Firm News

Ascendient Welcomes Joann Anderson

January 25, 2022

Ascendient is pleased to announce that Joann Anderson has joined the firm to launch a new practice area focused on strengthening healthcare operations in rural settings.

With a national reputation honed over 40+ years, Joann brings unmatched experience in rural healthcare leadership, including long service as both CEO (UNC Health Southeastern) and board member (Appalachian Regional Healthcare).

In the following Q&A, we asked Joann how her experience shaped her views on healthcare leadership and what she hopes to accomplish in her new role at Ascendient.

You spent more than four decades in various healthcare roles, from bedside nurse to hospital CEO, so consulting is a big departure for you. What is it you’re hoping to accomplish?

It sounds cliché but what I want to do is use my experience and knowledge to give back to the healthcare industry because it has given so much to me. I hope to provide a personalized approach to problem solving, particularly in the rural space. Having someone with experience and an unbiased view often enables one to jumpstart a solution. I want to be a trusted advisor who makes a difference.

Why did you choose Ascendient, specifically, for this new chapter of your career?

I chose to join the Ascendient team because of their values, mission and approach. I find I am aligned with them in every respect. Over the last 14 years, I have had the pleasure of working with them as a CEO of a healthcare system as well as a board member for a different healthcare system. I have experience with their approach and outcomes. It is a firm I trust.

Let’s talk about the three new practice areas where you’ll serve as lead, starting with Rural Operations. What focus do you bring to that practice that might be different from the way it’s normally done?

Rural healthcare is a passion for me. I grew up in a very rural community in Appalachia where access to healthcare was extremely limited. My last 30 years in healthcare leadership have been totally focused on rural healthcare. I know it is distinctly different leading a rural healthcare system vs an urban or suburban system. The challenges are similar but the solutions are very different because of the availability of resources or lack thereof. My approach to rural operations will be focused on matching the community needs with resources available. I will listen and collaborate with leadership to develop a mutually agreed upon, realistic plan.

Next, Board Governance. You’ve spent many years as both CEO and board member at multiple healthcare systems – how does that experience inform your vision and your approach?

I have had the opportunity to work with many boards on a variety of levels. As CEO, I have had the experience to work for the board as its only employee. CEO and board relationships are key to the success of the organization. I can relate to high-functioning boards and those that can use some coaching in the areas of board membership, dynamics, performance and the difference  between governance and management.

Then there is the perspective of being a good board  member. I have been and continue to be a member of boards including for profit, not for profit, healthcare, economic development, and higher education. Regardless of the board, the duties are the same. How a board member performs is individually dependent. I think my experience enables me to relate on multiple levels and assist in providing coaching and/or education regarding high-performing boards.

And finally, you’ll offer a Coaching practice tailored to newly appointed executives. Why do you think it’s important for new leaders to have an outside coach or mentor, as opposed to a veteran on the inside who kind of “shows them the ropes”?

For 43 years, I have been in healthcare, with at least 35 of those in some level of leadership. I have used coaching to help me be the best leader I could be. I believe there is a clear difference between an internal mentor who "shows one how things are done in the organization" and a coach who helps one develop leadership skills in dealing with personal challenges, emotional growth and development, and those soft areas of human dynamics. I hope to be able to decrease fear and anxiety. I want to be a trusted resource in times of stress.

The Coaching practice is open to everyone, but you have a mission, specifically, to support women in healthcare leadership. Where does that come from, and what difference do you hope to make?

As a female in a male dominated environment, I have frequently found myself in a board room as the only female. I was once asked how it feels to be he first female to sit in that seat. I want to help women leaders feel confident in those scenarios and not shy away from tough questions like that. I don't have all the answers but what I have is a listening ear that is non judgmental but fosters growth through discussion and coaching. I want each female leader to gain the confidence to walk into any situation and know she earned the right to be there.

For a case study of Joann's Coaching practice, please click here. You'll also find a contact form if you'd like more information.