The drive for di­ver­sity: A ca­reer-long fo­cus on gen­der and ra­cial dis­par­i­ties em­pha­sized sys­temic change

THOMAS DOLAN

Modern Healthcare - - NEWS - By David Royse

As an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor and later di­rec­tor of grad­u­ate stud­ies at the Univer­sity of Mis­souri’s School of Health Re­lated Pro­fes­sions in the 1970s, Thomas Dolan looked around and saw a lot of sim­i­lar stu­dents.

The civil rights move­ment had burst onto the Amer­i­can scene in the pre­ced­ing decades, and now the women’s move­ment was in full swing—par­tic­u­larly on Amer­i­can cam­puses.

How­ever the fu­ture health­care lead­ers didn’t seem to re­flect the changes un­der­way in so­ci­ety, Dolan thought.

But Dolan, who grew up with sto­ries about his mother’s time work­ing as a nurse, in­clud­ing her

“He’s a true men­tor. He al­ways en­cour­aged you to do more, to be bet­ter.”

Karen Hack­ett, CEO, Amer­i­can Academy of Or­thopaedic Sur­geons

ser­vice in Wales dur­ing World War II, was in a po­si­tion to do some­thing about it.

“They hadn’t ad­mit­ted a lot of women,” Dolan re­called. “So I ad­mit­ted more women than we ever had. We’ve got so many chal­lenges in health­care, why would we ex­clude any­one who might have good ideas?”

That was just the be­gin­ning of a long ca­reer in health­care and as­so­ci­a­tion man­age­ment that took Dolan from Mis­souri to St. Louis Univer­sity, and then out of academia to the Amer­i­can Col­lege of Health­care Ex­ec­u­tives, where he would pur­sue that same goal of di­ver­sity on a larger scale.

Dolan, who was re­cruited to the ACHE in 1986 by Stu­art Wes­bury, then the as­so­ci­a­tion’s chief ex­ec­u­tive, be­came pres­i­dent and CEO in 1991 and served un­til his re­tire­ment in 2013. He is now pres­i­dent emer­i­tus.

At the ACHE, Dolan had a sim­i­lar re­al­iza­tion. The or­ga­ni­za­tion’s board was nearly all white and male. And it wasn’t clear what the mem- bership looked like racially, be­cause the or­ga­ni­za­tion didn’t track it.

Dolan led an ef­fort to start col­lect­ing in­for­ma­tion on ACHE mem­bers’ ra­cial makeup. From there, he led the first ca­reer study to look at how mi­nori­ties were pro­gress­ing in the health­care man­age­ment field, and found that, af­ter con­trol­ling for age and ed­u­ca­tion, black ex­ec­u­tives weren’t mov­ing up the ca­reer lad­der as far or as fast as whites.

“So there was some sort of dis­crim­i­na­tion there,” Dolan said.

The ACHE, at Dolan’s be­hest, be­gan is­su­ing rec­om­men­da­tions on how to change that, in­clud­ing sug­gest­ing more men­tor­ing of young, mi­nor­ity ex­ec­u­tives and em­pha­siz­ing net­work­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for mi­nori­ties.

But Dolan also be­lieved that if a pro­fes­sional or­ga­ni­za­tion wanted to en­cour­age di­ver­sity in the field, it ought to be di­verse it­self. Dolan made it a mis­sion to di­ver­sify the staff while ex­pand­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for mem­bers.

“He re­ally lived and breathed diver-

sity,” said Karen Hack­ett, now CEO of the Amer­i­can Academy of Or­thopaedic Sur­geons, who was the ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent and chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of the ACHE from 1995 to 2003.

Dolan—who has also chaired the boards of the Amer­i­can So­ci­ety of As­so­ci­a­tion Ex­ec­u­tives, the As­so­ci­a­tion of Univer­sity Pro­grams in Health Ad­min­is­tra­tion and the In­sti­tute for Di­ver­sity in Health Man­age­ment and served a two-year term as pres­i­dent of the In­ter­na­tional Hos­pi­tal Fed­er­a­tion—is be­ing hon­ored for his life­time of achieve­ment with in­duc­tion into the Health Care Hall of Fame.

