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A Conversation with Jackie Desouza-Van Blaricum

Research Medical Center June 10, 2015

Jackie DeSouza-Van Blaricum, CEO

Posted with permission of the KC Chamber.

When Jackie DeSouza-Van Blaricum became CEO of Research Medical Center and its related facilities, she says it felt like coming home. “I spent eight years as COO here,” she says, “and I love this place.”

She’d left Research to take on the role of CEO at another HCA facility, Lee’s Summit Medical Center. After two years there, DeSouza-Van Blaricum returned to Research and immediately plunged into her transition, meeting with more than 100 physicians, directors, charge nurses and other staff during her first 90 days.

People told her they loved the diversity of patients and services at Research, but didn’t think there was much recognition by the public. So building the brand became one of her priorities, as well as delivering exceptional care and investing in and rewarding her employees.

There’s a lot to be positive about – Research was recently named one of the top hospitals in the country by the Leapfrog Group, a national healthcare watch dog nonprofit. The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association awarded the hospital Elite status on its Stroke Honor Roll, the only hospital in the KC area to be so recognized. And it was among the first in the state to earn Level 1 center designation, which means the hospital functions as a primary resource center for stroke victims within the region.

Such recognition, DeSouza-Van Blaricum says, “makes it all worthwhile.”

Meanwhile, she says, “We are growing by leaps and bounds, and, as we grow, we have to make sure we hire the best and brightest. If we’re the best place to work, then we can recruit those best and brightest.

“We have to make healthcare easy to access – that’s why we employ over 60 primary healthcare providers,” De- Souza-Van Blaricum continues. “We’re making sure people have access to a family physician – primary care physicians are the link to getting the right care, at the right time, in the right setting.” As part of that effort, she implemented a care coordination program in the emergency room. Before patients leave our ERs, she says, “We make sure they are connected to a primary care physician.”

Another innovation is bringing compassion and order to the lives of cancer patients. “We’ve hired 11 cancer navigators,” DeSouza-Van Blaricum says. “They’ll navigate our services with a patient from diagnosis through survivorship.” No more bouncing from doctor’s office to doctor’s office. “Here it’s seamless. It’s holding hands. It’s compassion.” She plans to bring heart navigators to cardiac patients soon.

Favorite book: “You’re in Charge, Now What?” by Thomas J. Neff and James M. Citrin
Favorite quote: “It’s a cliché, but ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff.’”

DeSouza-Van Blaricum came to Kansas City in 2003 to assist in the Health Midwest acquisition and conversion to HCA Midwest Health System. Since then, she’s served as COO of HCA’s Overland Park Regional Medical Center and Research, as CEO of Lee’s Summit Medical Center and, now, CEO at Research. She is the first woman and first minority to serve in that position. In 2012, DeSouza-Van Blaricum was named to Modern Healthcare’s prestigious list of Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare in America. She also serves as a member of the KC Chamber Board of Directors.

Her family is her inspiration, DeSouza-Van Blaricum says. “I’m a first generation American. My mother is Guatemalan, my father Kenyan. My father’s family was very poor; he was one of 13 kids, and he put himself through medical school.” His father – DeSouza-Van Blaricum’s grandfather – died of a pulmonary condition, so her father became a pulmonologist. “He taught me the importance of hard work and tenacity,” she says, “and I’m grateful.”

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