Enacting Widespread Change in Healthcare

Lisa ShannonWhen Lisa Shannon started her career as a registered dietician, she soon discovered a passion for teaching and leadership. That path led Shannon to roles in healthcare and eventually to her current job as Chief Operating Officer for Allina Health—a healthcare system with nearly 200 sites of care, including 11 hospitals, multiple clinics, and telehealth capabilities.

For Shannon, leadership is about more than guiding teams, it’s about improving health and access to care in the communities served by Allina, and even beyond. It’s this focus that led her to pursue her PhD in Leadership and Change at Antioch University.

“For me this work is about how do I enable increasingly improved care for the communities that we are serving,” said Shannon.

Shannon’s dedication to healthcare and leadership has led to new programs at Allina during her two years in her current role. One such change is ‘tiered daily huddles’ where leadership teams bring visibility to safety and access issues. This new process gives healthcare providers the ability to escalate issues and fix them quickly, often within 24 hours or less. She says modifying systems is an important step to give patients and their families the best service possible.

“One of the things that I have worked my whole career on is ensuring safe, reliable, and best outcomes for patients and their families,” said Shannon.

Shannon is also passionate about diversity and inclusion and bringing awareness to health inequalities. In her studies at Antioch, she finds herself drawn to reading about health equity to understand how she can help her healthcare teams build a more inclusive culture. Studying at Antioch, where diversity is celebrated, adds to the richness of Shannon’s work.

As a “lifelong learner,” aside from delving more into leadership and the issues facing the healthcare industry, pursuing a PhD at Antioch was the right step to help Shannon think about the big picture of leadership’s power.

“To make widespread change in healthcare, first we have to fix us (as leaders), and then we have to fix the industry,” said Shannon.

To say that these huge aspirations keep Shannon busy would be an understatement. Along with her full-time job, and PhD program at Antioch, she is also a wife, and mother to four. The flexibility to complete her coursework at times that fit into her schedule are one of the features that attracted her to the program.

“I needed a program that could incorporate learning into my personal and professional priorities and would really challenge my thinking,” said Shannon. “This program has widened my lens and created a structure that holds me accountable.”

Shannon, who is in the early stages of her program — she started in 2018 and expects to graduate in 2023 — says she can already see how her class materials and discussions will apply to her current and future work.

Said Shannon: “Whether it’s a leadership theory or a change model, it is rare that what I’m working on doesn’t have some relevance to my job.”