Mid Year – Message from the President

June 30, 2014
Jeanne Zucker

Jeanne Zucker

At the beginning of this year I articulated our 2014 plans focused on grounding ourselves in our mission and preparing the organization for exponential growth to help promote women in leadership roles within healthcare. This work is a continuation of our efforts in prior years which included strategies for:

  • Remaining relevant and portable—able to move with our constituents over time, geography and career path
  • Serving as a trusted partner and advisor to our constituents
  • Being seen as an authority on women’s leadership needs in the areas of skill building, networking, recognition, and mentoring

We have been working toward these objectives in order to advance our place as women leaders in our industry. This means joining the future-shaping conversations about women in leadership, advocating for women at every step along their career track, empowering women to flourish and have impact in whatever career path they choose and seeking to reduce the disparity of women as 73% of the labor force but only 4% of the leadership force.1

As we prepare to address these objectives in 2014, I am pleased to report we are making impressive progress on a number of fronts.

1. We are holding on our expectations to achieve our 2014 financial plan and complete the deliverables outlined in our plans. Accomplishments in Q1 and Q2 include exceeding our Corporate Partner and Women of the Year event sponsorship targets and meeting expectations for our new virtual Career Conversations program.

We have also made great strides in membership. We are already within half a percentage point of meeting our end of year membership goals.

We completed a major research initiative and convened our senior leadership from across Europe and the USA to hear the data presentation and discuss how best to act on the important voice of the customer.

We have begun the rollout of our HBA leadership competency framework to which we will align our programming efforts to continue to bring consistent high quality offerings to our community of 30,000+.

Finally, we have launched a pilot program that enables our chapters to bring Corporate Partner packages to new companies, broaden our healthcare footprint and create a stronger “One HBA” business model.

2. We are on schedule with the initial debut of our enhanced HBA brand which will more effectively communicate our value proposition to our key stakeholders.

Our initial brand reveal was presented at the Woman of the Year event in NYC on May 1. Our new logo and tagline are the result of our market research and analysis of our key stakeholders including members, non-members, Corporate Partners, and prospect companies. Further messaging and brand positioning will be complete in time for our full brand roll out at our HBA Annual Conference in November.

As a way of honoring our 35th year as an association, we have refreshed our brand in conjunction with launching our Wall of Recognition to honor women leaders important to each of us; allowing us to build and broaden our community of leaders association wide.

3. Finally, we just celebrated a remarkably successful 25th anniversary of the Woman of the Year event recognizing three distinguished leaders in biopharma, healthcare delivery, and consultative services.

We celebrated the accomplishments of our three Women of the Year—

  • Shideh Sedgh Bina, founding partner of Insigniam and editor in chief of Insigniam Quarterly
  • Annalisa Jenkins, MBBS, MRCP, executive vice president and head of global research and development for Merck Serono
  • Patricia A. Maryland, DrPH, president of healthcare operations and chief operating officer of Ascension Health

We have the opportunity to continue to broaden our engagement of women worldwide. Including representation from three industry segments widens our exposure and welcomes more women to learn and take advantage of the benefits of the HBA to promote a strong network, career advancement and enhancement, and leadership development. This in turn will fuel growth and promotion of women as leaders throughout our industry.

All in all, it has been a busy and productive first half of the year. We are looking forward to more progress against our strategic initiatives and addressing some of the cornerstone needs of our chapters. Work is underway to provide greater volunteer leader on-boarding support, member and corporate support, and new benefit generating activities.

With greater tour de force behind us and our inspiring HBA esprit de corps in front of us, we can start to move the needle on our industry influence and impact. We will truly be “Living Up to Our Name” in 2014.

Thank you for the honor and privilege to serve the HBA as association president in 2014.

Here’s to a terrific second half of the year!

Best to all,

Jeanne

Jeanne Zucker
Vice President Client Development, athenahealth
2014 HBA President

 

1. As measured by women holding the CEO role in healthcare companies (medical and health service managers) according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in July 2012.

