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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 


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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Leon Clark helps guide the transformation of Mayo Clinic

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 


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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Profiles in Leadership: Top 25 Minority Executives Change, challenge invigorate Saad Ehtisham

By | June 25 th,  2012 | change management, Furst Group, Healthcare, Modern Healthcare, Saad Ehtisham, Blog, CEO, diversity, leadership, mentor, University Medical Center | Add A Comment

 

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

 

If Saad Ehtisham is something of an expert at change management, you might say it’s because those skills began to be honed at a young age.

 

After graduating high school in Pakistan, he began to look for a solid university for pre-med studies in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where the majority of his mother’s family resides. (He’d been inspired to pursue a career in healthcare after helping to take care of his grandmother after she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.) Ehtisham ultimately chose Baylor and, while he ultimately chose a route in nursing and healthcare administration instead of pursuing an MD, he cites that experience as a building block in his rapid rise through the healthcare industry.

 

“When you emigrate to a country at a young age, you tend to grow up a lot faster,” said Ehtisham, 42, the CEO of University Medical Center in Lebanon, Tenn., in a calm voice that sounds as Texan as a 10-gallon hat. “Going to Baylor was one of the best decisions I ever made. I was one of two students of Asian-Indian-Pakistani descent, and we were able to open up the university to greater diversity. It was a great atmosphere and I made some lifelong friends.”

 

He finished up with bachelor’s degrees in science and biology at Baylor, then continued his studies at Texas Woman’s University, where he earned bachelor of science degree in nursing, a master’s in business administration, and a master’s in health care administration. He took his degrees and started his medical career as a phlebotomist, drawing blood from patients. He became a nurse and worked his way up. He’s been a medical and surgical director, a chief nursing officer, a chief operating officer, and even served as an interim CEO in a career that has taken him all over the country, from Texas to New Mexico, Kentucky, Indiana and now the Nashville area. Ehtisham says the changes he’s experienced in his wide-ranging career have helped him better understand healthcare.

 

“One of the things I have learned in moving around the country is that healthcare is regionalized,” he says. “It really is different in different parts of the country. That’s helped me to become more diverse in my approach to healthcare.”

 

Having experience on the front lines as a nurse has helped him relate more easily to clinicians in his roles as an administrator, says Ehtisham, who has helped reduce turnover and increase patient and staff satisfaction at a number of his career stops.

 

“For me, clinical knowledge has been my greatest asset,” he says. “It’s helped me to get farther with physicians and get them more involved, usually with educating the front-line staff about different diseases. And it’s helped me to a better advocate for patients.”

 

Ehtisham describes his management style as “patient-centric.”

 

“When I approach decisions, I want to know two things: how does it improve patient care, and how does it improve my outcomes? If we’re evaluating a process and it doesn’t improve patient care, is it worth doing? Let’s think that through first, because anything else is wasteful and we don’t need it.”

 

Although success has come swiftly for him, he is quick to credit three mentors for shaping his leadership in key ways.

 

“Tim Charles was my first CEO, at Presbyterian Hospital (in Denton, Texas). I learned a lot from him—the way he interacted with physicians and his community involvement. I spent about 18 months with Dewey Greene in Albuquerque (when Greene was COO of Lovelace Health System). I would meet with him and barrage him with questions. He had a significant impact in preparing me for the CEO role.

 

“And Angela Marchi was my CEO at Albuquerque. She taught me how to stop being uptight and relate to employees in a way that would empower them to be more effective. She was very skilled at relationship building. Leadership is about relationships, and she taught me that if you can lead people, you’ll be much more successful than having to manage people.”

 

So Ehtisham has worked on his relationships, and on building his own leadership team as a CEO.

 

“To build a good team,” he says, “I look for diversity among the team members – not just ethnic diversity, but diversity in the way we approach things and the beliefs that we hold as a team. I like people who are comfortable with ambiguity, and I look for perseverance – anybody can lead through the easy times.”

 

In the rapidly changing world of healthcare, there’s a lot of ambiguity right now, but Ehtisham doesn’t see that as a barrier at all.

 

“I’m excited and energized by the uncertainty in healthcare right now. We’re ready to rise to the challenge.”

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