32, corporate compliance and quality officer
JPS Health Network
Fort Worth, Texas
Although Kristin Jenkins is no less serious about the importance of compliance, her methods are less somber. She approaches the task with eagerness and enthusiasm.
"I think compliance is fun," says Jenkins, 32, her Texas drawl bristling with energy.
The former assistant district attorney is the corporate compliance and quality officer for JPS Health Network in Fort Worth, Texas, the parent company of 291-bed John Peter Smith Hospital. The Tarrant County Hospital District owns the hospital and network.
"I know some people find this boring, but I love compliance," Jenkins says. "As a government entity under constant public scrutiny, we take a strong stance on business ethics. You need guiding principles to work through situations."
It is that combination of enthusiasm, judgment and willingness to tackle difficult tasks that has won Jenkins the admiration of colleagues and health leaders. Her healthcare career began while in private law practice representing physician groups. Later, while serving as a deputy district attorney for the county public-hospital district, she defended the hospital that now employs her.
"That's when I immersed myself in healthcare law, not just malpractice and insurance, but regulatory and administrative law. I realized there were a lot of opportunities for lawyers and saw that I liked it even more."
Later, when JPS hired her as counsel, she was named compliance officer and charged with developing the hospital's first compliance program. Within her first week she was assigned responsibility for risk management and within a year she took on the added challenge of overseeing the quality and utilization-review programs.
"Some of that made sense for a lawyer, but some of it was a far cry from the practice of law," she says. "I liked it because it was hard and complex. And I like having a purpose greater than myself. I like being associated with an entity that makes people well, especially poor people who really need medical care. That sense of mission makes me feel better about the work I do."
She redesigned the hospital's qualityand utilization management programs and saw length of stay drop from 5.4 days to 4.3 days within two months of implementation.
Jenkins says when she introduced the compliance program, the subject was still relatively new to Texas.
Implementation "took more time than I thought it would," she recalls. "I thought if I just explained it, that that would be fine. But I learned a valuable lesson: I had to develop relationships to have a buy-in."
Jenkins also shared her compliance program and educational materials with thousands of other compliance officers around the country. Roy Snell, a co-founder and now the chief executive officer of the Health Care Compliance Association, says she possesses "extraordinary administrative savvy."
Snell says one of the biggest challenges in healthcare administration and compliance is the ability to facilitate change. "And she is dynamic at it," says Snell, who calls Jenkins one of the association's most sought-after speakers.
"Things that most people struggle with their whole lives come naturally to Kristin. And not only is she willing to share, but the quality of her work is excellent."
JPS President and CEO David Cecero says he became aware of Jenkins' talents last year when he joined the network.
"I gained a great deal of respect for Kristin's quality of work and compassion," says Cecero, who characterizes her as a "fearless linchpin of change."
Cecero says that Jenkins has given JPS national prominence and commanded attention in a very humble way.
"She represents the next generation of leaders in healthcare and has a commitment focused on improving patient quality, safety and outcomes," he says.