C-Suite Conversations

What healthcare leaders need to know now

With King vs. Burwell decided, bold leadership becomes a mandate for healthcare delivery and financing

By | June 29 th,  2015 | Furst Group, Healthcare, Supreme Court, Bob Clarke, health systems, hospitals, King, King vs. Burwell, affordable care, Blog, Burwell, CEO, leadership, transparency, quality | Add A Comment


By Bob Clarke

CEO, Furst Group


The King vs. Burwell decision once again had healthcare leaders, both payers and providers, holding their collective breath to see if years of work would be undone. Now that the Supreme Court has weighed in, by a surprising 6-3 margin, to uphold the ACA and its subsidies, there still remains a lot of work to do. So the question for the healthcare industry is, how can CEOs and boards best demonstrate leadership to their organizations and their communities going forward?


Regardless of where one falls in the political debate, this decision was anxiously anticipated by all. Our industry has had more than its share of uncertainty over the years and having this decision behind us will allow for the great work that organizations have done thus far to continue. Without a doubt, patients and families are seeking access to quality care at an affordable cost, all wrapped in a package of transparency. Significant strides have been taken toward this goal but the threat of constant change and disruption of the payment system doesn’t allow an organization to focus or to plan too far ahead.


However, we have seen some leaders be very bold and stake their future on this continuing trend. They have been very proactive in creating services and pricing schemes that are consumer-oriented. Their vision has allowed for open discussions with others about potential partnerships and collaborative models. These are trends that need to continue.


These are times of uncertainty, to be sure. Bold leadership, however, seizes on this as opportunity. Teams that come together to think about what can be realized serve their organizations and constituents far better than teams that focus on market protection and guarding the status quo. The latter often find themselves holding on to a model that quickly becomes outdated and stagnant.


Patients want and deserve excellent care in a system that is far less complicated than what we have had in the past. May the evolution (or rather, the revolution) of healthcare continue and bring our delivery and financing system to a level that was only dreamed about not too long ago.



Healthcare merger and acquisition is booming. A new article in AHA's Trustee magazine helps corporate culture survive and thrive once the dust has settled.

By | June 19 th,  2015 | American Hospital Association, Furst Group, Healthcare, merger, Bob Clarke, SSM Health, Blog, Joe Mazzenga, Trinity Health, Trustee magazine, acquisition, corporate, culture, executives, HonorHealth, IU Health | Add A Comment


As this is written, the country's largest health insurers are sizing each other up for merger and acquisition. The consolidation that has become commonplace among healthcare providers has come to payers as well, and the next several months should begin to determine what the terrain will look like once the dust has settled.


The financials are, of course, the driving force in any transaction like this. But the human factor should not be overlooked. Thus, we're proud to be part of a timely new article in Trustee magazine, published by the American Hospital Association, that talks to healthcare executives who have emerged from the experience with some advice and caution on tackling the thorny job of creating a new corporate culture out of two entities that may have done business very differently in the past.


Executives from organizations like HonorHealth, IU Health, SSM Health and Trinity Health share their stories with Trustee. Furst Group's Bob Clarke and Joe Mazzenga offer insights as well from their decades of experience.


Click here to read the article.


Women executives strengthen leadership teams

By | April 30 th,  2015 | Furst Group, Healthcare, women in leadership, executive, Modern Healthcare, Blog, CEO, diversity, leadership, Top 25 Women in Healthcare | Add A Comment


By Bob Clarke and Sherrie Barch

Furst Group


Welcoming women leaders to your leadership team with women executives is a prudent thing to do because a diversity of opinions and experiences can only make your organization stronger. But, according to a recent article by the Associated Press, it makes good business sense too.


The story explores a 12-year initiative at Sodexo to increase gender diversity. A company study in 2014 demonstrated that business units dominated by men at the top earned less profit than those led by equal numbers of men and women.


That dovetails with a McKinsey study last year which also found that companies with leadership roles equally divided between men and women reported above-median profits, according to the AP.


One need only to look at the honorees on this list - the Top 25 Women in Healthcare - to see that the news story confirms what we have known for a long time: both gender diversity and ethnic diversity are essential to success in the mission and business of healthcare today.


In our conversations with women leaders, though, we know there is still much work to be done. We need more women CEOs and board members - and more female C-suite leaders in all departments.


