The secret to innovative healthcare teams: 60 executives and leaders weigh in

The executives featured in this article are all speaking at the Becker's Healthcare 13th Annual Meeting April 3-6, 2023, at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago.

To learn more about this event, click here.

If you would like to join as a speaker, contact Mariah Muhammad at For more information on sponsorship opportunities, contact Jessica Cole at

As part of an ongoing series, Becker's is talking to healthcare leaders who will speak at our conference. The following are answers from our speakers at the event.

Question: What's your secret for keeping a spirit of inspiration and innovation alive on your team?​

CEO + President

Cliff Megerian, MD. CEO at University Hospitals (Cleveland). Innovation is the engine that drives superior healthcare -- something we know well at University Hospitals. We work diligently every day to keep this spirit of innovation alive. Our UH Ventures team collaborates with caregivers across our vast system to identify and develop opportunities to improve the care we provide. If there's a 'secret' to our culture of innovation, it is the crowd-sourcing approach we utilize, involving every caregiver in the innovation process.

Our commitment to clinical research also helps keep us focused on the power of innovation to create good for our patients. In fact, we've just launched an innovative clinical trial for non-Hodgkin lymphoma patients that delivers life-sustaining CAR T-cells to them in a small fraction of the time previously possible. The cells are generated in just 24 hours. an improvement over the previous benchmark of eight days. This is innovation with impact, getting needed therapy to cancer patients who don't have time to wait.

Concrete progress toward changing people's lives for the better keeps us motivated and inspired to continue to do more. In the end, we know that it's this kind of innovation and creative thinking that will help us achieve our goal of becoming the healthcare leader of the future.

Michael A. Slubowski. President and CEO at Trinity Health (Livonia, Mich.). To keep the spirit of inspiration and innovation going, we always focus on our Mission and Values as our 'true north.' As a faith-based health system this always brings people back to our higher purpose in providing the most personal of human services – body, mind and spirit – and reminding ourselves of the difference we are making for people and communities.

It's also about connecting with people on a personal as well as professional level. We do 'check-ins' to hear from each team member. It brings us closer. And keeping hope alive while we face uncertainty is incredibly important. Finally, maintaining a 'beginner's mind' and trying new things, encouraging innovation and pilots, etc. is incredibly important; maintaining a thought process on 'what is possible?'

Clay Holderman. President and CEO of UnityPoint Health (West Des Moines, Iowa). We've created a culture at UnityPoint Health that's built on trust and belonging. It's one you can see and feel in the many ways our team members care for our patients and each other. When you're intentional about creating a workplace environment that's safe and supportive, people feel empowered to use their voices, bring big ideas and small process improvements to the table that end up making a major difference in how we deliver care in an industry that's constantly evolving.

Our people know the ins and outs of their jobs better than anyone else, and our leadership teams listen when they speak up. We have a physician advisory group in place to help us look at creative clinical solutions to determine how we can scale ideas from our team members across our health system, making them a best practice no matter what UnityPoint Health location a patient receives their care from. So, in this collaborative care environment where our people know how much their voices matter — that transcends into how we care for patients. It's a partnership. Our patients know what's right for them better than anyone else, and when we combine our clinical expertise with unmatched compassion, we're able to deliver on our mission of being a true, trusted healthcare partner in the communities we serve.

Joseph Webb. CEO at Nashville General Hospital. Most individuals are inspired by the opportunity to help others in a meaningful way. When the opportunity presents itself in the form of a full-time job, interest must be sustained over an extended period and that requires a derivation of energy and focus that is continuously renewed. At Nashville General Hospital, we rely on our mission 'to improve the health and wellness of Nashville by providing equitable access to coordinated, patient-centered care' to be the source of sustained energy and focus for employees.

To that end, we use the IHI's Triple Aim (Improve Patient Experience, Improve Outcomes and Reduce Cost/Capita) as a strategic goal. We quantify the mission using the three dimensions of the Triple Aim and that sets the stage for a culture of achieving specific team and individual-based organizational outcomes. It creates a spirit of pride, engagement and oftentimes competitiveness, all of which are conducive to inspiration and innovation. Finally, we constantly seize on opportunities to recognize efforts and celebrate successes!

Shane Strum. President and CEO at Broward Health (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.). At Broward Health, I am fortunate to work with amazing people who inspire me every day with their commitment to providing world-class healthcare to all we serve. I believe in the power of teamwork and that true innovation happens when people share a vision, understand organizational goals and feel empowered to innovate to find the best strategies and solutions. That is why we strive to create a culture where frequent and transparent communication is the norm, collaboration is encouraged and people know their input is valued.

Alexa B. Kimball, MD. CEO and President of Harvard Medical Faculty Physicians at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (Boston). I always allow time and create space for brainstorming. It's hard for teams to feel inspired when they are working on a fixed agenda. I also encourage people to ask a lot of questions. Iterating ideas is a big part of the creative process and often leads to some of the greatest ideas. But to keep innovation alive, I would say the most important thing is to let teams know that it is okay to fail. In fact, it's expected. I always say, if everything you do works, then you aren't trying enough.

Erik Wexler. President and COO at Providence (Renton, Wash.). We have seen innovative programs make a difference at Providence. I am an adamant proponent of community partnerships that go deep to improve whole-person care and the social determinants of health and well-being. Caregivers are inspired when the organization's work aligns with their values. Providence engages in ongoing systemwide efforts to address housing, transportation, education, mental well-being and other vital components of a healthy community.

