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Memorial Hermann Promotes Chief Quality Officer to CMO

By Christopher Cheney  
   February 18, 2020

Angela Shippy shares her perspectives on quality improvement and C-suite leadership skills.

Angela Shippy, MD, is eager to apply her clinical and administrative experience in an expanded role at Memorial Hermann health system.

For the past five years, Shippy has served at the chief quality officer at the Houston-based health system. She has been promoted to senior vice president, chief medical officer, and chief quality officer.

Prior to joining Memorial Hermann, she was HCA Healthcare's Gulf Coast Division chief medical officer. Before working at HCA, Shippy was vice president of medical affairs at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital, an affiliate of Houston-based Texas Medical Center, where she also practiced as a hospitalist.

Shippy recently shared her perspectives on the CMO and chief quality officer roles with HealthLeaders. The following is a lightly edited transcript of that conversation.

HealthLeaders: How will your experience as chief quality officer help you in your new role as CMO?

Shippy: There are a couple of different ways. First, as a chief quality officer you interact with everyone, you collaborate on projects, and you help to prioritize. We have strategic initiatives that are ongoing, so it helps me to continue to make connections on those initiatives.

Second, quality is involved in everything we do—particularly providing care to patients. The same could be said of the chief medical officer role. There are opportunities to be involved in multiple different aspects of the clinical care that we deliver.

HL: Give one or two examples of quality initiatives that you led as chief quality officer.

Shippy: Over the past six years, one of the key changes at Memorial Hermann from a quality standpoint is we went from an emphasis on process measures to outcome measures. Early on in value-based purchasing, the emphasis was on whether you were doing particular interventions. For example, you could check the box for heart failure if you gave an ACE inhibitor or did an echocardiogram.

Where we have been evolving over the past six years is to actual outcomes. So, if you are doing all of the processes properly, you should see outcomes such as decreased readmissions or decreased mortality. We have been working toward hardwiring processes, so we know the outcomes are good for patients and patients are able to take care of themselves outside of our acute interventions.

We also have been working outside of clinical areas to make sure that we have quality improvement methodology for operational areas. We have been identifying waste, we have been standardizing processes, and we have been sustaining changes once we have made them. We have been taking principles we use in clinical areas and helping operational colleagues and departments use those principles for their improvement.

HL: What aspects of your career best prepared you to work in C-suite roles?

Shippy: As a resident, I used to moonlight in the emergency department quite a bit. One of the hardest things to do there is to call one of your colleagues to admit a patient. So, very early on, I learned to completely assess a patient, to conduct all the testing that was needed, and to be able to succinctly present that patient to colleagues so they could understand the necessity to admit the patient. That teaches you how to put information together and put it in a format that other people can understand.

As a practicing hospitalist, I had the opportunity to interact with every member of the medical staff and every specialty. When you are taking care of patients who come through the ED, some are very ill, and you have to tap into your colleagues at all times of the day. So, you understand how the hospital works at 8 a.m., 8 p.m., and 2 a.m. You learn about the staff outside of the clinical staff that you have to deal with to make sure the patients get the care that they need. Having those interactions gives you a unique perspective on how to activate people and get things done.

HL: What are the essential leadership skills to be a successful CMO?

Shippy: To be a successful CMO, you have to understand that clinical skills and that background initially led you on the journey to get to the C-suite; but, ultimately, you need to have the ability to lead, collaborate, and inspire across multiple disciplines and across the entire organization.

In healthcare, you also must understand that caring for the patient is a team sport and the same can be said for administrative roles. You are never doing the work alone—it is a group of people coming together to provide the best outcomes or the best results.

The opportunity to be a chief medical officer is truly an honor for anyone who started their career as a practicing physician. It is an opportunity to take your clinical skills and combine them with what your organization wants to do from an operational standpoint to deliver the best possible care for patients.

Christopher Cheney is the senior clinical care​ editor at HealthLeaders.


Memorial Hermann has expanded the role of the health system's chief quality officer, Angela Shippy, to include the chief medical officer position.

Shippy says her experience as a resident and hospitalist developed essential skills to be successful in C-suite roles.

She says key leadership skills for a CMO include the ability to lead, collaborate, and inspire across multiple disciplines and across an entire organization.

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