The smartest decision 48 health system executives, leaders made in the last year

Hospital and health system leaders had to make many critical moves in the last few years to meet the needs of their communities during the pandemic. But they also focused on key areas to set the foundation for success in the future.

Addressing staffing issues, culture changes and personal wellness were among the areas 48 healthcare executives, leaders and physicians focused on this past year to springboard into the future. 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 Randi Haseman 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 is the smartest thing you've done in the last year to prepare for success in the future?

Michael A. Slubowski. President and CEO at Trinity Health (Livonia, Mich.). It’s important to address immediate challenges while keeping the long view in sight. We are focused on financial stewardship and getting our 'sea legs' back following the aftershocks of the pandemic, especially as it relates to staffing shortages and getting patients and members back for routine and chronic care needs. It’s created the opportunity for us to revisit everything we do with a beginner’s mind. 

At the same time, we've been growing our services in health segments such as urgent care, specialty pharmacy, PACE, home care, medical groups and ambulatory surgery. We've also made some important strategic health system acquisitions in communities we serve. We have continued our work to put common platforms in place to connect care across the continuum. And we’re investing in new care models to support our clinical staff and to improve the care experience for patients and members. 

Finally, we are reinvesting in our people and our culture as a faith-based health system. We deliver the most personal of human services – body, mind and spirit. We are connecting clinical care to social care needs. Our promise statement is 'We Listen, We Partner, We Make It Easy.' It’s a lofty aspiration, but we are committed to it.

Mark A. Schuster, MD. Founding Dean and CEO at Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine (Pasadena, Calif.). Last year, I decided to use my lunch time differently — to step away from my keyboard and connect with students. That simple schedule change has helped me (and them!) shape the direction of our school for the better. I'd long made it a point to walk around the school and chat with students, but a brief conversation can only tell you so much — and I realized I wasn’t running into everyone. So a year ago, I launched a series of lunches, just me and a group of six students at a time. It’s been a chance to get to know each other, sharing restaurant recommendations and scoops on new movies (we’re in Los Angeles, after all!). 

But these lunches are more than that, too. These students have given me candid feedback that’s led to changes in our curriculum and how we do things at the school. We've improved the curriculum, schedules and community-building activities. We have a faculty and staff that are very receptive to suggestions, whether funneled from students through me or shared directly. I've appreciated these conversations so much that I'm planning to have lunch with faculty and staff in small groups as well throughout the coming year.

Bruce Rogen, MD. Chief Medical Officer at Cleveland Clinic. Switched our data aggregation and analytics vendor to one that will help us prepare for more successful value based contracting, take our accountable care organizations to the next level and accelerate the process of moving into full risk contracts. At the same time using that vendor switch as an opportunity to educate our provider network on how to better use data to improve quality and satisfaction while controlling utilization and cost in a downside risk environment.

Michael Stapleton. CEO at Thompson Health (Canandaigua, N.Y.). We saw the impending staffing crisis and, as a system, it was imperative for us to keep all of our long-term care beds operational, so we could keep our patients moving through the continuum of care. We met the staffing challenges and have kept all of our long-term care beds open and have increased the number of staffed beds in our hospital. This happened during a period when 1,600 nursing home beds closed in the Finger Lakes Region due to staffing and the vast majority of hospitals also closed beds. 

Staffing is still an enormous challenge, and we started a Recruitment and Operations Committee made up of members of the executive team and system leaders to help our associate services recruit and retain top talent on a weekly basis. We have come up with metrics to measure progress and focus our efforts on mission driven positions.

John Couris. President and CEO at Tampa General Hospital (Tampa Bay, Fla.). The smartest thing I have done most recently to set Tampa General Hospital up for success, drive innovation and technological advances, and thrive in achieving organizational objectives is to establish an 'internal design' team here at TGH under Dr. Peter Chang, vice president of healthcare design. Drawing on experts from both the strategy and operations sides of Tampa General, our internal design team focuses on the big questions that will determine our future — and the industry's future. 

The mission of the team, which encompasses areas such as care coordination planning, our growing hospital-at-home program and our new ambulatory-care models is to look five to 10 years down the road and try to forecast what consumers want and need, how we will enhance health care and make it more affordable and design the roadmap for getting there. This will allow TGH to fully realize our role in coordinating the health and well-being of our entire community — providing us the ability to fulfill our mission and answer the question of how to continue to improve the quality of American healthcare delivery while lowering the cost.