A report by CNNMoney last month found that women hold only 14.2 percent of the top five leadership roles at companies listed in the S&P 500. Worse yet, the study found that those 500 companies only had 24 women CEOs (4.8 percent). "Corporate America," CNN concluded, "has few female CEOs, and the pipeline of future women leaders is alarmingly thin."


In this, we'd advocate that healthcare has an opportunity be the industry that leads the way to a better leadership outcome for our country.


All of this explains why we at Furst Group are pleased to once again be celebrating the Top 25 Women in Healthcare, our sponsorship with Modern Healthcare. Winners were announced in this week's issue of Modern Healthcare and we urge you to save the date of Aug. 20 to join us in Nashville, Tennessee, for a gala honoring the Top 25 Women, who are some of our industry's best leaders regardless of gender. Details on attending are here.


Banks to speak on healthcare executive careers at ACHE Congress

By | March 11 th,  2015 | executive careers, Furst Group, ACHE Congress, American College of Healthcare Executives, Chicago, Blog, executive search, recruiting, Deanna Banks | Add A Comment


Deanna Banks, principal of Furst Group and a longtime mentor to many healthcare executives, will be one of the presenters for “Executive Search in Healthcare,” a lively symposium scheduled as part of the ACHE's 2015 Congress on Healthcare Leadership on Tuesday, March 17, in Chicago.


Joining Banks as a presenter will be Mindy Kairey of Russell Reynolds Associates. Dennis Kain of Tyler & Co. will moderate the session, which is scheduled from 10:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. at the Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan Ave. The venue will be the Boulevard A-C room on the hotel’s second floor.


Banks joined Furst Group’s East Coast practice as a vice president in 1998, was promoted to a Principal in 2006, and now has an ownership interest in Furst Group. Deanna founded the firm’s Washington, D.C., office where she serves a national client base that has placed executives at several of the top 25 hospitals consistently ranked by U.S. News and World Report. She has successfully placed enterprise leaders, regional presidents, chief executive officers, division heads, and operations, finance, human capital, and clinical leaders who are transforming the industry through their innovative leadership in this new era shaped by the Affordable Care Act.


For more information on American College of Healthcare Executives Congress, visit www.ache.org/congress.


Innovation keeps George Brown, Legacy ahead of the curve

By | October 20 th,  2014 | Furst Group, Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, executive, Modern Healthcare, Blog, CEO, diversity, George Brown, healthcare reform, leadership, Legacy Health, physician executive, safety, Walter Reed, physician leadership, quality | 1 Comments


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


George Brown, the CEO of Legacy Health System in Portland, Ore., has had a long and distinguished career as a physician and leader, but his talents in innovation help him keep his organization on the industry’s leading edge.


From collaboration and affordable care to medical homes and information technology, Brown and his team have been unafraid to adapt and take risks, providing an example to the northwest region and the country at large.
Legacy joined with a number of organizations to form an integrated delivery system, Health Share of Oregon. It’s partnering on the OHSU Knight-Legacy HealthCancer Collaborative. In an era bursting with mergers and acquisitions, the path Brown has charted is intriguing.


“I have accepted the need to change from a completely competitive mindset to a collaborative mindset,” he says. “Competition doesn’t help the economics of healthcare – it divides communities.”


The Affordable Care Act has prompted soul-searching on the part of many executives, and Brown applauds the arrival of reform.


“I believe healthcare is too large of an issue for this country not to have a thoughtful and near-universal solution,” he says. “The Affordable Care Act is a step in the right direction.”


Although Brown has a sterling history in healthcare, it’s clear he doesn’t waste time looking back. He is especially proud to be on the board of Cover Oregon, despite some of the hits that the exchange took in the media for its early problems.


“We’ve enrolled 400,000 people,” he says. “We are moving in the direction to have affordable healthcare for all Oregonians.”


The ACA, he says, mirrors some of the measures Legacy has already been working on for some time, foremost of which is quality.


“The number one project we have been working on is how to make our organization more efficient,” he says, “and what we’re driving efficiency to mean is quality. We believe if you do things right, you don’t have to do them all over again, and that means it’s also less expensive.”


Brown also has led Legacy as an early adopter of the patient-centered medical home, an area in which some other health systems are just getting started.


