Leading to Affect Lasting Change: Putting People and Patients First

Brief Background

Board Member, Vizient, Inc.

Board Member, American Hospital Association

Board Member, Healthcare Institute

Board Member, CryoLife

Board Member, Governor’s Workforce Council

Wife, Mother of 2

Marna Borgstrom is one of the most influential people in Connecticut as the CEO of the largest private employer in the State. Marna was named in Modern Healthcare’s Top 100 Most Influential in Healthcare twice, most recently in 2019. In the 41 years that she has spent with YNHHS she’s watched Yale New Haven Hospital grow from 944-beds to 1541-beds, and the System has grown to include seven hospitals and a physician foundation with 1000 practitioners, in addition to those at the Yale Medical School and in private practices. Through that time, she’s witnessed major clinical breakthroughs and technological advances. She’s seen HIV go from a terminal diagnosis to a chronic disease as well as the powerful impact of advanced imaging and the applications of genomics and immunotherapies. However, even with all these advances, Marna states that the biggest transformation is in patient care and restructuring healthcare organizations to create the best patient-centered experience.

Our Program Manager, Sharon Mwale, sat with Marna in her office to discuss how she puts people and patients first at YNNH.

How has innovation influenced and/or transformed the healthcare industry and the way in which you lead?

There has been relentless innovation in patient care, diagnosis and treatment over the past 40 years. People are living good, productive lives with chronic illness that used to be fatal. However, there has been less innovation on how we help to keep people healthy and out of the hospital in part because we have a payment system that still largely rewards providers for treating people instead of investing equally in health.

One of the evolutionary areas of focus in healthcare of which I am most proud is the emphasis on a truly patient-centered experience. Everything should focus on the patient as an individual and what she/he wants/needs. In fact, the five values which guide every YNHHS employee are: Compassion, Respect, Integrity, Accountability and Patient Centeredness.

There has been great work on improving the safety of the healthcare process and environment with the goal of getting to “zero events of avoidable harm”. Every day in each of our hospitals and our physician practices, there is a safety “huddle” that focuses on what happened in the past 24 hours and what to be mindful of going forward. It’s truly part of our culture.

What makes a good leader? Is a leader born or can he/she be shaped?

We are all products of our environments and upbringing. Even in my current role, I sometimes feel like an imposter. My parents, at a different time, were both from immigrant families. They didn’t have access to a blue-chip education, but they were committed to giving their children great educations and instilling in each of us a sense of responsibility to be fair, productive participants in our communities. And when I started my professional career, I knew immediately that to be an authentic leader you had to have humility. You are never as good as people tell you you are and mistakes are essential to learning how to be a better leader and person. Secondly, being a good leader means being a great listener. Ask questions and have follow up questions to your questions; that’s the best way to learn. Third, do what you say you are going to do and do it well. Lastly, have a great sense of humor. You have to be able to laugh, at yourself, with your team, and overall enjoy the journey.

What is store for the future of Yale New Haven Health?

I see a bright future for Yale New Haven Health, but I couldn’t tell you what it is going to be. My focus is on developing talent within the organization to be ready to take YNNHS to that next level. When I think about the future, I know it lies in the hands of our people. So, I think about where our people are in their development and what they need to succeed. Tactically speaking, how can we help them develop the skill sets they need to grow and advance and make sure we have passionate, qualified people at all levels. All to say, I think our future is bright because we’re doing good work now and we are developing the people who will continue the progress YNNHS has made and take it to the next level.

Lecky’s Comments:

I read something years ago as paraphrased, ‘if your actions inspire others to dream, learn, do, and become more, you are a leader. Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower. Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.’ The answers lie within each of us to determine self-path. You are the teacher, the leader, the student; you are everything.

“A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

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]