Ketul J. Patel. Division President of Pacific Northwest at CommonSpirit Health; CEO at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health (Seattle). As the healthcare industry continues to address ongoing unprecedented challenges including rising costs of care, staffing shortages and capacity issues, Virginia Mason Franciscan Health is reimagining care delivery through strategic partnerships and innovative solutions for care. Our strategic partnerships are integral to ensuring we are not only growing but reaching everyone in our communities. 

We are launching a Home Recovery Care model which delivers quality care, traditionally provided in a hospital setting, to our patients in their homes — increasing patient satisfaction and improving outcomes while reducing overall cost of care and creating more inpatient capacity for those with the most critical needs. We will also be opening the state’s first hybrid ER/urgent care center with multiple locations planned over the next four years. 

The hybrid ER/urgent care center will eliminate the guesswork for patients seeking care and help them manage their costs, while reducing the current strain on our emergency department capacity. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it's that we need to work together to address the challenges we’re facing in the healthcare system.

Chris Carmody. Chief Technology Officer at UPMC (Pittsburgh). Listening is the smartest thing I’ve done this past year and every year prior. It’s sometimes difficult, time consuming and even frustrating, but you cannot be successful in solving problems and delivering solutions without listening to and engaging with the stakeholders involved.

Ronda Lehman, PharmD. President at Mercy Health - Lima (Ohio). Read, read and read! Whether it’s fiction, historical fiction or nonfiction, reading does something for me that is priceless. Yes, it introduces me to new concepts and knowledge, but perhaps more importantly, it gives me perspective. The world is so much bigger than my little section of the universe, and in many ways that can be comforting. In addition, reading inspires me to overcome adversity like countless people have done for generations before me. It also reminds me of the fragile nature of humans and what a blessing it is to serve in healthcare and to make a difference in people’s lives.

Aaron Miri. Senior Vice President of Chief Digital and Information Officer at Baptist Health Northeast Florida (Jacksonville, Fla.). The smartest thing that we have done to prepare for success in the future is invest in our technical staff development with formal training programs, skills labs, shadowing, certifications and technical competency benchmarks. Furthermore, in close collaboration with our outstanding human resources team, we have revamped our job descriptions and compensation bands to ensure we are providing equitable pay for skills competency, especially around supporting our Epic electronic health record and our technical teams such as enterprise architecture, data analytics, Site Reliability Engineering and DevOps. You can never go wrong by putting your team first and foremost while we all rally around caregivers providing the highest quality patient care.

Trevor G. Wright. CEO at Loma Linda (Calif.) University Health Hospitals. There are probably two things we’ve done this past year to better prepare for success in the future. The first is to focus on doing all we can to take care of our employees. The pandemic has upended the world on so many levels and healthcare providers have been the tip of the spear. Not only have they been the frontline providing care during the difficulties and tragedies of multiple waves of the pandemic and kept going, but their lives outside of work are impacted just as all of ours have been. It’s a lot to ask of anyone, so a primary focus of Loma Linda University Health has been doing what we can to care for and support our caregivers – especially from a mental and emotional health perspective. There are lots of details and programs in support of this, but I wanted to call it out as a primary initiative.

The second thing has been to reevaluate everything in our continuum that we are currently doing ourselves and asking if it is still mission critical? If it is mission critical, can it be done to at least the same level of quality and service but more cost-effective in an alternative model or partnership? 

Oftentimes, the answers are relatively obvious, but because of organizational sensitivities or inertia, the default position in the past has been to put off making a decision. The luxury of delaying those decisions and avoiding institution politics is no longer a viable path in my opinion. We have pulled the band-aid off and made decisions in a number of areas that ultimately have led to expense reduction, improved patient access and improved operational bandwidth.

I don’t think there is one magic solution that positions an organization for success in the future, but prioritizing your people and relentless pursuit of efficiency and service are always beneficial as organizations navigate the challenging path and changes ahead for healthcare.

