Deborah Addo’s new office in the administration suite of Inova Loudoun Hospital in Lansdowne has a large blackboard covered in notes and strategies for the new CEO. But you won’t see profit and loss statements or any kind of profitability goals for the year there. Instead, your eyes are immediately drawn to one word that stands at the top: culture.
“We think about true north—what are the governing principles for us in terms of success? It all still has to tie into our mission,” she said. “It really does start with what are the unique needs of the people we serve, and then what are we doing to make sure we’re delivering that care. It has to start with quality, safety, experience. All of those things will drive everything else. I think if you flip that pyramid you’re operating from the wrong sphere.”
And the “bedrock” of that, Addo says, is Inova Loudoun’s 1,600-plus employees.
“It says something when people come to a job and stay on the job,” she said, pointing to the long list of employees who have spent a bulk of their careers at Loudoun’s largest hospital system. “People stay when they’re inspired, motivated, have good leaders, believe in their mission, and that’s what we do here.”
And although Addo is one of Inova Loudoun’s newest employees, having just been appointed as its new CEO within the last month, she has made it her goal to continue that winning tradition. Addo, who takes over for outgoing CEO Patrick Walters, inherits a hospital system that continually ranks as one of the top performing in Inova’s system. While the hospital system has long been established in the community, Addo also comes to her job in the midst of a major renovation project at the Lansdowne campus, which began in earnest not long after renovations at Inova’s Cornwall Campus in downtown Leesburg were completed.
While the situation may overwhelm some, it’s nothing Addo hasn’t seen before. Prior to her most recent stint—a three-year run as CEO of Inova’s Mount Vernon Hospital—Addo was the COO of Washington Hospital in Hagerstown, MD. The similarities to her current role are uncanny. At the time of its large-scale renovation project, the Hagerstown hospital had recently turned 100, had undergone renovations and additions, and was considered a well-respected hospital system. In that project, Addo oversaw the move of the hospital to a new 115-acre campus two-and-a-half miles away.
And now in Loudoun, “we find ourselves here at 105 years old. We have inefficiencies with where and how we’ve grown, but did what we needed to do to service the community. Now, we have the opportunity to right–size and build for the future,” she said. “When I left Hagerstown, I left there knowing that what we had put in place would position [them] for the next 105 years. That’s exactly what I think we need to do here.”
While Walters was at the helm of the organization to usher in the large-scale project, he believes he is leaving it, and the organization as a whole, in extremely capable hands with Addo.
“At the baseline, she has the right personal makeup,” he said. “She cares about the patients deeply, she is engaged and cares about the staff. She has the right mindset.”
For Walters, too, a key cornerstone of his legacy has been a focus on the culture of the organization. His five years as CEO saw some of the largest growth in the hospital system’s history, and he recalls a laundry list of enhancements to both campuses in Loudoun. Most recently, Inova Loudoun took an important step with its certification as a Level III trauma center. The new certification means Inova Loudoun will be able to treat patients with more serious, potentially life-threatening, injuries and establishes the hospital as the first trauma center in Loudoun County.
“The issue is having the services that serve a community that will be 500,000 people here in the next five to 10 years,” he said. “That’s a very different community in terms of needs profile than a community of 90,000 people 25 years ago.”
Walters, who is heading into unofficial retirement at the beginning of June, plans to stay plenty involved in Inova’s affairs. Although his post as CEO has ended, he will be taking up the chief human resource officer position on an interim basis and assist with the recruitment of the new director, expected to take several months. He also says there are “key roles” for him to play in helping with the Inova Ladies Board’s annual Rummage Sale. He gleefully shares he is one of a very small group of men to be named an honorary member of the Ladies Board.
But even after his temporary assignment is completed, “I’ll continue to be connected to Deborah and what we’re doing in Loudoun. I’ve done a lot in my career with Inova. I’ve been engaged with virtually all of our operations from one time or another in various ways,” he said.
Although Addo was already familiar with Inova’s systems from her time at Mount Vernon Hospital, Walters has been helping her acclimate into the community, bringing her around to Chamber of Commerce functions and meeting with local government representatives. Addo says she has been amazed at the high regard to which the community holds the hospital system.
“It’s good when you can walk into a community and almost everybody loves it. I didn’t feel like I have to overcome a negative reputation,” she said.
But the goal now, she said, is, “how do we take that positive to the next level?”
Part of that will be navigating the inconveniences generated by Inova Lansdowne’s renovation project and, past that, preparing the hospital system for its next 100 years. While there are no immediate plans to plant a campus elsewhere in the county, Addo plans to keep a pulse on what Loudouners are demanding for the next wave of health care services.
She borrows a quote from Stephen Covey—”begin with the end in mind”—to stress her point.
“What is that end or at least that pause that we will take and be able to look back and say, ‘this really did hit the mark?’ That’s some of what motivates me.”