Words of appreciation: Thank-you notes from 8 health system CEOs

It's easy to forget to say thank you.

While appreciation is important year round, this time of year is the perfect time to express appreciation. Becker's spoke with eight CEOs who took the time to write notes to their staff, team members and families to express their gratitude.

Delos "Toby" Cosgrove, MD
CEO of Cleveland Clinic

To cost-conscious caregivers:

Healthcare is always changing. But this time it's different. Past changes have been driven by science, innovation and technology. Today's changes are economic. American healthcare has cost too much for too long. Healthcare providers have to discover how to deliver better care Toby Cosgroveat a lower cost, or we'll torpedo the economy and put our most vulnerable populations at risk.

The good news is this: We can do it. Healthcare professionals are the smartest, most innovative, most conscientious people on earth. They're seizing the opportunity to change the old, costly ways of doing things, and launching new approaches to patient care — ideas that may or may not work, but which need to be tried and evaluated.

We are transitioning from volume-based to value-based care. And I'm proud to say that Cleveland Clinic caregivers have been at the forefront of this transformation. Working in multi-disciplinary teams, they've been examining every procedure, purchase and protocol to see if it can be done faster, better and more efficiently. From the operating room to the storeroom, they're finding ways to consolidate services, eliminate redundancy, standardize purchasing, and improve the care and services we provide to patients, families and our fellow caregivers.

Over the past five years, these teams have cut hundreds of millions of dollars out of our costs. Ideas submitted by individual caregivers have contributed to additional savings. Thanks largely to their efforts, Cleveland Clinic is leading the transition to value-based care from a position of economic strength.

My heartfelt thanks to all of our 43,000 caregivers for the energy, innovation and patient-focus they bring to this necessary and ongoing task. My thanks to providers everywhere who are engaged in the effort to improve quality and lower costs. Working together, for the good of the patient, we cannot fail.

Joe MullanyJoe Mullany
CEO of the Detroit Medical Center

Dear friends,

As I prepare to enjoy the company of my family and friends this Thanksgiving, I'm especially appreciative for the great men and women of the Detroit Medical Center, an organization I lead with pride. It is because of the outstanding physicians, nurses, employees, volunteers and hospital leadership that we are able to provide award-winning care to our patients each and every day.

At the DMC, we are driven by our purpose to improve the quality of life for every person who comes through our doors and elevate the communities we touch. There is no greater gift than that of good health, and your continued dedication to serve the residents of Detroit, southeast Michigan and our guests from around the world is very much recognized and appreciated. As one of the city's largest employers, the DMC embraces the responsibility of continuing to fuel local economies and positively impact the overall health and well-being of the residents in this region.

Now is an exciting time. The revitalization of our great city of Detroit is well underway. With your help, Detroit continues to move toward becoming a healthier region and your work will have a positive impact on the health outcomes for generations to come. Our reputation for medical excellence, breakthrough research and community outreach would not be possible without your sincere commitment to the health and wellbeing of everyone we serve.

I believe all leaders are nothing without a great team. So during this season of reflection and thanksgiving, please know how very proud I am to serve you and our community as the leader of the DMC and am thankful to be traveling on the path to the top alongside you.

Thank you for your continued dedication.

Joe Mullany

Elizabeth Nabel, MDElizabeth Nabel, MD
President of Brigham and Women's Health Care (Boston)

I want to offer my heartfelt thanks to the many people whose work is driving innovation and improving the lives of our patients at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

From the strong network of scientists and clinicians collaborating here in Boston and around the world; to the organizations and companies who play such an important role in bringing new discoveries from labs to patients' bedsides; to the advocates, government representatives and donors who pave the way for expanding our knowledge of medicine: Thank you for your unwavering dedication. Your talents, skills and compassion bring hope to our patients and families, and I am truly grateful for your enduring commitment to finding new treatments and cures. It is amazing to see the healing that takes place within our walls thanks to the strong efforts of this global community.

Brett D. LeeBrett D. Lee
CEO of Tenet Healthcare's Dallas Market


I was raised by parents who were both practicing clinicians, and they instilled in me at a very early age the virtues of a life in service to others. One of my mother's favorite sayings was, "When you work to meet the needs of those around you, you will satisfy your own needs in the process." She must have said this to me a thousand times while I was growing up, but it was not until I became a caregiver and healthcare leader myself that I truly came to appreciate the meaning behind the words.

We have the tremendous privilege as healthcare professionals to provide support to our neighbors when they are going through some of the most vulnerable times in their lives. It is a frightening prospect to be a patient in a hospital, and it can be a tremendously helpless feeling to put your wellbeing and those of your loved ones in the hands of people you don't know.

Through the lending of our expertise, our time or even just our kind smiles, we can turn a potentially traumatic experience for our patients into a warm memory. As a CEO, I have the pleasure of seeing each of you achieve this tremendous transformation every day with those who come to us for care, and I continue to be awed at the hard work and dedication I see at every level in our organization.

Our industry is in the midst of some truly fundamental changes. The care delivery model will undoubtedly look very different five years from now, but even in light of this evolution, certain elements remain constant. Healthcare, at its core, will always be a business of building and maintaining trust. Your gifts help us earn the trust that our patients place in us, and I am thankful every day that you have chosen to share those gifts with our community and our organization.

Thanks so much for all you do.

