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Best Healthcare Leaders Know When to Exit

Philip Betbeze, for HealthLeaders Media, May 18, 2012

"I'm not amazed by that number. In fact, I'm looking forward to when we are going to hit $200 million."

Gabow is aware of what she's sacrificed in order to lead Denver Health for the past 20 years. Sometimes she regretted the decision to leave her clinical work behind. Once again, her son gave her a much-needed reality check.

"He said to me, 'Mom, you never come home anymore and say you had a great day like you did when you were a doc,'" she recalls. "I thought about that for awhile. I ended up telling him that when you're taking care of patients you do have great days because you can markedly improve or save someone's life over that period of time. But when you're taking care of an institution, you don't have great days, you have great decades."

Patience pays off
That sentiment goes to the heart of Gabow's leadership. She's not afraid to take a chance when the data bears out her position. With Lean, it literally took years for the efforts to show real monetary dividends, although many of her executive team and especially the front line leaders said the change was improving attitudes and engagement.

"It takes a long time to see things pay off," she says. "If you look at our Lean journey, we started in 2006 and took several years before it really jumped up and started working. Working on the authority transition was truly a six-year effort."

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1 comments on "Best Healthcare Leaders Know When to Exit"


Robert Trinka (5/20/2012 at 11:06 AM)
Congratulations to the good doctor for 1) Taking on the challenge of being a physician leader, and 2) for understanding how to run a lean organization. This is as good as time as any to ask about the profitability" of not-for-profit organizations, like Denver Health, which I assume is a not-for-profit health system. Not-for-profit or nonprofit organizations by definition cannot have a "profit", only a surplus. We should try to be accurate in this terminology since there is a huge difference between for profit companie's "Profit" and a nonprofit's "Surplus".