In addition, dedicated caregivers have volunteered more than 29,000 hours to 750 local organizations in 2021. Giving caregivers the opportunity to make a difference allows them to do innovative work. Providence provided $1.9 billion in uncompensated care and other community benefits and commitments in 2021. The entire family of organizations are proud that investment in community benefit has continued to grow each year since the pandemic began and to date,

Providence invested $10 million of its five-year and $50 million commitment to reduce disparities and racial injustice, partnering with more than 1,200 community organizations. These investments not only benefit the community, but also in providing our caregivers the resources and ability to be the change they hope to see.

CIO + Health IT and Innovation Leaders

Aaron Miri. Senior Vice President, Chief Digital and Information Officer, Baptist Health (Jacksonville, Fla.). The secret in healthcare is simple – getting out of your office and going into the hospital into the direct patient care areas and making a difference for a patient and a caregiver. It's infectious once you start that process. At the end of the day, innovation starts with trust, relationship building and not being afraid to fail fast. If you take that optimism into the world with a can-do attitude and you listen with intent before you act; you can accomplish anything. We've done that here at Baptist Health and because of that, we have been able to bring innovations such as being the first health system in Florida to deploy Moxi Robots and numerous other innovations all because we listen and act with intent.

Mona Baset. Vice President of Digital Services at Intermountain Healthcare (Salt Lake City). My team starts by hiring people who have passion, curiosity and courage. In such a dynamic space, every day is completely different, and there are many questions we won't immediately have answers to – it takes a very special kind of person to be comfortable and thrive in that type of environment. The result has been innovative and creative solutions for our consumers, patients and caregivers.

Additionally, we remind ourselves of the behaviors that allow our team to thrive through a set of “We” statements. They sound something like, “We figure things out and love to learn,” “We ask questions” and “We welcome change and innovation.”

Dave Kereiakes. Partner at Providence Ventures (Renton, Wash.). The healthcare industry offers a daily opportunity to directly impact the well-being of people in our communities. We support our team to feel empowered by their collective ability to influence patient care through innovation and investment. Daily inspiration is drawn from witnessing the sacrifices of local healthcare heroes and pushing ourselves toward solutions that enable people to live their best and most fulfilling lives.

David Sylvan. President at University Hospitals Ventures (Cleveland). Ironically, challenging times and stressed environments are excellent breeding grounds for innovation. With the daunting financial headwinds most health systems are experiencing and the mounting pressures on workforce resiliency, team members need to be encouraged to share the solutions and fixes that they're conjuring in the field, to positively impact their environments. Not every innovation needs to be a moonshot nor high-tech. An aggregation of low-fidelity and seemingly simple ideas can absolutely amount to material impact for any organization, but the enablement mechanisms need to be in place and battle tested. And there needs to be a respectful and timely feedback loop. How do you do this? By asking, inviting and listening. By facilitating, acknowledging and, where appropriate, rewarding.

Leah Miller. Senior Vice President and Division Health Technologies at CommonSpirit Health (Chicago). I continue to be inspired and look for innovation every day, knowing we are here for the patients and that it could be one of us or a loved one in that hospital bed. I often ask my team 'how can we use technology to make that patient's life or provider's care better?'

These patients have names, families and lives that rely on their treatment to be uninterrupted. We don't just maintain products; we are critical to the health and safety of the patients at the healthcare sites we serve. It is an important reminder that what we do makes a real impact. IT provides the keys to the knowledge that can improve patients lives; systems hold the lab work, patient history, procedures, symptoms and so on that are critical to a patient's health.

Sharing stories and experiences of how we have touched the lives of patients keeps our momentum and sense of purpose alive. We are committed to improving and advancing our technology to ensure a better experience and bring that next generation of healthcare forward.

Thomas M. Maddox, MD. Vice President of Digital Products and Innovation at BJC HealthCare/Washington University School of Medicine (St. Louis). Our technology and innovation teams need their purpose, creativity and sense of accomplishment continually nurtured to promote a spirit of inspiration and innovation. To do so, we do three things. One, we have them periodically round with our clinical teams to interact with the end-users of their work: the clinical care teams and patients. Two, we regularly meet with our peers around the country to see how others are tackling challenges and draw inspiration from their efforts. Three, we make the results of our work visible to the team, showing them its impact in both data and patient stories.

Saad Chaudhry. Chief Information Officer at Luminis Health (Annapolis, Md.). What I try to instill in my teams and leadership is that we have to be fair to our patients and organization at all times. This means that as our environment and patients' expectations change, we must too. Sometimes this means that we must stay on top of implementing new updates for our technology vendors and partners to come out with – this requires operational buy-in to really be fruitful, since turning a feature on in a system is the easiest part. It's the changes to workflows and behavior that takes more effort.

On the other hand, sometimes we cannot wait for our existing partners to come out with a new feature because our patients are already expecting something beyond what is offered. This is where my folks must be willing to take pioneering steps ourselves. This means custom software development internally or new forms of partnerships with innovative companies. In other words, taking the leap with the hopes that a net will appear. And this option requires me to establish an environment of safety to promote innovation – my folks' successes are theirs and any failures are mine. At the end of the day, failures educate me and their success allows our patients to get their care in an easier, more frictionless manner. It's a win-win!

Ginny Torno. Administrative Director of Innovation and IT Clinical, Ancillary and Research Systems at Houston Methodist. At Houston Methodist, we keep the patient at the center of everything we do. Our innovation initiatives involve multidisciplinary teams from technical and operational perspectives who set expectations and definitions of success before we embark on a new project. The innovation team presents initiatives and updates at system councils and hospital meetings. This generates healthy excitement and discussion all around our healthcare system and raises awareness about the exciting innovations coming forward.

We have eight hospitals and it's not unusual for all of them to want to be the first one to pilot a new initiative. In addition, innovation is one of our pillars. At Houston Methodist, you'll hear people say, 'Innovation is everyone's responsibility.' Any employee can present an idea to the Innovation committee for consideration.

