9 Leading Hospital CEOs Share Advice for Fellow Hospital Leaders

The following CEOs represent some of the top hospitals in the country. They offer advice for fellow hospital leaders.


Michael J. Dowling, President and CEO, North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, Great Neck, N.Y. "Leadership is always about promoting change. Be transformative, look to the future and be a leading change agent. As healthcare leaders, we should take the position as a leader should: that we have to transform the delivery system. We have to do things very differently than we did in the past, and that has to come directly from the CEO." To transform the system, Mr. Dowling says leaders cannot be limited by previous practices or philosophies. "Forget some of the past. Forget the way it was. Break new ground; be optimistic, upbeat and positive." Helping to build a new healthcare system demands leaders take risks, Mr. Dowling says. "Take some bold steps and take some risks. You can't be so nervous about failure." Mr. Dowling says the future offers many opportunities for leaders to make positive changes in the healthcare system. "The next ten years are going to be very exciting. It's a good time to be in healthcare — take advantage of it. It's not a time to be pessimistic at all."


Alexander J. Hatala, FACHE, President and CEO, Lourdes Health System, Camden, N.J. Mr. Hatala gives three points of advice to hospital CEOs: Be flexible, build relationships and stay mission-focused. "Being a hospital CEO is not for the faint of heart," he says. "When it comes to healthcare, every day is a new challenge with a new set of rules and regulations, all of which makes an impact on your organization. Being open to change will allow you to make your organization more successful at doing what it does best." Mr. Hatala's second advice centers on relationship-building. "At its core, healthcare is still a 'people business.' I encourage all CEOs to create a sense of community by building relationships not only with physicians, nurses and leadership, but with front line staff who are the 'face' of your organization. I make a point to learn people's names. It means a lot and encourages a 'team' attitude within the organization." Thirdly, he suggests hospital CEOs focus on their mission. "At the end of the day, you should always ask yourself, 'Have I stuck to my mission?' You should always be able to answer 'yes.'"


Robert J. Laskowski, MD, MBA, President and CEO, Christiana Care Health System, Wilmington, Del.
"Focus on the mission. It's easy to get lost in important issues that relate to finances. The basic fact, though, is that the public values health systems for the work our colleagues do in taking care of them. If we stay true to [the hospital's mission], it not only simplifies decision making, but also acts as a robust strategy to continue to have support that the public currently has for hospitals and health systems. Keep the fundamental reason why we exist in front of us to help as we get buffeted around by other things."



Steven L. Mansfield, PhD, FACHE, President and CEO, Methodist Health System, Dallas. "Be positive, enthusiastic and encouraging as you visibly prepare your organization for the changes ahead for healthcare. There is power in focusing on the opportunities change presents and our organizations need to hear their leaders assure them of our strategy for succeeding in a new paradigm. Personally, I know we can do a better job of healthcare delivery and population health management. Those of us in healthcare leadership owe this to America and I am delighted to be part of the transformation."


Vincent J. McCorkle, President and CEO, Akron (Ohio) General Health System. "First, always take your role as CEO and the trust that has been placed in you seriously, but never take yourself too seriously.

Second, always remember saying isn't doing and whatever you do is not only a reflection on yourself and your family, it is a reflection on your organization."



William A. McDonald, President and CEO, St. Joseph's Healthcare System, Paterson, N.J. "Turn operations back over to the clinicians. Deeply involve them in strategy, operations and the results from all their efforts." He says engaging clinicians in operations makes the hospital "a lot happier place for people to be." One initiative at St. Joseph's Healthcare System is improving the clinical service lines. They evaluated the strengths and weaknesses of the service lines, and then included clinicians, managed care professionals and other stakeholders in forming a strategic plan. Through this process, St. Joseph's was able to successfully expand their orthopedics program to meet the community's needs.


Charles O'Brien, MD, President, Sanford USD Medical Center, Sioux Falls, S.D. "Stay patient-focused. The affordable healthcare act gave us a big opportunity to change the cost curve, but we have to at the same time continue to think of the patients' viewpoint, comfort, experience and expectations." At Sanford USD Medical Center, Dr. O'Brien says they maintain a focus on the patient by "hardwiring" the patients' perspective into every judgment they make. They also include people in decision-making that represent patients' interests. 



Amir Dan Rubin, President and CEO, Stanford (Calif.) Hospital & Clinics.
"Show true passion, interest and concern for patients, visitors, physicians, staff and community members.

To best serve, try to put yourself in the position of others to best see the world through their eyes."



Sister Mary Jean Ryan, FSM, Chair and CEO, SSM Health Care System, St. Louis. "The best advice I can give to any hospital leader is to keep in mind that it is all about patients. It's why we exist. If we are to be leaders with integrity, it is our obligation to remain faithful to the fact that we must deliver care breathtakingly better than it's ever been before. We should never settle for less than the very best in patient care, and hospital leadership should constantly encourage our partners — employees and physicians — to improve, so that the care hospitals deliver is consistently exceptional in every way."

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