Susan Burroughs. Associate CEO at MUSC Health Columbia Medical Center Northeast (Columbia, S.C.). The smartest thing that I have done in the last year to set myself up for success is being intentional with my time, talent and treasure. I have focused on building internal and external relationships and partners that add value to my organization and communities that we serve while ensuring that I carve out time for self-care to keep myself restored and ready to lead.

David Sylvan. President of University Hospitals Ventures (Cleveland). One concrete step our organization has taken in the last year is to listen more attentively – both to the insights gathered from stakeholders and to the marketplace. The COVID-19 pandemic has had all of us in healthcare flying at Mach 3 for almost three years, with increasing demands for deliverables and outputs. We've been moving very, very quickly. But now it makes sense to step back and listen more carefully. 

As someone focused on innovation and capital deployment in the healthcare space, it's easy to fall into the trap of chasing the latest shiny object. However, it’s crucially important during stressful periods like the one we're all experiencing to be very focused on a finite, few initiatives that have the most immediate potential for value and impact. That only happens with active listening. With that level of attentiveness, we can see where the market is going, potentially seeing around the proverbial corner.

Tom Siemers. CEO at Wilbarger General Hospital (Vernon, Texas). I started an orthopedic surgery program. We're a small, rural Texas hospital. We were fortunate to find an orthopedic surgeon from the Dallas area that was willing to work one day per week at our hospital. His typical day would be to do surgery in the morning then meet with clinic patients in the afternoon. For patients, it was a great convenience to receive care in their community without traveling to another city. For the hospital, it opened a whole new revenue stream that kept our ancillary units busy. Our financial performance improved immediately and significantly.

Erica DeBoer, RN. Chief Nursing Officer at Sanford Health (Sioux Falls, S.D.). We are committed to building a resilient nursing culture focused on innovation and discovery at Sanford Health, and that starts at the bedside. It is a privilege to round and engage with our nurses on the frontlines — their passion, wisdom and perseverance inspires me daily and informs our work as an organization. Open, transparent communication also cultivates trust, empowers our nurses and supports their professional development. I always remind our nurses to never stop believing in the difference they make every day. 

As we continue to face unprecedented challenges in healthcare, including a chronic nursing workforce shortage, we are leveraging technology, predictive analytics and automation to support our nursing workforce and the patients, residents and communities we serve. I am optimistic about the future because of our nurses' unwavering commitment and enthusiasm for delivering care in new ways to enhance the patient experience and improve the health of our communities. 

Hoda Asmar. Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at Providence (Renton, Wash.). I have always found that when I take time to be focused and give myself the space to be innovative, my thoughts are more organized and actionable. To facilitate this, I commit time each day to write myself a note. The notes are not on a particular subject or aspect of life but can be about whatever I need to process or remember at the time. Being intentional about taking the time and space needed for this practice has been liberating; I have seen my mindfulness grow and have felt the impact of allowing myself to be anchored even further with what matters most.

I use these notes as a place to brainstorm, flesh out new concepts and think through challenges, successes and failures. This is also a way to be more inquisitive, take smart risks and avoid chasing every new idea that comes up. Putting it all on paper and revisiting it over time helps me stay aligned with my strategic and personal goals.

Jeremy Cauwels, MD. Chief Physician at Sanford Health (Sioux Falls, S.D.). At Sanford Health, patient safety and quality are a top priority, and our people are our most valuable quality delivery tool. We are focused on leading a safe culture that builds resilience. Our SAFE initiative encourages open communication and empowers every member of the team to speak up for safety and accountability. 

The program also equips our clinicians with relationship skills and tools to support them in challenging situations — for example, assuming good intent, using empathy and other strategies for de-escalating a situation. By engaging every member of our team in this effort, we have given our clinicians a renewed sense of calling, strengthened resiliency and improved patient outcomes. We look forward to continuing to build on the success of this program to support our people, patients and the communities we serve.

Joseph Webb. CEO at Nashville General Hospital (Tenn.). At Nashville General Hospital, we developed and implemented a structural framework to promote a rigorous focus on metrics as a methodology for encouraging individual performance and accountability at all levels. Metrics can also be detrimental to an organization’s success, especially if leadership is not fully committed to building a robust data warehouse that can be used for continuous provision of relevant data and a system for mining the data to produce intelligence. Data utilization to produce reliable metrics is also a major component of building an evidence-based management culture within an organization. 

