Nancy Schlichting, the recently retired CEO of the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, can be selective about the healthcare boards of directors she joins.
Her experience as the top administrator of one of the nation's largest integrated health systems has her in high demand by companies ranging from pharmacy retailers and medical equipment suppliers to other health systems and technology startups.
Schlichting, 62, said she serves on 10 boards today—now that she has time away from the day-to-day responsibilities of running Henry Ford Health.
She estimates that she's been on 81 boards during her lifetime, starting at age 32 when she was recruited by a community bank.
"I've met so many great people on boards," Schlichting said. "That's why I do it. I enjoy it."
Getting on a healthcare board for those interested is a lot like finding a top job, said Dr. Peter Angood, CEO of the 10,000-member American Association for Physician Leadership based in Tampa, Fla.
"If a person is interested in getting on a board, he or she needs to develop a value statement," Angood said.
Prospects, including physicians, would do well to get experience on not-for-profit or professional association boards to discern the vast difference between managing and governing, he said. The latter is not about involvement in day-to-day operations but hiring the right CEO and setting broader corporate policy.
Another avenue onto boards is through executive search firms. Many now operate director-recruiting arms in addition to the business of finding C-suite and clinical leadership staff for health systems, said Jay Somera, president of Thaxton Barabe, a healthcare executive search company recently acquired by American Healthcare Staffing Group.