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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Sarah Patterson, MHA, FACMPE Executive Director and Executive Sensei

Sarah Patterson, MHA, FACMPE, is the executive director of Virginia Mason Institute. In addition, Sarah is an executive sensei who 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 and improve quality and patient safety, and has been on seven 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.

Sarah has had a long career as a health care executive and brings deep knowledge of the challenges and opportunities in the ever-changing health care landscape. Sarah is an expert at teaching, coaching and applying the Virginia Mason Production System® processes and techniques.

Originally from Boston, Sarah Patterson earned her B.A. from St. Lawrence University and her MHA from University of Washington. She was a founding member of the Washington Health Alliance and 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 United States. In November 2013, she was recognized by Puget Sound Business Journal as one of the 2013 Women of Influence.

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Wendy Korthuis-Smith, Ed.D., M.S. Associate Executive Director

Wendy Korthuis-Smith, Ed.D., M.S., is the associate executive director at Virginia Mason Institute. Wendy provides leadership and oversees the development of new products and services to strategically assess, identify improvement opportunities, develop and implement transformation and transition plans, and continually evaluate continuous improvement for clients worldwide. Wendy holds significant experience developing and implementing large scale transformation and transition plans.

Wendy came to Virginia Mason Institute from Deloitte Consulting, and spent several years prior with the Washington State Governor’s Office where she led state government transformation through the development and implementation of Results Washington, a performance improvement initiative incorporating 53 state government agencies, boards and commissions across five priority goal areas. In addition, she was formerly a professor of graduate level courses to students in the Organizational Leadership, Human Resources and Health Care Administration masters programs at Chapman University. Wendy worked with Virginia Mason early on in her career as a leadership development consultant.

Wendy holds a Bachelor of Science in Health Education and Preventive Medicine, as well as a Master of Science in Human Performance, both from the University of Wisconsin-La Cross. She also holds a Doctorate of Education in Organizational Development from Seattle University.

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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, and has a 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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