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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.”

 

 

2016 Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare--Bruce Siegel: Diverse leadership is a must on the road to equity of care

By | December 14 th,  2016 | America's Essential Hospitals, Center for Health Care Quality, Equity, population health, Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, C-suite, healthcare disparities, Modern Healthcare, president, risk adjustment, safety net, Blog, boards, CEO, diversity, Johns Hopkins, academic medical centers | Add A Comment

 

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

 

Thirty years ago, Bruce Siegel had what he calls “a rude awakening,” running headlong into the perplexing spider web of health disparities as a young MD. It’s been something that he’s spent his entire career trying to solve, albeit not with a stethoscope.

 

“I went off to medical school and started my internship, and I was stunned by what I encountered,” says Siegel, now president and CEO of America’s Essential Hospitals. “I worked in the clinic at our hospital, and it was just a tidal wave of diabetes, heart disease and lung cancer. Most of it was preventable. And the other thing I noticed was that it was mostly affecting communities of color.”

 

It was a frustrating experience, one that led Siegel to pursue a master’s in public health at Johns Hopkins University and try to find public-policy solutions to the nagging issues he saw as a physician. “I felt like I was running an assembly line that never ended. I’d see 200 people with these problems. I’d send them back out and they’d be back a month later.”

 

The New Jersey Department of Health helped pay for Siegel’s education at Hopkins, so he owed them some time when he graduated. He did so well that he eventually became a very young state commissioner of health, then parlayed that experience into running New York City’s health system and a Tampa, Fla., hospital. His early years in leadership after being a clinician were rocky, he admits.

 

“It was a crucible in many ways,” he says. “Sometimes, it was very uncomfortable and I was probably in over my head at points. But it’s where I began to learn that leadership is about giving people space. I really think a leader’s job is to create a safe space for talented people and tools to help them move forward. If I’m giving orders, then I’m failing.”

 

Siegel joined America’s Essential Hospitals in 2010 after eight years as a professor and the director of the Center for Health Care Quality at George Washington University. But at each step of the way, his thoughts went back to those diverse patients in the clinic who found little hope in healthcare. “I had so many patients of color for whom the system simply wasn’t working, but I didn’t understand why.”

 

In recent years, Siegel has begun to see a change as he leads the nation’s essential hospitals, his association’s term for public and other non-profit hospitals with a safety-net role. The association’s members often are a driving force, he says.

 

“It’s great to be in the company of change agents,” he says. “Our members have leaders who care about these problems and are working to fix them. Equity is now front and center in the American agenda. We’re not there yet, but at least today we have the tools.”

 

At times, it’s still a tough slog, he notes. One of the must-haves on the road to equity is diverse leadership, and the effort to improve that is stalled. Medical schools are failing to enroll minority communities, and boards have been far too quiet on the lack of diversity, Siegel says.

 

“I don’t think our boards of directors are demanding this,” he says. “They need to be unequivocal that this is an expectation, not just a nice thing to do. But I don’t think our hospitals are going to look diverse in the C-suite if our boards don’t.”

 

Lack of diversity, Siegel says, is short-sighted because it is harmful to patients and harmful to an organization’s bottom line.

 

“The slow walk on diversity is just bad business,” he says. “We’re not going to succeed if our leaders don’t fully understand the lives of our community and their priorities.”

 

America’s Essential Hospitals is working with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation on a population health project, and Siegel sees a disconnect between some healthcare executives and the communities they try to serve. “I’ve been in communities where, if you ask the CEO, he or she will talk about chronic disease management as their main concern on population health. But if you ask the people, they’ll say their most pressing need is a safe street for them to walk on, and safe playgrounds for their children. We’re not going to get to population health without addressing what people think of as health.”

 

In the same way, he adds, population health can’t be attained if you weaken the academic medical centers which comprise much of the association’s membership. The AMCs, with their three-legged stool of clinical care, education and research, sometimes feel the ACA is applied like a wildly swung ax, Siegel says.

 

“These are places in America that do what no one else does,” he says. “They attract the sickest people who have the greatest social and economic challenges. Home may be a homeless shelter. English may not be their first language. These patients may have a harder time navigating the healthcare system, and they may be readmitted through no fault of the hospital.”