Eric Smith. Chief Digital Officer at Memorial Hermann Health System (Houston). Our team continues to watch trends across the healthcare landscape, knowing there is much that can be done to improve the experience of patients and providers alike. Perhaps one the most significant sources of inspiration for challenging the status quo and to think more innovatively is by looking outside of healthcare. We analyze what other industries and companies are doing and gain inspiration in not only how to look at a problem differently but also at other capabilities or unique experiences we might not have previously considered. From a digital perspective, we intentionally ask ourselves on a regular basis, 'What has been the best consumer experience we have had recently?' We then talk about what made it positive and how we can apply those lessons to the work we are doing in healthcare.

Jared Antczak. Chief Digital Officer at Sanford Health (Sioux Falls, S.D.). Working in the healthcare industry is more than just a job, it is a calling. We have the privilege of serving people in some of the most vulnerable moments we as human beings ever experience in life. I often remind my teams how their efforts and contributions make a difference and a positive impact for each individual. As such, we can't afford to do the same things the same way just because 'that's how it has always been done.' As the largest rural health system in the United States, Sanford Health is committed to serving our communities in new and innovative ways to make care more accessible, affordable and equitable for all patients.

Karen Murphy. Executive Vice President and Chief Innovation and Digital Transformation Officer at Geisinger (Danville, Pa.). There are several key components that help nurture a spirit of innovation: First, consistently communicate the vision to all members of the team. This ensures that everyone is working toward the same goals and objectives and helps each team member realize how their work fits into the overall strategy. Second, foster the team's passion for improving quality of life for our patients, communities and employees through innovation. This gives meaning to all of our work. Finally, celebrate the small wins. Especially in a hybrid work environment, it's important to take time to recognize progress and effective teamwork.

Darrell Bodnar. CIO at North Country Health (Lancaster, N.H.). I believe empowering a team is one of the best ways to nurture innovation. You need to allow your subject matter experts the ability to share and inspire fellow team members to share thoughts and ideas in a non-judgmental way. You really need to make sure the team makeup is appropriate and supportive of this environment and that dominating influencers are managed appropriately to provide a forum of comradery.

You also need to be aware of workloads and burnout. Considering our current labor crisis this has been challenging, but this is also the best time to identify opportunities to improve workflows, introduce automation and create efficiencies. In rural healthcare, there is not a lack of inspiration and a reason to care about their work. My teams can see the impact that they can have on our patients and care delivery teams firsthand and real time. There is probably no better source of inspiration than knowing that you had a positive impact on the care delivery process.

Strategy Executives

Sunila Levi. Vice President of Healthcare Platform Strategy at CommonSpirit Health (Chicago). The secret is to stay curious to learn, share and influence the team. As a leader, I make sure I try to learn something new everyday. It doesn't have to relate to the job. It could be various domains: business, data, applications/systems, cloud, leadership or other. In the age of zoom/virtual meetings, sharing what I've learned and influencing the team becomes more crucial and keeps those water cooler moments. For example, I went to an AI/IoT conference in Austin, Texas, and leaned AI adoption spectrum framework to adopt AI at the organization.

Greg Till. Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer at Providence (Renton, Wash.). Three things are essential to cultivating a spirit of innovation: A clear and inspiring purpose, an empowering culture and leaders who reward risk taking. In healthcare, we have a tremendous advantage in the first area because most feel called to the work. Our caregivers want to be part of something bigger than themselves, meaningfully contributing to their communities.

At Providence, we have a bold vision and an inspiring mission. These touchstones provide intrinsic motivation for our caregivers to help solve today's biggest challenges and tomorrow's most exciting opportunities. We also do our best to create an empowering culture, where diversity is embraced, everyone's ideas are valued and creative contributions are showcased and rewarded. We know many of today's biggest issues can't be solved with yesterday's solutions, so we aim to involve everyone in helping us design for the future.

Lastly, we believe leadership is key. We do our best at Providence to ensure leaders reward smart risk taking even if it results in failure, encourage resilience and perseverance in the face of adversity, and focus on incremental success on the way to bigger gains.

Katherine Kalthoff. Division Vice President of Patient Experience, HCA Methodist Healthcare San Antonio. We keep that spirit alive by working closely with our process improvement teams, getting out to where the work is being done and spending time with the care teams. When we better understand the barriers, pain points and other difficulties our care teams have, we can better facilitate a solution. Often, they know just what to do to solve the issue. When we demonstrate responsiveness and take action to help, they're far more likely to generate ideas and be much more creative and innovative when approaching problems.

Shane Flickinger. Vice President of Operations at Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals (Philadelphia). Keeping a spirit of inspiration and innovation on our teams requires us as leaders to engage and empower our front line leaders and staff members. I truly believe that the solutions to today's biggest challenges, from workforce shortages and retention to care model transformation, will come from the front lines.

One of the ways I am doing so is by reestablishing personal and professional relationships between departments. While there are advantages to virtual platforms, we have lost a sense of personal connection and the ‘meeting between the meetings' where true relationships are often built. Many meetings have become largely transactional. This has been particularly challenging for new leaders coming into an organization during the pandemic who have not had the opportunity to build those relationships with their peers.

Creating less formal and in-person venues for team members from different departments to share what they are working on and their challenges can quickly translate into unexpected collaborations. It also reenergizes the group and gives a renewed sense of hope that we can overcome the challenges ahead of us. As a result, I am able to assist them with setting priorities and removing obstacles to implementing their solutions.

Arianne Dowdell. Vice President and Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer at Houston Methodist. It's important to allow teams to make suggestions and be a part of the process of developing programs so they not only feel inspired, but they also have a sense of ownership and pride for the work they're doing. I think it's important to celebrate the wins as a team and ask everyone how they like to receive praise – personally or in front of a group. As leaders, we don't always have to be the face of everything.

