New Healthcare Ops director talks his philosophy and future for DHA
HE’s been a soldier for nearly 31 years, bringing a wealth of knowledge from a career based in military medicine. Recently, Army Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Clark became the director of the Healthcare Operations (HCO) Directorate for the Defense Health Agency (DHA). We sat down with him to learn how he plans to move forward the directorate, and in turn, DHA.
Q: What’s your philosophy for HCO?
Clark: DHA director Navy Vice Adm. Raquel Bono has three very clear priorities: 1. Support the services, working with them to achieve the things we need to do as a Military Health System; 2. Strengthen our role as a combat support agency, providing combatant commands the support they need; and 3. Focus on internal efficiencies and effectiveness. Let’s start with the third priority.
Within HCO, we’re taking a hard look at ourselves. We realize we have grown and matured over the last 30 months. Are we focused properly? Are we doing the things we said we should? Are we being effective and efficient? It’s not a criticism, but something every organization should be asking itself. The world is two–and-a-half-years different than where we started. Each of HCO’s divisions is looking at whether we are achieving the three priorities, and whether we are structured and focused properly. By making sure we’re doing what needs to be done, we are in effect also meeting the first two priorities of supporting the services by being the combat support agency we need to be.
Q: In what areas are we hitting the mark and which ones still need some work?
Clark: First off, let me say we have incredibly good people, remarkably talented, many of whom have served with us a long time. I believe that when an organization is stood up and is operating as it forms itself, there are some opportunities to refocus and make sure we’re efficient in the areas we need to be. There are some areas in which we can improve our processes and systems. For example, our Pharmacy Operations has a workgroup, which uses a collaborative approach with each of the services’ senior pharmacy consultants. We use a regular webinar with military treatment facility pharmacists from the Army, Navy and Air Force to talk about issues, update folks and give people a chance to ask questions and make comments and contribute to the discussion. This is just one way we are taking a collaborative approach to all of our operations.
Q: You were preceded by another great leader, Army Maj. Gen. Richard Thomas, who moved on to become the civilian president of the military’s medical school, the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. What difference will people see in your leadership styles?
Clark: General Thomas did a remarkable job. He was around when HCO was stood up, doing an initial assessment of our functions and organization. As he and I discussed during our transition period, it was time to take that to the next level. I want to build on General Thomas’s great work.
One of the priorities I’m implementing is a prosperity plan. Years ago, when I had the privilege to serve as surgeon for the 82nd Airborne Division, then-Maj. Gen. Mike Steele said, “When accomplishing the mission and taking care of our people and their families, good leaders find ways to do both.” Out of that grew my idea of a prosperity plan, which I used in deployments to Iraq. It’s a roadmap laying out paths in four domains, personal, professional, spiritual and family relationships, which helped soldiers and families not just survive, but thrive. We put together a booklet that said taking care of ourselves and taking care of each other is critical to our mission success. It was very effective, and I’ve used this concept in successive assignments ever since. Within HCO, we have our own workbook, with the only difference being we’re not talking about just soldiers. We have all branches, civilians and contractors, so we’ve broadened our goals in the four domains. It’s one of my priorities.
Beyond the prosperity plan, we are taking that hard look at everything we do. In addition, we are working on a succession plan. We’ve had many civilians who have been with us for 15, 20, 25, 30 years. They’re coming up on retirement, and we need a plan for after they retire, encouraging and helping these great Americans move to the next phase of their lives, in an encouraging, compassionate way. Finally, I’ve been asked to take a lead role in making sure DHA continues to provide combat support, working as one team with the joint surgeon and combatant command surgeons so we can best support commanders.
Q: Finally, what should people know about you?
Clark: I’ve received great support in former assignments, and I’ve been in a position to offer support as well. I embrace that type of relationship, creating conditions for a commander to do the things they need to do. In a way, I’m selfish, because I get so much out of it, and I want to keep doing it because I love it so much. And that’s a reflection of the mission and the folks I’ve had the privilege to work with.