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Women in Healthcare Leadership

By | January 30 th,  2019 | women in leadership, Modern Healthcare, Modern Healthcare Top 25 Women, women leaders, Top 25 Women in Healthcare, leadership traits | 1 Comments
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Real-world advice: ‘As more women join boards and demonstrate the value they add, the system will become self- perpetuating,’ says Helena Morrissey

 

 

The American people have spoken. A majority want more women leaders in business and politics, even though they also believe women typically have to work harder to prove their skills and have more obstacles on their way to the top. In fact, 54 percent say gender discrimination plays a large role in why there aren’t more women in positions of executive leadership.1

 

Those are some of the results of a fascinating new study by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center. Their implications are implicit: Pressure is growing for better gender and ethnic diversity in every sphere of public life.1

 

As longtime sponsors of the Top 25 Women in Healthcare leadership awards curated by Modern Healthcare, we have seen the momentum and the drumbeat growing for this type of sea change. While challenges certainly remain – the number of women who are employed as CEOs of the companies in the S&P 500 is declining instead of increasing – we remain optimistic that transformation is in the offing.

 

The corporate world can be slow assimilating societal changes, yet society is clamoring for more women in leadership. According to Pew, Americans view women leaders as better than male leaders in:

  • Creating a safe and respectful workplace
  • Valuing people from different backgrounds
  • Considering the societal impacts of major decisions
  • Mentoring young employees
  • Providing fair pay and good benefits

While male leaders get the nod in people’s perceptions that they are better at negotiating profitable deals and taking risks, the value placed on female leaders does not end there. Asked specifically about gender and political leadership, for example, the Pew survey results reveal that women are perceived as stronger in standing up for what they believe in, being honest and ethical, working out compromises, and being compassionate and empathetic.1 Who wouldn’t want to work for leaders like that?

 

The situation in healthcare

Only 8 of the top 100 hospitals in the U.S. have a woman CEO, according to a 2016 survey conducted by Rock Health2, a venture fund dedicated to supporting “companies improving the quality, safety, and accessibility of our healthcare system”.3 While the lack of senior female leadership is not unique to healthcare, it is notable that ...

 

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Decisive leadership: Baltimore Health Commissioner Leana Wen sees the ER as a valuable training ground for physician leaders

By | August 13 th,  2018 | Top 25 Minority Executives, women leaders, physician leadership, Leana Wen | Add A Comment

WenThe number of physicians and nurses transforming into administrative leaders capable of running major organizations is growing rapidly.

 

In the age of value-based care, organizations are leaning on clinicians to lean in to leadership. This opens new vistas for physicians and nurses, but health systems and insurers must do their homework. A physician who heads his or her own practice may have valuable leadership skills, but leading, say, a staff of 12 is different from overseeing a $2 billion budget and ensuring a board and a C-suite are in sync with your vision.

 

One such physician who has made the jump is Leana Wen, MD, the Baltimore City Health Commissioner, who leads a staff of 1,000 employees. Since being named to the role in December 2014, Wen has shown a predilection for taking decisive action, perhaps unsurprising as someone trained as an emergency room physician:

  • She led the creation of Vision for Baltimore, which provides free eye exams and glasses to children in grades K-8 in all Baltimore City public schools. She created a partnership with the schools, Johns Hopkins, the glasses manufacturer Warby Parker, and a national nonprofit, Vision to Learn, to make it happen. “That’s an example of directly translating policy into action,” she says.
  • Wen was a pioneer as a public-health leader in issuing a standing prescription for all Baltimore residents to obtain and administer naloxone, the antidote that can save a person’s life in the event of an opioid overdose. “Since then, residents have saved the lives of more than 2,500 fellow residents in the last two and a half years,” she says.
  • She supported the expansion of a program called Safe Streets, which calls upon former felons to intercede and help defuse tense situations in Baltimore. She also employs people who are in recovery from addiction, others who are living with HIV, and still others who learned about lead poisoning from home visits from the health department and now are outreach workers themselves. “It is my obligation as a leader to ensure a workplace of diversity, equity and respect, and it’s my privilege to work with those who are using their lived experience to help lift up others in similar circumstances,” Wen says.

Decisive leadership is at a premium these days. Writing in Forbes, leadership expert Sunnie Giles points out that the increasingly complex world in which we live can be paralyzing for leaders. Those who can adapt, like Wen, and use the complexity as a positive catalyst for their team are poised for success.

 

Decisive leaders should:

  • Accurately define the challenge – gathering as much information as possible in a short period of time from a number of reliable sources, being sure to gain a better holistic picture from all sides of the issue
  • Encourage constructive discourse surrounding the challenge and possible solutions and alternatives
  • Act quickly to set a course of action
  • Support the execution of that action plan by breaking down hurdles and providing additional direction as needed

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The ER as a leadership crucible

 

Wen’s transition from physician to leader had some elements of a baptism by fire. She was greeted with a measles outbreak erupting at the same time as several possible Ebola cases. Three months after she became health commissioner, Freddie Gray, an unarmed African-American man, died in police custody and riots ensued. In all, 13 pharmacies were burned down or closed. “We had to figure out how to get people food, and how to get seniors their medications because their pharmacies were closed,” Wen says. “We had to figure out how to get people to dialysis, chemotherapy and other life-saving treatments.”

