Vision, courage and confidence

For one COO, creating an environment of diversity and inclusion – and having confidence in his employees’ abilities – leads to a first-rate workforce and, ultimately, better patient care.

In supply chain contracting, perspective is everything, and David Jimenez, retiring COO, Catholic Healthcare Partners (Cincinnati, Ohio), has done his best to ensure that his organization maintains the broadest perspective possible. In his 11 years as chief operating officer, he has been actively involved in the IDN’s diversity/inclusion strategic plan, mentoring minority fellowship students and administrative interns who, in turn, have done their part to help CHP make it to the Top 10 list of U.S. health systems based on clinical performance in a 2009 Thomson Reuters survey. “It’s very important to create a work environment that’s inclusive of everyone, or people won’t stay [at the organization] very long,” says Jimenez. That said, he appreciates the value of a diverse workforce. “We recognize how important this is in order for [our IDN] to be successful,” he points out.

As chief operating officer of Catholic Healthcare Partners, Jimenez oversees 34 hospitals, 15 nursing homes and a range of clinics for the IDN, which realized $4.3 billion in revenues in 2009. He is also responsible for strategic planning, physician integration, the insurance infrastructure, quality control and performance improvement. “David is recognized as one of the best hospital operators in the industry,” says Calvin Wright, vice president, supply chain, CHP. “His reputation for turning around underperforming organizations culturally, financially and operationally precedes him. He has been able to make Catholic Healthcare Partners stronger and more effective by creating a culture of transparency and accountability.” In addition, Jimenez “has a real knack” for connecting with individuals from different backgrounds and ethnicities, and using this to facilitate and environment of inclusion for Catholic Healthcare Partners, he adds.

“David truly believes that diversity and inclusion strengthen our culture, improve our decision-making and result in better care for all of our patients,” says Hui Saldana, divisional vice president of logistics and clinical support service at Catholic Healthcare Partners. Saldana appreciates firsthand the value of Jimenez’ diversity program. About nine years ago, she joined his staff as a business intern, and he, in turn, hired her. Since then, Jimenez has challenged her and others within the organization to be the best stewards to fulfill their mission, she points out. “Catholic Healthcare Partners had the highest operating margin among the Catholic Health system [hospitals] last year and many of David’s initiatives have resulted in better quality care to our patients,” she says.

And, the rewards flow both ways. “To this day, Hui still calls me to help her process issues,” says Jimenez, noting how rewarding it is to work with and mentor such talented individuals. “It really excites me to see young people discover their talents and to help them think through what they are good at and help them be successful.”

A great mentor
Of the many projects Jimenez has been involved in while at Catholic Healthcare Partners, one of the most challenging has been his team’s performance improvement work, he says. “Most of our facilities are located in low-income neighborhoods,” he explains. “We needed to do some process design and change the way work is done here.” So, it made sense to him when, about five years ago, he began diversifying his staff to create a well-rounded perspective and a pool of fresh ideas.

“When the auto industry began downsizing, I took on about 20 of these individuals,” says Jimenez. Given the education and opportunity he had received as a student, he believed he “had a responsibility” to pass that along to others. “We created a two-year fellowship program for minority graduates (with a masters degree in healthcare administration or an MBA with a health administration emphasis). At that time, we had a couple of openings, and I insisted we hire a couple of minorities,” he recalls. “Diversity is a mindset.” Administrators must appreciate the value of a diverse workplace and make an effort to recruit minorities, he points out. “First, you must create an all-inclusive environment, and then you must create an environment in which you mentor people.”

And, while mentoring one’s staff is a job in itself, for Jimenez, it has been an opportunity he could not pass up. “David takes a direct interest in the career path of the minority leaders who serve at the Catholic Healthcare Partners system,” says Saldana. “He spends his precious time to mentor and coach them, and assist them through difficulties. He encourages them to take risks and gain new experiences, and he enjoys their successes as they develop.”

“Mentoring involves a spectrum of issues,” says Jimenez. “I’ll often listen to [my staff members] talk about conflicts at work, choices they have to make or [issues] gaining access to a supervisor.” His role has been to help them narrow their options. “I’ll help them arrive at that ‘Aha’ moment when they realize what they want to do,” he says.

This calls for strong communication and leadership commitment, he continues. An organization must have a committed chief operating officer and leadership group, he points out. “Diversity happens because you make it happen, not simply because you want it to happen. It takes effort.” He credits Catholic Healthcare Partners’ successful diversity program in part to members within the organization who “have stepped in and reached out to individuals to ensure diversity happens.”

Indeed, an organization does not develop a diverse work force overnight, says Jimenez. “It takes years,” he points out. “Our people must juggle quite a lot in order to embrace diversity.” For instance, they send out employee surveys, collect feedback and track the organization’s minority turnover rate. “We want to know at the end of the day whether we really are retaining our minorities,” he says. As it turns out, they are. “Every two years, we take on five to seven new fellows and retain over 50 percent of them,” says Jimenez.

Jimenez originally had planned on retiring last April. However, he since has stepped into a part-time senior advisor position at Catholic Healthcare Partners, which he expects to run through September. The position will involve some coaching and leadership development, he explains. Once that ends, however, he anticipates taking on various volunteer projects, some of which will involve missionary work. Indeed, Jimenez is not a novice when it comes to volunteering his administrative skills at hospitals with limited resources. “I have dabbled in volunteer work in the past,” he says. “In August, 2009, I traveled to Lima, Peru for 10 days with my retired brother (an OB/gyn).” His brother taught physicians to use laparoscopic equipment, while Jimenez worked with the health clinic administration on systematic analysis.

“This summer, I [plan to] travel to Gimbie Adventist Hospital in Ethiopia,” he says. “My cousin is a gastroenterologist. I plan to work with the clinic on systemic analysis. Many of these small clinics don’t have administrators to do this work.” For Jimenez, this is yet another opportunity to fulfill his responsibility of taking care of others. “I think the critical value is the understanding that everyone was created equally,” he says. “I have been blessed with great health, a great family and a great job. This sense of gratitude has driven me to help others (whether at Catholic Healthcare Partners or elsewhere) who are struggling to get on their feet.”

Come next fall, however, Jimenez will be truly missed at Catholic Healthcare Partners. “We will miss David’s sense of humor, commitment to the ministry and overall leadership,” says Wright. “His support of the supply chain department has enabled Catholic Healthcare Partners to limit supply cost increases to less than inflation over the past five years.”

“We will miss David’s vision, courage and intuitive gift of guiding us throughout the years,” adds Saldana. “We are grateful for his helping hand as we endeavor to succeed in our assigned roles.”

For his part, Jimenez is confident that he will leave Catholic Healthcare Partners in good, able hands, which, considering the industry climate, is more important than ever. “One of the biggest changes we can expect to see in healthcare in the next five years will be a drive toward increased standardization (through comparative effectiveness),” he says. “We are trying to add over 32 million people to the health system, and it’s overloaded. I think that how we acquire goods and distribute them, as well as the clinical processing we do within each organization, will be influenced by comparative effectiveness. We may end up with fewer contracts and greater contract compliance.”

About the Author

Laura Thill
Laura Thill is a contributing editor for The Journal of Healthcare Contracting.