Leadership Commitment Breakfasts 2018

As part of the Year of Learning, we host a "challenge" each quarter that engages leaders; in return, leaders are entered into a drawing to attend a Leadership Breakfast with Dr. Runge.

2017-2018: Leaders commit to positive culture change 

Of the leaders who submitted their actions and commitments to impact Michigan Medicine’s culture, three leaders were randomly selected to attend a Leadership Breakfast with Dr. Runge. In response to the question, “What action will you take to create our desired Michigan Medicine culture?”, each leader was invited to bring their response, along with one or two team members who have contributed to their commitment effort, to share with Dr. Runge and their colleagues.


Breakfast #1

Dr. Frank Manion, Chief Informatics Officer in the Comprehensive Cancer Center, spoke about his commitment to improve access to informatics data. He is engaging faculty to help improve the infrastructure for informatics and data which would allow researchers to access data now kept in text/notes of the electronic health record (EHR).

Natalie Underhill, Director of Financial Systems, shared her commitment to develop a culture of trust, transparency and safety. She emphasized the importance of collaboration with their ‘customers’ to ensure information provided to leaders is cohesive, ensuring the best decision making. 

Dr. Ranjit Aiyagari, Chief Medical Information Officer, committed to address ‘burnout’ in physicians. His priority is ‘physician well-being,’  and he has facilitated connections between MiChart’s “champions of best practice” with those who believe documentation efficiency and skills will help improve work-life balance. In addition, he offers half-day retreats for physicians to tune up their EHR skills. Lastly, Dr. Aiyagari is working to ‘define’ what is a “good job” to enable more meaningful recognition.

After discussion with Dr. Runge, the leaders were encouraged to: 

  • Continue to meet…in person and/or online
  • Develop a plan to address the commitment and vet it with others in the organization
  • Connect with others with a similar challenge, concern and/or commitment


  • Natalie Underhill, Director of Financial Systems
  • Ranjit Aiyagari, MD, CMIO, Michigan Medicine & Associate Professor, Pediatric Cardiology
  • Frank Manion, PhD, Chief Informatics Officer, Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • Guests:  John Jansen, Sr. Manager of Financial Systems; Sara Spicer, Assistant Controller; Robert Chang, MD, Inpatient Associate Chief Medical Information Officer; John Harju, MS, MBA, project manager for Cancer Informatics


Breakfast #2

On February 23, Dr. Runge hosted the second breakfast with senior leaders and guests to discuss their commitments to act, to create our desired Michigan Medicine culture.

Shon Dwyer, Executive Director, UH/CVC, described the process she and three other executive leaders took to better understand their job motivators as well as their behavioral blind spots. Through group discussions, they each shared assessment data, demonstrating vulnerability and trust in the others.  A key learning was that Shon’s colleagues became her ‘coaches,' noting when she is exhibiting her blind spot.

Fusen Li, Director of Data Foundations (HITS) set a goal to improve data access across the enterprise, and thereby improve the user’s experience. Advanced analytics should help enable precision health and population health. Dr. Runge noted that it would be transformational for the organization if finding data in EPIC was as quick and easy as ‘google.’

Dr. Mark Prince made a commitment to provide more information to those in his department, to keep people informed of institutional work. As part of that commitment, Dr. Prince takes time to visit the ‘work site’ and spend sufficient time to listen and hear the needs and challenges of those on the front line. Dr. Prince and his guests are partnered around a common goal: bringing joy into the work of each team member.

After the discussion with Dr. Runge, the leaders were encouraged to be role models of work-life balance by:

  • Looking for what they might “give up” to decrease burnout – eg. Paul Ramsey modeling greater work/life balance by foregoing conferences/meetings
  • Encouraging HITS to pick an area to develop a “google” approach to data search
  • Encouraging the group to continue these types of discussions 


  • Shon Dwyer, Executive Director, UH/CVC
  • Fusen Li, Director of Data Foundations, HITS 
  • Mark Prince, MD, Interim Chair, Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery
  • Guests:  Linda Larin, Associate Hospital Director; Mary Martin, Associate Hospital Director; Oana Ciocoiu, Team Lead MiChart Reporting; Jason Pasinetti, Sr. Business Consultant; Norman Hogikyan, MD, Director, Vocal Health Center; Tori Melendez, Clinical Research Coordinator


