When Shelly Anderson, MPM, executive vice president and chief operating officer, considers the challenges and opportunities laid out before the Brigham, one objective stands out in her mind: balance.
During a time when so much remains fluid and uncertain — with each priority seemingly more urgent than the next — the need for equilibrium has never been greater, Anderson says. The Brigham community is working tirelessly to deliver expert care, create scientific breakthroughs, champion innovation, ensure quality and safety, advance equity, support staff well-being and maintain momentum on multiple other initiatives.
“COVID created an environment for us to try new things, fail quickly and move on to try something else,” she said. “That’s an approach that many of us found quite rewarding — a spirit of ‘why not?’ But I also think we have to find balance. The key is establishing a pace in which we bring new ideas into play without burning everyone out. We need boundaries as we think about how much we can do at one time.”
Although the pandemic has prompted Anderson to reflect on this approach more often during the first 60 days in her new role, it’s a mindset she has honed over 25 years as a leader in health care administration, strategy implementation and operations improvement. A member of the Brigham community for almost a decade, she previously served as senior vice president of Business Development and Innovation and chief strategy officer for Brigham Health.
As the Brigham community now confronts the simultaneous challenges of managing a second surge while rolling out the first COVID-19 vaccines to employees, Anderson said she thinks often of the emotional toll this year continues to take on staff, particularly those working on the front line.
“No matter how ready we are — and we are very much so — the stress that a surge causes on our front line is something that we, as leaders, see and appreciate,” she said. “It’s hard to find well-being in all of this, but it really comes back to our values. We’re stronger together. In addition to the resources that we’ll continue to develop and provide at an institutional level, as individuals we all need to support each other and be there for one another on a personal level.”
Health care delivery is a fast-paced environment, and the pandemic has only heightened the intensity of day-to-day operational challenges. While it may be tempting to allow crisis response to consume all attention and resources, it’s not conducive to short- or long-term success, Anderson explained.
“What has impressed me the most is how we’re balancing COVID operations with the new normal we established after the first surge,” she said. “While we continue responding to this pandemic and caring for COVID patients, we are also advancing our institutional goals.”
One of the non-COVID priorities Anderson is most excited about is the advancement of service lines — a strategy to coordinate and integrate clinical resources with a clear focus on what patients need and want.
“We’re bringing together different specialties to create an opportunity for our experts to deliver coordinated care for patients who have distinct needs,” she said.
Other priorities include addressing deferred maintenance needs and kickstarting master facility planning efforts, which will focus on modernizing the inpatient environment at the Brigham’s main campus and BWFH. Anderson said she is also eager to build on the Brigham Experience work to enhance both the employee and the patient experience. Another key area of focus: continuing to improve systemwide collaboration with colleagues across Mass General Brigham.
When reflecting on what has kept her at the Brigham for the past nine years, Anderson said it comes down to one simple takeaway — being part of an inspiring community.
“The Brigham is a remarkable place — filled with compassionate, dedicated and brilliant people — and I want to be a leader who ensures that our missions thrive,” she said.