I highly recommend this strategy, regardless of the type of industry in which you are employed. An organization cannot achieve its full potential if there is inadequate attention devoted to individual performance. A lack of metrics-based or outcomes-based activities can make it difficult to engage in performance-based evaluations of individuals and organizations. Major opportunities for improvement seem to avail themselves when leaders and employees are provided clear measures of performance.

Thomas M. Maddox, MD. Vice President for Digital Products and Innovation at BJC HealthCare/Washington University School of Medicine (St. Louis). One of the smartest things I’ve done to prepare for future success is be very picky in selecting my team. Over the past few years, I’ve needed to build my digital innovation teams from scratch. I spent many hours vetting candidates and conducting interviews. 

In addition, for select candidates, I prepared 'prompts' to have them demonstrate how they would handle various aspects of their role. I also carefully looked for the right mindset, in addition to experience, using Lencioni’s 'hungry, humble, and smart' framework as my guide. All of this took a lot of time and effort. I also passed on many candidates. 

However, the process resulted in my finding some of the smartest, most capable and inspiring team members I've ever had the pleasure of working with. They teach me every day and allow our team to achieve things far beyond what I could have imagined.

Michelle Stansbury. Vice President of IT Innovation and IT Applications at Houston Methodist Hospital System. Innovation has always been a core part of Houston Methodist’s DNA, so it's only fitting that our healthcare system continues our vision and plans for the smart hospital of the future. Our ninth hospital in the Houston area is scheduled to open in early 2025. Taking lessons learned from our Center for Innovation and the technology adopted during the pandemic, Houston Methodist’s smart hospital of the future focuses on improving the patient experience, making sure to include the necessary infrastructure for the next century of innovation to improve care and interactions between patients and providers. 

Like many other hospitals across the U.S., addressing ongoing staffing challenges is another area we've been hyper-focused on. We're combining innovation and technology in what we’re calling 'care redesign' to revamp the way we deliver care so we're better positioned for the future of healthcare for our patients and clinicians.

Alexa Kimball, MD. President and CEO for Harvard Medical Faculty Physicians, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (Boston); Professor at Harvard Medical School (Boston); Board Member of Beth Israel Lahey Health and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. We learned a lot in the past few years, not only about how to plan for the future, but also about how to be willing to adjust your plan. We had created and moved into very well-received office space about five years ago, and we were just starting to outgrow it before the pandemic started. In 2022, one of the most important aspects of planning was how to return our office-based teams to that common working environment. Working together with representatives from all areas of our organization, we designed a coordinated plan to smooth the return-to-office transition for our staff in finance, HR, compliance, communications, IT and legal. 

We determined that every group would have the same ratio of in-person and remote work (two days per week in the office). We then considered which teams benefitted the most from interacting together in person and designed their in-office days together (for example, HR and communications are in the office on the same days). We began with one day a week in the office, and ramped up to two, giving our teams plenty of notice to adjust their schedules and address needs like childcare and transportation. 

To make the return easier and a little better for our staff, we added social events and gave out welcome (back) gifts. Our team also created a newsletter focused solely on return-to-office so that we could easily update staff on policies and processes and answer frequently asked questions. Finally, we upgraded everyone's technology both at home and in the office so that they could work and travel seamlessly between the two locations. The careful planning paid off: The teams are engaged and enjoying both the flexibility and the time together.

Jean Ann Larson, PhD. Chief Leadership Development Officer at UAB Medicine and Senior Associate Dean, Heersink School of Medicine (Birmingham, Ala.). I’ve recruited and hired an amazing team. I have been very intentional and made sure that they are all talented, diverse and fill a niche in our organization, and I’ve made sure that they have strengths that I don’t have.

I am reprioritizing my health and self-care. The pandemic got me a bit off course. I am doing this to take care of myself and also to be a role model to my team and my family. I am approaching this in a more holistic way. I am caring for myself physically, including sleep, exercise, nutrition and hydration as well as spiritually, intellectually and socially/emotionally.

I am saying 'no' to some social obligations and 'yes' to activities and events that bring me joy. I am intentionally celebrating milestones in my life and the lives of others who are close to me. This has been a year of milestones. I am starting new hobbies and reacquainting myself with old ones.

