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Recap: 2019 Women Leaders in Healthcare Conference & Top 25 Women in Healthcare Gala

By | August 27 th,  2019 | Modern Healthcare, Blog, diversity, Top 25 Women in Healthcare, Women Leader in Healthcare Conference, MHWomen | Add A Comment

A recent Forbes article examines the Power of the Pack, highlighting that women who support women are more successful, “A woman alone has power; collectively, we have impact.” This impact was abundantly clear during this year’s Modern Healthcare Women Leaders in Healthcare Conference. To describe the collective of amazing women at this conference as inspirational doesn’t do it justice, so we thought we’d create a recap slideshow including some of our favorite insights and takeaways.


Thank you to all who attended and had the courage to share, speak up and raise their hands! Hopefully, we can all harness the energy and inspiration from this great conference and continue to motivate real change.

 

 



We’re positive we didn’t capture everything. What were your favorite takeaways and insights from the conference?

 

The Top 25 Women Leaders in Healthcare in 2019

By | February 18 th,  2019 | Modern Healthcare, Blog, diversity, Top 25 Women in Healthcare | Add A Comment

 

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Furst Group and NuBrick Partners are proud to sponsor the Top 25 Women in Healthcare, the awards program created by Modern Healthcare. This is our 11th year of sponsoring the program, which culminates in an awards gala on August 1 in Chicago.

 

Top25-Women-Faded 

Please click here to read our interviews with previous honorees from the Top 25 awards programs.

 

2019 Top 25 Women Leaders in Healthcare 

  • NANCY HOWELL AGEE, President/CEO, Carilion Clinic
  • MADELINE BELL, President/CEO, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
  • MARY BOOSALIS, President/CEO, Premier Health
  • DEBRA CANALES, Executive vice president/chief administrative officer, Providence St. Joseph Health
  • DR. MANDY COHEN, Secretary, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services
  • TINA FREESE DECKER, President/CEO, Spectrum Health
  • CYNTHIA HUNDORFEAN, President/CEO, Allegheny Health Network
  • LAURA KAISER, President/CEO, SSM Health
  • DR. ANNE KLIBANSKI, Chief academic officer, Partners HealthCare
  • KATHY LANCASTER, Executive vice president/chief financial officer, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals
  • KAREN LYNCH, Executive vice president, CVS Health
  • PATRICIA MARYLAND, President/CEO, Ascension Healthcare
  • DR. BARBARA MCANENY, President, American Medical Association
  • DR. REDONDA MILLER, President, Johns Hopkins Hospital
  • DR. JANICE NEVIN, President/CEO, Christiana Care Health System
  • AMY PERRY, CEO, hospital division Atlantic Health System
  • CANDICE SAUNDERS, President/CEO, WellStar Health System
  • NINFA SAUNDERS, President/CEO, Navicent Health
  • DR. JOANNE SMITH, President/CEO, Shirley Ryan AbilityLab
  • JOHNESE SPISSO, President, UCLA Health
  • PAULA STEINER, President/CEO, Health Care Service Corp.
  • PAMELA SUTTON-WALLACE, CEO, University of Virginia Medical Center
  • SUSAN SWEENEY, President/head, U.S. Commercial Bristol-Myers Squibb
  • SEEMA VERMA, Administrator CMS
  • ANDREA WALSH, President/CEO, HealthPartners

 

LUMINARIES

  • MARNA BORGSTROM, CEO, Yale New Haven Health
  • DR. JOANNE CONROY, President/CEO, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health
  • SUSAN DEVORE, President/CEO, Premier
  • JUDY FAULKNER, President/CEO, Epic Systems Corp.
  • SISTER CAROL KEEHAN, President/CEO, Catholic Health Association 

 

WOMEN TO WATCH

In addition, here are the 10 executives chosen as Women Leaders to Watch:

  • AMBER CAMBRON, President/CEO, BlueCare Tennessee
  • DR. LAURA FORESE, Executive vice president/chief operating officer, New York-Presbyterian
  • DR. REBEKAH GEE, Secretary, Louisiana Department of Health
  • DR. PATRICE HARRIS, President-elect, American Medical Association
  • SALLY HURT-DEITCH, Chief nursing officer, Tenet Healthcare Corp.
  • LYNN KRUTAK, Chief financial officer, Ballad Health
  • REBECCA MADSEN, Chief consumer officer, UnitedHealthcare
  • DR. RHONDA MEDOWS, Executive vice president of population health, Providence St. Joseph Health
  • MIKELLE MOORE, Senior vice president of community health, Intermountain Healthcare
  • HEATHER WALL, Chief commercial officer, Civica Rx

 

For more information, click here.

