Katie Dean

Katie Dean

Administrative director of business operations & transformation supply chain | Stanford Health Care


JHC: What is the most interesting/challenging project you’ve worked on recently?

Katie Dean: I have had the pleasure of being a part of several major projects in supply chain, including: the opening of both a children’s and adult hospital, leading a change in distribution partners, and responses to both the Cardinal gown recall and COVID PPE shortages.

All these projects have been uniquely challenging in their own ways, but each time, through hard-work, dedication, and a commitment to continuous improvement, the supply chain teams came out stronger for the experiences in tangible metrics (efficiencies, service metrics, and customer surveys).

This team of supply chain professionals are second to none, and there’s really no one I would want to go through this type of disruptive change with.

Currently, I am leading the development of the supply resiliency for Stanford Health Care Supply Chain. We were just recognized by Gartner for our process and structuring of the program. Health care is behind other industries, such as automotive and technology companies, in this arena. It is both exciting and humbling to have been given the opportunity to lead this venture.

As COVID-19 came with intense dependencies on PPE and corresponding supply shortages, supply chain and our clinicians have strengthened our partnership. Collectively, we are ready for the cross-functional collaboration needed to build resiliency to future supply disruptions, and I look forward to where we can take the program over the next couple of years.

JHC: What projects are you looking forward to in the next six to 12 months?

Dean: This spring we are going live with the systemization of our physician clinics by supporting over 70 sites with the supply chain functionalities of our ERP (Lawson) and expanding our purchasing and category management divisions to support the network as well. This project will drive both standardization of processes across the enterprise and generate cost savings.

In fact, the category management team has already identified enough savings to cover the cost of the transition. This project is unique in that its success is dependent on the end-users adopting the system and using it correctly, allowing us to use this as an opportunity to launch the newly formed training arm of our supply chain project management team.

The project team that includes supply chain, accounts payable, information systems, and clinic leadership has come together to be ready for this go-live; due to the expertise and preparation this team has put into the project, I am highly optimistic that the launch will go smoothly.

JHC: What is the biggest challenge/change facing health care supply chain professionals in the next 5 years?

Dean: Without a doubt, that market disruptions will continue. COVID has shined a light on the vulnerability of the health care supply chain and I would expect to see an exponentially growing focus on this over the next couple of years. 

The other thing I see coming is technology integration becoming a bigger part of health care in general, affecting the supply chains.

Some of this has already begun within the hospital footprint: autonomous guided vehicles moving carts of supplies across large health care footprints, RFID being used for inventory management, and data warehouses and analysis tools being used to track trends and usage in new ways.

As health care moves more and more into the home (technology to monitor health, tele-health visits, etc.) health care, and thus supply chains, will expand out of hospitals and clinics and into the homes of our patients. I see the future being full of leaders who embrace the technology for what it’s best at, but also knowing that technology can’t replace a highly skilled and well-trained workforce.

JHC: What one thing makes you most proud?

Dean: The incredible group of supply chain professionals that I get to work with daily.

Together we have been through a lot of change over the last three years, and I could not be prouder of the results they have achieved. It’s inspiring to work with a team of professionals who are consistently and actively working towards becoming a best-in-class supply chain, while simultaneously truly working as a team and lifting each other up.

The culture that exists within the supply chain teams at Stanford Medicine is second to none.

I am grateful that I get to be part of the team who enhances that culture by developing communications for cross-departmental communications, launching a new training arm of supply chain to invest in our employees and create a strong career ladder for our staff, and continuously highlighting the great work and achievements the team has earned. 

JHC: What’s the most important risk you took and why?

Dean: Joining the supply chain team 3+ years ago was a huge risk for me. I had over 10 years of experience in facilities management, and I had not planned on a career shift. I am also a single mom, and the sole bread winner in my family, so failure was not an option.

Working with supply chain was a unique opportunity as they were looking for a leader who was process-driven and could strengthen the relationship with the clinical partners. The career change forced me to also change my leadership style, as I often did not have all the answers, and I was learning supply chain from the team that I was simultaneously leading.

This career shift taught me multiple valuable lessons: first and foremost, to lean on the strengths of my team members and point them in the right direction while not getting in their way; also, that there is value in learning from the folks who do the work every day, to see the work being done in person, and to drive engagement by involving them as active participants in changes and improvements to the work of the organization; and finally, that when your teammates understand the reasoning behind your decisions, they are more likely to approve and support them.

The career change was a risk and taking on a brand-new team of leaders mere weeks before the opening of a hospital was an even bigger risk, but it is a decision I would make again any day of the week.

The team and work in supply chain are home in ways I never could have imagined before.