 

Siegel’s association is pushing Congress for a risk adjustment for these hospitals, which, he notes, had an aggregate operating margin slightly in the red for 2014. Compare that to, say, the pharma industry, which banks about 20 percent profits each year.

 

“To me, the future of healthcare is that hospitals will be at risk for dollars they get. I accept that,” Siegel says. “We’ll do everything we can to make that better, but we also need the regulators and the payers to do their part.”

 

The challenges of America’s Essential Hospitals’ members are personal to Siegel. He and his sister were both born in a public hospital. Their mom emigrated to the U.S. from Haiti. “My family very much depended on a safety net when they came to America. So these issues are near and dear to me and my loved ones.”

 

 

2016 Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare--Patricia Maryland: Taking risks helps leaders grow

By | December 12 th,  2016 | Affordable Care Act, Patricia Maryland, St. John Providence Health system, Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, C-suite, Modern Healthcare, risks, Ascension, Ascension Health, Blog, CEO, chief operating officer, diversity, leadership, Sinai-Grace | Add A Comment

 

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

 

Patricia Maryland is talking about her role as chief operating officer for the Ascension Health system, but her message seemingly echoes the philosophy of her entire career: to grow, you must take risks.

 

“A major part of my role is leading through change,” she says. “The healthcare industry is going through tremendous transformation which requires leaders to challenge the way we deliver care.”

 

While Maryland has been honored with a number of awards during the four years she has served as COO and president of healthcare operations, she says the arduous role that preceded her promotion stretched her in ways that made her current success possible.

 

In 2007, Ascension asked her to leave St. Vincent Health in Indiana and move to Detroit to become the CEO of St. John Providence Health System and Ministry Market Leader for Michigan. The recession was just getting started; General Motors and Chrysler were restructuring their debt through bankruptcy. The economic pain that Detroit became famous for was just taking shape. As a result, St. John was hurting too.

 

“That was the most difficult time,” she says. “A number of our patients who were formerly employed ended up losing their insurance. We had to close hospitals. We had to consolidate programs and centralize services, and that was very risky. I had to lead through the change of reconfiguring the health system to create long-term sustainability given the external factors impacting the region.”

 

It was a difficult professional time. But on the personal side, Maryland says she was taking a risk there as well. “My daughter was going into senior year of high school; my son was going into eighth grade. My husband was transitioning his career as well. I knew I had to make sure my family was settled and comfortable back in Michigan after having been away for 4-1/2 years.”

 

Looking back, Maryland says the sizable risk proved to be more than worth it.

 

“When I took on the role in Michigan, it was larger and more complex than my previous role, and I was further challenged because it was during the worse of economic times. But I felt like I grew so much from a professional perspective. That role really provided me with the experience I needed to prepare for my current role as chief operating officer. If I didn’t have that kind of experience in leading through change, I don’t think I would be as effective in my role today.”

 

With success comes confidence, and Maryland is utilizing her voice as one of the most powerful healthcare executives in the country to take aim at healthcare disparities. Through a series of op-eds she’s written, she is candidly and forcefully encouraging healthcare organizations and patients to build on the momentum created by the Affordable Care Act and work toward equity of care.

 

“Part of what spurred this outreach is that the African-American community has really embraced the ACA,” she says. “I think we’ve made some great progress to expand healthcare access for many minority populations, but we know that coverage alone is not enough to eliminate healthcare disparities.”
To truly be effective, Maryland says, healthcare organizations need to help patients navigate health systems that can be difficult to utilize.

 

“We must mobilize the newly insured to connect them to preventive care,” she says. “It’s really important that we get them into the appropriate setting right from the beginning. If you can get into a system early enough, see a primary care physician on a routine basis, and comply with your medication requirements, you can have a better outcome.”

 

Maryland is seeing this prescription for good health lived out in her own family. As the oldest of eight children, she was the primary caregiver for her mother, who passed away from diabetes complications at an early age. Three of her siblings are genetically predisposed to diabetes as well, and they and Maryland are determined that their outcomes will be different.

 

“They’re working hard to stave off diabetes,” she says. “They’re exercising, following and complying with their medication regimen, and keeping their weight under control. They’re taking personal responsibility to do what they need to do to stay healthy.”