Breakfast #3

Dr. Barbara Felt, Division Director of Developmental Behaviors Pediatrics (DBP), discussed the need to raise awareness of the emotional and psychological stress that accompanies much of our work at Michigan Medicine. She stressed that people need to feel they are in a safe and collaborative environment in order to maintain well-being and self-care. Polly Gipson, Ph.D., licensed Clinical Psychologist, guest of Dr. Felt, described reflective supervision (connecting thoughts and feelings back to the work), which is a technique currently used in child psychiatry and soon to be adopted in DBP. Additional tactics include coloring books and 30-day challenges for self-care goals.

Susanne Pryce, J.D., Director of Revenue Cycle and Audit Programs, shared her views on diversity and the importance of bringing different backgrounds and perspectives into the Compliance arena. Non-traditional backgrounds help foster greater connection and understanding of the clinical operations and situations that our care providers face daily. Cross training, or “covering” for another leader in a different discipline, was also discussed as a way to “walk in another’s shoes” and gain exposure to other areas of the organization.

As a result of low engagement scores around leadership and staff connections, Jesus Cepero, Ph.D., Interim Chief Nursing Executive, began a multi-disciplinary rounding program to engage with medical directors, nurse managers and staff. Listening to their concerns and following up to resolve issues are important ways to build trust and greater communication between leadership and staff. 

Dr. Runge wrapped up the discussion with some remarks about scheduled “down time” to improve well-being and self-care. He also encouraged the team to think about how we can create a safe environment where everyone feels that raising concerns and giving feedback would be welcomed and valued, without fear of retaliation.


  • Dr. Barbara Felt, Division Director of Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics
  • Susanne Pryce, J.D., Director of Revenue Cycle and Audit Programs
  • Jesus Cepero, Ph.D., Interim Chief Nursing Executive
  • Guests:  Polly Gipson, Ph.D., licensed Clinical Psychologist; Cheryl Willcocks, Clinical Auditor; Ivana Tullett, J.D. Regulatory Compliance Specialist; Nancy May, DNP, Chief Nursing Officer Medical Management Group; Colleen Rosenberg, MSN, Clinical Research Coordinator

Breakfast #4

Hosting his fourth breakfast with leaders, Dr. Runge engaged with nine managers who attended the Michigan Medicine Management Conference in March. Managers were randomly selected from those who made a commitment to positively influence our culture with their actions. The nine commitments were divided into three themes: Career Development, Recognition and Creativity. 


Benjamin Borden, Administrative Manager Environmental Services, made a commitment to provide development and growth opportunities to the frontline team preparing them to be our next leaders. Benjamin had noticed there was no follow-up after the interview process that sometimes involved multiple interviews. He believed staff needed better interviewing skills. He created a mentorship program in EVS to do that and, in addition, provided job-shadowing opportunities for employees to gain exposure to other work areas.

Tyler Hughes, Senior Financial Analyst, Medical School, was part of a Finance program that brings recent college graduates into the organization to work in Finance. He saw the value in this and made a commitment to facilitate more conversations around career development.  Tyler believes these conversations can be a vehicle to retaining people as younger generations may tend to change jobs more often.

Christopher Hutchinson, Second Shift Inventory Control Supervisor, developed a five-question interview to have with staff about their career aspirations. His commitment is to have regular conversations with his employees about their future career goals. Chris facilitates ongoing discussions with people to help them meet their interests. He believes this action creates a positive feeling in staff as it demonstrates his desire to invest in their growth and development.

Questions for all of us:

  • How can we help people define their next steps in their careers?
  • How can we create more opportunities for shadowing and exposure to other areas?
  • What are we doing to ensure succession planning?
  • How can we use talent profiles to start discussions about career development?


CareyLynn Flaugher is a Business Manager in the Women’s Birth Center. She made a commitment to recognize staff; her work unit has high turnover.  She uses personal notes to recognize staff who have exhibited exemplary behavior, filled in for an absent colleague or gone above-and-beyond. She also likes to recognize staff who may be experiencing stress in their personal life and are making sincere efforts to keep up with their work.

