What healthcare leaders need to know now


Gene Woods’ influential leadership poised to enhance Carolinas HealthCare System

By | July 27th, 2016 | Blog | 1 Comment


Gene Woods: “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.”


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.” Read more…



Bruce Siegel: Hospitals need to listen to their communities to tackle health disparities

By | July 18th, 2016 | Blog | Add A Comment


Bruce Siegel: “I don’t think our hospitals are going to look diverse in the C-suite if our boards don’t.”


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.” Read more…



Patricia Maryland: Taking risks helps leaders grow

By | July 8th, 2016 | Blog | Add A Comment


Patricia Maryland: “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.”


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. Read more…



After a complex merger, Ruth Brinkley works diligently to build a new culture at KentuckyOne Health

By | June 3rd, 2016 | Blog | Add A Comment


Ruth Brinkley: “We know that a hospital only impacts 20 or 25 percent of health status. The rest are social determinants.”


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.


Read more…



Diverse governance is a key to population health

By | March 18th, 2016 | Blog | Add A Comment



Classic content from Trustee magazine and Furst Group:


“From allocating capital funds to improving community health status, the diverse makeup of the service area has to be factored into decisions, and trustees steeped in the unique factors of that diversity are essential…”


That’s the beginning premise of a recent article in Trustee magazine from the American Hospital Association on why diversity in the board room is pivotal for organizations seeking to understand and equip their leadership teams to achieve success in population health.


Without diversity, notes Furst Group principal Deanna Banks in the article, “What you get is a group-think. You’ve got similar-minded people from a singular exposure making decisions on behalf of things for which they lack insight and understanding — and sometimes empathy.”


Kelvin Westbrook, chair of BJC Healthcare in St. Louis, shares a memorable experience he had years ago about the “shoe test.”


“If you look under the table and you don’t have a diversity of shoes, you’re probably going to get a much narrower perspective on what can and cannot work.”


To read the complete article, click here.





ACHE report on diversity: The more that things change…

By | October 9th, 2015 | Blog | Add A Comment


ACHE's report on diversity and inclusion in healthcare leadership shows the industry still has a long way to go.


Every five or six years, the American College of Healthcare Executives conducts a new survey on diversity and inclusion in healthcare as it relates to leadership of our industry.


Its new report, by Leslie Athey, starts with a pretty candid preamble, essentially saying, “We’ve been talking about the lack of diversity at the top in healthcare for years. Why another survey?” Then it answers its own question: Because things haven’t changed.


According to the survey, racial and ethnic disparities are very much alive in the healthcare industry today. African-American respondents indicate their salaries are lower than those of their white counterparts. “Further,” says ACHE, “minority respondents were less likely to report that race relations in their organizations were good and more likely to report their careers had been negatively impacted by discrimination.”


The article can be found in the September/October issue of Healthcare Executive magazine. For the full special report, click here.


ACHE notes that strides have been made, but there is still a long way to go. That’s also the reason we continue to sponsor the Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare and the Top 25 Women in Healthcare awards for Modern Healthcare. We haven’t arrived yet as an industry. The message still needs to be repeated. Leaders of healthcare organizations should reflect the communities and members they serve; statistics show that companies with diverse leadership perform better than those that don’t. It’s as simple as that.





Insights from the Top 25 Women in Healthcare

By | August 28th, 2015 | Blog | Add A Comment



A roundup of a series of interviews with Modern Healthcare’s Top 25 Women in Healthcare for 2015.


Over the past few months, we’ve brought you reflections on leadership and their careers from Modern Healthcaree’s Top 25 Women in Healthcare, a program we have been proud to sponsor for the past seven years. We still have a few to offer you in the months to come. In the meantime, it seemed like an appropriate time to give you an overview of what these successful executives have had to say. Please click on any of the snippets or photos below to read the full interview.




Elizabeth Nabel: 2015 Top 25 Women in Healthcare

Elizabeth Nabel strives to make an impact in healthcare









Deborah Bowen: 2015 Top 25 Women in Healthcare

Deborah Bowen: Leadership still about people trying to make a difference









Marna Borgstrom: 2015 Top 25 Women in Healthcare

Marna Borgstrom: A new era calls for a new kind of leadership









Leah Binder: 2015 Top 25 Women in Healthcare

Leah Binder and Leapfrog Group put pressure on healthcare providers to deliver on quality









Penny Wheeler: 2015 Top 25 Women in Healthcare

Penny Wheeler: Even in value-based care, leaders of varying backgrounds can thrive