“It’s important for me to say that all of our primary care clinics are Tier 3 certified patient-centered medical homes, and they’re doing very well,” he says. “Patient satisfaction scores are going up and we think we’re making an impact. In fact, we were recently recognized by the Oregon Health Leadership Council as being one of the top performers, so we’re quite proud of that.”


It’s also been a learning experience, Brown says candidly. He says Legacy has three main takeaways from the experience thus far:


--Specialization is needed. “If you have a population that’s heavy with patients who have congestive heart failure, diabetes, hypertension and obesity, a lot of contact is required with patients.”


--The influx of Medicaid patients changes preconceived notions for providers and patients alike. “There are a significant number of people who have not had access to healthcare services. We are evaluating those people and their needs. Some of these people have never seen us before, so that’s going to be an area of revelation for us.”


--Mental health is a gaping need in the community. “We’re realizing that behavioral health, mental health and addiction issues are a lot more prevalent in the population than I think we realized, so we’re looking at how best to provide access to those services for our patients who are in medical homes.”


Legacy also earned kudos via a Stage 7 award from HIMSS last year. Brown has long been a proponent of how technology can improve care.


“I think the lesson we’ve learned – and we have to remind ourselves so we don’t get to learn it again – is that a lot of IT projects really are not IT projects. They are clinical projects that require IT expertise,” he says.
“If you get the clinicians involved early they can become champions of the initiative, where before there may have been some naysayers. It’s important to listen to the clinicians, particularly in their early experience and exposure with products, so that you can modify and incorporate those things that they think are essential.”


Listening to the clinicians, Brown adds, “has been the key element of our success.”


It surely helps that cause that Brown is a physician himself, a gastroenterologist and internist who rose to the rank of brigadier general in the U.S. Army and led several military healthcare installations, including Walter Reed Health Care System in Washington, D.C.


At one time, he found little interest among his colleagues for administrative work. Now, under reform, that has changed as clinicians see their input as essential to changing the industry.


“I think the old attitude of some of my colleagues was, ‘I just want to be a physician. I don’t want to be bothered with running an organization.’ Now, clinicians are more involved. They realize they need to help shape the future of healthcare if they want to see things change in a way that’s commensurate with their beliefs. You shouldn’t be passive about change.”


Working hard to achieve change, he says, is an attitude he inherited from his parents, who saw him become the first family member to graduate high school and were unwavering in their support of Brown and his two siblings, seeing education as the door to opportunity.


“They would tell me, ‘You have the ability. If you apply yourself, you’ll be able to achieve whatever you want.’ “


It’s a lesson he’s applying at Legacy, facing the future with resolve.


Quality, safety fuel Pujols McKee's drive at The Joint Commission

By | October 6 th,  2014 | chief medical officer, Furst Group, Healthcare, Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, physician engagement, Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, executive, Modern Healthcare, patient-centered care, patient safety, physician, Ana Pujols McKee, Blog, diversity, leadership, The Joint Commission, quality | Add A Comment


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


Ana Pujols McKee’s passion for quality and safety existed long before she joined The Joint Commission as executive vice president and chief medical officer. She previously served as the CMO and associate executive director of Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, in Philadelphia, and as a clinical associate professor of medicine at a teaching hospital in Philadelphia. Pujols McKee has championed for years the need for transparency and patient-centered care.


“I’ve had my own personal experience with injury as a patient, and I think what began to propel me in this area were some of the unfortunate patient injuries I had to deal with as a chief medical officer. Seeing up close how deep the injury extends to the patient and family is truly overwhelming,” she says.


The physicians and nurses who are involved in an incident when a patient is harmed suffer too, she is quick to add.


“What we don’t always talk about is what we now refer to as ‘the second victim,’ and that’s the clinician and staff that are injured as well. It’s a tough situation.”


Being able to make strides in that area, Pujols McKee says, has been one of the highlights of her career.
“When you work at an organization and you start to see those injuries decrease, and you start to see your infection rate come down and you start to see (patient) fall rates come down, there is nothing more rewarding than that – to know that you’re making a difference.”


From the time she was a child, she says, she knew she wanted to not only become a doctor but to run a large clinic – “all those altruistic dreams of taking care of people and making people well,” she says with a chuckle.