 

Leading her team, in collaboration with city, state, federal, and private sector partners, she figured it out quickly. So quickly that, a year later, the American Public Health Association honored her with its highest award for local public work, the Milton and Ruth Roemer Award. Achievements have come through steely determination for Wen, who grew up as the child of Chinese political dissidents in a rough Los Angeles neighborhood.

 

Nonetheless, she graduated from college at 18, became a Rhodes Scholar and studied at Oxford, and completed her medical training at Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital before becoming Director of Patient-Centered Care Research and an attending physician in the Department of Emergency Medicine at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Wen sees three direct correlations between her ER work and her leadership role now.

 

“Working in the emergency department is all about doing what you can right now,” she says. “That bias to action is the same bias that is necessary in public health where there are so many urgent matters that demand our attention.”

 

The second lesson is “assisting those who are most vulnerable,” she says. The naloxone prescription that has saved so many people from opioid deaths is one example of this, as is providing something as basic as glasses to children who are in need.

 

Finally, Wen says she learned the importance of speaking up. “In the ER setting, you can never wait to speak up,” she notes. “If there’s something that you suspect is wrong, you need to speak up right now. And that directly translates into the workplace. There are many issues we need to speak up on right now, including issues of discrimination and harassment, health as a human right, the cost of prescription drugs, and evidence-based, science-based programs like teen pregnancy prevention.”

 

Even for those not in public health or policy-oriented roles, clinicians can sometimes underestimate the power of their voice in the age of patient-centered care. While it is true that healthcare administrators often have years of mentoring and on-the-job training for executive roles, physicians can be prepared for new opportunities through accelerated physician leadership training.

This type of training allows physicians to gain valuable skills and insights into leadership principles that challenge their core training. By working through real world scenarios, physicians can begin applying these principles right away. In our experience, many notice impactful outcomes within weeks with this type of leadership development and support.

 

The goal is to bring the physician from thinking in terms of their solitary influence on the goal to shift them into leading an enterprise, which takes a much broader perspective. An accelerated physician leadership training uses three phases:

 

Coaching and mentoring – which moves them through the leading self to leading others

 

Collaboration and change management – which transitions them into leading the business

 

Driving systemic change – which allows them to lead the enterprise

It’s no easy task to work through these phases, especially without the proper guidance. The accelerated nature of these programs helps physicians gain in months and years what may have been elusive in that solitary mindset within which they were trained to operate.   

 

Diverse voices matter at the top

 

As an immigrant, Wen experienced vivid episodes that crystallized for her the importance of speaking up.

 

Shortly after arriving in the U.S., Wen saw a neighbor die from an asthma attack; his grandmother was too afraid to call an ambulance because of their family’s immigration status. And the #MeToo groundswell in the last year refreshed Wen’s memory of watching her mother come home from a job at a video store sobbing because of an unnamed incident that occurred with her physically and verbally abusive boss.

 

“I have always thought from that time, that if I’m ever in a position of leadership where I can do something about these things, I need to speak up for her and for so many women who have suffered in silence.”

 

Wen has done just that. She’s proud to have recruited a diverse leadership team. Her Chief of Staff and all three of her deputies are women. She actively recruits from the communities the Health Department serves.

 

Commitment to diversity is a powerful engine to create organizations that are more profitable and thoughtful as they face the business world externally, and catalysts for employee engagement and leadership development internally. Leaders at the top of an organization should not underestimate the power they have to recalibrate an organization’s perspective, because many challenges remain, something Wen knows personally.

 

 “As a minority and a female, I have faced entrenched racism and sexism,” she says.

 

Some are mundane – patients requesting to see the “real” doctor, or CEOs calling her by her first name while addressing her male counterparts by their titles. Some are overt – “at one event, I was introduced as a ‘cute little thing’ and openly questioned on how a female person of color can lead 1,000 people.”

 

How to overcome that?

 

“We must foster a culture of diversity, inclusion and equity,” Wen says. “The key to doing that is for boards and management teams to have diverse leadership. We cannot expect for others to do what we are not willing to do ourselves.”

 

EXECUTIVE’S TOOLKIT: Strategies for physicians moving into leadership roles

 

Looking back, Wen sees several lessons that can help her fellow doctors if they choose to become physician executives leading the entire enterprise:

  • “Be intentional as you consider your move. Working clinically gives you many leadership skills. Channel these skills into leading on a different level.”
  • “Find multiple mentors from within and outside your organization who can help guide you and problem-solve. Gain management experience.”
  • And, finally: “Never forget why it is that you are here: to serve our most vulnerable individuals during their time of need.”

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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.”

 

 

Debra Canales strives to put people first in the mission of healthcare

By | August 17 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 | 1 Comments

 

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.”

 

 

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