 

Not every family, of course, has an executive like Maryland to be its advocate. That’s one reason why Maryland also has long been a champion of diversity in the C-suite.

 

“We definitely need to address the pipeline issues of finding more individuals who represent the type of patient we are treating within our organization,” she says. “But it’s also making sure that those who are in leadership roles have the cultural competency to be able to manage populations to which they are providing care.”

 

Such leaders, though, need to have the attributes of servant leadership, Maryland adds.

 

“The nature of our work requires humility,” she says. “The fact that we are taking care of people at their most vulnerable state, when they are entrusting their lives to us, requires a different kind of leader.”

 

Maryland says her mentors Tony Tersigni (President and CEO of Ascension) and Bob Henkel (President and CEO of Ascension Health) have been her role models for servant leadership. In fact, it was Tersigni who identified her as a potential CEO leader within Ascension after observing her leadership style at DMC Sinai-Grace Hospital. Sinai-Grace also was where she’d unknowingly caught the attention of authors James Kouzes and Barry Posner, who ultimately featured her in their book “The Leadership Challenge” because of the work she did in transforming Sinai-Grace by challenging the process of how care is delivered. During this time, she was able to effectively garner the support from the Jewish community to assist in the transformation.

 

“You never know who’s paying attention to you,” Maryland says. “So always do your best – and do it with grace.”

 

 

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.”

 

 

2016 Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare: After a complex merger, Ruth Brinkley works to build a new culture at KentuckyOne Health

By | November 28 th,  2016 | merger, Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, Modern Healthcare, Ruth Brinkley, Blog, Catholic Health Initiatives, CEO, CHI, diversity, leadership, Louisville | Add A Comment

 

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

 

Mergers and acquisitions are complicated equations when just two organizations are involved. But three? That’s a daunting challenge for anyone. Small wonder that Catholic Health Initiatives turned to a veteran CEO like Ruth Brinkley to choreograph the complicated venture and lead the new KentuckyOne Health system.

 

Brinkley, who revamped the sprawling organization to survive and thrive under reform, says the bumps in the road are beginning to get fewer and farther between. “I’m a big believer in culture and the impact of culture on strategy and on building excellence,” she says. “One of the things we have consciously worked on since the very beginning was to shape a desired culture. I would say we’re 60 to 70 percent of the way there.”

 

KentuckyOne Health is comprised of the former Saint Joseph Health System, the former Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s HealthCare, and the University of Louisville Hospital and James Graham Brown Cancer Center. It is a complicated arrangement. Catholic Health Initiatives is a majority owner of KentuckyOne. The other owner is Louisville-based Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence. But the individual hospitals that were Jewish hospitals are still Jewish; the Catholic ones are still Catholic; and the university hospital remains secular. The partnership with the university was held up by former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, who initially challenged a full three-way merger over concern that the public university hospital would be required to follow the Ethical and Religious Directives of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. And that, in turn, slowed down the process and the culture work by about a year.

 

Daunting? Absolutely. But Brinkley’s eyes were wide open from the beginning.

 

“I did expect this to be a big job, a big bite, so to speak,” says Brinkley, who left Carondelet Health in Tucson, Ariz., to return to Louisville and CHI. “I believe in the merger, in the vision of what we set out to do. When the days or the issues get tough, I go back to the belief in that vision.”

 

Brinkley had already achieved much in her career as a CEO and a lauded leader in Catholic healthcare for many years. Her resume was full. But the prospect of the merger energized her, moved her geographically closer to her children and grandchildren, and brought her back to her what she calls her extended family at CHI.

 

 

“The real draw was the excitement of the vision for this merger and what it was to accomplish. And it felt familiar. It felt good coming back to CHI. It’s always been a wonderful place to work. You see the mission come alive, and you see the values in people’s hearts.”

 

While the work of the merger more than filled her days, and many of her evenings, it was a temporary diversion from a personal tragedy.

 

“I had experienced a big loss in my life; my husband passed away when I was in Arizona,” she says. “Time is a great healer and work is a great healer, if you use it correctly. But I will also tell you that we all eventually have to pay the debt of grief. I like to say that grief can be delayed, but it won’t be denied. The work gave me something to focus on, but we each have to go back and deal with the issues we need to deal with, and I did that as well.”

