Boston Medical Center CEO Kate Walsh on her best boss and cure for busyness

Despite her jam-packed schedule, Boston Medical Center CEO Kate Walsh seeks to combat the busyness of the healthcare field.

Boston Medical Center, a 482-bed nonprofit teaching hospital, is located in the city's historic South End. BMC it is the largest safety-net hospital in New England and the largest provider of trauma and emergency services in New England. With over 5,000 employees, BMC is also the primary teaching affiliate of Boston University School of Medicine.

Ms. Walsh became president and CEO of Boston Medical Center in 2010 and recently wrote an op-ed on the 50th anniversary of Medicaid for The Boston Globe. She was named to the Becker's list of "130 women hospital and health system leaders to know" in 2013 and 2014.

Here Ms. Walsh talks about insurance mergers, listening skills and why healthcare leaders should remember their purpose.

Question: What is one trait of the best boss you've ever had?

Kate Walsh: I had a boss later in my career who was a great and active listener. I learned a lot from him, although I was already a senior vice president by the time I worked with him. He was great at taking whatever the team brought to him, truly listening and using that to get the most out of the team. I think of him a lot and try to use his approach as a guidepost.

Q: Which other CEOs do you admire and why?

KW: The people I emulate are values-driven leaders who can also innovate. To keep up with the demands of the field today, it's not enough to just be values-driven; continuous innovation is key.

There are so many leaders around the country I admire: for example, Steven Safyer of Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, Steven Lipstein of BJC Healthcare in St. Louis and Marna Borgstrom of Yale-New Haven (Conn.) Health System. They're very generous with their time while also remaining smart, funny and self-deprecating.

Q: What are a few traits healthcare leaders are lacking today?

KW: The main thing is really remembering why we do what we do. We spend a lot of time as leaders talking about how healthcare has become so "busy" and "demanding." The issues we handle are challenging, but ultimately we need to keep in perspective that we're responsible for patients who don't get to go home at the end of the day and whose families are very worried about having loved ones in the hospital. While we're confronting all the challenging aspects of the healthcare industry, we have to remember why we're here and who we serve.

Q: What news story or event in healthcare have you been most interested in this past month?

KW: Although the first Republican presidential candidates' debate was interesting, I'm also interested in the insurance company mega-mergers. In the Boston market and elsewhere around the country, there's been so much antitrust scrutiny on the hospital sector, but those mergers have been miniscule in comparison to the large mergers in the insurance sector. I'll be interested to see how they turn out because they'll have huge impact on cost and access to care throughout the health system.

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