Up & Comers - 2017
Deputy undersecretary for health, Department of Veterans Affairs
The Veterans Affairs Department often gets bad press for being entrenched in inefficiencies, but where most see disaster, Dr. Baligh Yehia saw an opportunity and a worthy challenge.
Formerly an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Yehia joined the VA in 2016 as assistant director of community care. In barely a year, he blazed a path to deputy undersecretary for health.
"Where most saw risk, I saw opportunity."
"I came to the VA right when they were going through the rockiest time," Yehia said. "A lot of folks were asking me, 'Are you sure you want to go there?' But it was a no-brainer. Where most saw risk, I saw opportunity."
While many health systems may get bogged down in the way things have always been done, at the VA Yehia knew he had the best raw material--a willingness among colleagues to innovate and think differently.
"The one thing we had that many healthcare systems didn't was a platform for change and the momentum that things needed to be different. That is very hard to create, but the VA had it," said Yehia, who this month left the VA to become senior medical director at Johns Hopkins Medicine.
In his VA role, Yehia managed an operating budget of more than $10 billion along with 7,000-plus employees and five business lines. To improve patient outcomes and gain operational efficiencies, Yehia and his team deployed over 50 innovating clinical and business solutions nationwide, including launching a care-coordination model that used predictive analytics to match patient needs with the right level of support. --Valerie Lapointe