 

Brinkley’s career has taken her from rural Georgia, where her grandparents raised her, to urban Chicago as a student and a nursing leader, to a number of other settings. So she is well-versed in the many types of populations that KentuckyOne serves, from Appalachia to Louisville. “The needs are very different across the state,” Brinkley says. “We try our very best to represent and reflect the communities we serve.

 

“We know that healthcare does not begin and end inside the walls of a hospital, so we’ve developed outreach programs to decrease the use of the emergency room for routine care, and to decrease readmissions. We’re starting to focus more on the social determinants of health.”

 

Brinkley says she learned many key lessons on leadership from her grandmother, who encouraged her to become a nurse, as she was growing up in Georgia – in fact, in 2009, she wrote a children’s book called “Grandma Said” to honor the woman who shaped her early life. But in Georgia, Brinkley also saw the sad results of those aforementioned social determinants, as family and friends dealt with suffering brought on by health disparities. Thus, she makes it a key priority to move her organizations upstream into the communities whenever possible.

 

“We know that a hospital only impacts 20 or 25 percent of health status,” she says. “The rest are social determinants. So, for example, at our St. Mary’s facility in west Louisville, we are starting a community garden. It’s a somewhat challenged area with a lot of immigrants. The city is leasing us 4 or 5 acres of land. We are going to engage the community and staff and hopefully be able to help people grow their own vegetables, because we had found through our community health assessment that this was a real need.”

 

Another need that Brinkley has been talking about for a number of years is the push to increase diverse leadership at the highest levels of healthcare organizations. Patients, she says, benefit greatly from diversity.

 

“It’s where our greatest opportunity is to serve the community,” she says. “It’s so important for our patients to have people in leadership who look like them and can relate to them. We have a lot more work to do, but we’ve made a good start at KentuckyOne.

 

“You have to let people know through word and deed that you understand their experience.”
With a wealth of experiences to draw from, Brinkley is trying to do just that.

 

 

2016 Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare: Nicholas Tejeda responds to healthcare's need for younger leaders

By | November 21 st,  2016 | academic medical center, El Paso, Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, C-suite, Modern Healthcare, Tenet, Blog, CEO, leadership, the Hospitals of Providence, Transmountain | Add A Comment

 

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

 

When Nicholas Tejeda got his first CEO post at the ripe old age of 32, he made a running bet with his assistant.

 

“Every time someone new would come into my office and meet me for the first time, our bet was, ‘How long will it take for the person to make a comment about my youth?’ Almost inevitably, it would be seconds, not minutes,” Tejeda remembers.

 

Now, two promotions later within the Tenet organization, the 36-year-old Tejeda is the CEO of a hospital that hasn’t even opened yet, the Transmountain Campus of The Hospitals of Providence in El Paso, Texas. The comments keep coming, albeit less frequently, and he sees it primarily as a function of working in healthcare.

 

“Certainly, no one is commenting in the Bay Area on anyone in technology being young when they’re 36,” says Tejeda, a student of history. “Quite the opposite – they’re considered quite aged for the industry at 36. But if you look back in time at what Thomas Jefferson was able to accomplish by the time he was in his early 30s, or Albert Einstein and his miracle year that he had well before his 30s, you realize that it’s a unique function of hospitals to look at youth that way.”

 

Tejeda says he finds that large health systems are more open to younger leaders than community hospitals or small systems.

 

“I find that independent hospitals and smaller systems don’t appear to have the luxury or the comfort with taking a risk on people who might be younger,” he says, “and it’s for a couple legitimate reasons. One is that they question the experience relative to the other people who are willing to come there. The other thing that the hospitals question is the young executive’s willingness to remain in the organization for a sustained period of time.”

 

 

Some in the industry have questioned whether the changes engendered by the Affordable Care Act have deterred organizations from hiring or promoting young C-suite leaders, but Tejeda doesn’t see that as an impediment.

 

“I don’t think the ACA has been at all harmful to younger leaders,” he says. “In fact, I believe it has reinforced the need and the recognition by boards of trustees that a different talent set and a new sense of energy and curiosity is needed in leadership to adapt and understand the ACA. What has worked in the past might not work going forward, and so that’s given those in governance a reason to look at new types of leaders.”

