Growing a Network of Oregon Health System Leaders to Further Transformation

Recently 15 emerging health system leaders from across Oregon completed a year-long Clinical Innovation Fellows program as the state continues to innovate to reach the ultimate vision of a healthy Oregon. This learning experience, led by the Oregon Health Authority Transformation Center, aims to build the capacity of health system transformation leadership and support the success of coordinated care organizations (CCOs). This second cohort included professionals working in physical, behavioral and oral health, as well as social work, public health and quality improvement.

“Throughout this program we have been connected with mentors, small mentor groups, the larger fellowship group and experts in quality improvement, leadership, health equity, measurement, project management and many others,” said R.J. Gillespie, a pediatrician and one of this year’s fellows, in his graduation speech. “This connection is perhaps the most valuable component of the fellowship to me – particularly the connection with a mentor.”

As health care professionals advance in their careers, they often get promoted to leadership positions without any formal training in how to lead teams or implement systems-level improvements in their organizations. This program helps fill these gaps.

“I’ve been involved at a leadership level over the course of my career,” said Lisa Howe, a physician assistant in Eastern Oregon who integrated the first behavioral health provider in a primary care clinic in Harney County. “But I never had the occasion to develop and implement a project within an institution. This fellowship has given me that opportunity.”

“To be effective in our chosen professions, we must take the time to hone our skills,” pediatrician Gillespie said.

Over the past year, fellows worked with teams in their communities to implement innovative projects. Gillespie focused on understanding how the stressful events of a parent’s earlier life affects their child’s physical, social and emotional

development, and how pediatricians can better support parents in making healthier parenting choices than the ones their parents made – interrupting the cycle and helping them grow more resilient.

Linda Mann, an expanded-practice dental hygienist in Polk County, implemented a tele-dentistry project that brought oral health services into local schools.

“I was able to turn an idea into something real – a viable, transformational delivery model that made a real difference,” Mann said.

“This fellowship gave us the ability to … come up with new solutions and ideas for tackling barriers to our projects,” Gillespie said. “The next step is to take our projects out of our individual environments and to spread them.”

Coordinated care organizations, the networks of providers who coordinate care for Oregon Health Plan members, are seeing the value of investing in this next generation of change leaders. Health Share of Oregon, the largest CCO in Oregon, has supported several fellows in the metro area and sponsored this year’s graduation. Janet Meyer, Health Share’s CEO, encouraged the graduates in her opening remarks.

“Your innovations will ensure that health system transformation doesn’t end with CCOs and the Oregon Health Plan, but shine a light on how the health care system and communities can work together to meet the challenges of Oregonians, creating a system that can be modeled locally in communities across the state, and even the nation,” Meyer said. “Innovation and transformation can be messy and exhausting work, so you are to be applauded for sticking with it. I am thrilled to see another wave of change agents emerge.”

Gillespie added, “Now there are 15 highly resilient leaders graduating from this fellowship program and ready to face the next phase of our careers.”

The program will continue to grow this network of leaders with a third cohort, which will begin in August.

Learn more about the Clinical Innovation Fellows program, this year’s graduates and their projects on the Transformation Center’s website at

The Clinical Innovation Fellows program is funded through Oregon’s State Innovation Model grant from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation.

Alissa Robbins works for the Oregon Health Authority.

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