 

 


Pilot WIScience Scholarship Program is a success – “it’s scientifically proven”

June 20, 2014
Sonia Step

Sonia Step
PhD Student
University of Pennsylvania

Sheffey

Kate Sheffey Biotechnology Masters Program, Johns Hopkins University Senior Chemist Supernus Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

sklavos

Martha Sklavos, PhD Postdoctoral Fellow Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research

Natalie Leach Stringer, PhD

Natalie Leach Stringer, PhD Assistant Professor Northern Virginia Community College

 

 

 

By: Rachana Sainger PhD, Jocelyn Ulrich, MPH, and Jennifer Jaskowiak MBA

The HBA Mid Atlantic Chapter Women in Science (WIS) Affinity Group recently completed a pilot professional development scholarship program initiated in 2013. The program titled “WIScience Scholarship: The Premier Catalyst for Developing Women Leaders in Science” provided an excellent opportunity for budding scientists and women in scientific or technical roles to advance their careers, build networks among peers and volunteer for a premier association for the advancement of women as thought leaders in healthcare. The scholarship program was recognized by the Mid-Atlantic Chapter Board with a 2013 Innovation Award. This award recognized the creation of the new program to expand HBA membership deeper into the scientific/government sectors. The program itself raised visibility of the HBA within these sectors. The program was developed to attract budding and aspiring healthcare professionals with scientific backgrounds from academia and government organizations in the Mid-Atlantic region to the HBA. All scholarship recipients were expected to experience the value of the HBA through participation in HBA WIS or Mid Atlantic chapter meetings, participate in 6-8 meetings throughout the year with their assigned mentor, and volunteer in HBA initiatives or activities. Each recipient also prepared a short essay describing their experiences and what they learned during the year as a scholarship winner.

Four professionals with different scientific backgrounds in the earlier stages of their careers – Natalie Leach Stringer, PhD, Sonia Step, Kate Sheffey and Martha Sklavos, PhD were selected as WIScholarship recipients for the year 2013-2014. Based on feedback, mentoring appeared to be the most valuable aspect of the program for all of the recipients. Natalie Leach Stringer explained “Having her (Dr. Laurie Hill) as a mentor was the most beneficial part of this experience. She has helped me navigate the many “unknowns” of moving into the next career level. She has helped me develop a leadership presence and offered advice on work-life balance.” Kate Sheffey shared “I feel more confident in my own career and in my workplace, largely due to the mentorship afforded through the program.” Sonia Step explored options for a new career after completing her PhD through guidance from her mentor, while Martha Sklavos’ confidence was boosted while trying to navigate a career path by having a mentor (Gina Wilkerson) who was like “a coach, cheerleader, and confidant.”

The WIScience professional development scholarship program also provided a platform to network among professionals with varied backgrounds and to learn about new and exciting opportunities available in the healthcare industry. Networking can be awkward however as an HBA member it is a different story. Kate Sheffey found HBA “A safe place to discuss her ideal career trajectory and also to figure out the best way to achieve her goals.” For example, participating in an HBA webinar on social media helped Kate to connect with people in the scientific field more confidently than before and to learn how to leverage social media tools. Martha Sklavos is convinced that her career is on the rise as she engages and learns from HBA members who have first-hand knowledge of healthcare industry careers, culture, and competition, a chance provided by HBA scholarship. She feels HBA is a welcoming place where she “fits.

WIScholarship recipients also took advantage of volunteering opportunities provided during the program year. Martha Sklavos volunteered for a Mid Atlantic Chapter WIS program (Breast Cancer Patient Advocacy event held in October 2013 in Washington DC) and was involved in planning program content, orchestrating the silent auction, assembling badges for the event, and coordinating onsite registration. Natalie Leach Stringer gained leadership experience by engaging with the Mid Atlantic Chapter WIS Programming Subcommittee to evaluate chapter demographic data. After reviewing reports generated from the HBA membership database and descriptions of WIS outreach event goals, Natalie leveraged her well-honed analytical skills to generate recommendations for development of program content to target both current and new HBA members. Natalie shares that this experience “was very helpful for her as volunteer recruitment and marketing of educational programming is important for her current position and she plans to use this skill in the future”.