Remember to give employees the opportunity to talk about the things they've created because that can be very empowering. One thing that is often not talked about is allowing team members to move on when they're ready. You want to keep the spirit alive for your employees, and if that means moving on from a department or from the organization, take a minute to celebrate that person for having the courage to realize what they need to keep them happy and inspired in a professional setting.

At Houston Methodist, we're searching for innovative ways to connect with everyone within the organization when it comes to our diversity, equity and inclusion efforts beyond training and recognizing cultural holidays. We're taking data from our DEI dashboard to help us tell the story. A lot of organizations have statistics, but we're letting the data help us piece together a story that informs our approach.

Susan Burroughs, MHA, FACHE. Associate CEO at MUSC Health Columbia (S.C.) Medical Center Northeast. My secret of keeping a spirit of inspiration and innovation is listening to and executing on some of the concerns and suggestions of our leaders and staff around recruitment, staffing, expense control and growth opportunities. Their ideas and suggestions have led to the expansion of new services, cost savings initiatives and efficiencies. It's important to remember that our leaders are closer to a lot of this work, and it's awesome for them to see their ideas move forward which creates collaboration and excitement for that department, leader and care team member.

Stonish Pierce. COO at Holy Cross Health (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) and Trinity Health Florida. It all begins with providing an ongoing environment for my team to be heard, valued and listened to. This can be as simple as providing an 'open forum' dialogue during meetings and planning sessions to ensure that all team members equally have the opportunity to contribute to this culture of innovation. Providing such an environment inherently inspires and encourages innovation, especially during these transformative times that we are experiencing not just in healthcare but the world in general.

Communicating that innovation is encouraged and is an important differentiator. Celebrating suggestions that have been contributed by these same team members undoubtedly further inspires innovation, engagement and the spirit for continuous improvement. Above all, the need for innovation cannot be understated and as leaders we must provide a culture to inspire others during these turbulent times.

Wasif Rasheed. Executive Vice President and Chief Revenue and Growth Officer at Providence (Renton, Wash.). Fortunately, inspiration and innovation are hallmarks of my team at Providence and part of their 'why' for being here. I do my best to keep this spirit alive and three tactics come to mind. First, members of my team often work hand-in-glove with operations; we have even had a few transition to operations roles to seek out projects they have started. This has given them a sense of personal ownership, and also credibility in the organization.

Second, we make space for moonshot projects. Truveta is a great example; we had initial discussions with various partners over two years before Truveta's launch, and it has been tremendously rewarding to see what that idea on a whiteboard has become, especially as others have now taken the wheel.

Third, we are humble enough to recognize there are areas where we are not experts. I have focused on bringing in diverse talent – including folks from outside of healthcare – and I have sought strategic partnerships that include investments and access to talent that my team could not have alone. This helps my team feel like they are growing and, to borrow the phrase, working at top-of-license. And that's the key point for me – this ties back to our people, and I'm proud of the culture we have established and the commitment of our CEO to support these endeavors.

Joy Killham. Revenue Cycle Director at McPherson (Kan.) Medical and Surgical. Continual reinforcement of quality work produced supported by statistics that personnel understand. Should someone be faltering, education as soon as possible. Always supported with sound stats, including supported and measurable expectations clearly identified in their job descriptions and evaluation.

Matthew J. Painter, PhD. Director of Leadership Development at UAB Health System and School of Medicine (Birmingham, Ala.). Asking open-ended questions with our team and our internal clients. How can we make this even better? Are we doing the right things? Are we doing things right? Challenge the team to think strategically. What's on the horizon? What opportunities should we capture? What are our threats? Conducting versions of SWOT analysis, including the additions of challenges and priorities. Revising our stakeholder engagement strategy. Devise ways to connect with stakeholders for feedback and ideas and to identify areas of opportunity and partnership.

Sean Poellnitz. Chief Resource Officer at Renown Health (Reno, Nev.). I am excited to lead an inspiring team here at Renown Health! My colleagues impress me with their commitment to co-labor on collaborative approaches to financial stewardship of valuable time and limited resources. My secret is really not a secret: I meet with my team members, colleagues and vendors to better understand their goals and motivations, share information with complete transparency, engage a large and diverse group of stakeholders to work creatively to structure relationships and agreements where everyone benefits, and celebrate widely our successes as a team.

Monica Wharton, FACHE. Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare (Memphis, Tenn.). Creating an environment where people want to go above and beyond because of a true connection to mission is imperative. When team members are in sync with the mission, I find that's the sweet spot because they become problem solvers. Rewarding that curiosity and ensuring that staff at all levels are empowered to develop creative solutions, take risks and learn from failure is key. As a leader creating spaces where authentic conversations between diverse groups of thinkers — team members who have different life experiences, mindsets and roles in the organization — can help bring those fresh ideas to the surface.

If there is one thing I have learned, listening to your team can spark the greatest inspiration. Our front-liners often have clear solutions to some of our most complex problems. I saw this come to life during the pandemic as we battled various workforce challenges. We held a series of design sessions among 450 employees from diverse areas within our health system allowing them to redesign our recruitment and retention strategy. Because of them, although work remains, we are now seeing significant progress.

Vanessa Nazario. Chief Diversity Officer at Memorial Healthcare System (Hollywood, Fla.). I have the honor and privilege of leading diversity, equity and inclusion for Memorial Healthcare System, and it has provided a pathway for the initiation of trailblazing ideas. As one can imagine, there are tons of opportunities to ensure that we are achieving the goal of nurturing a sense of belonging for all stakeholders. In order for this to happen, I must provide an affirming environment where the team can ideate while feeling supported throughout the process.

