Dr Prathibha Varkey income at the Mayo Clinic in August as president of the Mayo Clinic Health System, which serves communities in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. She previously practiced medicine and held several executive positions at the Mayo Clinic, based in Rochester, Minnesota, for more than a decade before leaving in 2013 to take up CEO positions at Seton Clinical Enterprise in Austin, Texas, and Northeast Medical Group within Yale New Haven (Conn.) Health.
Dr Varkey spoke with Becker in December about her goals for the first year in her new role and the lessons she has learned as a leader in healthcare.
Question: What are your goals and priorities as president for the next year?
Dr Prathibha Varkey: The main objective is to bring the Mayo Clinic health system to a category of one in rural health, population health and next generation community care. We are the community arm of the Mayo Clinic business and are delighted to provide care at the Mayo Clinic near you.
Q: How do you plan to deal with this health care misinformation issue in your new role?
PV: Since the start of the pandemic, our researchers, scientists and physicians have really worked closely with community leaders and with our community of staff to be at the forefront of vaccine development, test and disseminate evidence-based information accurately, and as much as possible. quickly possible. We have really seen it as our role at regional, national and global levels to be advocates for delivering this information accurately and quickly in partnerships with our communities. We have done this through traditional methods of communication, but also through social media and by organizing various town halls, opinion letters and frequent engagements with our community.
One of the main issues with this evolving pandemic is that information on prevention, treatment, and frankly, the virus is evolving as well. Therefore, I think it is very important that as leading healthcare providers and institutions, we continue to stay focused on evidence-based medicine and continue to advocate for the rapid provision of evidence-based information. to our communities.
Q: Will there be leadership positions specifically designed to handle cultural challenges like the ones we’ve seen over the past 21 months?
PV: This is an excellent question. I think the pandemic has really taught us that in addition to focusing on courage, creativity and transformation, compassion and frequent communication have also become key roles for executives. I think an explicit focus on health care disparities and understanding racism and part of the social context of the change that is happening in the country has also become very critical. Encouraging and inspiring our often tired staff in the midst of this relentless pandemic to focus on transformation, despite some of the challenges, is also becoming essential to continue to focus on the future. I think health care as a whole will be better because of some of the transformative activities that must have happened as a result of this pandemic.
The other issue that has come to light with the pandemic is the need to focus on our communities beyond just the patients who come to see us in our clinics and hospitals. Thus, this proactive approach to the health of the population, prevention, testing and management of well-being and health, in addition to disease, has become essential.
Q: A recently released statistic shows that only 15% of leadership positions in health care are held by women. What advice would you give to women wishing to take on managerial positions in the industry?
PV: Almost 70% of the people who make decisions about family health care are women, and about a similar proportion of the health sector workforce are women, but there is still a gap important in terms of women in leadership positions nationally.
My advice to aspiring women leaders: Approach opportunities with courage and courage; be fearless in execution and persistent despite changing challenges. There are so many opportunities to transform healthcare right now. We ourselves, as healthcare institutions, have learned and grown so much over the past two years, and we really need diversity in terms of perspective of thought in leadership, to advance healthcare agendas. health and healthcare. And I think women and diversity in leadership will take us much further in terms of opportunities.
Q: What do you think were the two biggest challenges you have had to overcome in your career?
PV: I like to think of challenges more like learning lessons along the way, and they’ve really been about persistence. Do not abandon. It’s really about being persistent in communicating for the need for positive change, and then empowering teams and people to lead the change.
The other lesson I would like to share is to look outside the health sector to learn from other organizations about what can be done to create change and transformation, as well as to create a platform for collaborative partnerships. to solve problems.