How has the WIScholarship program supported professional growth and career advancement? Martha Sklavos’ career trajectory “has been converted into a clear path as opposed to the foggy, winding road she felt she was previously taking as she tried to figure it out” independently. HBA scholarship recipients had the opportunity to meet experienced women in the pharmaceutical industry, explore and consider challenges facing professional women, and learn more about initiatives and opportunities offered by the HBA. By exploring different career paths in pharmaceutical companies through informational interviews, Sonia Step successfully achieved her career goal of securing a position in industry marrying her scientific background and desire to learn more about the drug development process following completion of her PhD. Natalie Leach Stringer intends to use the experience she gained as a HBA scholarship winner for enhancing her career as an assistant professor and carry forward the learnings to her students.

Overall the pilot WIScholarship program was an enriching experience for the four recipients. The professional development program enabled each to evaluate their career trajectory, flourish and gain self awareness under guidance of their mentors, and build a robust professional network. The volunteering experiences enabled the women to fulfill the mantra of the HBA by giving back. The WIScholarship program is currently being evaluated and we hope to continue to offer it to future women with technical and scientific backgrounds and support them as they forge their own path in the healthcare industry.

Acknowledgements:

The WIScience Scholarship: The Premier Catalyst for Developing Women Leaders in Science” was funded by the HBA Mid Atlantic Chapter.

The HBA Mid Atlantic WIS Affinity Group would like to thank the Mid Atlantic Executive Board and HBA staff members for their support and contributions in the creation and implementation of this program. Specifically, we would like to thank Lea Carey, Carol Meerschaert, Liz Stueck, Linda Brock, and Gina Wilkerson for their support and contributions to content of the program. In addition, a special thank you to the WIScholarship Program Mentors for sharing their time, guidance and wisdom: Gina Wilkerson, Laurie Hill, Heide Cunning, and Stacey Melquist.

 

 

 


A scientist experiences the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association 2014 Woman of the Year event

May 29, 2014

by Martha Sklavos, PhD

 

How better to celebrate my year as an HBA-MA WIScience scholarship recipient than to rub elbows with the who’s who of elite leaders in industry, healthcare, and science at HBA’s silver anniversary of the Woman of the Year event,  which for the first time, is “women” of the year, honoring three stand-outs from three sectors of the healthcare industry? Every WOTY veteran I spoke with prior to the event shared rave reviews, but I still was not entirely sure what to expect.

Drs. Martha Sklavos and Gina Wilkerson at the Woman of the Year even

Drs. Martha Sklavos and Gina Wilkerson at the Woman of the Year event

I began WOTY day with my fabulous mentor, Gina Wilkerson. We met for breakfast and then descended on WOTY together. As we were changing out of our “sensible” NYC walking shoes into our “unsensible” shoes in the hotel lobby, a fellow HBA member took notice and joined us as she had the same task in mind. Instantly conversation ensued, connections were made and business cards were exchanged. Wow, was it really going to be this effortless to connect with other attendees? The answer was a resounding yes!I felt like I could have approached anyone at WOTY and been given a warm reception. Everyone was there to connect, share knowledge, and help one another grow.

During the networking sessions I spoke with executive recruiters, healthcare mavens, industry consultants, entrepreneurs, nurses, scientists, and the CEO of the HBA, Laurie Cooke.  At scientific conferences, networking can be difficult and awkward. The WOTY experience was the polar opposite. Networking was the spirit of the event and I found that all attendees, regardless of their career stage, were happy to share their experiences, encouragement, connections and insider tips. I found that the more senior leaders has a desire to speak with and advise those in the early stages of their careers, because they felt they benefited from guidance they received at a similar stage during their pursuit of the C-suite. My grandmother often said: “I was where you are and you’ll be where I am.” This could have been the WOTY motto except I would add “but I’ll help you get there faster and less-painfully.”

The award ceremony at WOTY was not just that, it was a seminar on how to succeed and was filled with inspiration. Annalisa Jenkins was one of the three 2014 HBA “Women of the Year” award winners and her message was especially impactful for me because she had also considered herself “only a scientist” earlier in her career. For a scientist preparing to forge a career in industry her advice was to take time every week to learn about the business side of science, read the Economist, pick up the New York Times and keep up with what is changing in the business of healthcare. WOTY really instilled that I must gain business acumen to align my thought process with the driving force of the pharmaceutical/biotechnology industry.