Pujols McKee’s prospects on the surface looked daunting – the world in which she grew up had some prejudicial obstacles blocking her way. She remembers constantly visiting a high school counselor to obtain information on college admission, only to have the woman continually tell her that she was busy or had no guidance for her.


“One day, I walked in on her as she was sitting in a circle with students who all were white, along with a gentleman in a suit,” she relates. “She jumped up from the chair and started to dismiss me when the gentleman said, ‘No, let her come in. Remember? I told you I was looking to recruit minority students.’ ”


It was, she says, a devastating experience, but not uncommon. “I have been told similar stories from many people of color. I’m not unique in any way. This is the way things were back then – and I believe they are, in some situations, not very changed.”


Besides being a driven student, Pujols McKee says, her parents were a strong cheering section. In her Puerto Rican family, her father was an electrician and her mother was a teacher. Together, they taught her the importance of perseverance as she grew up in the South Bronx.


“If I came home and said, ‘They closed the door on me, Dad!’, my dad would say, ‘Go right back out and open it.’ ”


She is hopeful that the changing face of The Joint Commission, which she joined in 2011, opens many doors for hospitals to achieve their full potential.


“When I got to The Joint Commission and I started to see how Dr. (Mark) Chassin, our president, was transforming our organization, I found it extremely exciting,” Pujols McKee says. “He has boldly said that accreditation is really the floor for transformation. We want to help organizations go above and beyond that.”


To that end, The Joint Commission enterprise has expanded its offerings by adding a new affiliate to its portfolio, the Center for Transforming Healthcare, to help health care organizations improve patient safety through the use of Robust Process Improvement™ tools including Lean Six Sigma and change management. The commission also partnered with the American College of Physician Executives to begin an academy for chief medical officers.


“One of the things I’m doing at The Joint Commission is leading a strategic initiative to support our physician leaders and provide them with the skills and resources that they need,” she says. “We recognize the need to support physician leaders as critical since, when we see a high-performing organization, we almost consistently see a high level of physician engagement.”


Pujols McKee’s own journey from clinician to C-suite executive has been typical of physician leaders, she says – one that included some growing pains.


“In today’s world, there’s so much transition that has to occur in an organization from the administrative to the clinical side,” she says. “I think we’re coming close to a time when it’s almost impossible to make that transition without being mentored or being part of a succession plan that includes spending time with finance, quality, and the operations team.”


Such transitions, she says, need to thoughtfully include more diverse leaders to improve healthcare and to more accurately represent the diverse communities they serve.


“The pipeline for future physician leaders has a fair number of women, but in terms of African-Americans and Latinos, the outlook is not very promising. There are some who believe that until we improve diversity in health care leadership, disparities in health care are not going to be fully addressed.”


Bernard Tyson: Workers will share in healthcare costs, but cost shifting is not sustainable

By | September 18 th,  2014 | chairman, Furst Group, Healthcare, Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, executive, Modern Healthcare, Bernard J. Tyson, Blog, CEO, diversity, Gen KP, healthcare costs, Kaiser Permanente, leadership, millennials, Vision 2025 | Add A Comment


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


At a recent New York Times conference on healthcare, Kaiser Permanente Chairman and CEO Bernard J. Tyson drew applause when he said that healthcare costs can’t continue to be shifted onto the backs of American workers, who have seen few wage increases in the last 20 years.


It’s one thing when a consumer activist or patient advocate makes a bold statement like that; it’s quite another when the words come from one of the most powerful healthcare executives in the country. In a conversation the following week, he elaborated on that point.


“You have the American people seeing the cost of living going up every year and seeing the cost of healthcare going up three or four times the cost of inflation,” Tyson said. “They see no real wage increases and then they get stuck with the added cost that’s been shifting to them from employers and insurers.


“That is not a long-term solution.”


What does seem to be working is the Kaiser Permanente business model, in which the organization serves as both health plan and healthcare provider, with capitation helping to fund the delivery of care and hospitals viewed as expense centers rather than revenue generators.


“One of the moral obligations that I believe I have as a leader in the healthcare industry is to bring a lot of transparency as to why I believe our model is the best way to go,” Tyson says. “It’s a system that doesn’t pay for volume, that isn’t motivating people to produce more of something in order to get paid. What we have been able to do for almost 70 years is align the incentives of the financing mechanism with the hearts and minds of physicians and other caregivers who continually sign up to do the right thing.”


