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A Year of Organizing for Success

A Year of Organizing for Success

Carolyn Carpenter, president of Johns Hopkins Health System’s National Capital Region, has built a leadership team and infrastructure for regional growth.

Since embarking as president of Johns Hopkins Health System’s National Capital Region in August 2020, Carolyn Carpenter has been busy assembling the “people, plans and processes” to advance integration across Johns Hopkins Medicine and help expand clinical programs.

(The NCR includes two anchor hospitals, Sibley Memorial and Suburban, as well as ambulatory and specialty care practices within an area that spans Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia and Montgomery County, Maryland.)

Prior to joining Johns Hopkins, Carpenter most recently served as the president of Sentara Norfolk General Hospital and corporate vice president for Sentara Healthcare in Virginia, with executive oversight for Sentara’s cancer network, cardiovascular service line and pharmacy services. Before that, she had a successful, 20-year career with Duke University Health System. During her tenure, Carpenter held several roles, including chief operating officer for the system’s flagship, Duke University Hospital, as well as associate dean and administrator for the Duke Cancer Institute and associate vice president of Duke Health.

Dome caught up with the new president to discuss her first year on the job and upcoming growth initiatives.

The position of NCR president is new to the health system. What do you consider your priorities?

The first priority is to expand our clinical service offerings and programs in the region. The second is to advance our operational integration across and within Johns Hopkins Medicine. And the third is to promote a culture of safety, quality and health equity.

When it comes to clinical services, we plan to grow the programs at Sibley and Suburban hospitals as well as to develop the Belward Farm property owned by The Johns Hopkins University in Montgomery County. Turning that location into a health care and surgery center is a game changer for the region. The new, 126,000-square-foot facility will provide primary and specialty care services when it opens to the public in 2023.

Building the ambulatory platform also means partnering with our Office of Johns Hopkins Physicians. We are continuing to organize and collaborate with our ambulatory surgery centers, and the community physician network will expand to include two primary care and specialty sites opening soon in Arlington and McLean in Northern Virginia.

What have you accomplished in your first year?

We filled out our regional leadership team by appointing the hospital presidents at Sibley and Suburban: Hasan Zia and Jessica Melton. We hired Jennifer Reeves to fill a new role as the NCR’s senior consultant for diversity, inclusion and health equity.

In addition, we created three regional priority committees. The safety and quality committee is focused on creating high reliability organizations that operate without serious incidents. The talent steering committee is about recruitment, retention, professional development, diversity, inclusion and health equity. And the resource optimization committee speaks to the integration of our health system across Johns Hopkins Medicine.

We are now at the sprint to the finish line to come up with a strategic agenda to support the structure we’ve created for clinical program development, expansion of ambulatory services and efforts to integrate the health system.

Thanks to phenomenal planning work by our leadership and business teams, we hope to finalize and move forward with our business plans over the fall and winter.

How does this groundwork support the growth of the organization?

First, we need to have the right leaders in the right roles to accomplish anything. We had the opportunity, with two hospital president vacancies, to identify significant national-level talent to lead us into the future. Without that, it would be very difficult to be successful.

Secondly, I think of this past year as organizing for success. There are many different stakeholders in the NCR. In the past, they have operated fairly independently, which has made it difficult to optimize what we can do for the communities we serve.

When you are working to take independent key stakeholders and pull them into a collective group, there usually is some protectionism, defensive posturing or sometimes just straight off sandbox behavior. During the past year, I have encountered none of that, which is remarkable.

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Any other pleasant surprises?

The constant presence of values-based communication. As decisions are being made for our institution, it is important that we all know they are based on specific values such as diversity, inclusion and health equity. With all the challenges we have faced recently as a community and as a nation, it is reinforcing — and rewarding — to be part of an organization that puts its values front and center.

What are the biggest challenges of the next three to five years?

One is improving our speed of execution. We have the wonderful benefit of being part of an academic institution that has specific cycles of recruitment and processes that are not fast, and are not designed to be. However, that’s not consistent with some of our competitors.

Another challenge is continuing to build relationships with our underserved communities. During the past year, we enjoyed great benefits from collaborating with the D.C. Housing Authority to provide COVID-19 vaccinations. That close contact provided an invaluable education about the needs within our community. We have to continue to build credibility and trust with community members so we can continue to positively impact and partner with them.

What excites you most about your job?

Every day, I’m reminded that my challenges pale in comparison to those of many of our patients and team members. Such perspective is important for reinforcing positivity and a sense of purpose. I love the people whose skills, commitment and compassion make this such a phenomenal work environment.

I love this job because of the abundant opportunities it presents to improve the lives of people in our communities. We have the ability to make a difference.

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