My year as a Women in Science scholarship recipient culminated with WOTY and my defining moment was when I realized I have to focus on selling my brand. Self-branding is not taught in grad school, but will likely be the most important thing I do as I embark on my job hunt this fall as it will shape my career, just as it has for the WOTY awardees. The HBA has been a guiding light that keeps getting brighter through HBA volunteerism, connecting with individual members, and attending virtual and live events within the organization. It scares me to think how in the dark I was before the HBA scholarship. What a difference a year makes!


Brian Goff 2014 Honorable Mentor speech

May 5, 2014

Thank you, Ludwig, for your very kind introduction. You’ve been a true mentor and inspiration for nearly my entire career.

Actually, it was amusing how I found out about this very special recognition. Ludwig called me to his office.  As I walked in, standing there were the heads of HR for Baxter BioScience. Now, naturally, I assumed it was an intervention, but I was very pleasantly surprised with the news – and my sincere thanks to Ludwig and the HR team for their support.

I also owe great thanks to the HBA nominating committee for this recognition, as well as to Jeanne Zucker and Laurie Cooke for their stewardship of the HBA. I’m truly humbled because I’ve been fortunate enough to be mentored by three prior recipients of this award – David Epstein, Alex Gorsky and Kevin Rigby. Undoubtedly their gift of mentorship is one of the reasons I’m standing here today.

I also applaud the three Women of The Year. I’ve heard your stories and they are incredible. You’re certainly bright lights in our industry, as is Ilyssa Levins, the HBA STAR. And congratulations to all of our Rising Stars and Luminaries –- you each have already accomplished much and clearly have bright futures ahead.

As someone who has worked in the healthcare industry for more than 20 years, I’ve always felt driven to serve patients. But it wasn’t until two years ago when I had one of the most inspiring patient-oriented moments of my career.

I’d recently started my position at Baxter and was beginning to learn about hemophilia. For those who may not be aware, hemophilia is a rare congenital disorder affecting about 20,000 people in the U.S. and about 400,000 people worldwide. Hemophilia occurs due to an abnormality in the X chromosome –and since boys have only one X, they’re most affected. Simply described, hemophilia patients lack blood clotting factor and are at risk of suffering a lifetime of bleeds – often in joints –- which can be disabling or even, in the case of intra-cranial bleeds, life-threatening. However, access to the right treatment can have a profound positive impact on patients’ lives.

In 2012, I attended the World Federation of Hemophilia conference in Paris. I had the privilege to meet many people with hemophilia, but two in particular stood out because they were separated by just one generation. The first person I met was a hemophilia patient advocate in his 40’s who walked slowly with a cane as a result of decades of bleeds and damage to his joints.

At the exact same time I was speaking with this man, I was truly inspired to see a young boy with hemophilia racing down the hall in front of his parents. And he was racing because he had completely healthy joints, unlike most with hemophilia from previous generations. In fact, if I wasn’t at a hemophilia conference, I would never have known that this young boy had a rare congenital disease.

This juxtaposition of these two people, separated by just one generation, embodies one of the greatest miracles of modern medicine and speaks volumes about the potential of advancements from our industry. Meeting those patients stands out as one of the defining moments in my career.

For my colleagues and I, stories just like this have inspired us to put forward a lofty vision. At Baxter, we strive to ultimately achieve a ‘bleed-free world.’ This means that we’ll continue to innovate to reduce the number of bleeds patients experience, and to increase access to care worldwide. Delivering on this vision will require many great minds and incredible inspiring leadership. And that’s why mentoring matters.

Mentoring guides us, helps us push boundaries and ultimately reach for a greater good. When you serve as a mentor, you listen, challenge and help others focus on what makes them great.  You help them see their blind spots and quiet the inner voice that may hold them back. Your support can help them unlock their potential to be innovators.

Our industry is special. And the leaders we mentor and develop for the next generation, will determine what diseases we’ll cure, which lives we can improve and which patients and societies will have better access to our therapies.

You are all drawn to this HBA event for a reason. And I encourage you to seek out opportunities to mentor those around you. Inspire greatness. Identify those who can benefit from your guidance so we can continue to innovate and tackle some of the toughest health challenges of our time.

In closing, I thank my wonderful, loving family, and I’m fortunate and grateful to have them here with me today. My four amazing children – Tyler, Alex, Sarah and Connor –- you inspire me each day.  And to my loving wife, Kim, my best friend, who has been with me since college and through more houses and moves than we care to count, we share this honor.

