Theme Leader, Leadership
Member of the NEJM Catalyst Leadership Board

Stephen Swensen, MD, MMM, FACR

Professor Emeritus; Senior Fellow
Mayo Clinic College of Medicine; Institute for Healthcare Improvement

Dr. Swensen is dedicated to the support of thoughtful leaders and teams that have the capability to nurture esprit de corps. He is a recognized, well-published expert in leadership and professional burnout.

For 3 decades he served patients at the Mayo Clinic. As Director for Leadership and Organization Development, he co-led professional burnout work and oversaw the development of 4,100 physicians and scientists and 232 key leaders. As Director for Quality, he established the Quality Academy and the Value Creation System. More than 37,000 colleagues were certified as Quality Fellows during his tenure. As Department Chair, he and his team used Lean-Sigma and Baldrige to create value for patients.

He serves as a Senior Fellow of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement where his focus is Joy in Work. He works as the Leadership Theme Leader and member of the NEJM Catalyst Board.

A full professor, he has been Principal Investigator of two NIH Grants and has authored two books and 186 peer-reviewed articles. He was honored with the Diamond Quality Fellow Lifetime Achievement Award. Swensen served as President of two international professional groups. He founded the Big Sky Group and the Sun Valley Roundtable.

Swensen holds a Master of Medical Management from Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz School and is a trained Executive Coach. He has served as a Director on two Boards and as a member of the Mayo Clinic Management Team. He has started two businesses.

Swensen has been married for 41 years, has two children and has run or cross-country skied 39 marathons.

The Largest Share of Organizations Do Not Have a Formal Strategy for Clinician Engagement


Leadership Survey: Why Clinicians Are Not Engaged, and What Leaders Must Do About It

Clinician engagement is vital for improving clinical quality and patient satisfaction, as well as the job satisfaction of clinicians themselves. Yet nearly half of health care organizations are not very effective or not at all effective at clinician engagement.

Culture Change Within Health Care Organizations Is Changing for the Better


Leadership Survey: Organizational Culture Is the Key to Better Health Care

Although three-quarters of Insights Council survey respondents say culture change is a high or moderate priority at their organizations, survey results show a lot of work on organizational culture remains to be done.

Nurse Leaders and Physician Leaders Should Be Considered Equals in Care Delivery - but Views of Nurses and Non-Nurses Differ


Leadership Survey: Nurses as Leaders: Broad Acceptance, Room to Grow

Nurses are traditionally the backbone of patient care. They form the largest percentage of the health care workforce, far outstripping physicians. But are nurses leaders as well as doers?

Can Anybody Build a High-Performing Team panel clip still


Can Anybody Build a High-Performing Team?

Can anyone in health care build a high-performing team? What does it take to build one?

Changing the Culture of Medicine Panel Clip Still


Changing the Culture of Medicine: A Starting Point

Where does changing the culture of medicine begin?

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What Health Care Leaders Should Stop Doing

We know what leaders need to do more of to create a culture of grit. But what should they stop doing?

sprit de Corps - Turning Vicious Cycle into Virtuous Cycle - Stephen Swensen high-performing organizations high-performing teams talk still


Esprit de Corps: Turning Vicious Cycle Virtuous

Esprit de corps is the single most important indicator in which health care organizations have control over patient experience, outcomes, safety, and cost. How to get there? By co-creating quality.

Little Consensus Over Definition of High-Performing Organizations in Health Care


Leadership Survey: High-Performing Organizations

Health care is rife with metrics and rating systems that purport to differentiate the good, bad, and mediocre. Every clinician and leader wants to be affiliated with a high-performing organization. But what constitutes high performance in health care?

Physician Clinician Burnout Is Extensive


Leadership Survey: Immunization Against Burnout

Clinician burnout is far from being eliminated at health care organizations, but leaders, frontline physicians, and nurses are joining forces to get to the roots of the crisis.

Many Different Definitions of Stakeholder Alignment in a Health Care Organization


Leadership Survey: Why Big Gaps in Organizational Alignment Matter

An NEJM Catalyst Insights Council survey finds that clinicians and leaders do not see eye-to-eye on many aspects of health care delivery.

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