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2015 Hospital System Administrator Survey

June 2015

By BY STACY SHILLING
MEDICAL JOURNAL - HOUSTON

How often have you visited with your staff outside those immediate to you such as custodians, secretaries, schedulers, nurses, etc.?

Ronald A. DePinho, MD
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

MD Anderson is a team of 20,000 cancerfighting champions. I consider it my responsibility, and an honor, to conduct regular visits to connect with our faculty, nurses, staff and volunteers. I continually seek their input to understand how the institution can better support their excellence. I call those sessions “walkabouts” and have been doing them since I arrived. I also host Offline sessions where small groups of faculty or employees from across the institution gather in my office to discuss any topic they’d like to raise. The issues and ideas covered are vast, and the information and stories are eye-opening and help me better understand what’s going on and how I or my executive team and faculty leaders can help. I’m a people person and enjoy all points of contact with our employees because you really get to see and hear what it takes to provide the world’s best care for our patients, conduct practice-changing research, educate the next generation of leaders and make our system run smoothly. The excellence of MD Anderson extends beyond its world-leading skill — it also is a center of hope imbued by a culture of caring. It is a culture exemplified by all of our fantastic employees and driven by their passion for Making Cancer History. I’m grateful for any and all opportunities to tell them thank you.

Maura Walsh
President, HCA Gulf Coast Division

I visit the hospitals several times a year and enjoy visiting with the front line staff to understand what our organization can do to support their efforts to better care for our patients.

Dan Wolterman
President and CEO, Memorial Hermann

As one of the 22,000 employees at Memorial Hermann, I am afforded frequent opportunities to hear from and visit with our front-line staff. It is because of their unwavering commitment to our patients that we have been able to provide safe, quality care to those in the Greater Houston area for more than 100 years. It will be the combined efforts of all Memorial Hermann employees that will allow us to achieve our vision of becoming a high-reliability organization.

Donna K. Sollenberger
UTMB Health System

Regularly. All of our Health System leadership team regularly shadow employees in their work environment. It is essential to do this so that the staff gets an opportunity to interact and to share concerns with leaders. One of the last times I shadowed, I worked for several hours with a clinic nurse. Interestingly, in that time, she had questions about things I helped her answer, and I identified process and technology issues we needed to address. I also saw through her eyes the struggles and problems that patients may have in interacting with our system. I learn the most about the hospital and clinics from working shoulder to shoulder with the staff than I do in any other setting or venue at work. Most of all, I learn each time I do this what an incredible team of people we have at UTMB Health.

What have you learned most about yourself as an administrator?

Ronald A. DePinho, MD
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

Since becoming president of MD Anderson in 2011, I’ve been driven by my pursuit to end cancer, and I’ve learned many things along the way. One of my biggest lessons is that communication across our many stakeholders — patients and families, faculty and staff, legislators, community members, Board of Visitor members, Board of Regents members, and others — is key to driving robust solutions to complex challenges. Our executive leadership team has put a lot of time and effort into hosting small- and large-group discussions, walking around the center and attending events to listen to people’s input and ideas as well as sharing our thoughts and reasoning. I’m encouraging my faculty leaders to do the same. It’s through communication that we come to know one another better, learn to appreciate each other’s strengths, develop thoughtful solutions, seize exciting opportunities and collectively forge a path forward for continued success toward our mission of ending cancer. So much can be accomplished through good communication.

Dan Wolterman
President and CEO, Memorial Hermann

I’ve learned the true importance of people and relationships at every level. Through effective collaboration and team work and a focused strategic framework, our organization has achieved unprecedented success. Memorial Hermann is consistently recognized on both the national and regional level in the key areas of quality, patient safety, patient experience, employee engagement, physician integration, inpatient and outpatient volume growth and financial performance - all while providing more than $438 million of free care to the underserved populations of our community.

