Lauren Poe knew she wanted to work in healthcare from a very young age. “It was my passion; the thought of helping others and making a difference in peoples’ lives ignited me,” she says. Ultimately, Poe went to college to pursue dentistry, but upon application to dental school, she didn’t get in.
With the intention of applying again, Poe started her Masters of Healthcare Administration, where she worked full-time in the med staff office at a local hospital. “I fell in love with every aspect of healthcare administration and its role in delivering care to patients,” she says. From there, she knew where her heart was.
Poe changed her mind about dental school and chose instead to follow her passion. “I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. It took me ten years to realize why I was told ‘no’ to dental school, but ten years later, I’m so very thankful for that closed door,” she says.
“I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. It took me ten years to realize why I was told ‘no’ to dental school, but ten years later, I’m so very thankful for that closed door.”Lauren Poe
After completing her master’s degree, Poe went to work at a Catholic nonprofit healthcare system, where she served in several different capacities. “I was very blessed and had a lot of great mentors in that system. Every time a growth opportunity became available, they were like, ‘Hey, you want to try this? I think you could get some more experience,’” says Poe.
She became very passionate about the organization’s mission. When her husband got a new position, and she began her job search in a new city, Poe remained adamant about finding a cultural fit. She knew she had found her match when she came across a position at JPS Health Network—even if it meant commuting eighty miles each way.
“People always ask me why, and my answer is always the same: I love the work that we do here at JPS and who we do it for. At the end of every day, I know when I go home that what we do impacts the most vulnerable patients in our society,” says Poe.
As a county hospital, JPS serves anyone and everyone. As the chief of staff and chief strategy officer, Poe worked with other leaders at JPS to build a strategic imperative around individualized care models that ensure every patient achieves the best health outcomes.
“I love the work that we do here at JPS and who we do it for. At the end of every day, I know when I go home that what we do impacts the most vulnerable patients in our society.”Lauren Poe
For Poe, this all comes down to understanding the community and its needs. This means not only taking into account aspects like health status, access to care, behavioral health, and various social determinants, but also considering cultural, religious, and generational differences.
“Ultimately, it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. Understanding our communities helps us create an outcome-based outreach strategy that reduces community-level health disparities and improves outcomes for disadvantaged populations,” Poe explains.
However, if you ask Poe to name the most challenging aspect of her role at JPS, it’s not building systems to help correct healthcare inequality. Instead, it’s her work creating an entirely new strategy infrastructure and Office of Strategy Management.
“Understanding our communities helps us create an outcome-based outreach strategy that reduces community-level health disparities and improves outcomes for disadvantaged populations.”Lauren Poe
Not only did she introduce something new to a decades-old organization, but at a time when caring for patients through the surges of the pandemic took top priority. “The number one word that I’ve used over the last year and a half has been ‘grace,’” she says. “Giving us grace as we work out the kinks of a new process and giving grace to the front lines, who had many other important things going on.”
When assigned this task, Poe took it to heart when the CEO relayed they didn’t want a document that would “sit on the shelf and collect dust.”
To make it sustainable, Poe developed an idea around strategy management. The team doesn’t just lead strategic planning efforts, but also implementation and organizational alignment, while continuously evaluating progress. “That building of the Office of Strategy Management and focusing on not just the planning efforts, but truly the implementation and sustainability of it all for the organization is what I’m most proud about,” she says.
As a leader, Poe believes in building a team of people that surpass her; affording her the balance between setting expectations and giving individuals the freedom to grow into their own roles. “I’m very much an outcomes-driven individual, so that’s the expectation that I set, but I allow them the opportunity to determine how we get there—that’s where they can prosper,” she says.
Poe’s advice to others is simple: “You cannot have success in anything in life without putting the work in, and if, and when success does come, remember to stay humble. Each of us will always have opportunities for improvement.”
Healthcare Organizations continue to adapt to challenges associated with new payment models, rapid consolidation, new market entrants, changing technologies, enhanced patient expectations, and more. Citrin Cooperman’s Healthcare Practice helps organizations navigate the current environment with a suite of services designed to help organizations position themselves for short-term profitability and long-term sustainability.