"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."