Donna K. Sollenberger
UTMB Health System

My job is to set the vision and strategy for the Health System, assure that the executives who work with me understand what they are expected to do in order to accomplish the strategy, and then let them do the work. I think one of the hardest things I have had to do is to reach a point where I am comfortable letting go of the “how” we get there and being satisfied with reaching the goal. I tell the people who work with me that once they understand what is expected, I will not micromanage how they get there, so long as they reach the goal and don’t leave twenty bodies in the wake. As administrators, we have to find the right balance between letting go so, we are not micromanaging, but also staying informed so that we assure we are on track to meet our goals.

When/if you ever leave your position, what would you want to be written about your tenure at your hospital?

Ronald A. DePinho, MD
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

MD Anderson only has had four full-time presidents in its almost 75-year history, so I’m still pretty early in my tenure. That said, I’d like to be remembered for initiating our Moon Shots Program, which is an unprecedented effort to significantly accelerate reductions in death and suffering across many major cancers, and for those efforts to have paid off and ultimately led to cancer cures. Within that effort, a vital area is cancer prevention and control. It is notable that up to 50% of cancers can be prevented. So, it’s my hope that our efforts will influence policy, education, awareness and services to empower everyone everywhere with the knowledge and access needed to protect them from getting cancer in the first place. Our knowledge of screening for cancer already has saved millions of lives, but education, ongoing vigilance and technology-enabled services are needed. More recently, breakthroughs in cancer vaccinations, like the human papillomavirus vaccine, have shown great potential to drastically reduce the rates of numerous deadly cancers. And lastly, we must educate people about cancer instigators such as smoking, UV rays and obesity. We’ve made great progress since Moon Shots started, but we have so much more to accomplish.

Dan Wolterman
President and CEO, Memorial Hermann I’m passionate about developing and implementing solutions that support our mission to increase access to health care and enhance the health of the population of our region. The very best part of my role is the ability to use my position as a platform to advocate for change and try to do the right thing for our employees, physicians, and patients.

Donna K. Sollenberger
UTMB Health System

“Donna Sollenberger was the right person who came to UTMB Health at the right time. She led us through some very difficult times to become a stronger and more vibrant academic health system, prepared to succeed in the future. Most importantly, she recognized the value and contribution of each employee and physician. She made us feel appreciated for the work that we do and our contributions to the success of UTMB.”

 

What would the older, more experienced YOU say to the younger YOU that just started out as an administrator?

Ronald A. DePinho, MD
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

I’d have two key messages to share with myself. First, that change is constant, and to maintain excellence in a changing environment of opportunities and challenges requires courage and conviction. At the same time, change can generate anxiety for some, necessitating clear communication and consensus building to create robust and sustainable solutions. Second, always keep the patients’ needs as your North Star.

Maura Walsh
President, HCA Gulf Coast Division

I would share with the younger me to be fair, honest and consistent in the way you conduct yourself, and to always do what is right for the patient and the organization. These qualities are essential in establishing respect and trust with the individuals that we work with and the patients that we serve. Be the kind of leader that others respect and want to follow.

Dan Wolterman
President and CEO, Memorial Hermann

I would say, “Focus on those things you can directly influence and control; focus on what is happening today, not what happened yesterday or may happen tomorrow.”

Donna K. Sollenberger
UTMB Health System

Sage advice has been given to me throughout my career, but the advice I would give myself as a young administrator would be the following advice I received from three individuals I consider my mentors, two of whom where my supervisors:

a) You have to get to know the people who work with you. It is easy to lead in good times, but when the going gets rough, people have to know and trust you in order to be led through the difficult times. (Dr. Charles LeMaistre, President of MD Anderson Cancer Center) It reinforced what my mother had always told me – no one person is more is important than another; everyone deserves to be treated with respect.

b) Always look at the big picture. There is always more than what you see immediately before you. (Dr. Roland Folse, former Chair of the Department of Surgery and Southern Illinois University School of Medicine)

c) Problem solving is circular, not linear; the problem is at the center. If you don’t see a solution, look at the problem and move around to see it from a different angle. If all you do is think about arriving at a solution in a linear way, then you will always encounter barriers to solving it (Norman Fitzpatrick, my dad)