Jane Pleasants has worked in healthcare supply chain for the last 29 years. She began her healthcare supply chain career at 69-bed Gordon Hospital in Calhoun, GA. It was only a year, but she was bitten by the supply chain bug and never looked back. She moved to Vanderbilt University for nine years, University of Rochester and Strong Health System for three years and finally settling in at Duke University Health System for the last 16 years. No one should be fooled by her quiet, professional demeanor. Pleasants has not only been an advocate and leader for the profession, she has helped move the discipline to heights enjoyed today.
Some of her accomplishments to date are:
Each organization where Pleasants has worked has benefited from her leadership, creativity, and driven style to make those operations the best they could be – models of efficient and state of the art supply chain operations.
At Vanderbilt, Pleasants:
At University of Rochester and Strong Health System, she:
At Duke University and Duke University Health System, she:
Pleasants is an admired leader at Duke and recognized as an individual of high ethical standards. She has had to win over world-class physicians and clinicians in her approach to cost reduction as well as consolidation of services. She could only have accomplished the things she did and served as long as she has at this world-renowned organization by being held in high esteem. Most teaching organizations around the country routinely turn over their supply chain leaders in a rapid fashion. Anyone who knows Pleasants would attest to her character, warm charm and accommodating nature, all while being a savvy businesswoman knowledgeable of all facets of the healthcare supply chain business. She makes people feel at ease no matter the setting, topic of discussion or level of individual.
Pleasants has served on and led a number of national committees with organizations such as AHRMM, SMI and Academic Teaching Hospital organizations. She was on the founding board of Strategic Marketplace Initiative (SMI) and helped shape the direction of the organization to what it is today. She also has led a number of committees at SMI to change the way IDNs and suppliers do business – changing practices for the betterment of the industry. She would not have been able to do her job and be there so long at Duke and her other organizations without the skills to lead and change the organizations in the way she did.
Duke has an administrative fellow program in which some of the brightest young graduate students in the country are chosen to participate. As part of their orientation and as a mentor, the fellows shadow Pleasants for several weeks (and in certain instances – months) to learn about supply chain. While most of these fellows will become hospital administrators, she spends a lot of time sharing with then the importance of supply chain, the importance of the supply chain officer being close to the “C” suite, and the best practices in supply chain so that whatever hospital they end up leading in their career, they will have an extremely positive view of the value of the supply chain.
Fuqua (Duke’s business school) offers a healthcare management degree. As part of that program, students are permitted to choose areas they wish to learn more about. Pleasants has mentored and shared supply chain best practices with more than 50 students during her time at Duke. Although they might not choose supply chain as a career, they do have a sense of the value of supply chain and the important role it should have in any health system due to the time they shared with her.
Jane Pleasants is a “quiet leader” – listening to her peers, gaining their insights, and deciding what is best for her organization. She may use an idea from someone; she may adapt that idea to her situation; or she may just go the other direction. She is never afraid to take a stand and lead by example – creating leading edge solutions to her special environment. Her peers in the academic world look to her for guidance and creativity. The academic healthcare setting is not like the community-based setting. Still, Pleasants knows this world extremely well and has had great success where others have struggled. Certainly, she serves as a leader in the healthcare supply chain industry and does so from a position of confidence and humility, effectively convincing peers of her supply chain convictions in the most professional and knowledgeable way without criticizing or demeaning another person’s position or idea.
Much of her work during the last four years has been in moving supply chain best practices internationally. Frequently throughout the year, she hosts a cohort of international visitors (doctors, administrators, supply chain leaders) for a supply chain day. The most recent group came from Kazakstan. The intent of the program is to educate globally best practices in healthcare and most importantly, supply chain. The supply chain module is one of the most sought-after activities in the global program, particularly by Asian countries.
Pleasants also has been very active in the Unique Device Identification (UDI) initiative. The FDA came to Duke and requested that Duke provide feedback on the various methodologies being recommended by the device companies. She engaged SMI to assist, and under her leadership, they were able to simulate at Duke the four methods being recommended by the device manufacturers. She assembled surgeons, operating room staff, nurses, materials managers, sterile processing personnel to participate in the educational process. And this represents the second best practice request of Duke by the FDA related to supply chain. The other best practice related to the product recall process. The FDA refers people to Duke routinely. For further information, see the article in the December 2009 issue of Academic Medicine (an AMA Journal) titled, “Blending Technology and Teamwork for Successful Management of Product Recalls,” which describes their process.
Jane Pleasants clearly demonstrates a masterful knowledge of healthcare supply chain management. She has merged supply chain operations in the university/academic setting and the hospital setting – not once, but twice. She has transformed multiple organizations from the supply chain “dark ages” to high-performing state-of-the art systems. She has also developed supply chain systems in the non-acute market for the healthcare organizations for which she has led. Her negotiating skills are evident in the cost-reduction activities she has led over many years – not to mention negotiating with world-class physicians on a daily basis.
And she’s far from finished. After being asked how long she expected to continue her healthcare career, she answered, “There is still a whole lot more that I would like to tackle!”
What do you think about Bellwether League Inc.’s mission and philosophy and how do you feel about becoming an Honoree?
The Bellwether League’s mission to publicly acknowledge professionals in the healthcare supply chain is very special and unique – particularly so if you are one of the individuals receiving such an honor! However, it is especially noteworthy because it elevates the healthcare supply chain and raises the level of awareness of executive leadership in our organizations of the major contributions our supply chain teams make every single day.
I am humbled and honored to be acknowledged along with peers for whom I have the utmost respect and admiration. They have accomplished much in their careers and raised the bar of professionalism in our industry.
What attracted and motivated you to join the healthcare supply chain management field when you did?
I had a child born with serious health issues and spent many hours in the hospital. While I had never considered healthcare supply chain as a possible career (I was a teacher), I decided then if I were to make a career change, it would be in healthcare as I connected on so many levels with the mission of caring for families and patients.
For what one contribution would you like to be most remembered?
That I raised the level of expectation and appreciation of senior executives and physicians such that Supply Chain is considered to be a critically important partner with them in impacting the cost and improving the quality of care we give to patients.
If you were to encourage people – either outside of healthcare or just out of school – to enter healthcare supply chain management and strive to be a future Bellwether League Inc. Honoree, what would you tell them?
Become really good at the “blocking and tackling” aspects of the supply chain because it is that solid infrastructure, with no weak links, that will power your supply chain innovation and enable you and your team to deliver best-in-class service to those who provide the care for our patients. Search for best practices and never be afraid to embrace and lead change.
What is the one industry challenge you would like to see solved in your lifetime?
Comprehensive adoption of data standards throughout the entire supply chain.
How important is effective and innovative supply chain management during tough economic times?
Those times are when we have the best opportunity to really shine and show the value we can bring to our organizations. If you take advantage of those difficult times to step up and lead, your team will quickly become one of the most critical and important contributors to the success of your organization. What a terrific place to be!
In two sentences or less, what defines healthcare supply chain leadership?
At the very core of leadership, you influence all levels of your organization by creating and articulating a vision for your supply chain and then engaging people to participate with you in achieving that vision.
If you traveled back in time to when you just started in healthcare what would you tell yourself?