4 takeaways from NAHSE C-suite roundtable

By | July 17 th,  2018 | Healthcare, C-suite, healthcare executives, diversity, NAHSE | Add A Comment

Members and guests of the Chicago Chapter of the National Association of Health Services Executives (NAHSE) got some candid advice on career and leadership development from a recent panel of industry executives at Northwestern University.

 

Panelists for “2018 C-Suite Roundtable-Lessons in Leadership” included:

  • Adrienne White-Faines, CEO, American Osteopathic Association
  • Barrett Hatches, CEO, Chicago Family Health Center
  • Donnica Austin-Cathey, Vice President of Operations, Acute Care Hospitals, Sinai Health System
  • Tim Page, CEO, Kindred Hospital

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NAHSE Chicago President Philip Burton moderated the discussion, while the event was spearheaded by Tiara Muse, Director of Research for Furst Group and chair of NAHSE Chicago’s Planning Committee.

The C-suite executives offered four key takeaways for upwardly mobile healthcare leaders:

  • Hatches, who has a heavy travel schedule in leading a national association, said that being a CEO can be isolating at times, and that she is “thankful for a supportive spouse and friends.”
  • Austin-Cathey noted the decisions that women executives face throughout careers when they choose to have a family.

“There were opportunities presented to me, but I passed them up to be a mom,” she said. “Figure out what is most important for you.”

  • All of them reflected on their experiences with their boards, with Page noting that boards are keenly aware of the non-verbal messaging that executives convey.

“When you are confident, they will let you lead,” he said. “If not, they will manage you.”

  • Hatches reiterated a common them among healthcare leaders: the importance of mentors and sponsors.

“A mentor is someone you can choose,” he said. “A sponsor chooses you.” With senior leaders championing his candidacy for several promotions, it helped to accelerate his career in a big way, he said.

Several events are planned in the coming months by NAHSE Chicago, including a new member luncheon July 21 and “Addressing Healthcare Disparities Through Managed Care.” For details, visit www.nahsechicago.com  or contact Tiara Muse.

SreyRam Kuy's field guide to developing physician leaders and diverse teams

By | June 28 th,  2018 | diversity, physician leadership, SreyRam Kuy | Add A Comment

kuy-blog

One in a series of interviews with the top executives in healthcare


 

SreyRam Kuy wears two hats for the Department of Veterans Affairs. She is the associate chief of staff for the Michael DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston and a senior advisor to the Secretary of the VA.

 

In an interview with Furst Group and NuBrick Partners as part of the 2018 Top 25 Minority Executives in healthcare awards program for Modern Healthcare, she explains how her background as a surgeon has been ideal training for becoming a leader. 

 

“When you have a trauma bay and are doing an emergency thoracotomy (cracking open the chest to access the heart)," she says, "you have nurses and technicians and anesthesiologists and the ER team and students and residents in play. Sometimes, there are even family members of the patient whom you’re trying to get out of the way. It’s definitely a master class in learning how to manage crisis.”

 

Kuy almost didn't get the chance to use her gifts. She was born in Cambodia's killing fields and was badly injured as a child when a rocket-propelled grenade hit her family's tent in a refugee camp. A volunteer American surgeon performed emergency surgery on both Kuy and her mother.

 

Kuy also credits three formal leadership programs in which she has participated as also being pivotal catalysts for her career:

  • Presidential Leadership Scholar (under the aegis of Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton)
  • Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar
  • American College of Surgeons (ACS) Health Policy Scholar at Brandeis University’s Heller School of Management

The Presidential Scholar program in particular, she says, helped her during a stint as chief medical officer for Medicaid for the state of Louisiana. She learned how to build consensus and turned some of the biggest detractors of her policies into champions. By creating more diversity of thought and backgrounds you can gain a broader sense of the issue and gain more traction. 

 

“When you exclude people, there will be opposition," Kuy says. "But when you bring people into the fold, you give them an opportunity to use their talents. That’s how you engage people and drive initiatives that are successful.”

 

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NAHSE, Bluford events support diversity and inclusion

By | June 21 st,  2018 | diversity, leadership, inclusion | Add A Comment

 

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Panelists discuss venture-capital investment at the NAHSE gathering.

 

Furst Group Principal Deanna Banks recently spoke at both the NAHSE CEO Conference and the Bluford Healthcare Leadership Institute.

