Q & A: Liz Popwell
In July 2022, Elizabeth “Liz” Popwell joined Stony Brook Medicine (SBM) as its first-ever chief strategy and transformation officer (CSTO). Here she talks about her new role and SBM’s plans for implementing its enterprisewide strategic plan.
WHAT IS YOUR ROLE AT SBM?
My role is to help the organization develop a long-term strategic vision and short-term goals for the organization. Strategy is what will differentiate us from the other healthcare providers and academic centers. To achieve our future vision, the CSTO helps to communicate and measure the actions and goals needed. This process requires change management and diligence, and the CSTO works with the senior executive team to develop a tangible vision and measures of success. The CSTO also helps the organizational leaders to implement tools and business models to achieve the changes expected.
Another key role of the CTSO is business development. This role involves helping the organization to grow through partnerships and other innovative growth models.
WHAT EXCITES YOU MOST ABOUT YOUR NEW ROLE?
I am so excited about the amazing, diverse group of people that I work with daily. The collaboration and authentic opinions of these people make my role easier. I prefer to have different points of view because in the end that is what makes creating a strategic plan durable and real.
WHAT DO YOU FIND MOST CHALLENGING?
All strategists need to create a safe space for difference of opinions and to challenge the organizational leaders to think differently. There are two main challenges that all organizations face: the shiny red ball phenomenon and the flavor of the week mentality. Maintaining focus once the strategic plan is set and prioritizing the work is always a challenge when bright shiny new ideas (red balls) surface. If organizations don’t stay diligent, then leaders and staff will gain a mentality of the flavor of the week or give this enough time and we will move on to something new. My role is to make sure we prioritize the strategic work that will help us stand apart from competitors and stick to it. I am confident that we can overcome these common challenges.
WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE BIGGEST ISSUES FACING HEALTHCARE AND HOW WILL SBM ADDRESS SOLVING THESE ISSUES?
The most pressing issue today is related to the workforce. Many health systems are struggling with the rise of labor expenses as well as retaining experienced staff. At SBM, we are actively working on strategic and operational projects to improve these concerns, but there isn’t one fix. It will take years for the healthcare ecosystem to help improve the gaps created during the pandemic. But the challenge is more than increasing workforce numbers — we won’t have sufficient numbers of people in the workforce to satisfy the soaring demand for healthcare services. We need to reevaluate how we approach clinical care, academic models and education so that we can meet demand without negatively impacting experience, quality, education and research. We are now competing with nonhealthcare providers for positions. Our advantage lies in our five health science schools. We are working with leaders in those schools to identify ways to create career paths for early careerists, as well as with the community to provide employment options that meet the needs of the patients we serve.
SBM WILL SOON BEGIN IMPLEMENTING A FIVE-YEAR TRANSFORMATION PLAN. WHAT ARE THE MAIN THEMES OF THIS PLAN?
Our community expects prompt and convenient services. They have learned to expect same-day and next-day services from nonhealthcare entities. To achieve the growth and loyalty that we desire, we will need to be more nimble and provide care closer to where patients work, live and play. We will also need to provide more health and prevention services for all generations and demographic communities. The plan will also address how we create novel education models and innovative research to drive scientific discovery in new and different ways. Our plan will focus on growing in the right areas, providing services that are consumercentric, transforming care, education and research for the future, and developing partnerships to help us achieve our aspirations.
WHERE DO YOU HOPE TO SEE SBM IN FIVE YEARS?
SBM has phenomenal potential to move the needle beyond traditional healthcare and academics. It is important that we begin to move care options to lower-cost venues such as hospital-at-home and that we maximize research to drive continued innovation. My hope is to see SBM move significantly in the direction of providing consumercentric care in venues that resonate with the community, education models that lead the nation and research that continues to transform the future of healthcare. I believe that we can differentiate ourselves by focusing on the aging and preventative care while still delivering the high-quality acuity and academic medical care services that the citizens of Long Island have come to rely on.