The healthcare industry has recently gone through a period where many hospitals were building new patient towers that executives needed to fill with inpatients to pay for. Readmission penalties have changed the rules. Now, consciously or unconsciously, a growing number of U.S. healthcare organizations seem to be emulating Kaiser Permanente as they acquire or create their own health plans in the reform era.


“In our system of care,” Tyson says, “you have the caregiver team all working together with aligned incentives where the physician is not making any more or less if he decides that the patient needs to be in a hospital or the patient needs to be at home with a nurse.”


Healthcare removed from the high-volume, fee-for-service environment has always been the goal at Kaiser Permanente, Tyson says.


“It’s in the DNA – it’s how the organization was built,” he says. “In his early years, Henry J. Kaiser’s mother died. He believed that she died prematurely because they were poor and couldn’t afford the right healthcare. Of all the businesses he created and all he did in his life, it’s pretty interesting that this organization is the standing legacy that continues to carry his name forward into the future.”


The future at Kaiser Permanente can be held in the palm of your hand, if that palm is holding a smartphone. The organization has invested heavily in information technology with the autonomy its capitation model has allowed.
“We are,” Tyson says simply, “the alternative to the mainstream delivery system that you see out there. We get a lot of people who come in to look at how we run our hospital systems.”


When a Kaiser Permanente member has to enter the hospital, whether through the emergency department or a planned admission, his or her electronic medical records are available 24/7 online throughout the system. That’s not a goal; it’s a present-day reality.


“It expedites getting to a diagnosis, and then determining what the treatment is,” Tyson says. “In the outside world, you can end up in the emergency department 12 to 24 hours before they figure out what’s going on. In our world, within 45 minutes or an hour, you can be in a hospital bed and we’re starting treatment. The whole point is to manage the quality of care and the logistics of care.”


With EMRs already in place at Kaiser Permanente, Tyson has the freedom to look down the road to make sure the organization is still a health care leader 10 years from now. To that end, he’s taken a particular interest in the younger employees who are part of his workforce, which numbers about 200,000.


“I have a particular interest in the millennials right now,” he says. “I feel that part of my responsibility is to make sure that the future generation of leaders is in the pipeline, contributing in very different ways than what I went through 30 years ago when I was growing up in KP.”


Gen KP, as the millennial group is called, has direct access to Tyson – no hierarchy. And Vision 2025, Kaiser Permanente’s future planning project, includes contributions from the organization’s future leaders. “I will tell you that having the millennials as part of that thought process is making us think very differently about the future. It’s refreshing.”


Looking more broadly, Tyson, who took the helm of Kaiser Permanente in 2013, hopes to make a wider impact in making healthcare more affordable and eliminating disparities in the U.S.


“I strongly believe that healthcare is unaffordable in large part because it’s siloed, and it’s running off the wrong chassis,” he says. “I would love to continue to contribute to the affordability agenda in this country.”


Like his comments about shifting healthcare costs, Tyson’s perspective on the topic leans toward an empathy for American workers.


“I think everyone breathing in this country should have the same equal rights and a level playing field for the ability to pursue life, liberty and happiness,” he says. “And the question I ask myself is, what is the role that healthcare can play in allowing people a good chance of doing that? We continue to have health disparities in this country; it isn’t a level playing field.”


Tyson said the changes brought by the Affordable Care Act can make a real difference in grading the surface of that field. “I think the elements are in place to put the pressure back on the industry in its transformation to produce higher quality care at a lower cost. And I know that’s possible.”


It’s a point Henry Kaiser would probably second.


Dignity Health’s Lloyd Dean leads from experience and welcomes ‘healthcare for all’

By | September 4 th,  2014 | Furst Group, Healthcare, Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, executive, faith-based, health system, Modern Healthcare, Blog, CEO, diversity, leadership, Lloyd Dean, Dignity Health | Add A Comment


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


Lloyd Dean, president and CEO of Dignity Health, has an enviable track record in the volatile world of healthcare, where he made his reputation as a turnaround expert for his work taking the organization (then known as Catholic Healthcare West) from perpetual losses to profitability in the early 2000s. But what continues to make him a leader among his healthcare peers is his anticipation and forward thinking.