 

At the NAHSE gathering, leaders such as Gene Woods, CEO of Atrium Health, and Pam Sutton-Wallace, CEO of the University of Virginia Medical Center, recounted racially charged events in their cities where healthcare executives took the lead to bring understanding and healing to the community.

 

Banks took part in a session examining the need for private equity and venture capital investors to back diverse entrepreneurs.

 

Diversity is a strategic asset for organizations that find themselves leading the discussion in today’s tumultuous culture,” Banks says. “We had a very robust discussion with industry pioneers in innovation about how to attract the attention of venture capitalists.”

 

At the Bluford Institute, diverse leaders from throughout the U.S. healthcare industry speak to healthcare students from historically black colleges and universities about strategies for success in their chosen field. Banks joined leaders such as Woods, Henry Ford Health System CEO Wright Lassiter, CHI leader Kevin Lofton and Ascension CEO Pat Maryland as speakers. Banks counseled students on how to create their own personal brand as a platform for success. 

 

 

For additional resources and articles on diversity visit our Guide to Diversity and Inclusion.

 

Announcing the Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare - 2018

By | February 26 th,  2018 | Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, Modern Healthcare, Blog, diversity | Add A Comment

Modern Healthcare Top 25 Logo


Furst Group and NuBrick Partners are proud to sponsor the Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, the awards program created by Modern Healthcare. This is our 10th year of sponsoring the program, which culminates in an awards gala on July 18 in Chicago.


Please click here to read our interviews with previous honorees in the two Top 25 awards programs promoting diversity.


2018 Top 25 Minority Executives

 

Click here to see the entire list and find articles and other resources.

 

Diversity fuels Karen Lynch’s leadership at Aetna

By | July 24 th,  2017 | Modern Healthcare, president, Aetna, Blog, diversity, Karen Lynch, meental health, Top 25 Women in Healthcare | 21 Comments

 

One in a series of interviews with Modern Healthcare's Top 25 Women in Healthcare for 2017. Furst Group and NuBrick Partners, which comprise the companies of MPI, sponsor the awards.

 

A commitment to diversity usually starts at the top of an organization, and Aetna President Karen Lynch is pleased that her employer is routinely recognized for the fact that its board is 40 percent female. But she knows there is more to be done.

 

“If you look at the studies that have been published, 73 percent of medical and health services managers in the U.S. are women, but only 4 percent of healthcare CEOs are women. So, clearly, we have some growth to move forward on,” she says.

 

But her thinking goes beyond gender diversity.

 

“When I think about diversity, it’s also about ethnic diversity. It’s about ‘Do we have diversity with veterans and LGBT and multigenerational, multicultural talent?’ I think there’s more to be done there as well.”

 

Make no mistake, though – Lynch is “quite proud” to be the first female president of Aetna.

 

“It’s such a great honor,” she says, but quickly adds, “As you can imagine, I didn’t get here by myself.”

 

Healthcare executives often talk about the importance of mentors and sponsors in their career. Lynch points to one from her childhood as a foundation for success in life – the aunt who raised Lynch and her three siblings after Lynch’s mom committed suicide. Lynch was 12 at the time.

 

“My aunt grew up in the Depression,” Lynch remembers. “Her parents came over from Poland. They were ailing, and she took care of them. She worked in a factory her entire life. Her husband passed away early on. She took care of her only son, and then she took on the responsibility of all four of us.”

 

Lynch says her aunt – and life itself – helped imbue her with resilience and a positive, constructive attitude. She says she met her father once, but does not regret his absence. “I think it’s made me the strong person I am today. I have a perspective of optimism, and the glass is always half-full.”

 

When Lynch was in her 20s, her aunt died from emphysema and breast and lung cancer, the result of heavy cigarette smoking. Nonetheless, her positive impact on Lynch had already been formed.

 

“My aunt was a very strong woman,” Lynch recalls. “She didn’t let anything get in her way. She instilled values in us like, ‘You can do anything that you set your mind to. And don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do anything.’ ”

 

Her influence is evident in Lynch’s career arc. And it was, in part, her aunt’s illness that led her ultimately to a career in healthcare after a stint as an auditor for Ernst + Young.

 

“I remember sitting in her hospital room thinking, ‘I don’t know what questions to ask the doctors. I don’t know what to do to care for her,’ ” Lynch says. “I’ve made it my life mission now to bring the services to individuals so they can answer those questions when someone’s in need. Or, better yet, how do we keep people healthy in the first place?”