Mary Brainerd: 2015 Top 25 Women in


At HealthPartners, Mary Brainerd’s leadership approaches solutions from a nuanced angle









Donna Lynne: 2015 Top 25 Women in Healthcare

Donna Lynne: Healthcare leaders need to be able to manage crisis, volatility









Tejal Gandhi: 2015 Top 25 Women in Healthcare

Tejal Gandhi: Push for quality, safety needs to come from boards









Sister Carol Keehan: 2015 Top 25 Women in


Sister Carol Keehan: Gender diversity is a must-have for healthcare leadership — and so is

solidarity with the poor









Pam Cipriano: 2015 Top 25 Women in Healthcare

Pam Cipriano: In value-based care, nurses are ready to lead









Nancy Schlichting: 2015 Top 25 Women in


Nancy Schlichting’s willingness to take risks is still paying off for Henry Ford Health









ACHE’s Deborah Bowen: Healthcare leadership is still about people trying to make a difference

By | August 18th, 2015 | Blog | Add A Comment


Deborah Bowen: “My legacy, I hope, is going to be all about building the culture of ‘and.’ ”


One in a series of interviews with Modern Healthcare’s Top 25 Women in Healthcare for 2015.



Deborah Bowen guides one of the most influential associations in healthcare, but her complex work with C-suite leaders is rooted in a simple desire: to change people’s lives for the better.


As the president and CEO of the American College of Healthcare Executives, Bowen heads an enterprise that assists administrators in developing their abilities to lead their organizations. Its Fellow certification (FACHE) is one of the most respected designations in the halls of a health system and its annual Congress is one of the industry’s biggest draws. But Bowen says she herself is drawn to the servant leaders she sees all around her.


“I think one of the great things about this profession and this field,” she says, “is that I’ve always found the people in it are very dedicated to giving back. I think we all come to it from a place of trying to make a difference in whatever way we can.”


Bowen began her career as a social worker dealing with some of the toughest issues out there – drug addiction and alcoholism.


“I started out working with heroin addicts,” she says. “That is a difficult line of business because people often don’t get better because they don’t have the right support networks. Some of them get detoxified, but then they’re going right back into the same environment that probably drove them to addiction in the beginning. That was the catalyst for me to say, ‘Maybe there is another way to do this work that might have more impact.’ ”


She moved on to Wisconsin’s Department of Health and Social Services, where she gave grant money to programs battling drug abuse and alcoholism.


“That’s where I started to learn a little but more about what it means to influence decision-makers,” Bowen says, “and if you influence decision-makers, you can potentially have a bigger imprint in changing policy.”


Read more…



Nancy Schlichting’s willingness to take risks is still paying off for Henry Ford Health System

By | July 1st, 2015 | Blog | Add A Comment


Nancy Schlichting: “Sometimes the hardest things are the right things, but they’re not the things that everyone will gravitate to.”


One in a series of interviews with Modern Healthcare’s Top 25 Women in Healthcare for 2015.


Nancy Schlichting has become known for bold, unconventional leadership during her tenure at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, where she’s served as the CEO since 2003. She’s won numerous awards and led major initiatives, like the process that led to Henry Ford winning the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 2011. But the key to great leadership, she says, is developing and nurturing relationships.


“I think you have to understand that every interaction matters,” she says. “Leaders are under a spotlight all the time, and so consistency and interest and openness are things that go a very long way. Smile. Lift people up.”


For example, when Schlichting eats in the cafeteria, she will sit with anyone.


“Unfortunately, I don’t get to the cafeteria as often as I should, but when I do go, I think everyone in the cafeteria must go out and tell everyone I do that. It’s always amazing to me how your reputation gets built, and it’s not by promoting it yourself. It’s just the fact that everyone around you observes.”


Her peers in the healthcare industry would probably make the observation that Schlichting is a forward-thinking, fearless leader. Schlichting herself merely says that she has less trepidation about taking risks.


“What I’ve found in life is that the most important things you do are probably the hardest, and I think that’s why a lot of people don’t do them. It’s hard sometimes to do the right thing because you’ve got to deal with the potential conflict, the risks that come with it. If I had felt that way when I came to Michigan, we probably wouldn’t have done half the things we’ve done because they weren’t easy. Sometimes the hardest things are the right things, but they’re not the things that everyone will gravitate to.” Read more…



Women executives strengthen leadership teams

By | April 30th, 2015 | Blog | Add A Comment


Bob Clarke and Sherrie Barch


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.




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