ACHE honors three executives 
for inspired leadership


Leading a healthcare organization has never been easy. That’s never been more true than today when the promise of disruption lurks around every corner.

The American College of Healthcare Executives each year recognizes industry leaders for their work in transforming care delivery at organizational, local and national levels. ACHE’s Gold Medal Award is the organization’s highest honor. This year’s winners are Christine Candio, president and CEO of St. Louis-based St. Luke’s Health, and Kenneth White, associate dean for strategic partnerships and innovation at the University of Virginia’s School of Nursing. He served on ACHE’s Board of Governors from 2004 to 2007.

Alan Keesee earned the Robert S. Hudgens Memorial Award for Young Healthcare Executive of the Year.

Candio, White and Keesee will be honored during the ACHE Congress on Healthcare Leadership, March 4-7 in Chicago.

Grooming the next generation of leaders

Christine Candio first got interested in healthcare when she landed in a hospital bed as a child. She chose to become a nurse, inspired by two aunts in that profession.

After working as a bedside nurse for many years, she decided she could have a broader positive impact on patients and hospital staff as a hospital administrator.

Since 2014, Candio has served as CEO at St. Luke’s Health in St. Louis, an independent, two-hospital system with 32 sites of care.

There she launched a physician leadership institute to groom up-and-coming medical leaders. She established an exclusive clinical affiliation with the Cleveland Clinic’s heart and vascular program. She oversaw the building of a $40 million ambulatory services center. And last year, she spearheaded the acquisition of Des Peres Hospital, another community hospital in St. Louis, from Tenet Healthcare Corp.

Having previously served as CEO of Inova Alexandria Hospital in Virginia and as vice president of Inova Health System, Candio said she’s committed to developing and mentoring future healthcare leaders. She works as an advisory board member for the George Washington University graduate program in health administration. And each summer she has a graduate student from St. Louis University shadow her.

“One day we’ll be older patients, and we want to be in great hands” is how she explains her dedication to mentoring.

For her exemplary leadership in improving healthcare, the American College of Healthcare Executives has honored her with its 2019 Gold Medal Award. —Harris Meyer

Educator has mentored roughly 2,000 healthcare execs

Ken White didn’t plan to come out as gay at his inaugural meeting as a board member of the American College of Healthcare Executives. But nerves got the best of him at that 2004 gathering and, introducing himself to the group, he inadvertently said “he” while describing his partner.

The reaction wasn’t what he expected. Colleagues praised his courage, and the blunder ultimately strengthened his resolve to bring change to the organization from the inside. Twelve years later, he founded ACHE’s LGBT Forum.

“I think they needed to be shaken up a little bit,” said White, associate dean for strategic partnerships and innovation at the University of Virginia’s School of Nursing.

The ACHE has bestowed upon White its 2019 Gold Medal Award for advancing the profession through his leadership as a researcher, author and clinician.

White views his biggest contribution to ACHE as helping providers improve performance and quality. He teaches ACHE continuing education classes, has served on several task forces and has mentored roughly 2,000 people who now serve in senior leadership roles. White said he works to instill in health systems a culture of transformation and responsiveness to stakeholders.

“From the housekeeper and the cleaning person all the way up to the medical staff and the nurse practitioners, they should all be able to identify opportunities for improvement,” he said.

He also preaches the importance of using metrics to gauge quality and safety and protecting frontline caregivers against burnout.

White is currently doing research focused on palliative and end-of-life care. —Tara Bannow

Taking pride in being a community leader

Alan Keesee calls the night of the 2017 Las Vegas shooting one of the defining moments of his career.

He was the on-call administrator at Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center in Las Vegas when the emergency room received 230 victims from the tragedy at the Route 91 Harvest Festival. Keesee, who was chief operating officer of Sunrise from mid-2015 to early 2018, oversaw the team of clinicians triaging and treating the patients late into the night.

“That is a huge mark of something I’ve done, leading through that. I will carry it with me for the rest of my career,” he said.

The experience exemplified why Keesee wanted to be a hospital administrator in the first place.

“We are here for our community no matter what. Every single person in our community relies on us, and I take that responsibility with a lot of weight,” he said.

For his achievements and dedication over his 10-year career, Keesee is the 2019 recipient of the American College of Healthcare Executives’ Robert S. Hudgens Memorial Award for Young Healthcare Executive of the Year.

Keesee, 35, has since left Sunrise and is currently CEO of Capital Regional Medical Center, a 266-bed community hospital in Tallahassee, Fla. Both facilities are part of HCA Healthcare. Keesee got his start in healthcare leadership through HCA’s Executive Residency Program in 2010.

Since taking over as CEO of Capital Regional last March, Keesee has focused on recruiting new physicians and improving employee retention.

In less than a year, 20 new physicians have joined the hospital. The goal is to provide more services locally, so patients will choose Capital instead of traveling, Keesee said.

Additionally, his focus on engaging employees lowered the nurse turnover rate from 30% to 11%. Keesee said he conducts about 14 town hall meetings every quarter, participates in daily rounding and elicits questions from staff through an online portal. Capital has 1,200 employees and 400 providers.

If employees “don’t have what they need to be successful, it doesn’t matter what strategy we have. They are our mission in a lot of ways, to care for them so they can care for our patients,” he said. —Maria Castellucci



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