One of the main themes of this year’s Mackinac Policy Conference is collaboration – how people, businesses and non-profit organizations can work together to push Michigan’s agenda forward for the betterment of all.
So when you see two leaders in the healthcare arena hanging together at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, you’ve got to stop them and ask a few questions about what they’re learning here at the Conference. I’ve had a chance to interview Jean Meyer once before, so I knew a little of her story. She’s on the Island with Gwen M. MacKenzie of Ascension Health, it caught my eye.
Fearless, fierce female leadership is in high demand on the Island, and I am looking for it in every corner of the conference. Meyer and MacKenzie, both former oncology nurses, have embraced the challenges and opportunities that come with leadership. Their representation here on the Island was a welcome sight.
“It’s great to see women here. We need to see more women here. And that’s only going to happen with more mentorship,” Meyer believes.
Some background on Jean. Meyer, MSN, RN, is President & CEO of St. John Providence Health System. Meyer has more than 27 years of experience in Catholic Health Care, including front-line patient care experience as a registered nurse and senior leadership experience within a large health system.
Some background on Gwen. MacKenzie is Senior Vice President and Michigan Market Leader, Ascension Health. She provides strategic and operational leadership while promoting alignment among Health Ministries within the Michigan regional market and with the System Office on issues related to Mission and Vision.
Q: Why come to the Mackinac Policy Conference?
Jean Meyer: Even though we’re in healthcare, the issues we face in our industry are very similar that other companies face. Within the healthcare industry, we need to look for ways to do things differently. I went to the robotics session with Dean Kamen with interest because we use technology throughout our industry. That’s part of creating medical devices. We had to go to a helicopter company for a cardiac stint material, so we need to find ways that other people work on things to help our industry.
MacKenzie: We represent 14 hospital and healthcare facilities across the state of Michigan. But we also employ 30,000 people. In most of the communities we service, we are the No. 1or the No. 2 employer in those communities. So we’re doing what’s best for healthcare in those communities, but we also are the largest employer. So for example, Jean attended the workforce diversity panel (Thursday) because that’s a topic that’s near and dear to our hearts. … It’s is interesting to note that most people only are admitted to a hospital every 13 years. So most people would never experience a hospital, yet this is the business that we’re in. We’re really in the healthcare business. Our intensity is moving away from hospitals and more into doctor’s offices and into the community. Because of that, as a major employer, we have massive retaining issues, workplace flexibility issues because the dynamics of what we’re doing are changing that dramatically and that quickly. This has been coming for a long time, and it’s happening rapidly.
Q: What issues that affect your industry are being discussed here?
Meyer: People are in their workplace for eight to 10 hours a day. So we have to figure out how to collaborate with industry and keep their employees healthy as part of our quest to keep them healthy and out of the hospital. Collaboration also was a theme in Mayor Duggan’s remarks, so we’re thinking about how we can create workforce training programs, education in schools and apprenticeships to tie into our industry.
MacKenzie: I used to say as a young manager, “I’ll never have anything to do with politics or policy. I’m just going to take care of people.” But the more of these kinds of meetings that we’re at and the issues that we face day to day, policy is also something that we have to think about and we have to address. We have to join forces with policymakers so things that are important to us – that help us sustain our mission – are taken care of.