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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.

 

 

2016 Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare--Pamela Sutton-Wallace: Leaders need to challenge themselves to grow

By | December 1 st,  2016 | academic medical center, Pamela Sutton-Wallace, Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, University of Virginia, Lean, Modern Healthcare, Blog, CEO, Duke University, 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.

 

Pamela Sutton-Wallace earned many accolades while serving 17 years in the Duke University Health System and easily could have spent many more years there. But she wanted to prove she could excel in leading a healthcare institution, and that led her to University of Virginia Medical Center, where she was named CEO in 2014.

 

“I grew up in the Duke system and was afforded many opportunities to develop skills, knowledge and relationships to be successful in healthcare leadership,” she says. “In accepting the role of CEO at UVA, I wanted to challenge myself by applying these skills in a new environment where I believed I could bring value.”

 

Given her Duke pedigree, where she rose to senior vice president of hospital operations, it’s no surprise that her goals for UVA are high: to make it one of the top 10 health systems in the country. She inherited a strong structure, one with little to no debt on the books. But as she assessed UVA, she came away feeling it was a well-respected organization that nonetheless wasn’t getting enough attention for all of its accomplishments.

 

“UVA had this great reputation, but you didn’t see it referenced anywhere,” Sutton-Wallace says. “It wasn’t on Leapfrog and U.S. News & World Report. You didn’t see it on NIH listings. But I felt very aspirational, because all the underpinnings are here. We have some of the best faculty, some of the most innovative physicians, nurses and professionals I’ve ever met.”

 

From the moment she began talks with her supervisor at the University of Virginia, Executive Vice President Rick Shannon, who is known for his work in quality and safety, she was determined that quality, safety and service would be “the hallmark of care.”

 

Thus, UVA uses the Lean method and real-time, root-cause problem solving to address six areas of concern in its Be Safe Initiative. If an issue is reported in any of those areas, from a pressure ulcer to an infection to a staff injury, Sutton-Wallace and her leadership team visit the unit/department in question to ask what happened, whether the team faced barriers that led to the issue, and whether it was preventable.

 

“In two very short years, we have been able to achieve demonstrated improvements,” she says. “That’s exciting to me. That’s why we do what we do.”

 

Sutton-Wallace took a circuitous path to end up doing what she does. Although she was a candy striper as a youth – her mom worked as a medical transcriptionist for close to 40 years in a small Baltimore community hospital – her initial interest was in politics.

 

“I was three years into working on a Ph.D. in political science,” she says, “and I realized I didn’t want to teach and do research in the political space for the rest of my life.”

 

 

She took a job working in underwriting at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina. It was during that time that Hillary Clinton was attempting to create a model for universal healthcare during her husband’s administration. Sutton-Wallace became inspired by that and went back to school, earning a master’s in public health at Yale, a curriculum that still pays dividends to this day, she says.

 

“At Yale, I had to take just as many epidemiology and biostatistics research method courses as health policy and management courses,” Sutton-Wallace notes. “I was in a classroom setting that taught clinical aptitude. The majority of students weren’t clinicians, but you came to understand disease pathology and the whole notion of population health.”

 

Her background has afforded her good conversations with clinicians, she says, because she doesn’t approach situations from a strictly financial angle.

 

“I’m very invested in what the quality is, and what are the outcomes associated with care,” she says. “Public health has always been about population health.”

 

Of course, finances are always one facet of the picture, and that is quite clear at academic medical centers, including UVA, which will face unprecedented financial challenges given the changing climate for healthcare providers.

 

“How are academic medical centers, which have often relied on very slim margins, going to continue to invest in research and education?” she says. “That’s really challenging, because we still have an insatiable appetite for new technology and new discoveries, and we still want to train the best and the brightest new clinicians. But we don’t necessarily have the income streams in those missions to cover those costs.”

 

It’s a dilemma that CEOs nationwide are trying to solve, even those like Sutton-Wallace who didn’t initially aspire to a healthcare career. Because of that, Sutton-Wallace says she enjoys speaking to students and young professionals about her journey, including that interrupted path to a political-science doctorate.

 

“My best lessons came from making mistakes,” she says. “You learn a lot about yourself. You learn resilience, you learn the power of mentors to encourage you, and you learn how to integrate those learnings into improved performance.

 

“You also learn not to be discouraged if things don’t work out exactly as you’ve planned. Half the battle is figuring out what it is that you don’t want to do.”

 

 

Medical care is only part of the solution to health disparities

By | August 24 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

 

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.

