Over 250 Years of Combined Experience

Our experts have more than 250 years of combined experience in implementing and sustaining lean methods in a variety of health care settings, including operational leadership and management, physician practice and leadership, quality and patient safety, and nursing clinical practice and leadership.

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Leadership

Sarah Patterson, MHA, FACMPE Interim Executive Director and Executive Sensei

Sarah Patterson, MHA, FACMPE, is the Interim Executive Director for Virginia Mason Institute. In addition, Sarah is an Executive Sensei that coaches executive teams worldwide to lead lean implementation and transform health care.

Sarah has been a member of the leadership team at Virginia Mason Medical Center for over 30 years, most recently serving as the executive vice president and chief operating officer. She helped Virginia Mason establish its own lean production system to eliminate waste, improve quality and patient safety and has been on 7 study missions to Japan. She has held responsibility for all operations of the clinic and hospital along with the Kaizen Promotion Office, Human Resources, Quality and Compliance, Facilities and Pharmaceutical Services.

Originally from Boston, Sarah Patterson earned her B.A. from St. Lawrence University and her MHA from University of Washington. She was elected board chair of the Washington State Hospital Association (WSHA) in 2010/2011. WSHA represents all Washington hospitals and health-related organizations. She also has served on the Board of Directors of the Horizon House Retirement Community.

A much requested and motivating public speaker, Sarah has given keynote presentations about topics such as the path to lean and world class management to several organizations across the U.S. In November 2013 she was recognized by Puget Sound Business Journal as one of the 2013 Women of Influence.

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Gordon Sansaver, MBA Senior Director, Strategy and Operations

Gordon Sansaver, MBA, is the senior director of strategy and operations at Virginia Mason Institute. He provides administration of our finance, information systems, operations, human resources, business development, and communications functions and work groups within the institute. He also provides leadership to construct and implement strategies that enable the institute to best serve our clients and the health care industry worldwide. Since joining the institute, he has delivered education and training services to institute clients domestically and in the United Kingdom, helping them eliminate defects, reduce waste and focus all of their health care processes on the patient.

Prior to joining the institute, he provided training and coaching in lean management methods to executive and operational leadership teams and led numerous improvement events, including Rapid Process Improvement Workshops (RPIWs), across the Virginia Mason Health System in areas such as primary and specialty ambulatory care, inpatient care, emergency care, facilities, supply chain, human resources and finance.

Gordon is certified in the Virginia Mason Production System®.

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Mary Alida Brisk, MAIS, SHRM-SCP Director of Client Services

Mary Alida Brisk is the Director of Client Services at Virginia Mason Institute. In her role, she provides oversight and strategic talent management to the institute. She also leads development of institute team members who provide education, facilitation, and coaching services to health care organizations worldwide in the areas of organizational transformation, culture change, improvements to quality and safety, efficiency, patient experience and staff engagement.

Before working at Virginia Mason Institute, Mary Alida spent nine years with Seattle Children’s Regional Medical Center, serving as Director of Talent Management, and previously, as Director of Learning and Organizational Effectiveness. Prior to that, she worked as a solutions-driven strategy consultant to Fortune 500 companies with a focus on large-scale performance improvement.

Mary Alida brings vast expertise in the acute understanding of human behavior, critical success factors, and driving organizational optimization, as well as, deep knowledge of Lean Improvement, Quality Management, human factors engineering, and Six Sigma principles.

Mary Alida has a Bachelor of Arts from Western Washington University and a Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies from Oregon State University.

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Sensei

Christopher J. Backous, MHA Transformation Sensei

Chris Backous, MHA, is a transformation sensei at Virginia Mason Institute. He leads improvement activities, workshops and training for health care leaders and providers worldwide. By embedding innovative methods into the lean concepts he teaches, he works with clients to unlock the revolutionary thinking necessary to transform health care.

In his 3P projects at client sites, he works with health care leaders, architects, medical planners and general contractors to design or redesign ambulatory surgery centers, emergency departments, inpatient and outpatient care environments, urgent care centers, labor and delivery facilities, cancer care facilities and patient safety programs.

Prior to joining Virginia Mason Institute, Chris led the integration of lean methods into the design of Virginia Mason’s 350,000-square-foot hospital addition, the first environment of its kind to be built from the ground up using the Virginia Mason Production System. He also led numerous improvement events using lean tools and methods to improve health care processes.

Chris is certified in the Virginia Mason Production System® and 3P (Production, Preparation, Process) facilitation.

