Member Spotlight: Dr. Karen Weiner, CEO of Oregon Medical Group

By Andy Smith | AAPL
July 2, 2018

Weiner, who joined AAPL in 2013 and became a CPE two years later, discusses some of the issues she has faced as an organizational leader.


After 16 years as a pediatrician with Oregon Medical Group, Karen Weiner, MD, MMM, CPE, wasn’t on a career path for the C-suite until she noticed what she calls “deep dissatisfaction and frustration among my colleagues.”

karen weiner

Karen Weiner

She wanted to change that, so she shifted gears with a goal of becoming CEO — a role she’s held with the Eugene-based group since 2016.

Weiner, a member of the American Association for Physician Leadership since 2013, discusses some of the issues she has faced as an organizational leader.

Q As a female physician CEO, you are in the vast minority of the nation’s health care CEOs. How does that influence your leadership approach?

AOrganizations benefit from diversity in leadership, but senior leadership in health care nationwide is far too homogenous and reflects neither its workforce nor its patient population. In our organization, the majority of our senior leadership team is female. This shift has been an organic evolution, not something anyone has championed specifically. However, I believe it serves our organization well.

Q This dovetails into what you’ve called your leadership focus: transforming organizational culture for greater workforce engagement. How do you address this perpetual challenge?

AThe work of senior leadership, my work, is to communicate a vision, designate a direction, provide resources, remove barriers, and make sure the right people are in place to help us get there. Those who make up the workforce need to be encouraged by senior leadership to pursue a work-life balance that makes their job sustainable. This is imperative.

Q You recently reported your medical group has experienced a 70 percent decrease in physician burnout over the last five years. What are you doing that other CEOs can take away?

AI conducted a survey of health care CEOs across the country and found that 80 to 90 percent believe that burnout is a problem for their organizations, but only about 20 percent felt they had done enough to address it. I recommend a stepwise approach to the problem. First, measure it. Use a burnout survey such as the MBI [Maslach Burnout Inventory] to get a baseline. Second, get educated about the contributors of burnout. Third, ask the right questions and operationalize what you learn. Finally, make improving provider satisfaction a strategic imperative.

Q Having been with the same organization for more than 20 years, how big an asset is longevity in organizational leadership amid a constantly changing industry?

AThere are significant benefits to becoming a senior leader within an organization in which you’ve “grown up.” Knowing our culture well and having that history with all of the physicians made it relatively easy to transition into my initial role of CMO, and it saved time in the relationship-building phase. We were able to get to work on cultural transformation very quickly.

Q Over the next 20 years of health care, what keeps you awake at night — and what are you doing about it?

AI worry that physicians aren’t positioning themselves effectively to be the leading voice of change, because they are overwhelmed by that change. What am I doing about it? I am helping Oregon Medical Group move from being a physician-owned to a truly physician-led entity that can champion transformational change to improve patient care, experience and outcomes within our own community. It is a labor of love, to be sure.

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