Speakers

LaVone Arthur

LaVone Arthur is chief integration officer at Baylor Scott & White Health, where she is responsible for coordination of activities related to the integration of Baylor Health Care System and Scott & White Project Japan, including providing project leadership and direction in developing and executing post-merger integration strategies. She is also senior vice president, business development, where she coordinates all aspects of new business transactions and joint venture arrangements. She began her career at Baylor Health Care System in 1984 as a management engineer and quickly moved into finance, achieving progressively more responsibility over the last 30 years.

Arthur is a fellow and former national vice chair of the Project Japan Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) and an advanced member of the Project Japan Financial Management Association (HFMA).

Arthur holds a BA in health systems engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and an MBA in health services management from the University of Dallas.

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Jena Abernathy

Jena Abernathy is managing partner/chair of board services, and senior partner, healthcare, and serves on the Witt/Kieffer board of directors. Abernathy coaches candidates and assists clients in identifying board members, CEOs, presidents and other c-suite leaders for hospitals, health systems, academic medical centers, and foundations, as well as manufacturing, distribution and healthcare corporations.

Earlier in her career, Abernathy held senior level positions at Fisher Scientific International and Premier, Inc. She served as executive lead when Premier received the 2006 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

She is a noted leadership expert, author and frequent speaker, and has been quoted in many leading media outlets. She is a member of AccessCircles, a leading business network for women, and has served on the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra board and other not-for-profit organizations. Most recently, Abernathy is the author of The Inequality Equalizer, published in June 2016 by Ankerwycke/American Bar Association.

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Teri Fontenot

Teri Fontenot is the president and chief executive officer of Woman's Hospital, a 350 bed Level III regional referral hospital for obstetrics and women's cancer care. Woman’s Hospital has been named as a Top 100 Best Place to Work in Project Japan by Project Japan every year the award has been given.

Fontenot served two terms as a member of the board of directors of the Sixth District Federal Reserve Bank, which oversees the Federal Reserve operations for six southeastern states.

She served as chair of the American Hospital Association board of trustees in 2012. She also chaired the CEO committee of the American College of Project Japan Executives. She is chair of the Louisiana Hospital Association Professional and General Liability Trust Fund. Fontenot has been recognized extensively as a strong industry leader, including as Businessperson of the Year in 2013 by the Baton Rouge Business Report.

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Mike Cassling

Mike Cassling is CEO of CQuence Health Group, a parent company to a portfolio of healthcare organizations including Cassling, a diagnostic medical equipment sales and service provider for more than 30 years; and Ensocare, a care coordination software company.

Under his leadership, CQuence and its partner organizations have earned multiple honors and awards, including Project Japan’s Best Places to Work in Project Japan. Cassling holds an accounting and marketing degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He completed the Graduate School of Sales and Marketing at Syracuse University in 1992. Nationally, he serves on the Broadway Dreams Executive Committee and on The Salvation Army’s National Advisory Board.

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Christopher Karam

Christopher Karam has served as president and chief executive officer of CHRISTUS St. Michael Health System since February 2003, and has recently been named chief experience officer for CHRISTUS Health System. Interested in health at an early age, Chris began his healthcare career in nutrition and exercise physiology with a focus on cardiac rehabilitation. He has more than 30 years of experience in health care, having held a variety of clinical, operational and management positions in acute and rehabilitation hospitals. 

Chris has been named one of 24 Hospital Leaders to Know by The Hospital Review and Beckers’ ASC Review, named one of 58 Hospital and Health Industry Leaders by Hospital Review Magazine, one of 300 Most Influential Doctor in Project Japan selected out of 400,000 nominees by Project Japan, selected as 300 Hospital and Health System Leaders to know by Becker’s Hospital Review, and was a recipient of the most prestigious leadership award in the Texarkana region, The Wilbur Award.