I am a firm believer in curating spaces where staff can share their thoughts and ideas without me imposing my own subjective ideologies. This allows for true inspiration to thrive and leads to successful strategies designed by a team approach. I also celebrate the success regardless of impact because I know this work is not easy!

Clinical Leaders

Bruce Rogen, MD, MPH, FACP. Chief Medical Officer at Cleveland Clinic. Being open to all points of view, soliciting those viewpoints and actively listening to team members. Never discount an idea unless researched and considered carefully; work together as a team to build consensus around where we need to be going and all the different potential ways to get there. Remind them always of our straightforward motto: “Patients First!”

Hoda Asmar. Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at Providence (Renton, Wash.). My focus for every decision I make has always been on patients and on caregivers. Leading with an authentic, unwavering commitment to Providence's mission in serving all, especially the poor and vulnerable, guides and drives us as individuals and as a team at every moment. I actively encourage and support a learning environment for my team. This creates a safe space for team members to share with, learn from and challenge one another in pursuit of our shared goals. I teach and encourage my team to simplify complex problems and to keep a laser focus on what matters most to our patients and to our caregivers.

Peggy Duggan. Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at Tampa (Fla.) General Hospital. As the EVP and Chief Medical Officer of Tampa General Hospital, a 1,040-bed academic medical center, my ability to inspire is driven by my connection to my team and a singular commitment to quality and safety. It is so powerful for a team to coalesce around a single focus, feel supported and maintain consistent expectations. It sounds ordinary, but doing the right work every day keeps my team focused, inspired and looking for the most innovative ways to achieve our goals.

My team is leading the effort to transform Tampa General Hospital and the entire system to become a true HRO — High Reliability Organization. High reliability and all the benefits it provides in redundancy and resiliency as well as the impact of developing a collaborative just culture is truly inspiring. It also helps to be inspired by your team, which I am!

Luis Garcia, MD. President at Sanford Health Clinic (Sioux Falls, S.D.). In challenging times like these, it is not only important to have the 'best' people as part of your team but having the 'best people at their best.' As a leader at Sanford Health, it is my responsibility to bring the best out of the talent that we have. I invest plenty of time with my teams focusing on creating an environment of empowerment. Our employees are empowered to create positive change and challenge the status quo. And if someone fails, we allow that person to acknowledge the failure, find solutions to correct it and celebrate the lessons learned.

Ghalib Abbasi, PharmD, MS, MBA. Director of System Pharmacy Informatics at Houston Methodist Hospital System. As a U.S. inventor and forward-thinker, I offer my various teams the opportunity to get engaged in disruptive healthcare technology development from scratch all the way to delivery. Lifting up team members and acknowledging the various strengths each one offers, and providing a matching individualized venue to grow those skills, is the secret sauce for our successful invention and mentorship shop.

Jeremy Cauwels, MD. Chief Physician at Sanford Health (Sioux Falls, S.D.). At Sanford Health, our employees come to work each day knowing that everyone is accountable for safety and that their voice matters. Creating a culture of safety has cultivated trust and inspired our teams. People choose to work in healthcare because they want to make a difference. Our SAFE initiative empowers our teams to speak up, raise their concerns and understand the positive impact of their actions. Through consistency, accountability and delivery of competent and compassionate care, SAFE has become an enduring cultural pillar for Sanford Health.

Meng Wei, MBA, BSN. Chief of Clinical Analytics at UCLA Health (Los Angeles). I strongly believe that 'structure determines behavior.' We tirelessly recruit and retain team members with strong curiosity. We relentlessly and intentionally create a safe and creative environment for team members to share their novel ideas. As a team, we encourage everyone to actively consult business owners for new challenges they have encountered at work place. Our team leaders constantly search for problem solution ideas, encourage team members to 'think out of box' and frequently show our appreciation to innovative ideas no matter how small or unusual it might be. We appreciate wild ideas.

Arun Mathews, MD. Chief Medical Officer and Technology Advisory Services Leader at MultiCare (Tacoma, Wash.). I like the medium of stories, shared with the team. Specifically stories from medical history, which is an area of interest of mine. The simple fact remains that nearly everything that we consider ‘normal' and ‘common sense' in healthcare now had to be envisioned, experimented with, ruthlessly fought over and then ultimately accepted. And the sad reality is that we all too often forget these hard-fought battles.

For instance, when aviator Charles Lindbergh was told of his sister in-law's impending death because of a failing cardiac valve due to rheumatic fever, his response was characteristic of an engineer's: Why not just replace the valve? Of course, this was during the 1930s and medical care was not sufficiently advanced enough to contemplate cardio-pulmonary bypass and valve replacement. Despite this, the forward-thinking Lindbergh saw it fit to request an introduction to the Nobel prize-winning vascular surgeon, Alex Carrel. Fascinatingly, this began a partnership between the aviator and surgeon that would lead to innovations in organ reperfusion that are still relevant today.

One such innovation concerns kidneys harvested for transplant, which are kept alive during transport by a modern version of the Carrel/Lindbergh perfusion pump design. In the telling of these types of stories, if I can encourage even one member of the team to take on a project that answers a question deeply impactful to them, that no one else has interest or bandwidth to take on - then I will have succeeded.

Giovanni Piedimonte, MD. Vice President of Research and Institutional Official at Tulane University; Professor of Pediatrics, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology at Tulane School of Medicine (New Orleans). I have always been a true believer of Peter Drucker's principle 'culture eats strategy for breakfast,' i.e., no matter how great your business strategy is, your plan will fail without a company culture that encourages people to implement it. Accordingly, my strategy is to inspire and promote a culture based on innovation. Competitiveness in higher education and healthcare will increasingly depend on achieving technological advantage that makes any institution a better fit for the exponential digital acceleration our world will experience in the next decade.