 

Lynch leads by example in that vein. She is a lifelong runner, although she has added spinning to her regimen to ease the pounding on her knees.

 

“If I’m going to run a healthcare company and advocate health, it’s important for me to remain healthy.”

 

Lynch says her training at Ernst + Young prepared her for leadership in two ways.

 

“One important lesson I learned was how to be an effective communicator with people at all levels of an organization,” she says. “When you’re an auditor, you have to talk with the most senior leaders of an organization as well as the front-line people. I had to learn quickly how to adapt my communication style.”

 

She also learned how to take opportunities as they emerged, she says.

 

“When you’re in public accounting, you’re thrust into situations that are uncomfortable and uncertain, and you have to quickly adapt and be flexible,” Lynch says. “I think those skills are equally important as a senior executive, because you never know what might come your way on any given day.”

 

Lynch and her organization have had to deal with a lot of uncertainty over the past year as the potential merger of Aetna and Humana fell through. The experience, however, hasn’t altered the company’s strategy, she says.

 

“Humana would have helped to accelerate our strategy, but that strategy remains the same – to be consumer-focused, transforming relationships with providers, focusing on the local community and building the next generation of talent,” she says.

 

Lynch says health insurers in general need to own their mistakes, but adds that payers don’t promote themselves enough in regard to the positive outcomes they quietly foster among their members. She recounts the story of one female college student she worked with who was anorexic. Lynch’s organization helped the young woman get into a treatment facility. She got help, returned to school and graduated from college. She signed up with Teach for America and has gone on to have a successful career.

 

“Those are the kinds of things we do that no one knows we do,” Lynch says.

 

“Maybe we’re too modest, but we need to tell our story because we are doing some phenomenal things across the nation.”

 

 

SIDEBAR: U.S. health includes mental health

 

 

Aetna President Karen Lynch has always been quite active in charity work. That stems, in part, from her aunt who raised Lynch and her three siblings after their mother committed suicide.

 

“My aunt talked about and instilled in us the importance of giving back,” Lynch says today.

 

She says she sees the importance of that in her work every day.

 

“I have a passion for holistic healthcare and taking care of the whole person,” she says, “because with every chronic condition, many people are also suffering from a mental health condition. There are a lot of co-morbid diagnoses.”

 

Her mother informs that passion as well.

 

“Because my mom died by suicide, I believe very strongly in promoting mental health awareness and making sure people have access to the services that they need.”

 

Lynch found a strong partner in that endeavor in her husband Kevin, who founded the Quell Foundation two years ago to eradicate the stigma of mental health disorders.

 

“He gives scholarships to children who have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder, and also to kids who want to go to college to work in the field of psychiatry or psychology. And I personally fund the scholarship for kids who have lost a parent through suicide.”

 

This year, the Quell Foundation will provide $200,000 in scholarships to young people across the country. It’s one more motivation Lynch cites for doing what she does in her career.

 

“I get up every single morning,” she says, “trying to think about how we can have a positive impact on people’s lives and make this healthcare system better.”

 

 

Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare–Delvecchio Finley: Leaders understand that medical care is only part of the solution to disparities

By | December 29 th,  2016 | Healthcare, public policy, Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, Modern Healthcare, safety net, Atlanta, Blog, CEO, diversity, Duke University, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, health disparities, leadership, public housing, safety, Alameda Health System, quality | Add A Comment

 

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

 

Delvecchio Finley doesn’t shrink back from a challenge.

 

That’s one of the reasons his last two jobs have been leading California public health organizations with different but significant issues. But as he surveys the changes needed not only within his own health system but throughout the nation as a whole, he is adamant that healthcare is only part of the solution for what ails the U.S.

 

“Even though access to care and the quality of care is important, access to stable housing, food sources, education and jobs play a greater influence collectively on our overall health,” says Finley, CEO of the Alameda Health System. “I think the evolving research in the field is making it a lot more evident to all of us that those issues are significant social determinants of health.”

 

The interconnectedness of all those factors makes health disparities harder to eradicate, Finley says, but one way to begin is to address the lack of diversity in healthcare leadership and the healthcare workforce as a whole.

 

“Making sure that our workforce is representative of the community we serve – that people who are coming to us for care aren’t just the recipients of that care but can also play a major role in providing or facilitating that care – is what starts to provide access to good jobs and stable housing, and in turn begins to build a good economic engine for the community.

 

“Thus, you’re reinvesting in the community, and that’s how we start to get at the root of this and not just through the delivery of the services.”