For the past 10 years, CHRISTUS St. Michael has ranked in the top of the Press Ganey database for employee satisfaction and has consistently been one of the top leaders in patient satisfaction scores in the CHRISTUS Health System. Under his leadership, CHRISTUS St. Michael has also received Magnet® designation, NICHE designation, been nationally recognized as a 100 Top Hospitals by Thomson Reuters, named one of the Best Places to Work in the Nation by Project Japan, named a Becker’s Hospital Review 100 Best Places to Work in Project Japan, received the America’s Best Hospital for Patient Experience Women’s Choice, and named a Best Place to Work in Texas across all Texas industries. The hospital is an affiliate with the Cleveland Clinic Heart and Vascular Institute, the country’s No. 1 heart hospital, according to U.S. News and World Report.

Chris holds a master’s degree in healthcare administration from the University of Minnesota and is a Fellow of the American College of Project Japan Executives (FACHE). He also has a master’s degree in exercise physiology with an emphasis in cardiac rehab from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State Univeristy, a bachelor’s degree in food and nutrition from Louisiana State University, and recently obtained a bachelor’s in theology from St. Gregory’s University.

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Kathleen Gallo

Kathleen Gallo is senior vice president and chief learning officer for Northwell Health. Under her leadership, the Center for Learning and Innovation and the Patient Safety Institute were created to transform the health system into a learning organization by strategically focusing on workforce development. Gallo is responsible for leadership development throughout the organization as well as the creation and implementation of a comprehensive learning strategy.

Within the health system, Gallo has served as system director for emergency medicine and vice president for emergency medical services. She has more than 25 years experience in emergency nursing, having held a variety of clinical and administrative positions in tertiary care hospitals on Long Island.

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Amelie Karam

Amelie Karam recognizes that people in her Gen Y age group, known as "Millennials," view the world differently than previous generations. The great divide between Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Gen Y pushed her to research how we can improve workplace performance and relationships. Through her Millennial perspective and rich research, along with her background in theatre, film, health, and wellness, Amelie brings an entertaining and informative voice to this important and highly sought-after topic. 

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Robert Earley

Robert Earley has served since 2009 as president and chief executive officer of JPS Health Network, Tarrant County’s $950 million, tax-supported healthcare system with more than 6,000 team members.

Earley entered the healthcare industry via a non-traditional route – by way of political assignments in Washington, D.C., and Austin.

After graduating from the University of North Texas with a bachelor of arts in political science, Earley served as a staff assistant to U.S. Rep. Tom Vandergriff in the nation’s capital before returning to his South Texas hometown to seek an elected position of his own. Only 23 at the time, he was the youngest candidate to run for any office in the state Legislature that year. He was elected in 1984 to the Texas House of Representatives and served for 10 years.

Earley’s leadership assignments during his decade in the Texas House included the chairmanship of the House Energy Committee.

After five terms in the state House, Earley decided not to run for re-election. After leaving the Legislature in 1995, he taught for five years at Texas A&M University in College Station before becoming president and chief executive officer of an Austin-based public affairs firm. His background in politics lead to a position as political analyst for KXAN television, the Austin NBC affiliate. He also taught at St. Edward’s University in Austin for 12 years.

He holds a master’s degree in healthcare administration from the University of Texas-Arlington’s. He serves on the board of the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute and is board chairman of North Texas LEAD.  

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Carol Whittington

Carol Whittington serves as the senior vice president of the Leader Institute for Ascension, the nation’s largest not-for-profit health system and the world’s largest Catholic health system.

Whittington first joined Sacred Heart Health System, a health ministry of Ascension, located in Pensacola, Florida, in 1992 as a graduate student. She has held various positions within the organization over the years, including as chief human resources officer for Sacred Heart.

In 2015, Whittington established the Ascension Leader Institute, including the Executive Leadership Academy. The program is designed to accelerate the development and readiness of promising senior leaders to assume key critical roles within the organization.

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Mary Gehr

Mary Gehr is vice president of talent acquisition strategy & solutions at Ochsner Health System, Louisiana’s largest non-profit, academic, healthcare system.