I realize that this is not all work-related. However, I have learned that if I am taking care of myself, I am a much better leader at work.

Matthew J. Painter, PhD. Director of Leadership Development at UAB Health System and School of Medicine (Birmingham, Ala.). We began embarking on doing more after-action reviews following each substantive event. So the after-action reviews allow us to identify the things that are working and not working and then take action. Overall, this allows us to identify things that work particularly well when we execute and identify opportunities we need to address to improve our delivery and effectiveness.

Brent Jackson, MD. Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at Mercy General Hospital (Sacramento, Calif.). The smartest thing I did in the last year to prepare for future success was to engage with an executive coach. During my nine month engagement with her, I learned the tools of emotional intelligence and deepened the skill of active listening. Just having the technical skills to perform at the executive level is no longer enough. Mastery of these 'soft skills' really is fundamental to success as a servant leader.

Matthew Primack. President at Advocate Condell Medical Center (Libertyville, Ill.). Coming out of the pandemic, we realized the importance of exceptional leadership and the need to develop and support our leaders. We added weekly leadership update meetings, introduced quarterly leadership development sessions and included directors-level leaders in more strategic and operational executive meetings. We launched open and frequent communication to managers and supervisors and re-instituted comprehensive leader development cohorts. The emphasis on leadership development has improved retention and leadership engagement around performance outcomes.

Bashar Naser, CFO and COO at Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center (Alamogordo, N.M.). Last year was one of our best operational and financial years. One of the reasons was retaining patients and not transferring out due to limited nursing staff. What we did was increase nursing staff by hiring additional travelers right before the winter months started, and we were able to significantly increase census and the added cost was worth it. We are set to do the same thing this winter and better serve our community.

Jim Heilsberg. CFO at Tri-State Memorial & Medical Campus (Clarkston, Wash.). I forgot about the past and looked to the opportunity of the future.

Tony Reed, MD. Senior Vice President and Chief Quality and Safety Officer at Inspira Health in Southern New Jersey (Mullica Hill, N.J.). The smartest thing I've done in the last year to prepare for success in the future is deep, personal introspection. I held an incredible position as the executive vice president and chief medical officer for a hallmark academic medical center in Philadelphia and, upon reflection, left that role to take the senior physician role in my local health system, responsible for the quality, safety and experience of care delivery. That move afforded me the opportunity to help drive health optimization in my own community, where my family lives, works and goes to school. Beyond that, it gave me more time to spend with my own family because I cut two hours of commuting each day from my schedule.

Trishul Kapoor, MD. Department of Anesthesiology at University of Michigan Medicine (Ann Arbor). To me, success is the completion of an intended or unintended task. Personal success is the attainment of progressive ambition and growth. My ambition has always been simple: to make a meaningful impact in this world. In order to succeed in this ambition, I follow a number of core principles, of which the most important is observation. 

Observation is simply the action of paying attention to your environment with an intention to learn. It is far more difficult to complete than stated. On a daily basis, I make an effort to place myself in new environments to observe. These environments include a spectrum of attending webinars on decentralized autonomous organizations to meeting with the environmental services team. It may sound ridiculous, but I do this because I want to be present without bias or predefined motives to learn new constructs of critical thinking and obtain new skills to pursue innovation. To my own surprise, this daily effort has reshaped my thinking and allowed me to succeed in a number of innovation pursuits. 

Stephen Q. Hoang, MD. Pediatric Anesthesiologist at Children’s Health System of Texas (Dallas). The smartest thing I've done this past year to prepare for future success is to actively invest in my 'mental weLLth.' I personally use a combination of exercise, reflection and mindfulness for good health and wellness. You have to start by first making this a priority in your schedule each week. These skills have to be developed, cultivated and practiced regularly towards mastery. There are some early studies demonstrating that lactate from exercise can even have some immune protective effects as well. With good 'mental weLLth,' you will be better prepared to manage yourself, balance your responsibilities and be a more effective leader.

