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Graduating Cohort of Baldrige Fellows Tackle Real-Time Leadership Challenges, Explore Best Practices

Fifteen senior leaders recently joined more than 125 other executives as graduates of the Baldrige Executive Fellows Program. During the leadership development program, the Fellows explored all aspects of leadership through the lens of the Baldrige Excellence Framework, the world’s gold standard for performance excellence.

This cohort began its fellowship in March 2020—just as the COVID pandemic was shutting down travel opportunities and disrupting life and work. The program and participants quickly pivoted to virtual sessions and extended the fellowship to two years when travel was deemed safe and hybrid options could be offered.

The 2020-2021 cohort of Baldrige Fellows explored how world-class organizations—Baldrige Award recipients—and their senior leaders achieve performance excellence and stimulate innovation. Baldrige Fellows compared and contrasted leadership strategies from across sectors, and they sought solutions and best practices that helped them emerge with a broader perspective on role-model leadership characteristics; strategic planning; workforce and customer support and engagement; innovation; integration of processes, plans, resources, and goals; and knowledge/data management/measurement of the right things—all to achieve an organization’s desired results.

Interactive sessions on visionary leadership, operational intelligence, and leading for engagement included visits to Baldrige Award recipient organizations Southcentral Foundation in Anchorage, AK, with Stellar Solutions; the City of Fort Collins, CO, with Donor Alliance and Elevations Credit Union; and The Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City, with GBMC HealthCare, as well as virtual sessions and tours. This included the virtual Quest for Excellence® Conference in 2021. The Fellows also explored specific issues in-depth, such as communities of excellence; cybersecurity; and diversity, equity, and inclusion.

In addition, between sessions, the 2020-2021 Baldrige Fellows continued to work on their individual capstone projects, which addressed a strategic need within each of their organizations. During each session, they reported on progress and sought input and advice from Baldrige Award recipient leaders, Baldrige Executive Fellows faculty, and one another. At the end of the program, capstone presentations showcased each Baldrige Fellow’s progress and next steps to benefit organizations.

Several Baldrige Fellows alumni spoke with the Fellows and presented their capstone projects on topics that ranged from communities of excellence and re-imagining population health, to alignment and integration, strategic planning and scorecards, employee retention and engagement, and continuous improvement.

Throughout the program, the Baldrige Fellows developed a peer network of executives to tap into now and into the future as a way to continue to build the knowledge and capabilities necessary for ongoing organizational success.

Following is the 2020-2021 cohort of Baldrige Executive Fellows:

  • Jennifer Abele, Chief Medical Officer, Sibley Memorial Hospital
  • John Brennan, President and CEO, Children’s Health System of Texas–UT Southwestern Joint Pediatric Enterprise
  • Dolan Dalpoas, President and CEO, Lincoln Memorial Hospital
  • Will Daniel, Vice President for Health System Affairs, Chief Quality Officer, UT Southwestern Medical Center
  • Victoria Dune-Chari, Assistant Vice President, Innovation & Excellence, Kennestone, Windy Hill, AMC & AMC South Hospitals
  • Jennifer Eslinger, President, Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital
  • Keith Everett, Chief Executive Officer, Hospice of Acadiana
  • Debra Fox, Vice President, Surgical Services & Hospital Medicine, AtlantiCare Health System
  • Kevin Lee, Chief Organ Operations Officer, Mid-America Transplant
  • Margaret Ozan Rafferty, Assistant Professor and Undergraduate Director–Health Administration Program, Loyola University Chicago
  • Diane Reidy-Lagunes, Associate Deputy Physician in Chief, Clinical Operations, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
  • Colleen Sullivan, Director of Public Affairs and Donor Family Services, Center for Organ Recovery & Education (CORE)
  • Natalie Michelle Tierney, Vice President Organizational Development and Innovation, Southcentral Foundation
  • Cinderella Tollefsen, Chief Executive Officer, Alaska Health Services, LLC
  • Hidde van Hoeven, Vice President, Global Sales & Marketing, Hypertherm, Inc.

The 2020-2021 Baldrige Fellows join the ranks of other executives* who completed the Baldrige Executive Fellows Program.

Since its inception in 2010, the Baldrige Executive Fellows Program has been recognized for being among the best U.S. and global continuing-education programs for leadership development. Find out how to apply to become a Baldrige Fellow.

In conjunction with NIST and the private sector, the Baldrige Program manages the Baldrige Award, which was named after Malcolm Baldrige, the 26th Secretary of Commerce, and established by Congress in 1987. The Baldrige Program promotes innovation and excellence in organizational performance, recognizes the achievements and results of U.S. organizations, and publicizes successful performance strategies. The Baldrige Program also offers the 2021–2022 Baldrige Excellence Framework: Proven leadership and management practices for high performance, which includes the regularly revised and world-emulated Criteria for Performance Excellence. 

The Baldrige Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, supports the long-term financial growth and viability of the Baldrige Program and organizational performance excellence in the United States and throughout the world. 

*Titles and organizations were current at the time of graduation.

Released July 28, 2022, Updated April 14, 2023