Nancy Schlichting
CEO of Henry Ford Health System (Detroit)Nancy Schlichting

The celebration of our 100th anniversary is a perfect time to reflect on what has made Henry Ford Health System one of the most highly regarded health systems in the country for a century. And that answer is very simple — our people.

I choose to express my deepest gratitude to the 30,000 members of our Henry Ford team — our employees, physicians and volunteers — because they truly represent the best of the best. I often say that working in healthcare is one of the toughest jobs there is — and when you add to that the fact that for the last decade we have worked in the state hit hardest by the recession, where corporate and city bankruptcies made this the toughest environment in the country — there is no question that the people of Henry Ford are extraordinary!

I began my career in healthcare directly out of college as a minimum wage worker, and held a number of jobs between nurse's aide and chief executive. The universal lesson I learned from each position is that every individual in an organization matters. I have witnessed this daily for nearly 40 years in the healthcare industry. That is why I can say with great sincerity that this is both a thank-you note and a love letter to the employees, physicians and volunteers of Henry Ford Health System.

Gary Kaplan, MDGary Kaplan, MD
Chairman and CEO of Virginia Mason Health System (Seattle)

I am thankful for so much in my personal life and career, it's difficult to acknowledge everyone to whom I owe a debt of gratitude.

First and foremost, I am thankful for my wife and family. Their love and support have always been a rock-solid foundation and a wellspring of inspiration for me.

Secondly, I am fortunate to have served as chairman and CEO of Virginia Mason Health System since 2000. I have the privilege to work closely with highly skilled and thoughtful individuals who are committed to continuously improving healthcare, providing a remarkable experience for our patients and making a lasting difference in people's lives. I am especially grateful for our team's determination to use their successes to fuel their dedication to accomplishing even more, rather than resting on their laurels. 

Last, but certainly not least, I am thankful and very proud to have become a physician 35 years ago. Being a medical doctor is truly a privilege.

Michael J. Dowling
President and CEO of North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System (soon to be known as Northwell Health) (Great Neck, N.Y.)Michael Dowling

Albert Schweitzer said: "We should all be thankful for those people in our lives who rekindle the inner spirit."

For those of us in healthcare, it is essential that this list of people be a long and diverse one. Those who have a positive impact on us enable us to achieve our full potential and influence others. I would argue that there is no industry where this is more important than healthcare. While I do not always have day-to-day contact with patients as a president and CEO, my encounters with those experiencing physical and emotional pain and suffering make me appreciate how fortunate I am.

Gaining a true understanding of the patients' perspective also enables me to better appreciate the work of our physicians, nurses and other caregivers. I am inspired by their abilities, commitment and compassion to do "right" by all those we serve. There is a selflessness and sensibility not found anywhere else except by those who care for people when they are at their most vulnerable. I am grateful for their insight, their passion and the way they help me keep my eye on what is important.

Surprisingly, I am also thankful for the difficult people I work with — oftentimes they are among the most intelligent and also the most persistent. They keep me sharp and make sure that we are constantly challenging ourselves — striving to be better tomorrow than we are today. I can't honestly say I am always grateful for them in the moment of sometimes heated debate, but I am thankful for their dedication and persistence. Without it, we would fall far short of reaching our goals.

Finally and most importantly, I am thankful for the members of my family. They are the ones who, after long days in an often unforgiving industry, inspire me to keep going. Theirs is a faith, love and appreciation for the individual that others who do not share the same roof never fully see. To be appreciated for who you truly are by those who are closest to you is the greatest gift any of us can hope for. It fosters a confidence in our ability to make a difference in the world. For me, the love of my family has given me all of this and more. They have had the most profound impact on my life. Today and every day, it is the thing for which I am most grateful.

Marsha Powers
CEO of Tenet Healthcare's Florida Region

Marsha PowersDear Tenet Florida Region Leaders,

I want to take a moment to reflect on our accomplishments this year and to acknowledge this truly talented team that is the best in the business. My goal has been to surround myself with gifted individuals like all of you who demonstrate a commitment to our vision. In addition, I am proud to say that I believe our team of physicians is also the best of the best in their fields. The collaboration within our ten-hospital network combined with the latest technology we have been able to acquire allows us to provide the highest quality of care. This teamwork is truly something I am so proud to be a part of. I would like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to all of you for your commitment to providing the best healthcare possible for our patients in a working environment our employees are proud of.

As you know, 2015 has been an important year in the advancement of key service lines in our region including cardiac care, neurology, oncology and orthopedics to name a few. Our Tenet Florida Heart and Vascular Network completed the first LVAD in Palm Beach County, grew our Aortic Disease Institute and expanded our Advanced Heart Failure Network. In addition, our Advanced Neuroscience Network has successfully launched and developed four comprehensive stroke centers with regional coverage and we have offered hope to patients with nowhere else to turn through our Center for Advanced Research Excellence (C.A.R.E.) program's innovation in clinical studies. With the benefit of current medical research and technology, more and more critically ill patients are able to live longer and more productive lives. That is why it is so important that we continue to move forward together embracing innovation and offering the high level services our patients need close to home.

I have been fortunate throughout the years to work with stellar leaders, and I would like to recognize this team as the top in the field. Please know I am extending my sincerest gratitude to you, and I look forward to our continued success in 2016.

Marsha Powers

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