Thank you for this wonderful award. I’ll be proud to carry forward the HBA mission for years to come.

 


Shideh Sedgh Bina 2014 Woman of the Year speech

May 5, 2014

I am deeply honored, and humbled to stand before this impressive audience and share this award with two great women- Patricia and Annalisa.I want to begin by giving thanks to my friend, partner and colleague Bonnie Wingate, for your dedication to the HBA and for championing my nomination.

I am grateful for the incredible friends and extended family that stand by me cheering loudly and exuberantly. To my partners in co-founding Insigniam Nathan Rosenberg and Michael Waldman and our other partners and colleagues from Insigniam, I am blessed to work shoulder to shoulder, with people like yourselves who find joy in passionately giving the best of your heart and mind in service of the success of others. And always a special appreciation for our Insigniam clients you inspire us everyday with your bold commitment to transform healthcare in service of patients around the world.

With $200, a hunger for freedom from religious persecution and in pursuit of the American dream, my parents had the guts to move their young family from Iran to the USA. To the pillars in my life, my Dad who always beamed with pride, Mom you have always been there any time anywhere to encourage me to reach high and far; my husband Shahab, you are the gentle hand on my back pushing me forward and the guy who still gives me butterflies in my stomach. To our three sons, Kavian, Kian and Carey—I thank you for guys for always giving me unconditional love—through the whirlwind adventure of having an intense Mom like me.

As far back as I can remember the star that I navigate my life by has been a phrase I read in a long forgotten book: “I want to die knowing that my having lived made a difference.”

I dreamt of righting wrongs and building a better world. I was also always drawn to the world of business as an arena one could make a big difference. Upon showing up at the Wharton school as a starry eyed freshman (and as one the of the few women to boot) on a hot August day in 1977 my advisor asked me my goals. “I’d like to make a big difference and live the comfortable life that comes with success,” I replied.

This didn’t sit so well with the advisor—she threw her pencil in exasperation on her desk and looked sternly into my eyes- “listen, if you want to make a difference go work on an Indian reservation making a $110 a week. If you want to live a comfortable life apply yourself diligently to this school and you will have that!”

Those of you who know me well know that telling me I can’t do something is the best way to get me to do it. Then and there I had my defining moment and decided that I was darn well going to have both!

After many years of working hard and having grown our business from an extra desk in a spare bedroom to offices in multiple countries, my partners and I were not satisfied with our social impact. How could we make the maximum contribution and have a material impact on the world we live? We had the inspiration, and just had to find an innovative way to do this without having the deep pockets of mega organizations! We came up with two ways I want to share with you.

First we give each employee several days of paid time every year to volunteer with a charity of his or her choice. Our employees cheered at this announcement louder than an announcement of any other benefits involving cash. The result is that Insigniam employees have served underprivileged communities around the world, as well as worked with foundations serving populations such as macular degeneration, spinal muscular atrophy and suicidal gay youth. Each time, they come back to work refreshed, energized and having a bigger sense of themselves.

Secondly, Insigniam decided to get involved on a pro bono basis with a couple non-profit organizations each year —we literally give them a blank check on our consulting services. We have had the privilege of supporting several enterprise wide transformations including the Boy Scouts and Red Cross. And apropos for today we have had the profound opportunity to support the creation and continued growth of the Somaly Mam Foundation. Somaly Mam is a person and a global leader, a survivor of sex slave trade in Cambodia who has pioneered the movement against sex slavery for nearly two decades. One of our consultants heard Somaly’s story on CNN and used his time to meet with Somaly. During an inspiring conversation on a car ride from Phnom Penh, Somaly explained her vision to provide a platform for the survivor voice to be heard around the world. The Somaly Mam Foundation was born.

It’s been almost 37 years since I met with my counselor at Wharton, I have learned many lessons. I have learned that the opportunity to make a difference rarely shows itself at a time when you have a huge block of unscheduled time or wads of money waiting to be donated. There are few invitations to politely intervene when you witness injustice and almost no opportunity to contribute risk-free.

For those of us who are inspired by the possibility that we can leave the world a bit better, while balancing work demands, kids’ needs, mortgage payments and little snippets of rest, making a difference requires creativity to carve out acts of contribution in all kinds of everyday moments.

