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The Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare — 2020

By | February 17 th,  2020 | Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, Modern Healthcare, Blog, diversity | Add A Comment


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Furst Group and NuBrick Partners are proud to sponsor the Top 25 Minority Leaders, the awards program created by Modern Healthcare. This is our 12th year of sponsoring the program, which culminates in an awards gala on August 13 in Chicago.


Please click here to read our interviews with previous honorees from the Top 25 awards programs.


2020 Top 25 Minority Leaders in Healthcare 

Jerome Adams

Dr. Jerome Adams,

U.S. Surgeon General, HHS

Debra Canales

Debra Canales,

Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer, Providence


Read past profiles:
Debra Canales strives to put people first in the mission of healthcare

Genevieve Caruncho-Simpson

Genevieve Caruncho-Simpson,

President and Chief Operating Officer, Texas Health Aetna

Augustine Choi

Dr. Augustine Choi,

Dean, Weill Cornell Medicine

Bechara Choucair

Dr. Bechara Choucair,

Senior Vice President and Chief Community Health Officer, Kaiser Permanente

Imelda Dacones

Dr. Imelda Dacones,

President and CEO, Northwest Permanente

Garth Graham

Garth Graham,

President, Aetna Foundation and Vice President, Community Health and Impact, CVS Health

Danielle Gray

Danielle Gray,

Senior Vice President, Chief Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina

Audrey Gregory

Audrey Gregory,

CEO, Detroit Medical Center


Patrice Harris

Dr. Patrice Harris,

President, American Medical Association


Sachin Jain

Dr. Sachin Jain,

President and CEO, CareMore Health


Read past profiles:

The healthcare system is broken. Sachin Jain and colleagues want to help transform it

Transitioning to CEO? Self-awareness is Vital

Vivian Lee

Dr. Vivian Lee,

President of Health Platforms, Verily Life Sciences

Ana Pujols McKee

Dr. Ana Pujols McKee,

Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, Joint Commission


Read past profile:
Quality, safety fuel Pujols McKee's drive at The Joint Commission

Rhonda Medows

Dr. Rhonda Medows,

CEO, Ayin Health Solutions and President of Population Health, Providence

Philip Ozuah

Dr. Philip Ozuah,

President and CEO, Montefiore Medicine

Ketul Patel

Ketul Patel,

President, Pacific Northwest Division, CommonSpirit Health and CEO, CHI Franciscan

Dennis Pullin

Dennis Pullin,

President and CEO, Virtua Health

Javier Rodriguez

Javier Rodriguez,

CEO, DaVita

Jaewon Ryu

Dr. Jaewon Ryu,

President and CEO, Geisinger Health


Read past profile:

Experiences build a strong leadership foundation for Jaewon Ryu

Ninfa Saunders

Ninfa Saunders,

CEO, Navicent Health

Thomas Sequist

Dr. Thomas Sequist,

Chief Quality and Safety Officer, Partners HealthCare

Rajesh Shrestha

Rajesh Shrestha,

Chief Operating Officer, Community-Based Care, Intermountain Healthcare and CEO, Castell

Nicole Thomas

Nicole Thomas,

Hospital President, Baptist Medical Center South

 Michael Ugwueke

Michael Ugwueke,

President and CEO, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare


Read past profile:

Michael Ugwueke helps Methodist South turn around

Kimberlydawn Wisdom

Dr. Kimberlydawn Wisdom,

Senior Vice President of Community Health and Equity, and Chief Wellness and Diversity Officer, Henry Ford Health System



2020 Luminaries 


Lloyd Dean

Lloyd Dean,

CEO, CommonSpirit Health


Read past profile:
Dignity Health’s Lloyd Dean leads from experience and welcomes ‘healthcare for all’

Wright Lassiter III

Wright Lassiter III,

President and CEO, Henry Ford Health System


Read past profile:

In healthcare's new order, no time to bask in past success

Kevin Lofton

Kevin Lofton,

CEO, CommonSpirit Health

Beverly Malone 

Beverly Malone,

CEO, National League of Nursing


Read past profiles:

Healthcare’s volatility gives way to innovative leadership

Once a reluctant leader, Beverly Malone inspires countless nurses with skills that earned her a seat alongside royalty

 Eugene Woods

Eugene Woods,

President and CEO, Atrium Health


Read past profiles:

A template for change: Continual transformation is a must for leaders

Gene Woods' influential leadership poised to enhance Carolinas HealthCare System


Diverse leadership is key to solving health disparities



2020 Minority Leaders to Watch 

In addition, here are the 10 executives chosen as Minority Leaders to Watch:


Jandel Allen-Davis

Dr. Jandel Allen-Davis,

President and CEO, Craig Hospital

Miguel Benet

Dr. Miguel Benet,

Division Chief Medical Officer, Medical City Healthcare, North Texas Division of HCA Healthcare

Tamarah Duperval-Brownlee

Dr. Tamarah Duperval-Brownlee,

Senior Vice President and Chief Community Impact Officer, Ascension

Ahmed Haque

Ahmed Haque,

Senior Vice President of Network Performance and Strategy, Aledade

Barbara Johnson

Barbara Johnson,

Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Premier Health

Angelleen Peters-Lewis

Angelleen Peters-Lewis,

Vice President of Patient Care Services and Chief Nurse Executive, Barnes-Jewish Hospital

Stella Safo

Dr. Stella Safo,

Chief Clinical Transformation Officer and Vice President of Prospective Research, Premier

Airica Steed

Dr. Airica Steed,

System Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President, Sinai Health System

Cassandra Willis-Abner

Cassandra Willis-Abner,

Senior Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion and Chief Experience Officer, Trinity Health

Nichole Wilson

Nichole Wilson,

Vice President of Retail Health Services, Community Health Network


For more information, click here.

Experiences build a strong leadership foundation for Jaewon Ryu

By | August 27 th,  2018 | Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, Leadership Development, physician leadership, Geisinger, Jaewon Ryu | Add A Comment



Jaewon Ryu, the executive vice president and chief medical officer for Geisinger Health System, trained as both a physician and a lawyer, but says his greatest leadership development came through experiences like the White House Fellows (WHF) Program, a yearlong, non-partisan education program that places early/mid-career people in high-level cabinet offices and trains them for leadership and public service.


“Whether training or working as an attorney or a physician, nowhere in that process do you really learn leadership,” says Ryu, a native of suburban Chicago. “You pick up some skills along the way through your training and work, but the WHF Program was a wonderful way to immerse in leadership development – seeing how decisions are made within complex organizations, being able to hear from great leaders, and taking on projects to apply these learnings.”


Ryu’s description is apt. Many healthcare executives, including clinical leaders, might believe that taking a seminar or getting a few sessions of executive coaching fortifies them for the work of leadership. But trained, focused work in leadership development is best accomplished with trained facilitators and convened as part of a thoughtful program within a team, allowing a leadership group to find alignment and cohesion. ...


Click the button below to read the full article.


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At Top 25 Minority Executives gala, diversity and inclusion are championed as 'strategic assets'

By | July 25 th,  2018 | Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, leadership, Deanna Banks | Add A Comment

Top25-Banks-2018Furst Group and NuBrick Partners, the companies of MPI, joined with Modern Healthcare recently to honor the Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare at the Radisson Blu in Chicago.


Deanna Banks (pictured, at right), a Furst Group principal, started the evening off with strong comments about the need for more diversity and inclusion in healthcare leadership, noting that they are "strategic assets" that should be deployed for maximum impact.


She recounted stories of how Top 25 honorees like Pam Sutton-Wallace, CEO of the University of Virginia Medical Center, and Gene Woods, CEO of Atrium Health (formerly Carolinas HealthCare System), led efforts to bring healing to their communities after racial turmoil.


"We encourage you to use your unique abilities and voices to continue educating and motivating our industry to be accountable for diversity and inclusion," she concluded. "Talk is not enough; actions drive forward momentum."


Watch this space for interviews throughout 2018 with many of the honorees. Please click here to read articles on previous honorees in the two Top 25 awards programs promoting diversity.


2018 Top 25 Minority Executives


Click here to see the entire list and find articles and other resources.



Announcing the Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare - 2018

By | February 26 th,  2018 | Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, Modern Healthcare, Blog, diversity | Add A Comment

Modern Healthcare Top 25 Logo

Furst Group and NuBrick Partners are proud to sponsor the Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, the awards program created by Modern Healthcare. This is our 10th year of sponsoring the program, which culminates in an awards gala on July 18 in Chicago.

Please click here to read our interviews with previous honorees in the two Top 25 awards programs promoting diversity.

2018 Top 25 Minority Executives


Click here to see the entire list and find articles and other resources.


Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare–Delvecchio Finley: Leaders understand that medical care is only part of the solution to disparities

By | December 29 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


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


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.



Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare--Debra Canales: The best leaders put people first in the mission of healthcare

By | December 27 th,  2016 | Debra Canales, Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, Catholic healthcare, chief administrative officer, executive vice president, integrated talent, Modern Healthcare, Providence Health & Services, taking risks, women leaders, Blog, chief people and experience officer, diversity, human resources, leadership, medical assistance, mission, Trinity Health | Add A Comment


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


Shortly before making the move into faith-based healthcare, Debra Canales remembers giving her former boss the business book “Jesus, CEO” by Laurie Beth Jones. He was grateful for the gift – but hid it in a brown paper bag.


“He didn’t feel safe,” Canales remembers now. “It was a pretty revealing moment.”


Years later, Canales is earning bouquets of accolades for her bold, holistic leadership at Providence Health & Services in Seattle, where the spiritual aspect of healthcare and work is welcomed as a natural byproduct of being human.


“What continues to draw me to healthcare is being able to bring my whole self to work as I center myself and think about a bigger purpose,” she says. “Leadership is not just from the neck up.”


Canales’ heartfelt worldview is expressed in very tangible ways at Providence, where in just two years as executive vice president and chief people and experience officer she helped achieve a 50 percent increase in women in senior leadership roles. She also led efforts to provide monetary assistance for employees coping with the high cost of healthcare premiums.


“I came to Providence because, when I talked with Rod Hochman (Providence’s CEO), he put people as the number one pillar of his strategic plan,” she says. “That was significant. It was a deeply rooted commitment, and part of that was shaping our talent strategy to be reflective of our communities.”


The medical assistance program offers free or reduced premiums tied to household income and the federal poverty level. Caregivers (which is what Providence calls all of its employees) who are at less than 250 percent of the federal poverty level pay no premiums or deductibles and are given seed money to cover out-of-pocket costs. Employees at 250 to 400 percent of the federal level get a 50 percent break on coverage.


“When we think about extending and revealing God’s love to the poor and the vulnerable, we need to take care of our own and extend that compassionate service to them as well. There has been an outpouring of gratitude and support, especially from a lot of single mothers and fathers,” Canales says.


On the practical side, she’s seeing reduced turnover levels as staff members choose to stay, as well as the highest level of employee engagement and satisfaction in a number of years.


“It goes back to our integrated talent strategy – we want to lift up our people as one of the most important elements in how we extend our mission,” she says, “We want to continue to build those enduring relationships with our caregivers and take care of what’s important to them so that they can, in turn, extend that experience to all who come through our doors.”


The mission of Providence is key to Canales’ passion.


“Mission is the number one factor for us,” she says. “In our engagement surveys, people say that is what brought them here and what keeps them here. It’s that yearning for something more in terms of spirituality and connectivity – the charisms of mind, body and spirit. That is certainly what differentiates us from a Fortune 50 company.”


Before she became a respected leader in healthcare, Canales had plenty of experience among such corporate heavyweights. She rose through the ranks as a human-resources executive in retail (R.H. Macy’s Inc.), food service (Yum Brands/PepsiCo), and high-tech (Hewlett Packard/Compaq). She moved into healthcare with Centura Health, then spent more than 10 years at Trinity Health, where she rose to chief administrative officer.


She’s become known for leading the charge to make human resources valued as a strategic partner for CEOs, for positioning corporate cultures for change management, and for facilitating resiliency. Yet while taking risks has paid off for her, it was not easy, she allows.


“A lot of my movement in my career has been to volunteer for the opportunities no one wanted to take,” she says. “I’ve worked for some very strong, driven bosses. I was always trying to work toward a shared understanding – that’s been my whole approach throughout my career.”


It’s an approach some would call courageous. In that, she says, she was influenced by her Aunt Trini, the sister of her grandfather, who was the provincial of a convent – a religious woman who had a lot in common with the Sisters of Providence, who began the health system where Canales now works.


“I keep her picture near me as an inspiration,” she says. “When things are hard, I look at her photo and it gives me that confidence to do what’s right. One of my hallmark traits is standing on principle. That’s not always been popular. But for me, that conviction and integrity gives me confidence and self-assurance.”


Canales says the woman she was in her 20s climbing the corporate ladder is far removed from the peace she now experiences, influenced not only by Catholic faith but also by the teachings of Buddhist nun and author Pema Chodron.


“Back then, I couldn’t take as many risks,” she says. “I could not be as vulnerable as I wanted to be. I followed the success pattern to get promoted and, for me, that was what was more important at that time. It was not always authentic. That’s not who I am now.


“In the long run, my wholeness is what I value. It’s a freeing sensation to be able to live life in this way, and to help set others free as well gives me such joy.”



Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare--Ketul Patel: A sense of mission fuels the best leaders in healthcare

By | December 22 nd,  2016 | CHI Franciscan Health, chief executive officer, Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, Hackensack University Medical Center, health system, Kenya, Modern Healthcare, SafetyFirst Initiative, Blog, Catholic faith, Catholic Health Initiatives, clinician, collaborative, leadership, mission, safety, Ketul Patel, patient experience, quality | Add A Comment


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


Every month or two, CEO Ketul J. Patel journeys to the convent where the Sisters of St. Francis live and spends some time with the religious women who provide the missional context of the organization Patel leads, CHI Franciscan Health in Tacoma, Wash., part of the Catholic Health Initiatives system.


“I leave energized every single time I go there because of the amount of passion they have for this organization,” he says. “I have always felt that faith-based organizations have an extra touch of focus and mission than others. I couldn’t have asked for a better set of sisters to work with.”


Patel was raised in the Hindu faith but went to Catholic grade schools and high school growing up in Johnstown, Penn., 60 miles east of Pittsburgh. In an earlier role, he also worked for several years at a Catholic hospital in Chicago run by another group called the Sisters of St. Francis, this one based in Indiana.


“The Catholic faith has made a pretty substantial imprint into not only my career, but my life,” he says. “It’s given an extra allure to this type of organization for me.”


It’s also given a sense of urgency to the strides Patel hopes to make in reshaping CHI Franciscan and the other CHI hospitals he oversees as senior vice president of divisional operations for the Pacific Northwest Region. His goal, he says, is to have a top-performing organization with a mission-based focus on quality, safety and patient experience.


“We want to have a system of the most talented providers and innovative services in the Pacific Northwest,” Patel says. “Because of that, we just went through a significant structural reorganization to focus on those areas.”


Chief among the changes is the SafetyFirst Initiative, what Patel calls “a system-wide effort aimed at eliminating all preventable safety events.”


“We’ve branded it throughout the entire CHI system, and we’re seeing declines in serious safety events at all of our hospitals that have implemented SafetyFirst. It’s something our clinical staff is very proud of.”


The sense of service that Patel believes is a necessity for healthcare leaders comes from his parents, he says. Patel was born in Kenya, as were both his parents. His father is a retired physician. His mother, who passed away last year, was a nurse.


“When my father was practicing in Kenya, he would take my mom, brother and me to some remote areas of East Africa and provide care,” Patel remembers. “A lot of it was done under the umbrella of what was then the Lions Club.


“I have some very vivid memories – people who were missing hands, people with significant diseases with no access to care. The impact of that was substantial and that’s what prompted and inspired me to get into this type of role.”


His family moved to the U.S. in 1979 when Patel was eight. His brother went into medicine – he now heads cardiac surgery at the University of Michigan – and Patel started pre-med courses to head down the same path at Johns Hopkins. He also took a job as a research assistant to Nobel laureate Christian Anfinsen and, while it was a wonderful experience, he says, he couldn’t summon the same enthusiasm for it that he had for a couple health administration classes he took. He was reluctant to tell his parents he didn’t want to be a clinician.


“I thought it was going to be one of the toughest conversations I ever had with my father,” Patel says now, chuckling. “Instead, my father said, ‘We’ve been waiting for you to say this. All these years, we didn’t think you wanted to be a doctor.’ ”


The move to the administrative side has been a good fit. Patel got his first VP role at 26 and hasn’t looked back. He came to CHI Franciscan from Hackensack University Health Network and Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey, where he served as executive vice president and chief strategy and operations officer.


Patel says his leadership style has evolved in his 20 years in administration. “You have to be a born leader, to some extent, but I think your leadership style and your abilities change as you are exposed to different areas and experienced with varying challenges.”


But one absolute imperative, he says, is to be a collaborative leader.


“People support what they help to create,” he says. “If a staff member feels they’re part of a decision-making process that is helping to move the organization in a certain direction, they’re going to unite behind that.”


He says he especially loves the ideas that come from clinicians. “They’re the ones who are at the bedside.”


Besides, he says, his parents always loved to tease him about the importance of the front-line staff.


“I’d be on the phone with them and my dad would say, ‘By the way, just remember that the only reason you have a job is because doctors bring patients to your doorstep.’ Then my mom would get on the phone and say, ‘Don’t listen to your dad. The only people who know what’s going on with the patients are the nurses.’


“I give them a lot of credit for that.”



Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare--Philip Ozuah: Healthcare leadership is a calling, not merely a job

By | December 19 th,  2016 | physician executives, population health, Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, ACA, healthcare system, Modern Healthcare, Montefiore Medical Center, pediatrics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Blog, chief operating officer, health disparities, Nigeria, Philip Ozuah | Add A Comment


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


The plan was relatively straightforward.