 

A new approach is certainly what Tenet has in mind with the Transmountain Campus which, when finished in 2017, will be the fourth acute care hospital in The Hospitals of Providence health system in El Paso. The new facility is a teaching hospital developed through an academic affiliation agreement with the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. El Paso is sorely lacking physicians and the new venture will play a major role in solving this challenge.

 

“This hospital is a large step in helping address that shortage,” he says. “Studies have shown that physicians are more likely to remain where they train. The relationship between Tenet and Texas Tech is very strong, and I’m intrigued by what we can do in this market.”

 

Although he left a non-profit system (Catholic Health West, now Dignity) to join for-profit Tenet, he says the differences between the two types of organizations are exaggerated.

 

“Both want to strengthen clinical quality and safety, improve the patient experience, and remain a financially viable partner for the community. At the end of the day, healthcare is a physician or nurse taking care of a patient, and they don’t care if the parent company has bondholders or shareholders.”

 

Tejeda has only been in El Paso for about a year. He has moved several times in response to career opportunities.

 

“I often get asked by early careerists, ‘How have you had such success?’ ” Tejeda says. “There is no shortcut to hard work, diligence, risk-taking and luck. But one thing I can’t overemphasize is mobility, and for me, mobility comes with a strong supporting partner, my wife. We have moved several times.

 

“We just moved from California, where we lived next to her parents – and we have their only grandchildren. Yet she supported the move to a community that we didn’t know, where we’d never been, and where we didn’t have any family because she knew this was a wonderful opportunity for us.”

 

As to hard work and luck, Tejeda grew up in Wichita, Kan., and he and his siblings worked in his father’s pharmacy from a young age.

 

“It was my dad’s expectation that my sisters and I would know the customers’ names by the third time they came in. He’d remind us that the customers never wanted to be in the pharmacy, because they were sick and sometimes grumpy. But he said, ‘Imagine what you’ve won if they leave the pharmacy with a smile because of how you’ve treated them.’ I’ve never forgotten that.”

 

Luck intervened when the college-age Tejeda found a university and a part-time job close to his girlfriend Elena, who is now his wife. He stumbled into a job working in patient registration at St. Rose Hospital in Hayward, Calif. It was there that he had a chance encounter with the hospital CEO, Michael Mahoney. The two had an instant connection, as St. Rose was owned by a parent company in Wichita, Tejeda’s home town. They spent an hour talking, with Mahoney telling him to look him up after college if he wanted a job. Tejeda did.

 

The rest, of course, is history, albeit a short history. He is, after all, just 36.

 

 

2016 Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare: Wright Lassiter: In healthcare's new order, no time to bask in past success

By | November 8 th,  2016 | Allegiance Health, Baldrige, merger, Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, Health Alliance Plan, Modern Healthcare, president, succession, succession planning, transformation, Alameda County Medical Center, Blog, CEO, HealthPlus of Michigan, Henry Ford Health System, Nancy Schlichting, Wright Lassiter III | Add A Comment

 

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

 

Wright Lassiter earned kudos as a CEO for engineering a huge turnaround of the troubled Alameda County Health System in California. Now, as he succeeds Nancy Schlichting as the leader of the prestigious and celebrated Henry Ford Health System in Michigan, you might think he could take a deep breath and relax a bit.

 

But that’s not how he sees it at all.

 

“As we look at the next 5 to 10 years, the way that quality and safety outcomes will be measured will be different,” he says. “We’re clearly moving even more from volume to value and risk, so I think the measures for success for Henry Ford in the future will be different than they have been for the last 10 or 15 years. I strongly believe that there is transformation required for our organization. We need to focus differently than we have in the past.”

 

Henry Ford won the coveted Malcolm Baldrige Award for quality in 2011, just one of a series of major accomplishments in its long history of stellar healthcare. Lassiter says one of his tasks in seeking to propel Ford to even greater heights is to remind his staff that past glories are no guarantee of future results.