In 2009, the organization partnered with Blue Shield of California and a physician network for coordinated care. That put the organization way ahead of the curve on the accountable-care front. Dignity Health’s emphasis on outpatient facilities in the last several years also has earned the positive attention of investors. In addition, Dean led the system as it transitioned from an officially Catholic health system in 2012 to one that still honored its Catholic roots while also allowing for growth through partnerships with both faith-based and non-faith-based organizations.


Dean says such moves demonstrate that Dignity Health “possesses a culture that values innovation, future-focused thinking, experimentation and, above all, a bias for taking action.”


He’s shown a similar decisiveness as he has championed the Affordable Care Act and been heavily involved in California’s health care exchanges, which have fared far better than other state’s systems.


“So far, so good,” says Dean. “The lessons learned in California are that, number one, if there’s a will to accomplish something at all political levels, it can happen and, number two, you have to involve the community.”


On the national scene, Dean has been a visible and vocal supporter of the ACA.


“In the healthcare field, we are going through not an evolution but a revolutionary change,” he says. “I, for one, think it’s long overdue. While it’s complex and while it’s difficult, the objective is sound and it’s something we should be pursuing – healthcare for all.”


Dean sees the ACA compelling healthcare leaders to change, or fall to the wayside.


“For five years, this change has been on a rapid pace, and I think it has caused us as leaders to look at being nimble and being flexible. We need to make sure we have people in place who have the key ability to adapt to rapid change and instability as we implement the Affordable Care Act.”


That includes the C-suite and the board, he adds.


“These are delicate and important times and the stakes are quite high,” he says. “Therefore, the times demand an open and transparent relationship between management and governance. The board must be involved and engaged in key strategies, decisions and investments early in the process. Educating the board on key issues impacting healthcare entities has been and continues to be an important accountability of management.”


In addition, the changing face of healthcare must become more diverse as population health is addressed, Dean says.


“The demographics of this country are changing,” he says. “There are more minorities, and we need to ensure we have leadership that is representative of the nation and of our communities.”


Health disparities are something that Dean was immersed in from the day he was born. His parents were from Alabama but migrated north to Muskegon, Mich., to find work. Dean was one of nine children.


“My father worked in a factory, but it was an on-again, off-again kind of thing,” he says. “Mom was a housekeeper keeping us on the straight and narrow. We were on welfare many times; I know that system well.”


In junior high, Dean was bused to a middle-class white neighborhood, where his fellow students would miss classes because of doctor and dentist appointments, things unheard of among his family and his African-American neighbors.


“My father was the dentist, and I kid people that my mother was the nurse. But I also saw the impact of not having healthcare. I watched people in my community suffering and perishing from diseases. My colleagues at the school didn’t seem to be having those kinds of difficulties. Even as a teenager, you begin to think, ‘There’s got to be a better way.’


“It shaped me in a profound way.”


His father contracted black lung disease and emphysema from working in the factory. But not before he and Dean’s mother impressed upon their children the importance of education.


“Even though we didn’t have any money, education was important, so that gave me a way out,” he recalls. “Also, religion and faith were always very much a part of my family – when I think about my healthcare career, 24 years have been spent in faith-related systems. So I’m truly a product of my environment, and that motivates me.”


Being around the millennial generation also provides a welcome spark, Dean says.


“We’ve got young physicians and other talent coming into our organizations with a different perspective on lifestyle and what is important to them,” he says. “They come with a greater sense of community responsibility and less emphasis on huge corporate structures. In terms of cultural attributes and leadership opportunities, I’m finding that younger people are advancing at a much more rapid pace. Expectations are higher with the current generation.”


At 63, Dean can relate to such expectations, for they resonate with the ones he says he put on himself in a successful career that he is far from ready to close the door on.


“I think about how fortunate I have been to be working in healthcare in this country at a time when reform is actually happening,” he says. “I just hope I have used the blessings God has given me to help others receive quality health care regardless of economic status or ethnic origin.”


Dean doesn’t think much about legacies – there’s too much left to do, he says – but hopes his personal imprint on those he’s impacted will be just as strong as the professional one.


