Healthcare has divisive issues. Lots of them. But if you disagree with Nancy Schlichting, chances are she has a rebuttal at the ready. When she was interviewed in 1991 about the accomplishments that contributed to her being named an Up & Comer, Schlichting, then 36, noted that being on the high school debate team helped her to see both sides of an issue, a useful skill for anyone but especially important for a hospital administrator.
Sixteen years later, Gail Warden, president emeritus of Henry Ford Health System and the person who hired Schlichting into the Detroit-based system in 1998 as its senior vice president and chief administrative officer, says one of her best skills has been getting other members of the health system's constituency onboard for tough decisions.
"I think what she brought to Henry Ford was a real understanding of how to work with physicians and get them on the same page as the organization," Warden says.
The first woman to lead Henry Ford in its 90-year history, Schlichting, 52, has been credited with its significant financial turnaround. In 2001, she became president and chief executive officer of its flagship Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit, while maintaining her role as chief operating officer of the health system. After losing nearly $75 million in 2001, the system was in the black by 2003, where it has remained. That same year, she became president and CEO of the health system.
In fiscal 2006, the system reported $3.25 billion in revenue and net income of $134.9 million, a 20% increase in profit from 2005.
"She's a fairly tough-minded manager about being cost-effective and delivering quality healthcare," Warden says. "It is reflected in the changes that have taken place under her leadership."
Admissions at 722-bed Henry Ford Hospital have risen 17.5% during the past three years, and outpatient surgery at the hospital grew 14% in 2006. Last year, Henry Ford's flagship hospital was selected as one of the Thomson 100 Top Hospitals: Performance Improvement Leaders.
In addition to her success in turning around Henry Ford, Schlichting has also been active in her community and in industry activities. She was treasurer for the Michigan Health & Hospital Association board for 2006-07 and served as the chairperson of the American Heart Association's annual Heart Walk in Detroit in 2004. That year, the organization raised a record $2.4 million for cardiovascular research.
Before arriving at Henry Ford, Schlichting was executive vice president and chief operating officer of Summa Health System in Akron, Ohio. She has also served as president and CEO of Riverside Methodist Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and executive vice president and COO of Akron (Ohio) City Hospital.
Contact Schlichting at [email protected]