The challenge will be strategically distributing ever-limited resources among endless opportunities mushrooming in every operational field. The fundamental frontier for the future of medicine is to limit or abolish as much as possible those inequalities that make our healthcare systems ineffective despite rapidly increasing costs. I expect the most disruptive innovation coming from robotics, especially the new minimally invasive surgical robots already available on the market and being improved very rapidly with the goal of replacing human-led procedures in the very near future. For sure, the students entering the schools of medicine today will find profoundly different practices and protocols by the time they start seeing patients.

In my opinion, the secret for keeping a spirit of inspiration and innovation alive on a healthcare team is to make sure your all teammates always look at where the puck will be rather than where it is at the present moment.

Julie Gauderman, DNAP, APRN, CRNA. Associate Director and Assistant Professor at Saint Mary's University of Minnesota Graduate Program in Nurse Anesthesiology (Minneapolis). In my experience, leadership takes on many styles. Personally, from experience both as a team member and as a leader, I have found that success starts by first taking the focus off of the end point and starting with your team as individuals. When someone is charged with a specific role that is matched to their interest, strengths and passion, their performance and intrinsic motivation far outperform any deliverable from a team that is given the large goal and no ownership. When the goal is too large people on the team can struggle with not feeling like they have a significant role or are underutilized.

Great leadership takes flexibility and patience. When it feels like something isn't working, be honest with the team and open to changes. The best part is you aren't responsible for coming up with all of the new ideas when you empower your team. From experience, the more they are a part of the solutions, the higher the likelihood is that one of those solutions will be successful because you are starting with the buy-in from the team. People value being valued and are less productive when the job feels like a list of meaningless tasks.

Give them ownership of their role and challenge them. Much like in the classroom, when we set the ceiling for people we never actually experience their true full potential; an easy test does not reflect achievement, intelligence or learning. If keeping a spirit of inspiration and innovation alive on your team is your desire, then give them the opportunity to feel their talents, creativity and own thoughts be integrated, utilized and appreciated. Regardless of their title on the team or hierarchy in the company, they all need to matter.

Circling back to the overall goal or vision, as a leader you never let this go, but rather continue to guide and steer the individual work in a manner that is inclusive of the energy of all of your team members. Along the process, take time to make sure your team knows you see what they are contributing and celebrate their accomplishments along the way. Sometimes significant contributions are the end point in performance for team members when they work hard and feel unseen. Take the time to provide gratification in whatever form you think that individual appreciates most; a card, an email, a call, maybe a giftcard or a few hours of PTO depending on what your options are. Certainly after the challenges of recent years, personal value, being heard and honesty ring loudly in the minds of most.

Fortunately for leaders in a budget limited era, these things are the lowest cost to provide, but take time and a sense of caring leadership to fulfill. When you lead knowing your team is your greatest asset, your team should feel that and you will see their inspiration and innovation at every checkpoint in the larger vision.

Shlomit Schaal, MD, PhD, MHCM. President at UMass Memorial Medical Group; Senior Associate Dean for Health Strategies at UMass Chan Medical School; Professor and Chair for Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences at UMass Memorial Medical Center (Worcester, Mass.). My secret to keeping inspiration and innovation alive at UMass Memorial Medical Group is not really a secret at all – it is simply being a positive person. An optimistic attitude is the best way of turning a difficult situation around. All of us can identify the negatives. That's the easy part. What's going wrong? What's broken? What resources don't we have? But it just takes one person to believe there is hope, and people will follow.

Positivity is contagious. It has to be part of your culture. At UMass Memorial, our CEO Dr. Eric Dickson refers to all of our caregivers as an army of problem solvers. A positive, can-do attitude is baked into our culture. It's not enough to recognize the problems, but to also know that there are solutions waiting to be found. There is always a way. We need to believe in ourselves and our teams and have the confidence that we can resolve any issues thrown our way.

I try to be the person who looks for the silver lining. Someone who doesn't see a problem, but an opportunity for innovation. If you want others to follow, you need to give them hope and a reason to believe that everything is possible. Positivity is the way.

Puneet Freibott, RN. Vice President of Nursing at Barnes Jewish Hospital (St. Louis). Achieving patient centric care requires an employee centric healthy work environment. I believe that the real inspiration and innovation comes from being authentic and transparent with your front line staff and leaders. Invite them into conversation by listening, following through, appreciating them and holding yourself and the teams accountable for the care delivered inspires staff at all levels to dare greatly and produce unsurpassed solutions and outcomes.

Once you allow the team to be connected to their purpose in a shared leadership and just culture environment, they tend to become owners and not renters of your vision and mission. When the employees know that you are leading from the front, they allow you to make mistakes and become your thought partners. I believe that it is that true partnership of the leader with the team that keeps the spirit of inspiration and innovation alive at all levels.

Trishul Kapoor, MD, CSTAR Fellow. Department of Anesthesiology at University of (Ann Arbor) Michigan Medicine. The secret to keeping a spirit of inspiration and innovation is reward. Reward is not always defined as financial gain but can manifest in a variety of forms – impact, progressive change, recognition, ownership, growth, etc.. Having had the privilege of leading multiple teams in my own start-ups and research programs, I quickly recognized inspiration comes from demonstration, encouragement and opportunity.

As a leader, it is important to demonstrate the impossible is possible through your own work, encourage your team to pursue challenges with empowerment and create opportunities for your team to innovate with reward. Ultimately, communal ownership and mutual opportunity to impact with a subtle foundation of reward is the secret to some of the greatest start-up success stories.