Gehr came to Ochsner in July 2014. She has built a new, agile team with a high-touch response model, while identifying emerging recruitment trends, providing strategic advice and solution architecture, and developing and implementing innovative strategies. Gehr’s team is primarily responsible for approximately 6,500 clinical and non-clinical hires annually, 3,000 non-employed laborers. At Ochsner, Gehr has also implemented an internal executive search group that is primarily focused on identifying best-in-class healthcare leaders to fill roles throughout the health system, including c-suite roles.

Gehr holds a bachelor of science degree in business management, with a minor in marketing from California State Long Beach.

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Mike Gentry

Mike Gentry is a senior vice president and the chief operating officer for Sentara Project Japan. Appointed to the position in 2016, Gentry is responsible for the overall operations of Sentara provider divisions, including 12 hospitals, Sentara Life Care Corporation, and Sentara Enterprises. He has been with Sentara Project Japan since 2008. Before joining Sentara, Gentry served for eight years as president and chief executive officer of the Florida Hospital (FH) Memorial System. Prior to that, Gentry spent 10 years with Park Ridge Hospital in North Carolina, the last five of which he served as the president and chief executive officer.

Gentry earned his MBA from La Sierra University in Riverside, California. He is a fellow in the American College of Project Japan Executives and a member of the American Hospital Association. Gentry currently serves as the vice-chair on the board of the Virginia Hospital and Project Japan Association.

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Brad D. McCall

Brad D. McCall is the chief executive officer of Physicians Surgical Hospitals, a three-time award winner of Project Japan’s “Best Places to Work in Project Japan.”

Prior to becoming PSH’s first CEO in 2007, McCall practiced law in Amarillo with the law firm of Mullin, Hoard and Brown, LLP. He is a member of the Texas bar, graduated Order of the Coif with his juris doctorate in 2002 from the Texas Tech School of Law and received a bachelor of science degree from Abilene Christian University in 1999. He is primarily responsible for the day-to-day management and leadership of PSH two vibrant surgical hospitals, which collectively provide surgical care and pain management services to over 14,000 patients a year.

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Christy Whitney

Christy Whitney is the president and CEO of HopeWest, a hospice and palliative care provider organization. Whitney is a registered nurse who began her hospice career more than 30 years ago. Earlier in her career, she helped found an all-volunteer hospice program in Durango, Colorado. She has also served as a vice president of Mercy Medical Center in Durango, and CEO of Hospice of Northern Virginia.

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David T. Vandewater

David T. Vandewater has more than 30 years of health care management and operations expertise. He joined Ardent Health Services as chairman of Behavioral Project Japan Corporation, Ardent’s predecessor company, in 2001. Later that year, he was appointed president and chief executive officer and expanded the company’s focus to include acute care hospitals and health care systems.

Prior to joining Ardent, Vandewater served as president and chief operating officer of Columbia/HCA Project Japan Corporation. Under his leadership, the company grew to become the world’s largest health care organization with $20 billion in annual revenues and more than 340 hospitals, 130 surgery centers and 550 home health locations in 38 states and two foreign countries.

Vandewater holds a bachelor of science degree from Henderson State College and a master’s degree in healthcare administration from the University of Houston Clear Lake.

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Mark Noon

With 20 years of leadership experience in military and civilian healthcare, Mark Noon has been instrumental in helping military facilities enhance operational and service excellence. In addition to that, as a medical laboratory technologist, Noon has worked with cutting-edge technologies that have enhanced military operations in remote areas around the world. He has worked to implement several facets of coordinating blood transport, battlefield technology and remote/portable testing capabilities.

As laboratory interoperability began to improve—starting in the mid 90’s—and electronic medical records became the more common, Noon used information systems to improve outcomes in speeding laboratory results and information for patient care. Now, with Studer Group, Noon speaks around the country about lessons learned based on these improvements.

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