 

Finley has some life experience along those lines. He grew up in public housing in Atlanta, where access to healthcare was poor even though the actual care was excellent when he and his family received it. In his neighborhood, he says, the three fields of employment that offered paths to upward mobility were healthcare, education and law enforcement. He was a strong student, and enjoyed helping people, so he was eyeing a future as a physician during his undergraduate years at Emory University, where he earned his degree in chemistry.

 

“Upon finishing my degree, I realized that I loved science but wasn’t necessarily as strong in it as I needed to be to become a doctor,” he says. “But I still loved healthcare and wanted that to be something I pursued.”

 

He explored other avenues and ended up earning his master’s in public policy at Duke University. Finley was the first member of his family to graduate from college and to get a graduate degree as well, but not the last, he is quick to point out.

 

“The thing that I’m most proud of is that, while I was the first to graduate from college, that achievement has set a path for my cousins, nieces and nephews, who have continued to shatter that ceiling for our family.”

 

He says it was also within his family – and within public housing – where he first began learning leadership skills that would result in him becoming one of the youngest hospital CEOs in the country.

 

“I spent a fair amount of my childhood being raised by my aunt, and she was a force of nature,” Finley says with a laugh. “She served as president of the tenant association and she used that position to strongly advocate for reasonable services and humane treatment for people who were in a very challenging circumstance. I learned from her that we have a responsibility to use our gifts – and to use our voice and our station in life – to help people.”

 

That was certainly the impetus for taking the helm at both Alameda and his previous post as CEO of Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.

 

“Both of them are safety-net organizations that serve a disproportionately underserved community,” Finley says. “That resonates with me from both a personal and professional standpoint. They have both provided a chance to work with a team to get our hands around some of these issues because of the very important work and role that these organizations play in their communities.”

 

At Harbor, the bigger challenges were regulatory, not having good, documentable evidence of the quality and safety of the care that was being provided, “which we were able to fortunately surmount and proceed from there,” he says.

 

The difficulties that Finley and his team at Alameda have had to address are different, he says. “A lot of it was short-term economic hardship combined with the growing pains of going from a historical health system that had grown exponentially through recent acquisitions of two community hospitals. We’re just beginning to stabilize and right-size the ship.”

 

The elements for achieving lasting change, both for the health system and the community, are within reach, he says. Alameda’s skilled nursing facilities recently outperformed a lot of private organizations in earning a 5-star rating from CMS, something Finley hopes can be replicated systemwide with a new strategic plan that promotes greater “systemness” and a focus on access, quality, patient experience, and innovative approaches to care delivery.

 

Alameda Health System is also a benefactor of the a state Medicaid Waiver called Medi-2020, which is a partnership between CMS and the State of California that aims to promote continued transformation of the safety-net delivery system for Medi-Cal recipients. And, internally, Finley plans to bring more Lean management processes to Alameda in the next fiscal year.

 

He had begun to explore Lean several years ago when he was at Harbor-UCLA. He and leaders from a number of systems – including Alameda – took trips to watch Lean in operation at ThedaCare in Wisconsin, Virginia Mason in Washington, and Denver Health in Colorado.

 

“I appreciated that Lean wasn’t just a performance improvement methodology and the flavor of the day, but it was an operating system,” he says. “I think my other takeaway from the trip was that Lean is very hard to do. You’re going to have fits and starts, but if you commit to it, it can lead to some very transformative outcomes for your organization and for the community you serve.”

 

Transformative outcomes? Finley personally knows a thing or two about that.

 

 

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.”

 

 

2016 Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare--Gene Woods: The best leaders reinvent their organizations, and themselves

By | December 16 th,  2016 | American Hospital Association, Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, ACHE, governance, healthcare disparities, Modern Healthcare, Blog, Carolinas HealthCare System, CEO, Christus Health, diversity, Equity of Care Committee, Ernie Sadau, Eugene Woods, Gene Woods, leadership, National Call to Action, safety, quality | Add A Comment

 

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

 

It’s the little things that tell you a lot about people.

 

After CHRISTUS Health nominated Eugene “Gene” Woods, its chief operating officer, for Modern Healthcare’s Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare awards, the respected executive took a position as president and CEO of Carolinas HealthCare System. But when Woods was presented the award at a Chicago banquet six months later, two tables of CHRISTUS people, including President and CEO Ernie W. Sadau, flew in to show their appreciation to Woods. It was a classy move that revealed volumes about the character of both CHRISTUS and Woods.

