrysler were restructuring their debt through bankruptcy. The economic pain that Detroit became famous for was just taking shape. As a result, St. John was hurting too.

 

“That was the most difficult time,” she says. “A number of our patients who were formerly employed ended up losing their insurance. We had to close hospitals. We had to consolidate programs and centralize services, and that was very risky. I had to lead through the change of reconfiguring the health system to create long-term sustainability given the external factors impacting the region.”

 

It was a difficult professional time. But on the personal side, Maryland says she was taking a risk there as well. “My daughter was going into senior year of high school; my son was going into eighth grade. My husband was transitioning his career as well. I knew I had to make sure my family was settled and comfortable back in Michigan after having been away for 4-1/2 years.”

 

Looking back, Maryland says the sizable risk proved to be more than worth it.

 

“When I took on the role in Michigan, it was larger and more complex than my previous role, and I was further challenged because it was during the worse of economic times. But I felt like I grew so much from a professional perspective. That role really provided me with the experience I needed to prepare for my current role as chief operating officer. If I didn’t have that kind of experience in leading through change, I don’t think I would be as effective in my role today.”

 

With success comes confidence, and Maryland is utilizing her voice as one of the most powerful healthcare executives in the country to take aim at healthcare disparities. Through a series of op-eds she’s written, she is candidly and forcefully encouraging healthcare organizations and patients to build on the momentum created by the Affordable Care Act and work toward equity of care.

 

“Part of what spurred this outreach is that the African-American community has really embraced the ACA,” she says. “I think we’ve made some great progress to expand healthcare access for many minority populations, but we know that coverage alone is not enough to eliminate healthcare disparities.”
To truly be effective, Maryland says, healthcare organizations need to help patients navigate health systems that can be difficult to utilize.

 

“We must mobilize the newly insured to connect them to preventive care,” she says. “It’s really important that we get them into the appropriate setting right from the beginning. If you can get into a system early enough, see a primary care physician on a routine basis, and comply with your medication requirements, you can have a better outcome.”

 

Maryland is seeing this prescription for good health lived out in her own family. As the oldest of eight children, she was the primary caregiver for her mother, who passed away from diabetes complications at an early age. Three of her siblings are genetically predisposed to diabetes as well, and they and Maryland are determined that their outcomes will be different.

 

“They’re working hard to stave off diabetes,” she says. “They’re exercising, following and complying with their medication regimen, and keeping their weight under control. They’re taking personal responsibility to do what they need to do to stay healthy.”

 

Not every family, of course, has an executive like Maryland to be its advocate. That’s one reason why Maryland also has long been a champion of diversity in the C-suite.

 

“We definitely need to address the pipeline issues of finding more individuals who represent the type of patient we are treating within our organization,” she says. “But it’s also making sure that those who are in leadership roles have the cultural competency to be able to manage populations to which they are providing care.”

 

Such leaders, though, need to have the attributes of servant leadership, Maryland adds.

 

“The nature of our work requires humility,” she says. “The fact that we are taking care of people at their most vulnerable state, when they are entrusting their lives to us, requires a different kind of leader.”

 

Maryland says her mentors Tony Tersigni (President and CEO of Ascension) and Bob Henkel (President and CEO of Ascension Health) have been her role models for servant leadership. In fact, it was Tersigni who identified her as a potential CEO leader within Ascension after observing her leadership style at DMC Sinai-Grace Hospital. Sinai-Grace also was where she’d unknowingly caught the attention of authors James Kouzes and Barry Posner, who ultimately featured her in their book “The Leadership Challenge” because of the work she did in transforming Sinai-Grace by challenging the process of how care is delivered. During this time, she was able to effectively garner the support from the Jewish community to assist in the transformation.

 

“You never know who’s paying attention to you,” Maryland says. “So always do your best – and do it with grace.”

 

 

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.”