Ghalib Abbasi, PharmD. Director of System Pharmacy Informatics at Houston Methodist Hospital System. As a tenured leader, I find that expanding the investment in artificial intelligence and smart meaningful healthcare technologies for improved clinician and patient experience was one of the best decisions we’ve made over the last year. These include, but are not limited to, augmented-reality clinician training, hands-free camera-empowered documentation, advanced patient education tools and enhanced predictive modeling for patient care management. As the healthcare paradigm is moving towards an ambulatory patient-centric model, adding these critical infrastructure pieces paves the road to add more timely service lines and priceless flexibility as the model morphs.

Athena Minor, RN. Chief Nursing and Clinical Officer at Ohio County Healthcare (Hartford, Ky.). Have you ever had the opportunity to visit an old European castle and look through one of the original panes of a glass window? Looking into the future is sort of like that. You have an idea of what you are looking at, but it is foggy and distorted; it isn’t clear. Just like the ancient glass distorts your vision, the uncertainties of regulatory guidance, reimbursement policies and competent workforce shortages create an unclear future as we strive to fulfill our organizational vision. 

One of the smartest things that we have done as an organization is to establish contingencies into our strategic plan that allows us to be more fluid as we navigate the changing healthcare landscape. This approach has allowed us to plan for a variety of healthcare climate change, especially regarding those aspects of healthcare that are outside of our control. By understanding that there is no longer a 'normal' to navigate and planning for other possibilities than would be 'normally' expected in the past, we have been able to change focus quickly and switch strategies to attain the best outcome as needed. You don't want to build a strategic plan in times of crisis, so anticipating change and being proactive in outlining contingencies plans has allowed us to continue to remain strong through the challenges we have faced, and I fully believe it will help us in our future success.

Gail Games. Vice President of Chief Learning and Development Officer at Holzer Health System (Gallipolis, Ohio). Holzer Health System embarked on a culture shift initiative three years ago. After we wound down from our COVID-19 surge, it became time to train 2,500 individuals on our expectations around culture and mindset. My department of trainers didn't have the bandwidth to train everyone. So the smartest thing I did was create a 'Train the Trainer' class for hand-selected leaders in the organization to assist with training. Each person brings their own perspective and personality to the trainings. Participants are not singled out, so physicians are present with line staff who are present with senior leadership. This year of training is preparing us for a successful future at Holzer.

Franklin Owusu. Administrator of Hospital Operations at The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center (Columbus, Ohio). From my perspective, there are really two main pillars where leaders can prepare success for the future. One: always be a student of your environment; and two: doing what you can to help the next generation.

As it relates to the first pillar, it’s important to always look for ways to gain new knowledge and educate yourself on new trends and policy, especially in healthcare where it’s always evolving. One of the best ways to do that is to join a professional society like the American College of Healthcare Executives and become board certified in healthcare management (FACHE). About two years ago, I began the steps to become board certified. The process was finally completed this past spring. The FACHE exemplifies leadership in healthcare management, demonstrates you are competent in the health field and you have lifelong commitment to improvement.

Pillar two: I think all leaders should take a retrospective look at their careers and reflect on how they achieved their goals. For example, those who have reached the C-suite, it's important to understand they reached that pinnacle with the help of those who came before them, whether it was a mentor who helped pave the way, or someone who gave them a chance to prove themselves as a young leader. 

As leaders climb the ladder, we should continue to look for young leaders to mentor and help guide the way. It's why I am so proud to have started our Diversity Summer Internship program for rising seniors and had our first cohort this past summer. The program exposes the interns to the breadth and depth of a career in the healthcare industry and helps to build a pipeline of high-potential and diverse candidates. Having a program where leaders are mentoring young aspiring leaders will pay dividends not only for the students but for our organization as we seek out talent for future roles. 

Looking back this past year, I think these are two of the smartest things I’ve done to prepare for success in the future, not only for myself, but for many others.

Randy Farmer. COO at Delaware Health Information Network (Dover, Del.). Our vision to be the preferred, highly-trusted provider of health data services requires the shoring up of the backend infrastructure to support DHIN’s evolution. In the past year, the DHIN team made a strategic decision to separate daily network operations from development operations. This stratification affords the dev-ops team the time and space to innovate while ensuring that daily operations remain the top priority for the net-ops team. This improved structure positions DHIN for future growth by enabling transformations that save time, money and lives.

