Ochsner traces resilience to leadership program

Going into 2020, members of the Ochsner Health System board challenged themselves by asking: "What do we want to accomplish at Ochsner?"

The Baton Rouge, La.-based system long has leaned on its leadership — and the development program it established — to help navigate challenging times such as hurricanes and their aftermath.

Warner Thomas, president and CEO of Ochsner, joined the "Becker's Healthcare Podcast" to discuss Ochsner’s history, technological innovations in digital health and health equity research. Below is an excerpt from the conversation, and the entire episode can be heard here.


Note: This response has been lightly edited for clarity.

Question: Can you discuss Ochsner's leadership program?

Warner Thomas: Our Leadership Institute that we built almost 20 years ago has been a source of our success as an organization. Lots of times folks look at Ochsner and they say, "How did you get through Hurricane Katrina?" or "How did you deal with Hurricane Ida in 2021 while you were going through a pandemic?" I point to simply our leadership: our physician leaders, our administrative leaders, they’re the ones that make it happen every day. Their ability to deal with ambiguity and to be agile and to stay optimistic and to make great decisions during very difficult times has really helped to position Ochsner in a strong position and continue to build us as a leadership organization.

Q: Have you gotten good feedback on the leadership development program?

WT: We really have. We also have an extremely robust fellowship program that initially, when I got here in '98, was focused on what I would consider operational fellows: folks that wanted to go into operations and spread their career there. But we have evolved our fellowship program to have various tracks in nursing, operations, finance, HR, supply chain and pharmacy. We've gotten a lot of great feedback on our fellowship. I think if you talk to any leaders that are in our organization, or frankly who have left our organization and gotten great opportunities to grow and advance outside of Ochsner, they would point to our investment in people, our investment in leadership as being a hallmark of the organization and something we pride ourselves on.

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