Healthcare’s New Breed: Embracing the Unconventional

This week, Modern Healthcare unveiled the winners of its annual Up & Comers recognition program. The program, in its 26th year, highlights the rising stars in healthcare and provides snapshots of leaders who will transform the industry in the future. Some 265 professionals were nominated, yet as always only 12 made the cut. “This year’s honorees are extremely gifted with traits and skills distinctive to this new breed,” writes Chuck Wardell, President and CEO of Witt/Kieffer, which marks its 15th year of sponsoring the Up & Comer awards. “They are reform-minded, cost-conscious, community-focused and technologically savvy.”

While the 12 for 2012 exhibit shared leadership characteristics, each is as different as the health system and patient population that he or she serves. Clearly, there is no single blueprint for what the healthcare executive of tomorrow will or should look like.

Leadership Diversity: Different Paths

Take Dr. Paveljit Bindra of Citrus Valley Health Partners in Covina, California, whose unique talents allow him to simultaneously serve as CMO and CIO. Bindra brings with him a business background and an “IT user mentality, not just an IT technology perspective.” This particular makeup has been instrumental in shepherding the hospital system’s success in Stage 1 meaningful-use compliance in the first year of the electronic health-record incentive payment program.

B. Lynn Detterman was a staff accountant for a large firm in Cleveland before she felt the tug of wanting to serve as “a financial steward” for a mission-oriented institution and signed on with Mercy Willard Hospital in Ohio. Starting as Financial Operations Manager, she’s now President and CEO.

Jason Dinger, CEO of MissionPoint Health Partners in Nashville, Tennessee, approaches his job with an entrepreneur’s mindset. His past experience includes starting, then selling, his own consulting company and running a program to distribute unused prescription drugs to low-income patients nationwide—based on a kind of “Netflix model” of online ordering. To broaden his horizons, Dinger also worked as a hospital administrator in rural Zimbabwe. It’s no surprise that he is being counted on to lead MissionPoint, a new accountable care organization launched in 2011.

Monica Vargas-Mahar, COO of Providence Memorial Hospital in El Paso, Texas, leverages a certain joie de vivre to make a difference. In addition to her “operational precision” and problem-solving acumen, “she’s an absolute joy to work with,” her former boss remarks. In fact, she’s not immune to pranks, having once toilet-papered a colleague’s office as a birthday gag. Says Vargas-Mahar: “I think it’s important to have a good time at work.”

Executive Presence: Some Things Never Change

And though they’re a new breed, some of the Up & Comers have gone about their business the old-fashioned way, rising to the top through blood, sweat and tears—like Becky Tucker, who started with Texas Health Harris Methodist Outpatient Center in an entry-level position and has worked her way up to the role of Administrator.

The Up & Comers of 2012 are a reminder that executives from every generation share similar qualities and dynamics, but that there’s never any one blueprint for success. As these 12 individuals show, the only sure way of getting to the top and establishing leadership influence is to take one’s own path.

By Paul Thomas, Witt/Kieffer Senior Writer (@PaulWThomas)

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