John Kurvink. Vice President of Performance and Financial Strategy and CFO at Grey Bruce Health Services (Ontario, Canada). After the last few years, we are seeing that our staff is tired. With everything ramping up as we deal with surgical backlogs and unmet care needs of the people we serve, it is creating additional stress and pressure on our teams. In this context, finding balance is very important and self-care is an element in that effort. 

Personally, the smartest thing I've done in the past year to prepare for success in the future is to join a running group and start taking guitar lessons. Both these hobbies have several benefits: Running keeps me fit, alleviates stress and provides me with a clear mind for decision making. Guitar lessons force me to learn new skills which fire off a different set of synapses which I believe improves my creative thinking. 

In closing, I recommend everyone should devote time to ensure they create balance in their lives. By developing hobbies, apart from work, it strengthens reliance and positions you professionally to deal successfully with the challenges ahead.

Lara Burnside. Senior Vice President and Chief Patient Experience Officer at JPS Health Network (Fort Worth, Texas). The smartest thing I have done this year that will serve me well in the future is taking care of my own mental health. We have pushed so hard the past almost three years and that can be exhausting and disorienting. I have been very intentional about taking time off to be with my family, using our EAP services and being physically active several times a week. The other life-changing technique is practicing gratitude. When I remember all the wonderful things I have for which to be grateful, it helps me stay focused on what truly matters. This refills me and allows me to give back in a much deeper way with those whom I have the privilege of walking this journey of taking great care of our teams and those we serve.

Sean Poellnitz. Chief Resource Officer at Renown Health (Reno, Nev.). The smartest thing I've done to prepare for future success is to focus on and prioritize my people. I speak with honesty, authenticity, positivity and transparency through change. I meet with people in person; I take selfies and post positive messages online. I choose my words carefully to be sure I am motivating others to build their strengths and resiliency. I communicate often. I am realistic about business expectations and celebrate the successes, big and small.

Kellie Lease Stecher, MD. Co-founder and President of Patient Care Heroes (Columbus, Ohio). It seems really simple, and everyone should do this, but we don't. I decided to put myself on the list. Meaning, I was never on my priority list before. I now work out with a trainer three to five times a week. I realized that I was more effective if I was spending time on my physical health. 

Bradd Busick. Senior Vice President and CIO at MultiCare (Tacoma, Wash.). MultiCare has invested heavily in our infrastructure, scalability, platforms and playbooks to further expand access to care and services. From cloud services and technical debt remediation to modernized patient experiences and leveling up our talent, we are turning the corner on our digital transformation and our provider and patient community will benefit from it.

Keith Fernandez, MD. Chief Clinical Officer at Privia Health (Arlington, Va.). The smartest thing we did this year to prepare for the future was launching a Clinical Leadership Development Program with an inaugural cohort of 24 leading physicians. With rapid growth and an increasing number of risk-based contracts, the need for experienced, trained and engaged physician leaders is essential for success.

Nariman Heshmati, MD. Medical Director of Advocacy at Everett (Wash.) Clinic. The smartest thing I have done in the past year to prepare for success in the future was completing my executive MBA. The delivery of healthcare is changing and there are evolving operational and management skills we need to successfully navigate those changes. These aren't skills we learned in medical school or residency and leading evergrowing consolidated organizations isn't a natural skill set for most. We need to constantly be learning new things and finding innovative ways to apply them to the challenges in front of us if we are to succeed. 

Joan Halpern. Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer at New York-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital (New York City). I’m a proponent of 'people first.' We've taken steps to maximize communication, transparency and relationships with the frontline team members, so they are kept in the loop and included in decision-making about the future. Shared ownership over creating solutions to new and evolving challenges are essential in making sure we can adapt effectively to the changes we see in the workforce landscape. 

That being said, we are in a time where additional support is needed for the workforce. We've developed and implemented more comprehensive programs to foster the transition of new employees into our organization and specialty environments. We've also created additional structures to support our experienced team members who have been inundated with training new team members. 

And lastly, it all comes down to leadership. We've put substantial resources into developing our current and emerging leaders, so they can be active and consistent partners in creating a positive practice environment, especially during future periods of change.