 

“In a rapidly changing industry that may require different things of us, some days I worry about the complacency that could spring from so many years of excellence,” he says.
In particular, notes Lassiter, the future success of Henry Ford may not be as closely tied to the success of hospitals as it has been in the past.

 

“For the next five or 10 years, we’re going to have to leverage our large medical group, community medical staff and our insurance company much more effectively than we have in the past,” he says. “That will require both executional and cultural shifts to do even more of what we call integrated care and coverage, this notion of a more narrow network. And I think we’re perfectly situated to do that.”

 

 

To grow, Henry Ford is stretching out beyond its traditional home of Wayne, Macomb and Oakland counties, where it has provided care for the past century. In recent months, the health system has merged HealthPlus of Michigan, an insurance company 75 miles north of Detroit, into Health Alliance Plan and merged Allegiance Health, a system 90 miles west of Detroit, into the system. They’re also partnering on the Aldara Hospital and Medical Center, a hospital in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, that will open later this year.

 

“These are the kinds of things we’ll be doing more of in the next five-plus years and that will require some transformation,” Lassiter says.

 

The announcement of Lassiter’s appointment as Schlichting’s successor struck some as unusual in the healthcare world simply because of the length of the handoff was two years. But, as Lassiter notes, there were some unusual circumstances.

 

“If it was a planned succession within the organization, two years is not necessarily that unusual,” he says. “But for us, the board thought it made sense because they had agreed on Nancy’s retirement date, and there was a lot of strategic work that they wanted to happen. The board was very clear that they wanted the new CEO to be fully engaged in the strategic work to reduce the risk of transition derailment or midstream change.”

 

When Lassiter came aboard, Schlichting quickly moved many of her key executives into a structure that reported to Lassiter. A number of those leaders, who had been contemplating their own retirements, warmed to Lassiter quickly and agreed to stick around as part of the transition team. And then came one of those unexpected circumstances that upped the ante – in June 2015, President Obama asked Schlichting to become the chairperson of the Commission on Care, which Congress established to find the best way to provide healthcare to military veterans.

 

“Nancy has acknowledged from day one that there was no way she could have served the nation in this role unless she and the Henry Ford board had agreed on an overlapping transition period,” Lassiter says. “The commission requires her to travel quite a bit, and that has actually accelerated the transition process as well.”

 

As Lassiter puts his own stamp on Henry Ford over the next decade, what will constitute success? He lists four items:

 

• HFHS will leverage its Baldrige award to become a high-reliability organization, one that can put its safety record up against the aviation and nuclear industries;

 

• It will be seen as the leading value-based healthcare system in the country;

 

• It will have developed a comprehensive statewide delivery system across Michigan – and beyond;

 

• It will be in the top 10 percent in metrics for employee engagement, physician engagement, customer service and safety scores.

 

“If I could look back 10 years and we had achieved these things, I’d say we had been wildly successful,” he says.

 

 

Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare: Sumit Nagpal's technological innovations at LumiraDx take aim at overhauling care for people with chronic conditions

By | October 19 th,  2016 | Steve Jobs, Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, Alere, LumiraDx, Modern Healthcare, NeXT, Richard Branson, software, Blog, CEO, EHR, interoperability, leadership, National Health service, Sumit Nagpal | Add A Comment

 

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

 

The challenges facing patient care go far beyond issues of EHR interoperability. Patients eat, drink, exercise, do home testing, take prescriptions and talk with friends and family in a plethora of ways that have nothing to do with doctors – so can all those everyday moments that don’t happen in a clinical setting be collated to keep chronic conditions in check?

 

Sumit Nagpal and his co-founders have been thinking and working on those questions for, oh, about 25 years now. Thus, LumiraDx, the latest iteration of their ideas, could be thought of as an overnight success that’s been two decades in the making, as customers are rapidly coalescing in their recognition of the transformation of patients’ lives that is possible with this new firm.

 

“We think of ourselves as an outcomes company,” Nagpal says. “Our approach is to coexist and make use of all of the existing infrastructure that’s already in place, including EHRs, and amplify it to find out more about individuals at risk, always safely, and always with their consent – identify them, risk-stratify them, and then help them achieve better outcomes through very targeted programs.”

