'How do you help nurses?' and other priorities from Mount Sinai's chief supply chain officer

For Carlos Maceda, chief supply chain officer for Mount Sinai Health System in New York City, mentoring the next generation of supply chain leaders is a top priority.

"Anything we can do to get younger talent interested in supply chain is extremely important," Mr. Maceda said in an interview with Becker's. But his focus does not end there; he also works to ensure  the right talent within the organization gets the right opportunities.

Mr. Maceda and his team are developing ways to tap into the talent they already have in materials management. Not only could his programs help marginalized populations find a fulfilling career, but it could help make his organization stronger.

Here, Mr. Maceda shares his passion for healthcare supply chain and ways leaders can prepare their organizations for the next generation of leaders.

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

Question: What piqued your interest in healthcare supply chain?

Carlos Maceda: I was in the Air Force in the early '90s, where I did supply chain for the military. When I got out, I sent my resume to about 100 different locations, and a hospital reached out to me. I got a job making $6 an hour as an inventory clerk. I was very fortunate that the director at the time took me under his wings and started teaching me. I got the bug and I've had the bug ever since.

Q: What are a few of your top priorities for 2023?

CM: Savings is always one. We are still coming out of the pandemic. There's been, unfortunately, a lot of losses due to that. Supplier diversity is another big aspect for us, not only as an organization, but personally, for operational efficiencies. For me, it's how do you help nursing, especially with the nursing shortages that we have now? How do you reduce the amount of time that they have to spend even thinking about supplies? How do we continue to use technology to our favor with artificial intelligence? Having the right talent and supply chain — that's another area that's big for us. And of course, resiliency. We still have some shortages in the industry, so ensuring that we can tighten up our resiliency and be prepared if another pandemic ever happens again.

Q: What has been your biggest accomplishment as chief supply chain officer?

CM: I would say two things. First, getting my organization through the pandemic. That was one of the hardest things. And obviously, we're not unscathed, because there were days that we just didn't have certain things, but we got through it. I'm very proud of the team and what we accomplished. 

Second, and equally important, is being able to help guide the younger employees of supply chain and giving them an opportunity to grow and build their careers. Supply chain is one of those departments that is an entry point into healthcare. We have folks that start in materials management, EBS, housekeeping, which is all part of supply chain. These are folks that come in really not knowing what they want to do with their lives. And many times they're either a high school grad or GED — so to give them hope and an opportunity to grow this into a career and potentially change the trajectory of their family's lives, there's nothing greater than that.

Q: If you could pass along a piece of advice to other hospital supply chain leaders, what would it be?

CM: Just keep pushing to elevate the industry. The pandemic shined a light onto the importance of what supply chain brings to an organization, but we need to continue to strive to elevate it within our own organizations so we can get our fair share of funding. At the same time, hopefully start bringing in or continue to bring in the talent that we need for the future generations. When you look at other industries, supply chain and healthcare is pretty far behind just because of the amount of money that's invested in it. Other industries have done so much with supply chain to reduce costs, to reduce inefficiencies, and they've spent billions in those industries to ensure that supply chain is top notch. Whereas with healthcare, because of competing priorities to maintain nurses or have the right technology to compete with other hospitals, supply chain just doesn't always get its fair share of investments.

Q: What's the best piece of leadership advice you ever received?

CM: Not everyone is as committed as you, and that's OK. When I was younger, I used to get frustrated when people didn't work as hard as me. I haven't taken a real vacation in 25 years. Even if I'm on the beach, I'm checking my phone and emails. Not saying that that's healthy, but that's me. And I would say 95 percent of all leadership are probably the same way because you're paranoid and you just want to stay connected and make sure everything's working right. But not everybody's that committed. You have generational differences. You have different ways of looking at work. And instead of judging that, it's OK to work with people where they are. Work with the people that you have that are committed and the ones that just want to work their 9 to 5 — that's still OK. They're still doing a function. They're still helping, so treat them the same way.

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