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Marlon Borbon, MBA, PT, LSSBB Transformation Sensei

Marlon Borbon, MBA, PT, LSSBB, is a transformation sensei at Virginia Mason Institute. For health care leaders and providers worldwide, he leads numerous improvement events with a focus on cultural transformation and sustainment.

Prior to joining Virginia Mason Institute, Marlon managed start-up clinics, developed community wellness programs, led process redesigns and integration of complex ambulatory programs with hospital services, and coached physicians and executive leaders in change management.

Marlon is certified in the Virginia Mason Production System®. He is a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and is board certified in health care management as a fellow of the American College and Healthcare Executives (ACHE).

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Erica Cumbee, MPA Transformation Sensei

Erica Cumbee, MPA, is a transformation sensei at Virginia Mason Institute. Erica trains clients from all over the world to effectively practice lean tools and methods, develops operational leadership emphasizing the importance of acting and thinking in a lean framework and embeds lean management methodology into health care cultures.

Prior to joining Virginia Mason Institute, Erica led operations at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Patient Financial and Support Services. She also has served as a Lean Specialist for the organization, where she developed strategic planning in alignment with executive leadership goals, performed evaluation and problem identification in value stream management, lead organizational rapid process improvement workshops, innovation and kaizen events, developed and taught lean curriculum, and coached leaders and staff through lean training and certification.

Erica is certified in the Virginia Mason Production System®, experience-based design (EBD), training within industry (TWI) and focus group leadership.

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Celeste Derheimer, MBA, RN, CPHQ Transformation Sensei

Celeste Derheimer, MBA, RN, CPHQ, is a transformation sensei at Virginia Mason Institute. In Seattle and at client sites worldwide, she leads multiple improvement activities to increase safety and quality (such as decreasing health care-associated infections), improve administrative processes (such as standardizing organizational planning) and more.

Prior to joining Virginia Mason Institute, Celeste served as administrative director for corporate quality and safety at Virginia Mason, where she was responsible for organization-wide quality improvement, patient safety programs and initiatives, and operational leadership for employee health, infection prevention and patient education. She also held quality leadership positions in a number of health systems in Washington and Oregon.

Celeste is a Kaizen Fellow graduate certified in the Virginia Mason Production System®. She is also an examiner for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award and a Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality.

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Deborah Dollard, MBA Executive Sensei

Deborah Dollard, MBA, is an executive sensei at Virginia Mason Institute. She coaches executive teams worldwide to lead lean implementation and transform health care.

Prior to her work at Virginia Mason Institute, Deb worked as an executive lean consultant with John Black and Associates (JBA), where she served as a strategic guide and coach for executive teams, trained leaders, set up kaizen promotion offices (KPOs), coached improvement events and led sustainable, measurable implementations. She has worked with multiple hospitals, including a large, multisite project in Saskatchewan.

Before working with JBA, Deb was an executive with Boeing Commercial Airplanes who deployed lean strategies across multiple disciplines, including sales and marketing, financial analysis, strategic planning, program management and operations. She was instrumental in setting up the organization’s first Quality Improvement Center.

Deb is certified in lean by John Black and Associates and is trained in the Virginia Mason Production System®. She has practiced lean leadership for 30 years, dedicating her past 8 years to health care.

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Cathie Furman, MHA, RN Executive Sensei

Cathie Furman, MHA, RN, is an executive sensei at Virginia Mason Institute. In her work in Seattle and worldwide, she helps health care executives and leaders understand how a lean method such as the Virginia Mason Production System can dramatically improve safety and quality.

Prior to joining Virginia Mason Institute, Cathie was one of the executives who took Virginia Mason’s first trip to Japan to learn the benefits of using lean tools and a lean management system. After the trip, she and her executive colleagues led the initiative to adopt the Toyota Production System to health care. She also created and implemented the Patient Safety Alert SystemTM, a groundbreaking method to engage all employees to report any incident or situation that could cause harm to a patient.

Cathie is certified in the Virginia Mason Production System®.

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Rosemary King, MHA, RN Transformation Sensei

Rosemary King, MHA, RN, is a transformation sensei at Virginia Mason Institute. Her strong passion for delivering extraordinary patient experiences, teaching lean processes and developing staff capabilities is key to her success in educating health care leaders from around the world.

Prior to her work at Virginia Mason Institute, Rosemary was a founding member of Virginia Mason’s Kaizen Promotion Office (KPO), where she worked with leaders and staff throughout the organization to create a system of continuous improvement in which each team’s improvement gains could be sustained. She also managed and provided clinical expertise within perioperative services.