 

Profiles in Leadership: For Gail Donovan, the details matter

By | August 16 th,  2011 | business, profile, Top 25 Women, urban, executive, hospitals, interview, Modern Healthcare, New York, operational effectiveness, value-based purchasing, article, Blog, chief operating officer, electronic medical records, Gail Donovan, leadership, Continuum Health Partners, COO, quality | Add A Comment

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

 

As the daughter of a surgeon and an operating room nurse and now as one of the leading healthcare executives in the nation, Gail Donovan has been around hospitals all her life. So when she says she’s a bit worried about healthcare reform, one tends to listen more intently.

 

“Hospitals are like running 40 different businesses,” says Donovan, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Continuum Health Partners, Inc. “As a large provider system, our hospital emergency rooms care for 250,000 visits a year in our system and we have very large ambulatory services handling more than 3 million visits a year. I love being able to provide access and to make sure that, as much as possible, we’re able to meet the needs of the very large and diverse communities we serve.”

 

While she agrees that changes are necessary, Donovan says some of the details, like value-based purchasing, need to take into recognition the realities that urban hospitals and systems wrestle with every day.

 

“We know how to run financially distressed hospitals because we’ve had to learn how to do that, and move from operating in the red to operating in the black, all the while we’re trying to improve and demonstrate improvements in quality,” she says.

 

It’s the details that matter to Donovan in reform and in healthcare in general.

 

“The absolute top quality that an executive needs to have is operational effectiveness,” she says. “Essentially, you must be grounded in details and be able to be not just productive but effective in managing the details of your work and your job.

 

“It’s through this that you can then have strategic vision. I don’t think you can really have strategic vision unless you understand what you’re managing today.”

 

Donovan and her team long have been visionary about the need for electronic medical records, but she credits her board with having the courage to invest more than $100 million in EMRs even as the system was struggling to provide basic core services. With an eye to the future, Continuum is well-positioned for whatever reform may bring, but Donovan wonders where the funds to help urban hospitals with compliance will come from as value-based purchasing expands from six core measures to 30 or 40.

 

“For urban hospitals to potentially be penalized and have reimbursement taken away could take a very fragile healthcare structure and create significant problems and an inability to maintain services.”

 

Many urban hospitals, Donovan says, are capital-starved and have a high dependence on Medicare, Medicaid and the bad-debt charity care pools.

 

“If those dynamics are altered without having a proper definition of safety-net facilities, like a number of my institutions are, then that dynamic could completely upend our ability to meet the needs of the very large communities we serve.”

 

Despite that sober warning, Donovan clearly enjoys her chosen field. To varying degrees, she has been serving since she was 12 and first became a hospital volunteer. She interned in health administration before going to graduate school and did a residency as part of her graduate degree that was “pivotal,” she says.

 

“I still strongly advise graduate students to seek internships and residencies. They’re called different things now, but exposure early on to a number of different organizations and their components led to job opportunities for me.”

 

She also credits luck in finding professional mentors who championed her early in her career.

 

“I was usually the youngest in the room – and the only woman,” Donovan says. “I think that has changed in certain settings, but there continues to be a lack of women in the most senior of positions in hospitals and healthcare systems.

 

“I think we’re changing that, but it’s a little bit slower, perhaps because of some concerns about work-life balance. As a mother, I know that if I did not have a supportive husband who had greater flexibility, I wouldn’t have been able to put in the time and the commitment to do what I needed to do professionally as well as support my family.”

 

Her professional reach has extended far beyond her system. She was president of the Metropolitan Health Administrators Association before it became the New York chapter of ACHE. And, with Susan Waltman, Executive Vice President and General Counsel for the Greater New York Hospital Association, Donovan spearheaded emergency preparedness measures in the wake of 9/11 that the Joint Commission has adopted as standards for all U.S. hospitals. Such responses, applicable to natural disasters as well as terrorist attacks, go beyond medicine, she says.

 

“So much of emergency response ends up dealing with adequate communications structures and systems,” she says. “And even in a sophisticated environment like New York, that continues to be one of the top challenges. So one of the outgrowths of the post-9/11 work was ongoing emergency preparedness that includes all the municipal structures and systems with the provider community.

 

“It’s why my job is fun,” she adds. “I actually love my job. Always have.”

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