“I hope my family, friends, colleagues and those I have met along my journey will say, ‘He made us smile, and always treated us with dignity, kindness and respect.’ ”


Eugene Woods: Diverse leadership is key to solving health disparities

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


His own family today reflects those beliefs, he says.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Armada aims to bring the Baldrige process to Swedish

By | August 14 th,  2014 | American Hospital Association, Baldrige, Furst Group, Seattle, Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, executive, health system, hospital, Modern Healthcare, Advocate, Anthony Armada, Blog, CEO, diversity, Everest Award, Institute for Diversity in Healthcare Management, leadership, Lutheran General, Asian Healthcare Leaders Association, Equity of Care, Swedish Health Services | Add A Comment


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


Anthony “Tony” Armada’s physician father and pharmacist mother emigrated from the Philippines with their children, some suitcases, and a few thousand dollars. The impact they’ve made on healthcare in their adopted country has grown exponentially over the last several decades.


“Everyone is passionate about what they do, right?” says Armada, with a laugh, from his office at Swedish Health Services in Seattle, where he’s the CEO of one of the Northwest’s largest health systems. “The more you can make meaningful changes for the benefit of others, the better off you are.”


Armada’s parents saw all of their children make a difference in healthcare. Armada’s oldest brother owns a research consulting firm that works with pharmaceutical companies. Two other brothers are physicians and his two sisters are nurses.


“Delivering care and being a servant leader are just in my genetic code,” he says. “To see the impact you can make on the lives of the people who entrust their care to you is an awesome privilege.”


Previously, Armada had been a leader with several of healthcare’s premier organizations throughout his career, including Kaiser Permanente, the Baldrige Award-winning Henry Ford Health System, and Advocate Lutheran General Hospital and Children’s Hospital. Those experiences have informed the mantra by which he operates: “Always the best.”


“I come at this from a very simplistic vantage point,” he says. “What’s really cool about ‘always the best’ is that it’s individual as well as organizational. I always encourage people I engage with to reflect on that time when you actually bested your best: What did that feel like?


“It’s very energetic – it comes with a passion. And then people start getting onto this bandwagon of always wanting to best their best.”


Armada has also been active as an industry leader promoting diversity in the C-suite. He chaired the board for the American Hospital Association’s Institute for Diversity in Healthcare Management and led the Asian Healthcare Leaders Association. He continues to be active with diversity and inclusion initiatives for the American College of Healthcare Executives and also serves with AHA’s Equity of Care Committee.


“I think there’s been some positive progress in diversity, but it’s still not enough,” he says. “If the eventual goal is to have leadership that represents the makeup of the communities we serve, then the efforts of minority leaders become more impactful and more meaningful.”


Armada’s impact has been felt at numerous healthcare providers. At Henry Ford, Armada was part of the leadership team that went through the Baldrige experience, an exercise he brought to Lutheran General in 2010. In four years, he and his team turned the facility into a Top 100 hospital and Everest Award winner accolades from Truven Health Analytics. It also was named one of the 100 Great Hospitals by Becker’s Hospital Review. In 2012, its first year to apply for a Baldrige Award, Lutheran General won Silver honors.


“People who want to do Baldrige because of some kind of recognition are missing the boat, I think,” Armada says. “It is a framework that creates discipline and organizational excellence. Baldrige doesn’t tell you what to do; it asks a lot of questions. But if you have answers to the questions, you will be a best-in-class organization.”


He plans to bring the Baldrige process to Swedish, where he became the fourth CEO in two years, a similar situation to the role he undertook at Lutheran General.


He views Swedish as a venerable organization with a rich heritage and dedicated caregivers (physicians and employees) that can achieve that best-in-class status with leadership and commitment.


Swedish had gone through a tremendous amount of leadership change and also organizational change relative to an affiliation with Providence Health Services.


“Amidst all of that,” Armada adds, “we need to position ourselves for the future, which is about high performance and reliability, cost and quality transparency, and a patient experience that is excellent but goes beyond to meet unexpressed needs and wishes. At the same time, we need to create an avenue that articulates and emphasizes all of the wonderful clinical institutes and enterprise models that we have.”


The challenges didn’t give him any pause about taking the role. “It actually confirmed for me,” Armada says, “that this is the right organization that I want to take to the next level.”