Rosemary is a Kaizen Fellow graduate and is certified in the Virginia Mason Production System®.

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Chika Lambert, LSSBB Transformation Sensei

Chika Lambert, LSSBB, is a transformation sensei at Virginia Mason Institute. In Seattle and around the world, she leads lean improvement activities for health care teams who are committed to transforming their organizations.

Prior to joining Virginia Mason Institute, Chika was a lean implementation manager at Zodiac Aerospace, where she facilitated continuous improvement activities throughout the organization. As a principal at Lean Manufacturing Translations, she provided education, training, and Japanese and English interpretation services in process improvement to health care, manufacturing, finance and information technology organizations.

Chika, who was educated in Japan and the United States, is a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and a certified agile scrum master.

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Melissa Lin, MS, CPHQ, LSSBB Transformation Sensei

Melissa Lin, MS, CPHQ, LSSBB, is a transformation sensei at Virginia Mason Institute. She coaches and guides health care leaders and providers worldwide through their cultural transformation toward lean as their management method.

Her national experience in health care strategy consulting has given her breadth and depth across a number of domains, with a particular focus on strategic planning, board governance and strategic partnerships. She has also led lean training and coaching engagements for small and large hospital groups, implemented organizationwide strategies and spoken at numerous regional and national health care conferences on the impact of a continuous improvement culture.

Melissa is trained in the Virginia Mason Production System® and certified in TapRoot Root Cause Analysis. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics from the University of California, Los Angeles. With her continuous improvement foundations originating from The Dartmouth Institute of Health Policy and Clinical Practice, where she earned her master’s degree, she is a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and a Certified Professional of Healthcare Quality.

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Susan Neidig, MBA Executive Sensei

Susan Neidig, MBA, is an executive sensei at Virginia Mason Institute. Prior to joining the Institute, Susan worked as an executive lean consultant with John Black and Associates (JBA), supporting the lean transformation in Saskatchewan healthcare.  She served as a strategic guide and coach for executive teams, trained leaders, set up kaizen promotion offices, coached improvement events and led sustainable, measurable implementations.  She was the lead consultant for three provincial level agencies including the Ministry of Health.

Susan joined JBA after a 30-year career at Boeing, which immersed her in a lean journey that began in the 1980s and spanned strategy development, training, process management, and new product development in the services division.

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Ellen Noel, MN, RN, CPHQ Transformation Sensei

Ellen Noel, MN, RN, CPHQ, is a transformation sensei at Virginia Mason Institute. Her in-depth knowledge of clinical processes, team development, health care outcomes and regulatory performance provides a solid foundation for an extraordinary customer learning experience.

Prior to her work at Virginia Mason Institute, Ellen worked as an adult clinical nurse specialist and director of quality and safety. As an improvement leader, she led system-level improvement work in medication safety, nursing and care team workflow efficiencies, pain management and patient safety.

Ellen is a Kaizen Fellow graduate certified in the Virginia Mason Production System®. She is also a Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality.

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Henry Otero, MD Executive and Transformation Sensei

Henry Otero, MD, a medical oncologist, is a transformation and executive sensei at Virginia Mason Institute. In his work with health care leaders and providers, he brings a valuable provider perspective that resonates with organizations seeking to increase safety, quality and efficiency and achieve zero-defect health care.

Dr. Otero has led numerous process improvement events at Virginia Mason and client sites, specializing in improving physician and executive engagement, creating ambulatory flow, and training in Virginia Mason’s lean tools and methods.

Dr. Otero is a Kaizen Fellow graduate certified in the Virginia Mason Production System®.

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Rhonda Stewart Transformation Sensei

Rhonda Stewart is a transformation sensei at Virginia Mason Institute. At organizations worldwide, she leads health care leaders to build a lean culture and coaches them to set up a solid infrastructure to support lean implementation and organizational learning — always with a focus on patients.

Prior to joining Virginia Mason Institute, Rhonda was a director in the revenue and performance reporting department, immersed in applying lean methods in the areas of health care accounting, budgeting and analytics.

Rhonda is certified in the Virginia Mason Production System®.

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Client Experience

Susanna Garritano Client Experience

Susanna Garritano is on the client experience team at Virginia Mason Institute. She works with clients from around the world to help them meet their needs as they implement and sustain lean methodology at their health care organizations.

Prior to joining Virginia Mason Institute, Susanna led client operations for a national team at the American Express Company.

Susanna is trained in the Virginia Mason Production System®.

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