Arianne Dowdell. Vice President and Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer at Houston Methodist Hospital System. Over the past year, we've made a concerted effort to do a lot of listening. Talking with and gaining feedback from our employees during focus groups, training sessions and through our visits during overnight shifts — a critical team for our hospital and our patients — have all been really helpful. Listening to the needs of our employees and leadership and hearing what they need to help drive DEI forward has given us key insights to execute and strategize priorities to elevate diversity, equity and inclusion even further within Houston Methodist. We would not be able to do this work if we didn’t take the time to listen to everyone doing their part to create meaningful change for our organization. 

Andy Anderson, MD. Chief Medical Officer and Chief Quality Officer at RWJBarnabas Health (West Orange, N.J.). We have promoted and fostered teamwork and transparency with better reporting of outcomes and more collaboration between nursing and physician leaders to drive clinical performance and patient centered outcomes. COVID-19 and our recent pediatric virus surge have positively brought us together more cohesively as a system by ensuring that we share best practices and open up access across our system by moving resources and support across our different sites of care.

Ginny Torno. Administrative Director of Innovation and IT Clinical for Ancillary, Research Systems at Houston Methodist Hospital System. The smartest thing I've done in the past year to prepare for future success is taking on additional responsibility in my new role at Houston Methodist. I split my time between the Houston Methodist Center for Innovation and also oversee clinical, ancillary and research focused IT teams. This has enabled me to significantly broaden my experience in clinical settings and gives me the platform to really influence positive and transformative change, primarily at Houston Methodist, but also outside the walls of Houston Methodist. 

Many of the vendors we partner with can then implement their new functionality across other healthcare systems. I am fortunate to have excellent teams in my area who are driven to deliver patient, nursing and clinician experiences that are leading medicine.

Kenneth Altman, MD, PhD. Chair for Department of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery at Geisinger (Danville, Pa.). When the world stops and the economy slows, it’s a great time to self-reflect and firm up existing resources. The last three years have been an incredible journey of challenges and change requiring agility and out of the box thinking. It’s tempting to spend this time reacting to the demands of the moment. But throughout these distractions I’ve learned from adaptability, kept my focus on the longer term vision and never stopped innovating. I would say that the smartest thing I’ve done in the last year was not sweating the small stuff and continuing to build relationships to expand our knowledge base with an eye on the future. As a result of staying excited about our strategy with the future vision rather than being exhausted by daily obstacles, we stayed on course through very difficult times.

Jared Antczak. Chief Digital Officer, Sanford Health (Sioux Falls, S.D.). Sanford Health has launched a $350 million virtual care initiative to transform healthcare for rural and underserved communities across the upper Midwest by significantly improving access to convenient, high-quality care no matter where people live or the health challenges they face. As part of this initiative, we will expand access to on-demand virtual urgent care, behavioral health care and primary care. 

Our goal is to make virtual visits possible within 24 hours for anyone in our care footprint who needs access to a mental health provider. Imagine a consumer-focused digital health experience that is simple, seamless and personalized – one that empowers patients to take control of their health by accessing care where, when, and how they want and need it. That is the future of digital we are focused on at Sanford Health for the 1.5 million patients we serve across 250,000 square miles. 

We believe rural America is uniquely positioned to lead change in digital health, and we are excited about the opportunity to transform the patient experience for future generations. 

Luis Garcia, MD. President at Sanford Clinic (Sioux Falls, S.D.). Our people are our most valuable asset, and I am proud that Sanford Health has invested in clinician well-being initiatives to support our clinicians, prevent burnout and improve their experience. We have built a culture of well-being through small peer groups, trainings, mentorship, a clinician assistance program, a clinician wellness council and other programs that promote wellness, awareness and prevention of mental health issues and encourage a healthy work-life balance. 

Our comprehensive strategy includes different tactics to support our clinicians in their clinical practice but also as individuals. We want Sanford Health to be a place where new clinicians come and the place where they retire. That means we need to support our clinicians inside and outside of their work. We invest heavily in every community where our clinics and hospitals are located, and we encourage our clinicians to get involved as community leaders. Our clinicians tell us they feel called to serve and to contribute their talents to help others. It is a privilege to care for our patients who place their trust in us. We are facing unprecedented challenges in healthcare, but as we move forward we will continue to invest in and support our clinicians to elevate the value and purpose of the profession.

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