EB White says it best. He says: “I get up every morning determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning my day difficult.”

I say: for me – this is joyful!

 


Annalisa Jenkins, MBBS, MRCP, 2014 HBA Woman of the Year speech

May 5, 2014

Good afternoon to colleagues, friends and family gathered here today to celebrate the wonderful work of the HBA for women across the US and Europe. It is an honor to be standing on stage sharing this day with my fellow honorees, all of us collectively driven by our passion for advancing science, improving medicine and delivering health care solutions globally. We also share the belief that as we thrive and survive professionally, we must pay it forward – and as women, lead, build and grow the next generation of leaders across our industry.

As I reflect on the 30 years since I entered the workforce as an undergraduate in London, I am vividly aware of doors that were opened for me, thanks in part to the support of senior leaders who saw potential—even when I did not. Who pushed me forward, and ensured my continued growth and development.  Jeremy Levin and Sylvia Hewlett were certainly part of my support system.  Every day making a difference for women in their workplace – ensuring every voice is heard and every door is open.

With the support of Jeremy, Sylvia, and many others, I have experienced several incredible defining moments over the course of my career. As I shared at the HBA conference last year in Boston, I was an officer in the British Royal Navy, rising to the rank of Surgeon Lieutenant Commander. I was the first female physician ever to serve on the front line, with the Minesweeper Squadron during the Gulf War. I bobbed off the coast of Kuwait at sea – the only woman with 700 men -  truly a defining moment, I can assure you! But the defining moment I’d like to share with you today is the birth of biopharma.  This moment unlocked a new energy in my professional life, and transformed the belief system and approach to innovation in biomedical and life science R&D.

I had joined Bristol-Myers Squibb as a cardiovascular medical advisor in the UK. I was accelerated to senior leadership roles through the mentoring and sponsorship of three incredible people. Elliott Sigal, who has been a defining chief scientific officer for the industry over the last 10 years. Brian Daniels, unparalleled in his accomplishments as head of development. And Paul Biondi, an inspiring authentic leader and R&D, COO at BMS. Our journey started in 2002, we worked together for the next nine years.

The defining moment took place in 2006, when the four of us were in a bar in Shanghai, because the best magic always happens over a beer. We had just finished a day of debating the evolution of the industry, globalization and how the old monolithic silos of the past would not sustain success for the future. At BMS, we had a pipeline of opportunities but we knew that our R& D budget would not be able to maximize the potential from bench to bedside. Elliott had the idea to take the best of biotech and the best of pharma as a platform for a new ecosystem across the industry, one that combined the entrepreneurial, creative and fun culture of biotech, with the scale, geographic scope and operational discipline of pharma. Literally the best of both worlds.

In that jet-lagged moment, across the other side of the world “biopharma” was born. It became translated into the desire to innovate, to integrate partners from across the eco system of healthcare, and to commit to a long term goal of continuous learning and improvement…and ultimately, this collaborative enterprise approach would accelerate the broader industry’s ability to bring hope to patients.

Today, biopharma is a way of thinking, acting and behaving,bringing to reality the belief that traveling alone we may go fast, but traveling together we will go further. We know now that the biopharma model is set to be the foundational platform for the next wave of innovation in science and medicine.

I was so privileged to have been part of that night in Shanghai, and on the BMS journey for 14 years with such exceptional leaders, that opened up a new way of thinking for many in our industry.

It was therefore a privilege to share these experiences with my colleagues at Merck Serono, where we have together been building a new global biopharma organization with a team of very special people who share our collective passion to make great things happen for patients worldwide.

Now, I am starting a new journey, grateful for these experiences that have shaped me and my thinking, and excited by the opportunities ahead. I remain humbled by my family, friends, close colleagues and sponsors who have unlocked every door for me over the last 30 years by saying “yes you can.” and “you go for it.” I recognize that I owe my professional journey and achievements to many in this room today. I truly thank you all.

I’d like to also extend my appreciation and thanks to the HBA for their commitment to creating platforms that serve as opportunities for all of us. Innovation and moments in time are always about the ‘we’ and never about the ‘me.’ Together we are stronger and together we can all shape science, medicine and health for generations to come.

