A Hospital CEO's Advice for Leaders

Published: December 14, 2021

Full Transcript from Becker’s Healthcare Podcast, Fall 2021

This episode of Becker’s Healthcare Podcast features Kathleen Silard, President & CEO of Stamford Health. Becker’s Healthcare Podcast is an exciting, new podcast from Becker’s Healthcare which features interviews and conversations with the latest in thought leadership in the healthcare industry. Here, Silard discusses advice for leaders, the importance of women’s services, engaging with the community, and more. The below has been transcribed and republished with permission from Becker's Healthcare.

Scott: This is Scott Becker with the Becker’s Healthcare podcast. I’m thrilled today to get to visit with Kathleen Silard. Kathleen is the CEO of Stamford Health. She’s going to tell us about Stamford Health, about where she’s most focused with priorities and advice for leaders. Kathleen, can you take a moment to introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about Stamford Health?

Kathleen: Sure. As you said, my name is Kathleen Silard. I’m the President & CEO of Stamford Health. I started my career out as a nurse, actually in the neonatal ICU (NICU) at Albert Einstein Hospital and then had progressive levels of increasing experience at a lot of different places like Montefiore and St. Joseph’s in New Jersey, and then I landed in this great organization called Stamford Health!

So, just a little bit about us. It’s a really interesting organization. We are located in lower FFC. We care for a very diverse community, from very wealthy people to inner city poor. We are an 800-million-dollar corporation that includes an acute care hospital with 305 beds, a large ambulatory network throughout Fairfield County, and 880 physicians on our medical staff, of which about 400 are employed through the medical group or the hospital, and the rest are independent throughout the community.

We are the fifth largest healthcare system in Connecticut and the largest employer in Stamford. So we sit in a very interesting position in our community.

Scott: Talk for a moment about where you are most focused this year. What are the big priorities as you move into the next year?

Kathleen: Terrific. So, our vision is to be the most trusted healthcare partner for the communities we serve and we just finished a three-year strategic plan and we are launching into a new strategic plan for 22 to 24, so it’s kind of a terrific time because we are turning the page on the past 3 years of history which was a tumultuous time for us just like other healthcare organizations because we were a COVID safety net hospital and hotspot.

Even though we continue to care for COVID patients and we continue to serve our community with vaccination and some of the healthcare disparities that we saw, we’re now really doubling down our efforts again around our strategy for the future.

So our strategy is built around what we actually call the 4 Ps:

  1. Partnership strategies
  2. Patients as consumers
  3. Program growth and development and
  4. Physicians and other caregivers

So in terms of partnerships, even though we are independent (which is kind of being a little bit of a unicorn today), we have very important strategic partnerships. One of them is with Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) for orthopedics, over 2,600 orthopedic procedures are performed here in collaboration with HSS which, as you know, is number one for orthopedics in the nation and continues to grow.

We have a very expanded partnership with Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center which is the number 4 cancer program in the United States, and they have helped us to continue to expand and improve the Bennett Cancer Center which is one of our flagship programs.

And we have a newly expanded relationship with Columbia University for cardiac surgery in that we have four cardiac surgeons from Columbia who have joined our already-existing terrific cardiac surgeons to expand our capabilities in heart and vascular.

So, those are our partnership strategies. In terms of programs, we continue to be the most tertiary provider in our community, and so we focus on expanding heart and vascular. We’ve received lots o external validation about the quality of our program that has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report and the American Heart Association.

We’re advancing programs in neurosciences and we are a full-service stroke program. We care for patients with movement disorders and dementia and we have been expanding neurosciences significantly because of the increased demands in our community.

Women’s services—really important. We have 2,300 babies born here a year, high risk neonatal service, we have a breast imaging and a comprehensive breast center that has been recognized externally for its extraordinary quality.

Children’s services- we have the only full-service inpatient pediatric area and emergency department that we build when we opened our brand new hospital few year ago. And of course, as I mentioned in cancer and orthopedics, we continue to advance our programs.

In terms of our relationship with our physicians, as part of our new strategic plan, we are looking for ways to align even more meaningfully with independent physicians in our community because we realize that they have lots of choices around where they bring their patients and we want to be their provider of choice because of quality, service and the way in which they are treated as well as their patients.

And then, lastly but certainly, a huge focus in our new strategic plan is around engagement with the consumer. Recognizing that consumers have lots of choices and before they are a patient, they are a consumer . We have a ton of activities and initiatives that we plan to engage in in our new strategic plan by aligning our goals with the consumer and making it really easy to get care at Stamford Health.

Scott: Talk for a moment about this: you’ve done this remarkable job at developing strategic partnerships as an independent health system to try and play above your weight. It really is a magnificent thing to partner with HSS, Dana-Farber, Columbia.. how important is that as a partner strategy to be able to play above the weight of a singe hospital system?

Kathleen: Well, I do believe it has really lifted the reputation of our organization in this community to have these brand-name organizations seek us out, but I think it’s really important that they actually sought to work with us because we share their dedication and reputation for clinical excellence and great patient outcomes. And we sit in a good market, so those organizations are very interested in aligning with us and our market and our patient base, but I think it is the strength that comes from the union of these great programs with ours, is that we brought this world-class care to our community. And for people in Fairfield County not to have to travel to NYC or Boston for care, I think especially in post-COVID times, is a real advantage. We are bringing that care to them in the community they live and work in.

Scott: Thank you. So many nurses have become magnificent CEOS of health systems today, and this is something that’s been a long time in the making but you now have more and more great leaders with nursing as their backgrounds. What advice do you have on people becoming great leaders? What advice for leaders, how important is that sort of empathetic perspective with brilliance to leadership? Talk about what advice you give to leaders.

Kathleen: Absolutely. When I was fortunate enough to be privileged to assume the role of President & CEO here at Stamford Heath, I think one of the things that came back to me from physicians, nurses and other caregivers is K now their language, I know what’s important in terms of patient cares and I see their issues through the lens of a clinician. And I have, as you mentioned, empathy for the patient. Now that I am at the part of my career when I can reflect back on what success was, and I give this advice to all new young leaders is, first of all, be present. Be present in your organization. Be out, walk around, talk to people, and understand what’s going on.

My second piece of advice is to focus on growth, quality and probably even more importantly, because it’s the enabler of everything, the culture. When you have an engaged workforce, and engaged physicians, everything else is possible.

My third piece of advice is around engaging with the community. I’ve spent a lot of time out the community listening to business leaders, to community agencies, to the local individuals in my community to understand what’s important to them and that I’m the face of the hospital and that I can communicate to them how much I care about providing them with the highest caliber of healthcare for their community.

And I would say that, lastly, keep the strategy simple. Don’t make it too complex and then, last, which is probably critical is execute, execute, execute. Always stay ahead of making sure you are delivering on your promise. Those are the things I tell all young leaders today as they are moving forward in their career. This is what’s important to stay focused on.

Scott: Thank you very much. Kathleen, what a pleasure to visit with you. Anything else you want to leave with the audience or your team as we go into 2022? Anything else you want to share with us?

Kathleen: First of all, it was a delight to have the opportunity to talk to you and thank you for inviting me. Stay safe out there and let’s give our very best to our patients and the communities that we serve.

Scott: Thank you very much, Kathleen. What a remarkable leadership career and magnificent thing you’re doing for Stamford Health.

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