 

Nagpal, Chief Architect of U.K.-based LumiraDx Holdings, and CEO of its U.S. unit located in suburban Boston, says to think of their offering as an “overlay” on top of existing systems that address needs inside the four walls of hospitals and physician practices, but currently in a siloed way. LumiraDx uses data from these systems, and joins it up with information from point of care and home-based diagnostic devices, social care systems, personal-activity trackers including wearables, and even social media to personalize and customize care solutions.

 

Are patients adhering to their medication schedules? Are they getting depressed and unable to do the things that will improve their well-being? Do they feel positive about their health? “All of that can provide context and inform us as we then work to help these individuals slow and perhaps turn back the progression of disease,” Nagpal says.

 

The successes are adding up quickly. Richard Branson’s Virgin Care rewarded LumiraDx with a national contract in England to help the company manage and improve outcomes across the high-risk populations it serves. That’s on top of LumiraDx’s contract with the National Health Service, the national payer for England, to join up health and social care data for the entire population of greater Manchester, affecting 2.9 million lives. Another contract with a major corporation will soon bring LumiraDx into 12 more countries in Western Europe and Scandinavia. And other agreements are in the works, including in the U.S. market.

 


“We’re a grown-up startup,” Nagpal asserts. “I hope we never stop thinking of ourselves as a startup in many ways, because that mindset gives us the agility, speed, innovation and creativity that I value so much. But our software platform is now in its fifth generation and it’s been proven and tried in the market with real customers pushing its boundaries to the point where its flexibility, usability, and scalability are market-defining. And our credentials around precision diagnostics are second to none.”

 

So who exactly is LumiraDx’s market? Nagpal outlines three categories of buyers for their population-health offering:

 

• Providers that have figured out that a focus on improving outcomes is the only path to surviving and thriving in the new emergent models of care.

 

• Payers, both private and public, that have taken on an active role helping their members create those kinds of outcomes.

 

• Employers who might be self-insured, acting as payers with a vested interest in helping their employees live healthier lifestyles and achieve better productivity and outcomes because of that.

 

LumiraDx, Nagpal says, aims to go beyond, say, a simple glucose test at home.

 

“We are taking point-of-care and home testing to levels that have not been seen in the industry yet. We’re able to measure more advanced and actionable indicators of chronic disease. We’re able to reach deeper into a patient’s health status and therefore provide more targeted interventions, proactively, before higher acuity arises.”

 

And clinicians are deeply involved in every aspect. “We’re doing this with patient consent, under the supervision of their physicians, collaborating with them so that there’s a joined-up care plan,” Nagpal says. “We’re breaking the silos down, rather than creating yet another one.”

 

The importance of physicians and caregivers in Nagpal’s world comes from his father, who is an MD. “If I go back in time, my interest in healthcare really did arise from being fascinated with what my dad does,” he says. “He evolved from being a doctor to managing hospitals to being involved with the public health status of large populations. I grew up in these organizations.

 

“I’ve seen a similar evolution in my career along the way. If I weren’t doing what I’m doing today, I actually would love being a doctor.”

 

As an entrepreneur, Nagpal bears the influence of another leader, Steve Jobs, for whom he consulted when Jobs was creating NeXT in between his stints at Apple. Nagpal is perhaps more low-key than Jobs but earnestly wants his products to become nothing less than an omnipresent strand in the fabric of healthcare.

 

Nagpal says the value he brings to LumiraDx is a vision for giving patients and their caregivers “a seamless user experience” that isn’t tethered to the boundaries of a health system and simply lets them go about their daily lives as LumiraDx works unobtrusively in the background. “I’m helping create products that just blend into the woodwork of daily life, into routine clinical practice, even though there’s tremendous change that these things are causing, and massive complexity that we are masking.”

 

The path from a driven, college-age CEO to his current role has been a journey in leadership, Nagpal says.

 

“Leadership is both about leading and but also massively about enabling people you work with to also lead,” he says. “It’s not a cult of personality; it’s a team sport. If I had to make a choice between trying to do it all myself or doing it with people who have an incredible pool of knowledge, experience, talent and leadership, it’s a very simple choice.

 

“We are able to go much further as a team of leaders than I could ever have possibly imagined doing myself.”

 

 

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.

 

 

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.”