 


Patricia A. Maryland, DrPH, 2014 HBA Woman of the Year speech

May 5, 2014

It’s quite an honor to be recognized as a Woman of the Year. At the same time, it’s a humbling experience, because I am acutely aware of all those who play key roles alongside me to lead the transformation of our health system in Michigan and now nationally at Ascension Health.

I’m grateful, to my family, especially my husband Sam, – as well as to my dear friends and associates who are with me here today; to Tony Tersigni and Bob Henkel, who’ve been such tremendous mentors for me over the years; to Annalisa and Shideh. And to my Ascension colleagues – too many to name – whose commitment to our vision, mission and values are an inspiration for me, each and every day.

There are many turning points I could describe in my life – starting with when I learned, early on, that the healthcare system is complex and intimidating. My mother was diagnosed with diabetes at an early age and as the oldest daughter it often fell to me to help coordinate her care – including frequent hospitalizations. That early experience convinced me that navigating the healthcare system when you have multiple chronic health problems is extremely difficult. This is what inspired my passion, helping to create a solution,  through a career in healthcare.

My defining moment came when I had a chance to lead just such an effort starting in 2008, when I was named CEO of what was then known as St. John Health in Detroit. The assignment came at a difficult time. Unemployment was high, GM and Chrysler were about to declare bankruptcy, and the number of Medicaid and uninsured patients were soaring.

That reality certainly caught my attention. The assignment was clear – to figure out a way to ensure our presence in the community, while continuing to pay attention to the needs of the poor and vulnerable.

We knew we had to do things much differently than ever before. St. John Health had already closed a community hospital in 2007. Yet we still had huge operating losses. So the numbers told me we faced a startling choice … change or disappear.

The challenge was that my leadership team did not agree with that assessment – at least not at first. When I laid out the facts the reaction of the leadership team was not surprisingly one of disbelief. Shock. Dismay. Frankly, many of them looked at me as the problem. They said, “You haven’t been here long enough! How could you possibly be reaching those conclusions?”

Right away, I knew this assignment would demand something different from me. I had to step up…and lead with courage to counter the anger and resistance I felt initially from the team. I resolved to do that by building the business case more thoroughly. I knew I would need the numbers – rock solid numbers – in order to move their heads, and then, I would need to move their hearts.

It was an exhausting process – but I simply had to figure out how to get key leaders to understand and bring them along. Meeting after meeting, discussion after discussion… It took a few months, but the tide had begun to turn. I realized one day that I wasn’t exhausted any more, that the team around me had actually become energized by the challenge of transformation.

They were now coming to me with new ideas. It was no longer my plan … but our plan. I won’t say that any of this was easy. We had to start by making painful decisions to eliminate many non-patient care positions. We looked for other ways to improve business operations, too – to drive further savings. It became clear we also had to figure out how to include physicians in the transformation process – to partner with them, as well.

Along the way, we took a close look at our footprint, and came to some critical decisions about how best to structure ourselves going forward. That involved some more tough calls and complicated negotiations.

We also made changes to better integrate the six St. John and Providence Hospitals within the Health System… becoming one St. John Providence Health System – an identity change that was both a huge symbolic gesture, and a chance to boost the integration process into high gear.

In addition, we began looking outside Detroit for opportunities to use our scale more effectively. We created a council of CEOs in Michigan to consider how we might work together. That drove changes in our configuration across the state – as we identified the best ways for Ascension Health Michigan to pilot and test new models of delivery. Besides focusing on costs we focused on top line growth by developing regional networks of care.

Today, we’re seeing the impact of those efforts – as patients are coming from all across Michigan to receive transplants or cancer treatments or heart and vascular services. Then, when they return home, they receive outstanding follow-up care from the satellite facilities Ascension Health now offers in their communities. Again, we see how powerful collaboration could be in fueling our transformation.

There have been a number of bold moves all of them built on a foundation of trust and partnership – not only internally, but among the physician community and our external business partners as well. It is a story of transformation, inspired by innovation. But just as importantly, it is a story driven by extraordinary collaboration.

So in that spirit, I gratefully accept the Woman of the Year award in my mother’s memory, who died from complications of her disease. She would be proud knowing her daughter is working to make a difference in transforming healthcare.

Thank you!

 


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 29 other followers