Growth, diversity and investment conversations with Dr. Shlomit Schaal

Shlomit Schaal, MD, Ph.D., is the president of UMass Memorial Medical Group, the senior associate dean for health strategies at UMass CHan Medical School, and the professor and chair in the ophthalmology and visual sciences department at UMass Memorial Medical Center. 

Dr. Schaal will serve on the panel "The Key to Financially Smart Telehealth" at Becker's 10th Annual CEO + CFO Roundtable. As part of an ongoing series, Becker's is talking to healthcare leaders who plan to speak at the conference on Nov. 7-10 in Chicago. 

To learn more and register, click here.

Becker's Healthcare aims to foster peer-to-peer conversation between healthcare's brightest leaders and thinkers. In that vein, responses to our Speaker Series are published straight from interviewees. Here is what our speakers had to say.

Question: What is the smartest thing you've done in the last year to set your system up for success?

Dr. Shlomit Schaal: The smartest thing we have done at UMass Memorial Medical Group is to put a strong communications system in place. Great communication is pivotal to our success. When I assumed the role of Medical Group president, my first hire was our director of communications. Together, we have worked to improve our physician communications through many strategic tactics. Some include our bi-weekly newsletter where physicians can learn about important developments and celebrations, our call-to-action meeting summaries that provide physicians a snapshot of our discussions and next steps required for accountability, and elevating our presence through presentations at local, regional, and national conferences to share the excellent work taking place here. Our recent caregiver engagement survey showed that our providers noticed and appreciated our efforts in these areas.

Q: What are you most excited about right now and what makes you nervous?

SS: We are on the cusp of launching a new digital health grant that will allow our providers to obtain funding for implementing cutting-edge digital health technologies that address areas such as patient flow, reducing the length of stay and operating room utilization. I'm very excited about this work as it focuses on increasing quality, efficiency, patient satisfaction, provider engagement, health equity and financial outcomes using digital health technologies. 

I am most nervous about our mental health challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our patients and caregivers suffer long-term mental concerns after managing this devastating illness for more than two years. Staffing challenges are another side effect of particular concern as we work to fill the many positions vacated during COVID-19 due to high burnout and attrition.

Q: How are you thinking about growth and investments for the next year or two?

SS: We are investing in our faculty, both in terms of their growth and development and our workforce. Ensuring our caregivers feel engaged, appreciated and satisfied in their work is a priority and critical to their decision to practice here at UMass Memorial Medical Group. We offer many leadership development opportunities, grant opportunities and wellness resources to help our caregivers achieve their goals and maintain job satisfaction.

Q: What will healthcare executives need to be effective leaders for the next five years?

SS: I believe optimism is one of the best traits a leader can possess, especially in our current climate. Health care faces a wealth of challenges coming out of COVID-19 and now incorporating it into our normal day-to-day operations. It can be difficult to hold onto that "glass-half-full" mentality when providers face burnout and other difficulties. It is far too easy to slide down the rabbit hole of negativity. To navigate the next five years, health care leaders need to have determination, resilience, and above all, optimism and a positive attitude. As leaders, it is our role to inspire and motivate our team members, but first, we must believe there is hope. We are setting the tone that others will follow.

Q: How are you building resilient and diverse teams?

SS: Diversity is a top priority at the UMass Memorial Medical Group. Understanding the importance of having diverse faculty on staff to teach our future physicians and care for our diverse population of patients, we are making intentional efforts to recruit diverse providers. Our clinician experience office offers a host of wellness initiatives to ensure our physicians have access to the resources they need to maintain strong mental health. In terms of building a resilient workforce, as mentioned above, we also offer leadership training programs to prepare our providers for the next steps in their careers.

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