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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.”

 

 

Gene Woods' influential leadership poised to enhance Carolinas HealthCare System

By | July 27 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 | 1 Comments

 

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.”

 

 

Eugene Woods: Diverse leadership is key to solving health disparities

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

His own family today reflects those beliefs, he says.

 

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

 


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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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