Being a Servant Leader, Create a Better Environment for Future Leaders


Brief Background

VP, Quality & Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer, UConn Health

AVP, Clinical Effectiveness, Quality and Patient Safety, Chief Quality & Patient Safety Officer, UConn Health

AVP and Director of Nursing & Performance Improvement, UConn Health

AVP, Ambulatory Services and Director of Ambulatory Nursing, UConn Health

Ann Marie Capo has been working in healthcare for 40 years, from staff nurse, to Chief Nurse Officer (CNO) at UCONN Health. Four decades ago, healthcare leadership roles were orientated toward men, specifically those with an administration background or physicians. Because of this and throughout her career, Ann Marie has learned the importance of being a servant leader, which she defines as being a role model, representing and creating a path to success for other atypical, aspiring leaders. Just before being asked to serve as CNO, she was in the process of making retirement plans and considering work as a consultant. However, recognizing the significance of this appointment, it was an opportunity to raise the profile of women, and the nursing profession to ensure this group was more often thought of for leadership opportunities. Ann Marie shares with Program Manager, Sharon Mwale, her extensive experience and how she’s leveraged her leadership positions to create lasting change in the healthcare industry.


How would you define innovation and/or entrepreneurship?

I think innovation is looking at a situation and approaching it differently. One of the most impactful projects I worked on at UCONN Health was transforming the method of conducting clinical research. At the time, clinical research was done in strictly controlled environments, i.e., patients would come to the hospital and be monitored 247 for the duration of the study. This approach was not only costly but time consuming and disincentivized potential participants. Also, UCONN had been built as a research hospital but when key grants, meant to fuel the bottom line, did not materialize we lost ground as a leader in research, which led to not being able to attract new research dollars. So, to alleviate the hospital’s financial burden, we devised an outpatient-based model for medical research. It took a lot of convincing of people who thought we were crazy! We challenged the status quo and revolutionized the model of clinical research into what we know it as today.

How has your professional and/or academic experience influenced the way in which you approach entrepreneurship, innovation and leadership?
As I was advancing within UCONN, the CEO of the hospital noticed something in me and sent me to complete Lean Six Sigma. I didn’t want to go because it was time consuming – I was still working full-time – and hard – math was not my favorite subject. However, it was the most pivotal thing I had done for my career and it opened so many possibilities. That same year we had a public health review that did not go well – we have 28 citations and were placed on probation. Before my certification I had been working on performance improvement and outcomes projects although I didn’t know how to define it well. Six sigma gave me the tools to analyze, develop and implement efficient processes and we were able to get off probation within 1 year, instead of 2. Leadership is not only about managing those who report to you but also about cultivating their skills and talents to help them become more successful.

What is your advice to women and what actionable steps can they take as leaders or aspiring entrepreneurs in the health and tech industries?
We, women, need to demand that we’re critical to the success of the organization. There’s more talk about inclusion and opportunities for women than action toward making significant progress to that effect. Women need to be continuously present so that when opportunities arise, we are considered. In any level of leadership, whether managing an entire department or just a project team, leaders need to be:
  • Tenacious. Verify and validate the information given to you. Have the whole story before motivating people to change, otherwise you won’t be leading. It might take longer, but you’ll achieve a better result in the end.
  • Patient. Not everyone will get to the point as you at the same pace. They won’t process information as fast or react as quickly, and at the end of the day, people will get there or they will leave.
  • Humble. Servant leaders never forget that they are in their position to provide for others,

Lecky’s Final Thoughts

One of the most impactful things that women in leadership can do is groom other women. To groom not only demonstrates support but it allows a woman to professionally operate at a faster pace that perhaps she may not otherwise without that support. Each one teach one!

If you would like to recommend a female entrepreneur in healthcare technology to be featured, we encourage you to contact us.

Contact information:
Sharon Mwale       Program Manager        [email protected]