 

 

Pamela Sutton-Wallace looks to enhance UVA's stellar reputation

By | June 17 th,  2016 | academic medical center, Pamela Sutton-Wallace, Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, University of Virginia, Lean, Modern Healthcare, Blog, CEO, Duke University, safety, quality | Add A Comment

 

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

 

Pamela Sutton-Wallace earned many accolades while serving 17 years in the Duke University Health System and easily could have spent many more years there. But she wanted to prove she could excel in leading a healthcare institution, and that led her to University of Virginia Medical Center, where she was named CEO in 2014.

 

“I grew up in the Duke system and was afforded many opportunities to develop skills, knowledge and relationships to be successful in healthcare leadership,” she says. “In accepting the role of CEO at UVA, I wanted to challenge myself by applying these skills in a new environment where I believed I could bring value.”

 

Given her Duke pedigree, where she rose to senior vice president of hospital operations, it’s no surprise that her goals for UVA are high: to make it one of the top 10 health systems in the country. She inherited a strong structure, one with little to no debt on the books. But as she assessed UVA, she came away feeling it was a well-respected organization that nonetheless wasn’t getting enough attention for all of its accomplishments.

 

“UVA had this great reputation, but you didn’t see it referenced anywhere,” Sutton-Wallace says. “It wasn’t on Leapfrog and U.S. News & World Report. You didn’t see it on NIH listings. But I felt very aspirational, because all the underpinnings are here. We have some of the best faculty, some of the most innovative physicians, nurses and professionals I’ve ever met.”

 

From the moment she began talks with her supervisor at the University of Virginia, Executive Vice President Rick Shannon, who is known for his work in quality and safety, she was determined that quality, safety and service would be “the hallmark of care.”

 

Thus, UVA uses the Lean method and real-time, root-cause problem solving to address six areas of concern in its Be Safe Initiative. If an issue is reported in any of those areas, from a pressure ulcer to an infection to a staff injury, Sutton-Wallace and her leadership team visit the unit/department in question to ask what happened, whether the team faced barriers that led to the issue, and whether it was preventable.

 

“In two very short years, we have been able to achieve demonstrated improvements,” she says. “That’s exciting to me. That’s why we do what we do.”

 

Sutton-Wallace took a circuitous path to end up doing what she does. Although she was a candy striper as a youth – her mom worked as a medical transcriptionist for close to 40 years in a small Baltimore community hospital – her initial interest was in politics.

 

“I was three years into working on a Ph.D. in political science,” she says, “and I realized I didn’t want to teach and do research in the political space for the rest of my life.”

 

 

She took a job working in underwriting at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina. It was during that time that Hillary Clinton was attempting to create a model for universal healthcare during her husband’s administration. Sutton-Wallace became inspired by that and went back to school, earning a master’s in public health at Yale, a curriculum that still pays dividends to this day, she says.

 

“At Yale, I had to take just as many epidemiology and biostatistics research method courses as health policy and management courses,” Sutton-Wallace notes. “I was in a classroom setting that taught clinical aptitude. The majority of students weren’t clinicians, but you came to understand disease pathology and the whole notion of population health.”

 

Her background has afforded her good conversations with clinicians, she says, because she doesn’t approach situations from a strictly financial angle.

 

“I’m very invested in what the quality is, and what are the outcomes associated with care,” she says. “Public health has always been about population health.”

 

Of course, finances are always one facet of the picture, and that is quite clear at academic medical centers, including UVA, which will face unprecedented financial challenges given the changing climate for healthcare providers.

 

“How are academic medical centers, which have often relied on very slim margins, going to continue to invest in research and education?” she says. “That’s really challenging, because we still have an insatiable appetite for new technology and new discoveries, and we still want to train the best and the brightest new clinicians. But we don’t necessarily have the income streams in those missions to cover those costs.”

 

It’s a dilemma that CEOs nationwide are trying to solve, even those like Sutton-Wallace who didn’t initially aspire to a healthcare career. Because of that, Sutton-Wallace says she enjoys speaking to students and young professionals about her journey, including that interrupted path to a political-science doctorate.

 

“My best lessons came from making mistakes,” she says. “You learn a lot about yourself. You learn resilience, you learn the power of mentors to encourage you, and you learn how to integrate those learnings into improved performance.

 

“You also learn not to be discouraged if things don’t work out exactly as you’ve planned. Half the battle is figuring out what it is that you don’t want to do.”

 

 

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