As our "Meet the Team" series continues, this week you get to meet our Senior Vice President, Leslie Barden. A "go getter," Leslie brands herself as a "strategic implementer." Read below to see how that attribute has led her down a path of many rewarding projects and career moves over the years, even if it's not the career she originally thought she'd be in!
Question: How'd you get into the industry?
Leslie: I was planning on becoming a veterinarian when in college but when I got a “D” in chemistry, that blew up that dream, as vet schools are much harder to get into the med school because there are so few of them. I had to come up with a contingency plan because a Biology degree alone has limited utility. My boyfriend (now husband) was in business school and my father was a hospital administrator. I became intrigued with how I might combine a career in medicine and business and did some early networking to learn more about hospital administration.The last week of my senior year in college I was introduced to my lifelong mentor, Jerry Vasile, who was the head of Strong Memorial Hospital at the University of Rochester. He offered me an internship for the summer in pep for entering graduate school for health services administration and the rest is history.
Question: What is your favorite, most interesting, or challenging project you've worked on?
Leslie: I’ve been blessed over my career to have been given many opportunities that I was not qualified for nor part of my job description. Because I am a go getter, decent project manager, and lifelong learner, I have always been seen as a go to person within my organizations. I brand myself as a “strategic implementer” because I can see how to connect dots not apparent to others, set a strategy, keep it in focus, but am also able to bring it forward through implementation and even operations. Examples of these types of rewarding projects include:
Developing a comprehensive physician alignment strategy in the 90’s for United Health Services that gave the doctors in the community a choice as to how they wanted to align with our health system. The strategy was transparent and gave doctors options. Out of this we created a very successful Physician Hospital Organization and corresponding joint venture with an insurer offering a private label health plan in the market. This was way before its time and the lessons I learned then still apply today especially around economic alignment. Also, part of this strategy was growing UHS’ multi-specialty group practice from a core of 35 to over 200 providers.
At Methodist Health System in Dallas, I was able to lead from inception through construction a joint venture hospital in a fast growing yet underserved sector of the market. I worked with many partners including those who syndicated the deal, led the construction and managed the operations. In this I learned how to form very effective working relationships with investors, regulatory bodies like the City, and even the community at large who initially opposed it. Because of the long-term nature of this project, setting guiding principles that helped us stay focused on the bigger picture on what we wanted to accomplish was a very helpful exercise. When we got tired or discouraged, we would pull these out and get energized again.
Question: Tell me about your area of expertise in the industry. What interests you about it?
Leslie: My traditional roles have been in the areas of strategy, innovation, and business growth. I’ve also put a lot of emphasis on population health improvement over the years and have seen that iterate several times. I break my career into several phases: (1) the value of the integrated delivery system, (2) leveraging market growth opportunities, (3) gaining knowledge around cost management and how to maximize use of analytics to drive effective collaboration (4) equipping provider networks to deliver coordinated care resulting in better spending, improved health status, and better quality.
Question: What do you like to do for fun?
Leslie: Working full time with three kids has not provided me a lot of time for my own fun. But, my husband and I are now officially empty nesters with all 3 kids in college. So, I HAVE to keep working but we are having a blast walking every day, re-connecting with friends, and fitting in some travel. And, everyone knows I love to be with my dog Chloe’!
Question: How do you want to make an impact on the healthcare industry?
Leslie: My passion is around how to improve health care as a well-organized system of services. Based on how health care has been paid for, it has not evolved as a true system of care. It is so complex, difficult to navigate, sub-optimal performance, and ill equipped for the functioning as a real “system”.As we know from about 7 years of reform efforts since the ACA was passed, it is a very hard ship to navigate in new directions, but we can’t give up and we need to keep pushing forward. I want to be part of the effort that keeps agitating the status quo with a focus on transforming care delivery. These changes are very dependent on payment models so we need to keep evaluating the impacts of reimbursement on performance.