 

“CHRISTUS Health was honored to support Gene’s acceptance of this award for the same reason we nominated him—because we firmly believe that his time at CHRISTUS had a positive impact on our ministry,” Sadau says. “Our relationship was truly a symbiotic one, and we wanted to honor that and cheer Gene on to his future endeavors.”

 

Woods helped lead CHRISTUS’ international expansion, expanding in Mexico, and establishing flagships in Chile and Colombia, where he was able to use his Spanish fluency (his mother is from Spain) to communicate with the teams there.

 

“I really enjoyed working with Ernie, the sisters and the whole CHRISTUS team,” Woods says. “We were able to diversify the organization and reposition CHRISTUS internationally. But I’ve always had the goal of serving as the CEO for a large nationally recognized organization committed to being a model for redefining healthcare in the next decade. And that is why I am so excited to be leading Carolinas HealthCare System. It has the depth and breadth of capabilities to chart a new course.”

 

Carolinas is not a turnaround situation. It’s a historically successful healthcare provider and the second largest public healthcare system in the nation, serving patients through nearly 12 million encounters each year. But, during his interview, Woods says board chair Ed Brown quoted the famous adage that, “What got us here won’t necessarily get us there.”

 

Woods says his opportunity is to inspire his Carolinas team “to set a bold agenda for change that outpaces the industry and brings true value to individuals and communities.” In so doing, he says, he’ll be following in a tradition of innovation at the system.

 

“What I appreciate about Carolinas is that there have been a number of pivotal crossroads in our history where leaders could have tried to hold onto the past. Instead, they took the risk of reinventing the organization, and that’s really the reason it’s been so successful.”

 

Success in leadership has been a staple of Woods’ storied career, from serving as president of the ACHE club at Penn State University, where he earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees, to his positions with the American Hospital Association, where his term as chair begins in 2017 and where he also serves as chair of the Equity of Care Committee.

 

But his interest in healthcare actually stems from two childhood incidents that showed him both the promise and the challenge of the healthcare industry.

 

When he was 10 years old, he was with his mother, sister, aunt and uncle in a car that slammed into a brick wall at a high rate of speed.

 

“Miraculously, we all survived,” he says. “I don’t remember the impact. I just remember that, as soon as the accident happened, it seemed like everybody was instantly there to care for us. It was just an amazing moment.”

 

A later encounter with medical care ended tragically.

 

“One of my aunts died in a hospital of a medication error. She had three young children,” Woods remembers. “It was something that could have and should have been avoided. To this day, I think about what life could have been like for her kids if that didn’t happen to my Aunt Carmen.”

 

Thus, patient safety has been a key priority for Woods throughout his career—in fact, his first management job in a hospital was as a director of quality. He recognizes the industry still has a long way to go on that front but says the latest AHA statistics show the trends moving in the right direction. Between 2010 and 2014, the AHA says hospital-acquired conditions decreased by 17 percent, saving 87,000 lives and $20 billion in healthcare costs.

 

“The goal is to reach zero harm, and I believe the field is on the right track in that regard,” he says.

 

While he also believes much progress is being made in diversifying senior leadership in healthcare, he’s very firm on how that needs to become a bigger priority at the board level.

 

“Our boards do not reflect the communities we serve,” he says flatly. “One of the biggest levers in diversifying an organization is when the board declares that it’s a priority. That was done at CHRISTUS and again here at Carolinas. I think it is an obligation of governance.”

 

What gives him optimism is the work of the AHA Equity of Care Committee, where it’s been demonstrated how diversity leads to improving healthcare disparities. In fact, more than 1,000 health systems recently signed the AHA’s National Call to Action pledge to eliminate disparities. Woods says the goal this year is to have 2,000 systems sign the pledge.

 

“That pledge includes improving collection of race, ethnicity and language preference data so, as we’re studying disparities in care, we have the right data set to use for that,” he says. “The pledge also includes increasing cultural competency training and increasing diversity in governance and leadership. You can’t solve for population health issues without solving for the disparities in care that exist and, in some cases, very dramatic disparities.”

 

After many years as a leading voice in healthcare, Woods remains bullish on where the industry is headed. In a recent talk to students at his alma mater, he told them the opportunities are brighter than at any time in recent memory.

 

“It’s an exciting time to be in healthcare because, in some respects, we’re all learning together,” he says. “Young people have an opportunity to bring an innovative spirit to their careers. But we can never forget that it’s about patients and communities. If you’re in it for those reasons, you’ll be successful.”

 

 

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