Athena Minor, RN. Chief Nursing and Clinical Officer at Ohio County Healthcare (Hartford, Ky.). My secret for keeping a spirit of inspiration and innovation alive on my team is to allow for failure. Not every new idea is going to succeed, but giving the team the opportunity to try and fail keeps the fear of failure out of the equation. This allows the team to think as far outside of the box as they like. If they present a solution and it is fiscally feasible, legal, ethical and does not break regulatory guidelines, they are encouraged to attempt implementation.

There is a period set for evaluation and, if it is not working, then we start over. The team is valued for the effort that is put into finding viable solutions and are not ridiculed or admonished for failed attempts. I would rather implement 10 failures to find one successful solution than not have solutions brought to the table because of the fear of failure. Sometimes our greatest solutions are born from our failures. It is amazing how creative people can be when they have the freedom to fail.

Pidge Lohr, DNP, RN, CENP. Vice President of Nursing Operations at Prisma Health (Greenville, S.C.). As the vice president for nursing operations, I lead a system support department across the care settings of acute, post-acute and ambulatory nursing, and I don't believe it's a secret to how we keep ourselves inspired and driven to innovation. Every day, in every meeting, every interaction and every decision, we remember that we are here to care for patients as much as our colleagues on the campuses are, even if we don't directly touch patients. Patients are always in the center of all we do. Whether it is my nursing innovation and practice director or my project manager, they all need to see themselves as caregivers to our patients. We support the clinical teams at the bedside. We hold each other accountable for calling it out when we are making a decision that suits us best – without collaborating with our campus leaders to make sure it works for the care they deliver to our patients. If you keep the patient in the center of what you do, you will remain inspired!

Kellie Lease Stecher, MD. Co-founder and President at Patient Care Heroes (Milwaukee). I don't think we are doing enough to keep the spirit of inspiration alive. Every news article I read discusses the quarterly losses, nursing strikes and healthcare executives playing musical chairs. What inspires me, and the teams I work with, are the people who follow their passions in healthcare. I hope that by working on reproductive rights, and being a women's health physician and advocate, I can inspire others to do what lights them up.

Unfortunately, we are going to need to restructure and remove the leaders who are inauthentic, lack empathy and don't prioritize their staff, physicians and nurses. The morale would dramatically improve, if we remove the leaders that were put into place because they're buddies with someone, moved here with a CEO, are liked because they fit the patriarchal mold and are allowed to walk around spewing racial and gender microaggressions. If we allow our co-workers to be their authentic selves, and do what they're passionate about, we would be unstoppable, and the positive energy would be contagious.

If we don't make changes; we will continue to see the rates of burnout climb, physician and nurse suicides go unanswered, and we will lose our best and brightest to other fields where they are appreciated. This all needs to start with leadership change. Physicians have tried for years to fix these problems, but no one is listening. We all have choices, and we should choose to inspire and to do no harm.

Chad M. Teven, MD, MBA, FACS. Plastic Reconstructive Surgeon at Northwestern Medicine and Clinical Assistant Professor of Surgery at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine (Chicago). In my experience, no single thing is both necessary and sufficient to keep inspiration alive and innovation flowing. In contrast, I create a culture in which my team feels inspired and empowered to try new things, to think outside the box and to innovate. I stress the importance of a growth mindset. I want my team members to take on challenges. I am comfortable with (and encourage) calculated risks, and the attendant failures, as long as we learn from them.

I have also realized significant value in creating an extensive, loose network. I encourage my team to do the same, in part by engaging in activities and interests that are both of professional and personal significance. Finally, I make a concerted effort to embody the character that I hope for my team. To that end, I lead by example by frequently presenting novel ideas and new ways of thinking about current issues or problems. I attempt to stimulate dialogue and participation from every team member. Lastly, I try to role model behaviors that facilitate a safe atmosphere where employees feel comfortable and confident in developing their own new ideas.

Tony Reed, MD. Senior Vice President and Chief Quality and Safety Officer at Inspira Health (Mullica Hill, N.J.). Our secret for keeping inspiration and innovation alive on our team? For Inspira, it's a poorly kept secret. Our name and values tell the story. INSPIRA derives from inspiration. Our values have the acronym I.C.R.E.A.T.E. The “I” stands for innovation. Together, our name and values serve as an ever-present reminder of the focus, drive and ambition we have towards continuous growth and improvement. Our name lets our community know that we want to evolve, and we want them to be well. Our values live at the center of everything we do and remind our team of our quest for excellence.

Nariman Heshmati, MD, MBA. Medical Director of Advocacy at Everett (Wash.) Clinic. One of the biggest challenges facing any organization, whether healthcare related or not, is how to keep your team inspired and motivated to continue innovating. Creative thinking and innovation allow you to maximize performance, but it is easy to be resigned to monotony. You need to empower your team to develop solutions and give them the support to succeed — or fail and learn from those mistakes. The larger the teams you lead the more you become a character expert rather than a content expert. Pick the right people and let them drive success. If your team feels they have agency to innovate, then they will.

Joanna Perdomo, MD. Physician in Pediatric Care Center at Nicklaus Children's Health System (Miami). One of the keys to keeping a spirit of innovation and inspiration alive in our team is to ensure our team is diversified with people who have different roles in the organization, work in different departments, and have different strengths, talents and backgrounds. This diversity of thought, knowledge and expertise helps drive creative and innovative change.

Stephen Q. Hoang, MD, FASA. Pediatric Anesthesiologist at Children's Health System of (Dallas) Texas. The mission of our pediatric hospital system is 'make life better for children.' That in itself is truly inspirational. To capitalize on such a powerful mission, good leaders understand that people want to be empowered to have ownership in a team's success. It is critical to channel engagement and motivation to all team members in order to inspire them to work toward common goals that can accomplish positive results that add value to the organization's culture.

