What makes an effective leader, per UC Davis Health's CFO

Cheryl Sadro serves as CFO at Sacramento, Calif.-based UC Davis Health. 

Ms. Sardo will serve on the panel "The Evolving Role of the CFO" 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 roundtable, which will take place in Chicago from Nov. 7-10, 2022.

To learn more about the conference and Ms. Sardo's session, 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 are you most excited about right now and what makes you nervous?

Cheryl Sardo: I am excited to look forward to the innovation we used during COVID-19 into a changing healthcare landscape. I believe one of the biggest lessons from the pandemic was the ability to think differently about solutions. There are so many changes from the way we ran our health systems pre-COVID-19 to now, and for the most part they are very positive. Take supply chain for example: The creativity to simply find or produce masks can be parlayed into finding successes in new reimbursement models. It’s not about the issue at hand; it’s about the drive to be successful in providing care. 

What makes me nervous is the narrowing gap between revenue and expenses. Health systems are not experiencing the increases in reimbursement rates that we did in previous years. Conversely, during the pandemic, we did everything we could to compensate our dedicated workforce and source supplies needed to care for our patients. Those cost increases remain intact and greatly outpace our revenue increases, and it is very possible we will continue in that direction for some time.

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

CS: We have many plans on the table to grow our footprint to better serve our patients. We are fortunate to maintain a very high census in our health system, and in fact continue to look at innovative ways to partner with other systems for inpatient capacity and post-acute options for our patients. As the local markets continue to grow, we are expanding our outpatient presence in terms of ambulatory surgical capacity, infusion and primary care. We are also exploring innovative ways to generate returns outside the traditional four walls of our organization such as IT partnerships and engagement in public private initiatives. 

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

CS: Individuals involved in providing patient care have exhibited iron wills and innovative solutions over these past two and a half years by planning, pivoting and adapting on the fly in unprecedented circumstances. Hopefully, we now settle back into providing care but in a very different world. As leaders, we will need to constantly assess the level of COVID-19 in our systems while transitioning “back” into other disease states. Evaluating external and internal forces and their impact on our systems will be critical. For example, as private equity companies continue to enter the marketplace at an increasing pace, they will present competition that is more agile, resource rich and motivated to perform for their investors. As leaders, we will need to find ways to partner with external influences while gaining the buy-in of our health system stakeholders. So, in a nutshell, leaders will need to exhibit the same traits that got us through COVID-19 but directed in a more strategic mindset.

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