What 11 hospital CEOs told Becker's in 2021

Hospital and health system CEOs have focused on many challenges and changes in 2021 as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, including those related to their workforces.

This year, top executives from hospitals and health systems shared their perspectives on leadership, communicating with employees, the pandemic and other topics with Becker's Hospital Review. Below are quotes from 11 of those executives.

1. Marna Borgstrom, CEO of Yale New Haven (Conn.) Health, on her advice for women who aspire to become a health system CEO.
Being in healthcare leadership is a great career. It's a privilege to do this work, and I honestly mean that. I never went into this thinking I would be a CEO. I just really liked the work we did back then, and I like it now. The first thing I would say is make sure you are passionate about it because, if you're going to become a leader in healthcare, it is part of every aspect of your life, and if you don't love it, it's going to be harder to do it and do it well. The second thing I would say is, 'Be your authentic self.' Follow other people's guidance, look at your mentors, but decide who you are — what makes you successful, what works for you — and be that person. Don't try to be somebody else."

2. Joanne Conroy, MD, CEO and president of Lebanon, N.H.-based Dartmouth-Hitchcock and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health, on the health system vital signs she monitors.
"During my clinical career as an anesthesiologist, monitoring a patient's vital signs was a critical component of my job. Now, as a CEO, I've learned it is important to continually monitor your hospital's or system's vital signs — our people, our patients, our operations. Effective and regular communication, always with transparency, is essential. The pandemic has served to reinforce that we can never compromise on our conviction to always 'follow the science' and use evidence-based information for decision-making. And, I can't emphasize enough having not just a willingness to collaborate, but an enthusiasm for collaboration and partnership. Static thinking prevents us from advancing our mission; the development of new ideas and strategies is essential to success, and those ideas come from listening and dialogue with colleagues who have the broadest range of perspectives and experiences."

3. Leslie Davis, president and CEO of Pittsburgh-based UPMC, on her organization's growth strategy.
"I think over the next year, we will continue to leverage our growth strategy as we transition many of our programs, our signature service lines across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, into western Maryland, into southwest New York. Taking our existing products and services and improving the care that's offered in the communities we serve is the next part of our growth strategy."

4. Conor Delaney, MD, PhD, president and CEO of Weston-based Cleveland Clinic Florida, on how he revitalizes himself.
"I'm lucky that I enjoy what I do so much and working with our team that I rarely feel the need to recharge! When I am not working, my goal is always spending time with my family. This also allows me to pursue the outdoor activities I enjoy."

5. Maggie Gill, CEO of Palm Beach Health Network, a healthcare network in Palm Beach County, Fla., on cultivating workforce talent.
"It's not about necessarily just trying to find somebody to fit something. It's really about attracting talent and being able to cultivate that talent through ongoing conversation, career planning and giving feedback constantly so new people are able to grow and prosper in their role."  

6. Jaewon Ryu, MD, president and CEO of Danville, Pa.-based Geisinger, on the one thing he stopped doing during the pandemic that he won't bring back.
"The automatic reflex need for space is going to look different. We've seen that whether it's in terms of office space or even, to some degree, clinical space. How we think about space use is very different. Everybody talks about virtual care, but even in terms of work-from-home arrangements, we were able to terminate 12 different leases across our system and able to repurpose a lot of that office space into clinical care space. So, I think how we view space as an organization — and even as an industry — I think is forever changed. I don't see that one coming back."

7. Terry Shaw, president and CEO of Altamonte Springs, Fla.-based AdventHealth, on his top priorities for 2022.
"AdventHealth strives to deliver on our brand promise of providing whole-person care, so our priorities for 2022 revolve around strategic aspirations for achieving this goal, which is part of our multiyear plan, called Vision 2030. Some of our key priorities include building on what we are known for, like being a faith-based clinical company, but also working to significantly improve our focus on consumers and their experience. This means we are investing in our technology infrastructure to build a stronger, more connected network, as well as the consumer experience and interface. We are also introducing a series of team member promises to change and improve things that are important to them, including their benefits. We have expanded and promoted access to mental healthcare services. Also, we have created a more organized approach to address the issue of health equity in the communities we serve. Additionally, we are continuing efforts in how we improve clinical excellence and expanding services both geographically and in specialty areas like senior care."

8. Mike Slubowski, president and CEO of Livonia, Mich.-based Trinity Health, on the advice he remembers most clearly.
"I can't share just one piece of advice, since I've had many amazing mentors. Be a servant leader, empower people and support them, but also let them grow through challenging assignments and learn through mistakes. Keep moving forward. And revisit your personal mission statement periodically. The most important things for me are faith in God, love of family and friends, good health, happiness and service to others. Those serve as litmus tests that I revisit often to see if I've wandered off. Finally, one of my wise mentors once told me to regularly ask myself 'are the communities you serve better off as a result of your work?'"

9. Flo Spyrow, MSN, RN, president and CEO of Flagstaff-based Northern Arizona Healthcare, on the decision to require vaccination for employees.
"This is really a difficult decision, and we received negative comments from community members and staff and saw some withdrawing their support from NAH in public. But it is the right decision to make. I would support any other CEO who was making this decision or thinking about making this decision because we are all about caring for patients and improving health. … This is the best way for us to be able to combat [the virus] within our communities and within our healthcare system."

10. Shane Strum, president and CEO of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Broward Health, on the skills he considers essential for health system CEOs to thrive in today's healthcare landscape.
"Today's healthcare CEO must be strategic, adaptive and a strong financial leader. The pandemic has spotlighted weaknesses within the industry, as well as significant opportunities to excel healthcare into a new era of growth and innovation. But to harness those opportunities, a leader must be agile with solutions for the most complicated scenarios."

11. Bob Sutton, president and CEO of Sioux Falls, S.D.-based Avera Health, on overcoming distractions to connect with employees.
"For me, it's about more than being there and being present. It's being there with people, that they know you're there. If you can't be with them physically, it's being with them in mind and spirit and knowing that they feel supported by your presence."

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