After he entered medical school at age 14 in Nigeria and eventually earned his M.D., Philip Ozuah’s objective was to get extra training in the U.S. or the U.K. before returning to his homeland to collaborate with his father on building a hospital, which the younger Ozuah would run.


But the plan hit a snag when Ozuah became smitten with his pediatrics work in the Bronx at Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where he has spent his entire career and now serves as chief operating officer.


“I was always driven by the desire to make a difference, and to make a difference in underserved populations,” Ozuah says now. “That was actually one of the factors in remaining and practicing in the Bronx, because I realized I could serve an underserved population right here in New York, and that deepened the resolve and the passion for doing that work.”


Ozuah’s father was an engineer and his mother was a school principal in Nigeria. They stressed the importance of education to their children, and Ozuah’s older brother was the first member of the family to travel to America to attend university. When Ozuah came to the U.S., he set to work on a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Southern California and eventually earned a doctorate in leadership. But the degree of poverty in the U.S. surprised him.


“Obviously, I came to the U.S. from a place where there’s immense poverty on the one hand and immense wealth on the other, and they could be juxtaposed right next to each other,” he says. “But there is an image of the U.S. as the richest country in the world, which it is. And so, the extent of some of the privation here can initially be puzzling. You say, ‘How can this be?’ ”


Eliminating health disparities has been a lifelong focus for Ozuah, so he is pleased to see population health taking on much greater prominence under the ACA. And, if some of that emphasis has its roots in fiscal issues, he’s fine with that. Just alleviate suffering, he says.


“I’m not surprised as much as gratified because I think the focus on population health is long overdue,” he says. “Of course, it’s being driven as much out of necessity as a sense of mission, but it doesn’t matter to me what the motivating factors are. As a nation, I think we need to focus more on keeping people well and not simply figuring out how to do more things to them when they are ill.”


Ozuah made his mark as a world-class pediatrician, with a special interest in asthma, obesity, and environmental exposure. He once told the New York Daily News that the knee-jerk response to counsel poor families to get rid of their cats because of the allergy/asthma factor was overlooking the fact that having a cat had the significant health benefit of eliminating rodent issues.


It was that type of astute medical knowledge combined with an uncanny common sense that accelerated Ozuah’s rise. And, in addition to his administrative acumen, he won a slew of teaching awards for his work training the next generation of physicians at Einstein, where he also served as professor and university chair of the pediatrics department.


“I’m one of those doctors who loves all aspects of medicine,” he says. “Even though I am a pediatrician, I enjoy surgery just as much, as well as adult medicine and psychiatry. I find medicine to be challenging, exciting, rewarding and gratifying.”


While he still sees some patients, Ozuah says his primary job “is to make sure the 6 or 7 million patient encounters that take place at Montefiore every year all go well. Now, if there were 600 hours in a day, I would still be a full-time clinician and full-time teacher and researcher as well.”


With his Ph.D. in leadership, he has enjoyed the move to the administrative side, a transition that more and more clinicians are embracing these days.


“I always enjoyed reading the autobiographies of military or industry leaders,” he says, “because there were always nuggets about management in there. When I was asked by the hospital to take on my first role in leading the medical student training program, I found that I not only seemed to have an aptitude for it but also that I actually enjoyed the challenge of solving problems and trying to figure out solutions when there were not an infinite amount of resources.”


Perhaps someday Ozuah’s story may end up in a biography too. He himself admits that “it is a kind of a miracle” that an immigrant from west Africa could, in two decades, become the COO of a multi-billion-dollar healthcare system in the U.S. But the short version of his tale includes plenty of difficulty that’s easy to gloss over more than 20 years later.


“The fact of the matter was that I had saved the resources to pay for my first semester at USC, but it wasn’t clear how I was going to actually pay for the rest of my education,” he says.


Ozuah eventually earned an academic scholarship to pay for USC. But even when he came to Montefiore as an intern and resident, he found that his status as a foreign-trained physician caused some to question his abilities.


“Sometimes, the assumption was that you were incompetent until proven otherwise,” he says. “But I found those things to be motivating and welcomed the chance to prove that I belonged.”


Now, he is lionized as a national leader and continues to urge young people to consider medicine as a career despite the concerns that clinicians have about reimbursements, EHRs and regulations.


“I think that the next generation is going to move the needle a lot farther than we did. There is no other field where one can make as much of a difference on a daily basis as in medicine. I’m buying medicine stock all the way. I’m all in, because I think it’s a wonderful career.”



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.”



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