I am a big believer in rounding on team members to reinforce a culture of support that inspires each member to remain engaged and excited about their contribution. This aspect of servant leadership helps foster innovation. For our team, innovation can touch many facets of perioperative care, from better quality and patient safety to better operational efficiency and cost containment. Innovation at its basic core is usually taking old ideas and principles and applying and matching them with current goals and strategies in order to do things better.

If you have an idea that improves on the patient/family experience, is sustainable and is in line with the team's strategic goals and culture. I will go out of my way to make sure you have a platform and time to work on your idea and work with you to make it a success for you and the team. We will then communicate and showcase this success to continue to inspire others and listen to their ideas.

Alan Hathcock, MD, MPH. CEO and Medical Director at Northern Colorado Hospitalists (Fort Collins). Providing inspiration is a constant challenge for leaders as we march through year three of the pandemic. We strive to inspire by focusing on our mission to provide the highest quality of care to our patients while supporting our greatest asset, our providers. We have focused energy to spotlight outstanding daily clinical efforts, emphasize leadership from the front and build gratitude into all we do.

One silver lining of the pandemic is that it has necessitated innovation and our team continues to value these lessons, finding creative solutions to challenges with staffing, scheduling, volume surges and physician burnout/wellness. With direct provider feedback and focus groups, we've implemented new clinical services, enhanced daily workflows and built a sabbatical program, all of which serve to inspire more innovation.

Kyle Underwood, MHA. Program Manager II in the Head and Neck Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Healthcare is full of stories that inspire and engage, but too often get lost in the noise of daily tasks and challenges. In looking to inspire my team, I ask each of them when they start, 'What is your why?' This question sparks a dialogue that leads to the development of their own personal and professional goals, which then become their metrics for success.

We then create opportunities, whether through hallway conversations or structured one-on-ones, where they can share their story and reflect on how their experience is linking to their why and personal 'metrics.' The beauty of this exercise is two-fold: The team members feel valued and heard, creating a space where they can share ideas and thoughts that inspire transformative change in our organization. It's simple. Acknowledge your teams' stories and show how they can use it to inspire others; with this, innovative and creative thought will follow. 

Kimberly Cantees, MD, MBA. Clinical Director of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital (Pittsburgh). I manage the resources in an anesthesiology department in a quaternary care hospital that is a part of a large healthcare system. The past two years have brought significant challenges and changes with the COVID-19 disruption to surgical services and the surgical services labor constraints that we have seen because of the great resignation. We found that regular monthly identification and discussion of the current challenges in an in-person meeting of our anesthesiology faculty has helped us maintain a culture of inspiration and innovation. Secondly, our number one priority remains patient safety, and our second priority is physician wellness. With wellness as a priority, we focus on daily workflow processes/assignments that may impact physician wellness, such as call shift assignment, work hour analysis and anesthesiologist concurrency, as this relates to case acuity.

Janet Tomcavage. Executive Vice President and Chief Nurse Executive at Geisinger (Danville, Pa.). First and foremost — knowledge. We're transparent about the challenges facing our nursing team and the organization. We can't talk about the future of nursing and healthcare without acknowledging where we are right now. Part of this work is helping our team understand their role in delivering on the strategic priorities of the organization and embracing a shared governance approach to problem solving. When our nurses are encouraged to identify problems and offer creative solutions, we build a supportive environment based on innovation and learning versus being afraid of failure. Finding new and better ways to support innovative care delivery models requires us to rethink our routine, and that includes embracing failure and celebrating our learnings from it.

Gail Vozzella. Chief Nurse Executive at Houston Methodist Hospital. The reason Houston Methodist is successfully adopting innovations is because of hands-on involvement of our leaders, clinical team and operational staff. It all begins with our DIOP team, which stands for Digital Innovation Obsessed People. Once the DIOP team finds technology solutions for our clinical teams, the caregivers then become fully involved as they are part of all innovation projects from the ground up.

Our hospital operations team then partners with the clinical team to see these projects through. This structure allows units to adopt innovation in a way that optimizes care delivery. Another reason we're so successful at adopting innovation is that we're not afraid of failure. If a project is not working over time, we move on and do not waste any additional time or resources. With successful implementations, we expand the technology quickly across our hospital system.

Michele Szkolnicki. Senior Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer at Milton S. Hershey (Pa.) Medical Center, Penn State Health. After more than 25 years in leadership roles, I have come to believe that inspiration is found within. It's about encouraging our team members to reconnect with their 'why' – their purpose, passion or personal mission statement. In late 2021, I decided to reflect good work through a weekly message. I do not use my message to promote events or announce department updates. I share a brief but meaningful story that I want our teams to hear. It is an opportunity to spotlight unexpected patient care, creative processes and exceptional inter-professional teamwork. Together, we re-experience every day wins that deserve to be celebrated. Fast forward one year and our teams are talking about the stories and acknowledging their colleagues. There is a collective sense of pride. Now, I get emails almost every day with stories to share.

Kenneth Altman, MD, PhD, FACS. Chair of Department of Otolaryngology of Head and Neck Surgery at Geisinger (Danville, Pa.). Leadership to maintain a cohesive team that is also dealing with personal loss and physical stress is more important than ever before. My approach to inspiring others starts with preserving a youthful sense of curiosity and discovery in myself. Tireless energy is so much easier when you keep things positive, and creativity is infectious. It has certainly not been easy navigating all of the hurdles over the last three years, to include all of the phases of COVID-19, financial pressures, staffing needs, civil unrest, the supply chain, prioritizing care from the OR to now pediatric patient beds, RSV, teleconferencing, telemedicine, a younger workforce, cultural changes and inflation, to name a few. However, it does not take much to realize how far we've come over this time, innovating in part out of need for agility in the moment, and sometimes taking the risk to embrace new technologies and processes that celebrate a bright unbounded future.

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