While Dolan’s tire­less ef­forts to make health­care’s lead­er­ship ranks more di­verse un­doubt­edly had a last­ing im­pact on a gen­er­a­tion of ex­ec­u­tives, he also made a deep per­sonal im­pact on those who worked more di­rectly with him, Hack­ett said.

“He’s a true men­tor,” she said. “He al­ways en­cour­aged you to do more, to be bet­ter. A num­ber of peo­ple who worked for him went on to be CEOs.”

Dolan pushed hard for his staff to ad­vance their own ca­reers and get more ad­vanced cre­den­tials and ed­u­ca­tion.

“He spent a lot of time on the de­vel­op­ment of staff, and he had high ex­pec­ta­tions of us,” said Chuck Mac­far­lane, CEO of the Amer­i­can As­so­ci­a­tion of Di­a­betes Ed­u­ca­tors. Mac­far­lane worked at the ACHE from 1990 to 2006, in­clud­ing stints as vice pres­i­dent of re­gional ser­vices and vice pres­i­dent of ed­u­ca­tion.

And many who worked for Dolan and went on to be­come CEOs like Hack­ett and Mac­far­lane still turn to Dolan for coun­sel.

“I still try to meet with him on about a monthly ba­sis,” Mac­far­lane said. “It’s more of a friend­ship now, but I bring him my list of is­sues.”

While Dolan said he’s proud of his ef­forts to di­ver­sify the field, he most en­joyed help­ing mem­bers and staff do their best work and move up be­cause of it.

“I re­ally en­joyed help­ing peo­ple in their ca­reers,” Dolan said. “I en­joyed work­ing with peo­ple and help­ing them ad­vance.”

Dolan also over­saw the for­ma­tion of lo­cal chap­ters of the ACHE, which had pre­vi­ously only been a na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tion. Now there are about 80 chap­ters across the coun­try, which in­creases the abil­ity of mem­bers to par­tic­i­pate in ed­u­ca­tional pro­grams.

“It gives peo­ple more of an op­por­tu­nity to be in­volved, by serv­ing on boards at the lo­cal level,” Dolan said. That fur­thers their abil­ity to ad­vance their ca­reers.

Dur­ing his lead­er­ship at the as­so­ci­a­tion, to­tal mem­ber­ship grew from just over 20,000 when he be­came CEO to more than 44,000 when he re­tired.

As for the on­go­ing ef­fort to di­ver­sify the field, Dolan is op­ti­mistic.

“It is chang­ing,” Dolan said. “As a field we are in bet­ter shape. We have a higher pro­por­tion of women and peo­ple of color in lead­er­ship.” And, he be­lieves, it will only get more di­verse. “Gen X and the mil­len­ni­als don’t see some of the dif­fer­ences older peo­ple saw,” he said.

“He spent a lot of time on the de­vel­op­ment of staff, and he had high ex­pec­ta­tions of us.” Chuck Mac­far­lane CEO of the Amer­i­can As­so­ci­a­tion of Di­a­betes Ed­u­ca­tors and a for­mer vice pres­i­dent at the ACHE.

Dur­ing a visit to Wal­ter Reed Army Med­i­cal Cen­ter in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., Dolan meets with fa­cil­ity lead­ers, in­clud­ing Maj. Gen. David Ruben­stein, cen­ter, the ACHE’s 2008-09 chair­man and the Army’s deputy sur­geon gen­eral at the time.

Dolan ad­dresses the 2012 an­nual meet­ing of the Brazil­ian Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Pri­vate Hos­pi­tals in Sao Paulo. He’s a fre­quent speaker on health­care lead­er­ship is­sues.

Dolan speaks to the 39th World Hos­pi­tal Congress held in Chicago in 2015. He was the meet­ing’s chair­man and im­me­di­ate past pres­i­dent of the In­ter­na­tional Hos­pi­tal Fed­er­a­tion.

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