Shelia Charlton, Clinical Associate Manager, Briarwood Pediatric Rehabilitation, shared her commitment to provide improved feedback to her staff by recognizing their talents and career aspirations. She does not wait for the annual performance appraisal; she tries to give personal acknowledgement at monthly meetings

Veronica Harvey, Revenue Cycle Manager Unit C, wants to learn how each employee needs to receive information and how they are motivated. Veronica sensed distrust between managers and the nursing staff and created project days to help them get to know one another better and lighten things up. For example, Veronica hosted Derby Day. (You can contact Veronica to learn more!) In addition, Veronica meets with staff to give them a different perspective on their job, encouraging staff to envision something beyond what they have done in the past.

Questions for us:

  • How do we recognize and act on the good ideas from staff?
  • How can we share ideas publically and recognize the source of the idea?
  • How can we institute recognition “bucks” that could be redeemed at our gift shop? (Materiel Services gives out meal cards for recognition)


Oliver Gatonez, Interpreter Supervisor, believes he and the interpreters are members of a fast-growing field of work and have an opportunity to create a vision for this career and work. In an effort to begin that work, Oliver has created a formal process to recruit interpreters and develop standards for Michigan Medicine interpreters. He is encouraging national certification for all interpreters and hopes others will begin to view interpreters as part of the clinical care team.

Brian Lance is a Finance Manager in the Medical School. Brian found many of those in his department were set in their ways. He is setting time aside on a bi-weekly basis to encourage a focus on creativity, discussions on how to automate tasks, and/or simply do things differently.

LaKita Pogue, Manager of Patient Transportation and the Lift Team, made the commitment to create a safe space for team members to share idea for improving the department work environment and foster healthier relationships between patient transport and nursing/clinical staff. She created the Soap Box. While she didn’t create an actual ‘box’ for people to stand on, she created a PowerPoint slide. When the slide is shown, staff members know this is the time when they can speak up.

Questions for us:

  • How can we be more creative in addressing burnout, the administrative burden of email and paperwork, and the expectation that staff do more?
  • How can we encourage improved work-life balance? (Environmental Services is looking to initiate rotating schedules (weekends))
  • How can we automate manual timesheets and/or other processes in EPIC?
  • How can we reduce turnover to avoid overtime by others?   


  • Benjamin Borden, Administrative Manager Environmental Services
  • Shelia Charlton, Clinical Associate Manager, Briarwood Pediatric Rehabilitation
  • CareyLynn Flaugher, Business Manager
  • Oliver Gatonez, Interpreter Supervisor
  • Veronica Harvey, Revenue Cycle Manager Unit C
  • Tyler J. Hughes, Senior Financial Analyst, Medical School
  • Christopher Hutchinson, Inventory Control Supervisor, Materiel Services
  • Brian Lance, Finance Manager, Medical School  
  • LaKita Pogue, Manager, Patient Transport and Lift Team

Breakfast #5


 James Bologna, Quality Analytics Manager, has committed to providing time for analysts to develop something new that aligns with their passion and customer service. He talked about the various dashboards that Quality supports and the importance of providing relevant and easily consumed information.

Sandy Goel, Manager, Specialty Pharmacy Services, discussed the importance of understanding what motivates and interests individual employees. She is heavily involved in her department’s employee engagement survey and talked about themes around career development opportunities.


Andrew Marsh, PM&R Therapy Supervisor, reinforced the importance of thanking employees in both formal and informal settings. He gave an example of the power of verbal and personal recognition to build connection and trust.

Andrew Lacarotti, Pharmacy Manager, wanted to improve teamwork in his area. He asked his team to complete a helpful or nice action for another colleague each day.


Valerie Hill, Administrative Director, Lab Animal Medicine, discussed various ways she is trying to create safe spaces for her department to give feedback and share ideas. She stressed that communication is particularly challenging because of the decentralized nature of her team.

Catherine Dowling, Research Senior Supervisor, talked about the value of the leadership conference and how she came to recognize the importance of appreciating her employees. She also referenced the importance of greater awareness of co-workers struggling or feeling anxious.

Questions for all of us:

  • How do we sustain a work environment where employees are fully engaged?
  • What are various ways to recognize employees from both a manager and peer standpoint?
  • What resources do our leaders need to be more effective at communication?