10 thoughts on leadership from women in healthcare

In honor of Women's History Month in March and International Women's Day on March 8, Becker's Hospital Review asked women in the healthcare industry to share their insights on leadership.

Here are 10 women who offered words of advice for healthcare leaders.

Note: Responses have been lightly edited for length and style. Responses are in alphabetical order by last name. 

Heidi Gartland. Chief Government and Community Relations Officer for University Hospitals (Cleveland): As women leaders, I think we need to champion the next generation of women leaders by making sure they feel included and that they belong. We can do that by making sure they find colleagues to mentor them, connect them with leadership programs and ensure that their voices are heard. If women don't see themselves around the table, they are not going to feel like they belong or are included. The power of numbers helps. At University Hospitals, we have really grown our rank of women leaders through our UH Women's Leadership Development Series and it continues to grow.

My other piece of advice is to ask yourself how you can use your expertise and talents to lift up the community that you live and work in. This may involve finding a passion or a cause that you can advocate for. For me, my true passion is women's and children's issues. That comes through in the things that I focus my attention on such as my involvement with the Ohio Children's Hospital Association, but throughout my career I have championed projects and organizations that help lift up and improve under-resourced communities. 

Monique Gary, DO. Breast Surgical Oncologist and Medical Director of the Grand View Health cancer program (Sellersville, Pa.): Closing the health gap for women could add $1 trillion annually to our global economy by 2040. It is clear that our best efforts are not yet enough. Looking back, we can see that the women's healthcare landscape was designed for us, but not WITH us. Today, it is still true in many nations. If we wish to actualize the truest meaning of "health" care for the women of our future, we must learn to include, listen to and believe women. More than a fiscal opportunity, it is foremost an issue of health equity and inclusivity. Addressing the health of women will improve the health of our society, and for this reason we must be innovative, bold, quick and collaborative to rise to the occasion. Future generations depend upon it.

Nieca Goldberg, MD. Medical Director at Atria NY and Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at NYU Grossman School of Medicine (New York City): There are two keys to success as a leader: Open your heart and listen to those around you. Some of the most successful projects I have worked on were successful because everyone's voice was heard. We must ensure that up and down the ladder, the expertise and perspectives reflected are as diverse as the patient populations we serve.

At large institutions and smaller practices alike, people can feel unheard — as a practice leader, let them know you are listening and that their thoughts are important to the success of your institution.

Colleen Koch, MD. Group Senior Vice President and COO of NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia Division (New York City): I am a proponent of servant leadership in talent management, providing a framework for those around me to enhance and acquire qualities that foster career development and teamwork with shared objectives. Productivity and performance, rather than politics, are rewarded with personal fulfillment and professional advancement. Equanimity alongside servant leadership fosters a workplace characterized by achievement and psychological safety — key elements for excellence in healthcare delivery.

Robin Lankton. Vice President of Population Health at UW Health (Madison, Wis.). If you think about all the things that you are juggling — work, partner, kids, self-care — accept that sometimes you will drop something. Just make sure you are not always dropping the same thing.

Mary Leonard, MD. Physician-in-Chief at Stanford Medicine Children's Health (Palo Alto, Calif.): Take your time to find your passion. It may take a lot of experimenting — and trial and error — to find out what makes you want to get out of bed in the morning. I trained in general pediatrics but I always knew I wanted to be a subspecialist. I found my passion in nephrology because of my early interest in chemistry. From there, my focus shifted into preparing the next generation of junior physician-scientists and creating a workforce that is representative of the communities it serves. I found the combination of being a clinician and researcher was the perfect fit to helping improve the well-being of children everywhere.

Teresa Neely. Vice President and Regional COO at UW Health (Madison, Wis.): It is such a pleasure and responsibility to be a leader in healthcare, as our work impacts the lives of those we lead and those we serve. My approach to leadership is to "leave it better than you found it." Be your authentic self and transparent, and take the time to invest in people, because we do better when we raise each other up. Actions speak louder than words, but words matter.

Jennifer Peters. Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative and Legal Officer at Lifepoint Health (Brentwood, Tenn.): On International Women's Day, we are reminded of the importance of gender equity in healthcare and our responsibility as leaders to continue to champion it. I am inspired every day by the women I encounter across Lifepoint Health and across the healthcare industry who are leaders, mentors and advocates for their colleagues and for their patients and communities. Since women make up the majority of the healthcare workforce, we must do all that we can to lift up one another and ensure that women's voices are heard and celebrated in every room and corner of healthcare and in each of the regions we serve.

LaVonne Pulliam. Chief Compliance Officer at University Hospitals (Cleveland): As a leader, it's critical to create and foster an environment where your team is comfortable raising concerns without fear of the consequences. Teams who do this well surface creative, innovative solutions and are able to address issues faster. The old adage that culture eats strategy for breakfast still rings true. My other piece of advice is that there is not one "right" path to achieving your career goals. There are well-traveled, traditional paths, but they are not the only paths to success. There are new paths being forged by women today. Your path is the right path for you. Don't count yourself out because it doesn't look like someone else's.  

Charlette Stallworth. Vice President of Business Development and Innovation at Stanford Medicine Children's Health (Palo Alto, Calif.): Be brave, set goals and give yourself permission to change course. I have been an Army officer, a wife, a commercial banker, a mother and a healthcare executive — not a typical path, but amazing for me. Go for what you want knowing that you are supported by the efforts of the women who came before you and the current networks of women in healthcare. We've got you, and you've got this!


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