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CMO Henderson’s quality quest leads to national honor

Published on Monday, March 14, 2016

By: Ruth Cummins

Published in News Stories on March 14, 2016

Dr. Michael Henderson usually begins his workday before dawn, getting an early start on his passion: ramping up safety and quality outcomes for every person cared for at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

With a performance improvement team he formed since coming to the Medical Center a year ago, Henderson is making strides in combating the perennial challenge of reducing patient harm and promoting transparency.

Known internationally for his expertise in health-care quality improvement, it's no wonder Henderson has been named one of the nation's “100 Hospital and Health System Chief Medical Officers to Know” by Becker's Hospital Review, a source of cutting-edge business and legal information for health-care industry leaders.

“This recognition is important to UMMC and the team we have put in place in the CMO office,” said Henderson, a native of Edinburgh, Scotland, whose gentle accent gives him away. “Together, we are all making a difference by improving care for our patients.”

“We're fortunate to have Dr. Henderson as our CMO.  He has a track record as an outstanding physician and surgeon,” said Dr. Charles O'Mara, professor of surgery and associate vice chancellor for clinical affairs. “He also brings rich experience from a renowned institution, Cleveland Clinic, where he was a pioneer in developing safe environments for high quality patient care.


“In his first year at UMMC, he has defined and clearly communicated the path for us to provide high quality, patient-centered care for those we treat. He has brought together a strong and talented team of individuals to help in accomplishing this goal.”

Becker's says the CMOs singled out for recognition “exhibit dedication to clinical leadership and have contributed to establishing standards of excellence at their respective organizations.” Nominations were considered, and leaders were selected through an editorial review process.

Henderson and his team have honed in on areas from reducing infection rates through increased hand hygiene to cutting the rate of errors in the operating room. In his quest to boost the Medical Center's ratings on national hospital safety scorecards, Henderson also sets the bar for decreasing rates of mortality, enhancing the individual patient experience, and reducing patient readmissions that occur 30 days or fewer after discharge.

Henderson spent five years as chief quality officer at Cleveland Clinic, where he also served as chairman of the quality and patient safety institute and was a professor of surgery, before beginning his current appointment in March 2015. He is a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh and fellow of the American College of Surgeons, which he served as chair of its advisory committee on national surgical quality improvement.

Lisa Didion

“Dr. Henderson's ability to define a clear, prioritized quality vision has been paramount for UMMC,” said Dr. Lisa Didion, associate professor of pediatrics and one of Henderson's team members. “Our goals are clear, not only to leadership, but to all staff. He has garnered the support of leadership and the engagement of the front-line staff simultaneously.” 

Henderson is a hepatobiliary and transplant surgeon by trade. He performed his first liver transplant at Emory University Hospital, and several years later put together a transplant center at Cleveland Clinic, overseeing all clinical transplant programs. “It stimulated me to get involved in the transplant field nationally,” he said.

Using a dyad model of physician leaders paired with administrative experts in their fields, Henderson is developing an overall plan to close performance gaps. One example is an infection-fighting duo: Lisa Lathem, director of infection prevention, paired with Dr. Skip Nolan, professor of infectious diseases and director of the Division of Infectious Diseases.

Henderson's staff each Monday posts a “quality update” on the Clinical Intranet, an in-house newsfeed for clinical employees, that gives employees monthly numbers on patient safety indicators, hospital acquired infections, reported harm events, patient satisfaction, patient  readmissions and hand hygiene. A chart for each shows baseline performance, current performance and the Medical Center's performance goal.


“Dr. Henderson offers both the passion and the experience necessary to convince UMMC that positive, transformational change is possible,” said team member Dr. Phyllis Bishop, professor of pediatrics and chief quality and patient safety officer. “To me, it is his confidence that makes him so successful as a leader: confidence in himself, confidence in his strategy for improvement and confidence in the people whom he leads. He is a complete package -- an optimist with a plan.”

To his team, Henderson is more than a boss who stresses accountability in patient care.

“His mentorship has been invaluable for me,” Didion said. “I am in the early stages of a career in the quality arena. I feel very fortunate.”

UMMC, Henderson says, is “a great place, great people, and like all health-care systems, there is work to do in patient safety, quality and outcomes. Together we are making a difference by improving care for our patients.”