Living like a leader: A day with Adventist Health chief clinical officer Dr. Hoda Asmar

hoda asmar

"The most rewarding part of my day is usually at 8:45 a.m., when I hear a report of all zeros on the five safety metrics we focus on." 

Hoda Asmar, MD, joined Roseville, Calif.-based Adventist Health System as its chief clinical officer in 2017. As senior physician leader, Dr. Asmar is spearheading a systemwide care transformation to ensure Adventist delivers top-tier clinical care across its 20 hospitals

Here, Dr. Asmar spoke with Becker's Hospital Review for our "Living like a leader" series, which examines influential decision-makers' daily routines to offer readers an idea of how they manage their energy, teams and time.

Editor's note: Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Question: What's the first thing you do to start your day?

Dr. Hoda Asmar: I am an early bird, which means I am usually up by 5 a.m. I enjoy that first hour or so of the day, using it to anchor myself in the "why" of my work, drink a few cups of coffee, read national and world news and plan my day. I may call people on the East Coast or send some emails. I then get my son ready for school and I am in the office before 7:30 a.m. on most days. I make any international calls while driving my son to school and on my way to work.

Q: What's the first thing you do when you arrive at work?

HA: I start the morning by making sure I am ready for the day with what I need as far as data, meeting packets or agenda reviews. I make internal and external calls and complete documents that require special attention. I am always ready for the 8:45 a.m. system safety huddle debrief, which usually takes less than three minutes. I manage my calendar to ensure it is not completely booked with one meeting after another. I am very intentional in what I attend and what I ask others to attend. I strive to start meetings on time and end on time, or even ahead of time. I do manage my inbox as I go and delete a lot of "space fillers."

Q: How do you manage your day?

HA: I have an open-door approach and my direct reports, peers and staff know they can reach out for questions or conversations. I manage my work as a weekly plan toward our goals and avoid the monthly cycle mindset. Adventist Health as a system is on a care transformation journey to become a top-decile high-performing organization delivering safe and reliable care alongside the best experience to every patient. To achieve this accelerated journey, we have major initiatives encompassing every aspect of our work, which requires a change in mindset from the monthly routine and traditional "reporting oriented" meetings. I manage my days based on that mindset with timely decision making, delegation to subject matter experts, eliminating time fillers, and staying focused on actions that lead to intended measurable results. I make time in my schedule and daily routine to give the entire team flexibility and access, so we are not waiting for the next scheduled meeting to make decisions or execute action plans.

Q: How much time to you spend with your direct reports?

HA: The time I spend with direct reports varies based on current and future priorities. It follows the rhythm needed for planning, executing and delivering results. We do have a monthly team meeting which helps all members of the team keep abreast of what is actively happening in all areas along with clinical and financial results. We use the meeting to celebrate successes, address elements not on target and solve problems. Otherwise, my direct reports can schedule a one-on-one meeting anytime they feel they need to discuss an item, get advice or address issues that may come up. It is their decision to choose the time and purpose for the one-on-one. I have eliminated standing monthly one-on-one meetings with direct reports. I do not believe those meetings serve the needs of a fast paced, performance driven-learning organization.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of your day?

HA: The most rewarding part of my day is usually at 8:45 a.m., when I hear a report of all zeros on the five safety metrics we focus on. This report happens a lot: zero central line infections, zero catheter associated urinary infections, zero blood clots, zero Clostridium difficile infections and zero reportable events. The other personal rewarding moment is when I walk into my home at the end of the day and reset my day by enjoying family time.

Q: What is the hardest part of your day?

HA: I don't necessarily see parts of my day as hard. Rather, I see challenges as opportunities to strive to be better, to learn and improve. Our work requires a continuous trajectory toward excellence and keeping the promise of great care to our patients and communities. At Adventist Health, we embrace the concept of a learning organization and have a strong connectivity to our mission of "living God's love" that the thought of having a specific "hard part" of the day does not cross my mind.

Q: How do you unwind when you get home?

HA: I take a few hours to break away for family time, making dinner, chatting about our day, reading and talking to family and friends. I may do some work-related tasks depending on priorities and deadlines, but most days it is personal time or family commitments. I also do some writing here and there. I do read a lot and recently finished "Becoming" by Michelle Obama. Now, I am in the middle of reading two books, "Killers of the Flower Moon" by David Grann and "Origin Story" by David Christian.

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