AAPL Developing Leadership Pipeline for Expanding Ochsner Health

By Andy Smith | AAPL
September 11, 2018

The Louisiana system's growth requires rapid development of physicians who can assume “entry-level leadership positions.” AAPL’s program will help it achieve these goals. 

In the years since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, the Ochsner Health System has grown exponentially, from a one-hospital operation with several satellite clinics into a Louisiana health care powerhouse, with its reach now extending into neighboring Mississippi.

Anne Marie Skansi

Anne Marie Skansi

But when Ochsner’s rapid expansion collided with commitments to enhance its existing physician leadership program while developing an internal pipeline for future leaders, the organization’s executives decided to make a big push on leadership development, says assistant vice president Anne-Marie Skansi, who noted it would take two years to develop its own program — time it couldn’t spare.

Ochsner, a not-for-profit, academic and integrated health care system, long has provided its own internal education with “an excellent track record of physicians successfully advancing their careers within the organization,” says Bobby Rodwig, MD, MPH, medical director of professional staff services. But recent exposure to external speakers at its internal workshops resulted in “consistent feedback that our group wants to hear from experts outside our organization,” he adds.

“The health care environment is changing at an incredible pace,” Rodwig says, “and although the fundamentals of leadership training are the same, the current world is dramatically different than even a few years ago. Our past model of physician leadership development needed to evolve, and we felt our ability to manage this internally and keep up with the change would be challenged — [and] we needed to look for expertise outside of our organization.”

Enter the American Association for Physician Leadership. Because of its lengthy, successful history, Skansi says, “it was easier to go with AAPL than to develop [the program] ourselves.”

Bobby Rodwig

Bobby Rodwig

To that end, Ochsner and AAPL have begun a 15-month program for 150 Ochsner physicians who will work in cohorts of about 90 “emerging leaders” and 60 “senior leaders,” with curriculum tailored to each group.

Rodwig says most of Ochsner’s high-level leaders have been through internal training programs, but their continuous leadership education needs to be “more advanced.” And Ochsner’s growth requires the rapid development of other physicians who can assume “entry-level leadership positions.”

AAPL’s program will help Ochsner achieve these goals. And because the 150 slots for the first cohorts filled without recruitment, additional cohorts are planned.

In a sense, the AAPL-Ochsner collaboration began with a seemingly inconsequential handshake about five years ago. Rodwig, an association member since 2005, was attending a 2013 AAPL institute when he briefly met AAPL President and CEO Peter Angood, MD, FRCS(C), FACS, MCCM. Although the exchange lasted only a moment, its effect extended to last fall, when Rodwig sent Angood an email about speaking at a company retreat of more than 200 physician leaders.

At the retreat two months later, Rodwig and Angood, along with Ochsner president and CEO Warner Thomas, chief medical officer Robert Hart and Skansi discussed plans to advance the company’s physician leadership program and AAPL’s role as a potential partner in that initiative.

The initiative reinforces Ochsner’s culture of a physician leadership that began in 1941, when five local physicians founded Ochsner as New Orleans’ first private-practice group clinic. Today, the system encompasses 12 hospitals (with a cancer center opening next year), 18 regional hospital alliances, 80 clinics and urgent care centers and more than 18,000 employees — including 1,200 physicians, from which most of its leadership positions and nearly half of its board positions have been filled. 

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