“It's clear if you're going to run a successful healthcare organization, you're going to have to attract a potential workforce whose leadership will reflect those patients,” Dolan says.
Being an advocate for diversity means creating an environment where women and minorities feel their concerns are being taken seriously. Andrea Price, president and CEO of Mercy health system's Northern Region, Toledo, Ohio, says that's one of her mentor's greatest strengths. Price, who is African-American, says that when she first met Dolan in 2000, it was rare for anybody to show the passion for diversity that he displayed. His success stemmed from making people feel more comfortable, she says.
The ACHE recently announced plans for the Thomas C. Dolan Diversity in Executive Leadership Program to continue addressing barriers that have impeded diversity in the
C-suite. The program includes a scholarship to help cultivate diversity. It will kick off with a dinner honoring Dolan during the ACHE's annual Congress on Healthcare Leadership next month in Chicago.
Dolan also worked to eliminate the oral component of the Board of Governors Examination in Healthcare Management, a requirement of the ACHE fellow credential. While many members thought the move meant softening the credential and opposed the proposal, Dolan argued that dropping the oral test made the exam more objective.
That was a gutsy move, Price says. “He's vigilant and determined to always obtain feedback and address thorny issues. And through that, he's generated the support of a more robust ACHE organization,” she says.
American Hospital Association President and CEO Richard Umbdenstock says Dolan's progressive leadership shows how in tune he is with his members' concerns. Umbdenstock also notes how Dolan has partnered with groups like the AHA and others to extend ACHE's reach to influence policy change.
Umbdenstock says Dolan was far ahead of the curve in advancing professional networking. “Tom was into it before Facebook and 'friending' and stuff like that,” he says. “He's built the ACHE's leadership circle and their local chapters.”
Officials picked Dolan to head the Baldrige Award board in 2011, which Umbdenstock says “illustrates the respect those folks have, but even more so, it shows Tom's commitment to quality improvement.” An agency of the U.S. Commerce Department administers the awards, which recognize U.S. organizations, for-profit and not-for-profit, for excellence in quality performance. Healthcare organizations have been eligible for the honor since 2007.
Dolan notes how the quest for quality has changed since he entered the healthcare sector. He says there's no perfect formula or “silver bullet” to improving healthcare quality.
“I think that when I first got started we assumed quality, and that was unfortunate because, again, what we learned is that quality needs to be worked on continually,” Dolan says. “We also have the mistaken impression that the more quality you get, the more expensive it would be. But what we've learned is higher quality costs less.”