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Helen Zak named President and COO of the Healthcare Value Leaders Network

The ThedaCare Center for Healthcare Value and the Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI), are happy to announce the appointment of Helen Zak as president and chief operating officer of the Healthcare Value Leaders Network (HCVLN). In her new role, Zak is responsible for day-to-day operations of the Network, a member organization co-sponsored by LEI and the Center, and focused on improving healthcare delivery through lean thinking.


“We’re excited to have Helen on board,” said John Toussaint, MD, the Center’s president and CEO. “Her unique knowledge about lean, as well as her initiative and leadership, make her a perfect fit for the Network.”

Zak has 25 years of lean experience, most recently as COO of LEI, and has contributed to 12 published works on the topic. Zak also led LEI’s transition from a start-up to the mature business it is today and played a key role in the establishment of the Lean Education Academic Network, the Lean Global Network and the HCVLN itself.

At the HCVLN, Zak will work to further the Network’s lean objectives and expand membership. “We want to become the resource where aspiring lean leaders can learn and connect,” she explained. “We’ve had a great first year, and we hope to grow in North America and internationally. More importantly, we aim to provide a continuum of resources for lean healthcare leaders by creating unique educational experiences and products for our members and the public.”

In describing her new role, Zak said, “Imagine a world in which all healthcare stories are good ones.  Lean can be the real healthcare reform we need to help achieve this ideal state. Our mission is to create change in healthcare via educating and connecting lean leaders.”

John O’Donnell, executive director of the Lean Global Network (LGN), an international network of 17 education and research organizations that includes LEI, will also serve as LEI’s interim COO. Prior to joining LGN, O’Donnell spent 30 years at the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Volpe Center in Cambridge, MA, leading a staff of 160 transportation professionals overseeing a $50 million research portfolio. He also served as program coordinator and research affiliate for MIT’s International Motor Vehicle Program that produced the critically acclaimed book, The Machine That Changed the World.

Zak’s leadership comes at a time when the Network is thriving. Both she and Dr. Toussaint hope to capitalize on that success to spread further awareness of the benefits and cost savings of lean healthcare. Since its creation in June 2009, the Network has seen great success, including:

  • The establishment of two networks consisting of 24 healthcare delivery organizations with a third network in the works.
  • Publication of On the Mend, a book by Dr. Toussaint and Roger Gerard, Ph.D., which describes ThedaCare’s lean journey.
  • The first annual Lean Healthcare Transformation Summit, with more than 200 attendees.

Zak sits on the board of directors of the Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence. She also is an advisor to EdNet and a Steering Committee Member of the Lean Education Academic Network. Zak received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Marquette University and master’s degrees in operations and manufacturing management from Kettering University.

The Healthcare Value Leaders Network was created in June 2009, through a partnership between the Lean Enterprise Institute and the ThedaCare Center for Healthcare Value. This partnership brings together two of the world’s leaders in lean thinking, with a combined 20 years of experience in lean implementation and education. Our combined mission is to fundamentally improve healthcare delivery through lean thinking. It consists of 24 member organizations, all on different points of a lean journey. These diverse organizations include community hospitals, academic medical centers, primary care practices and health systems. For more information, visit the HCVLN website at http://www.healthcarevalueleaders.org/.

The ThedaCare Center for Healthcare Value was created in 2008 by ThedaCare President/CEO Emeritus John Toussaint, MD. The ThedaCare Center for Healthcare Value is working to close the gap between value creation and marketplace reward. Its goal is to create a healthcare marketplace that rewards providers for delivering value measured in terms of optimized quality and cost for patients. The center targets these issues by documenting innovative processes that reduce waste and by transforming healthcare's current culture into one focused on continuous improvement in healthcare. For more information, visit the center website at http://www.createhealthcarevalue.com/.

The Lean Enterprise Institute, Inc. was founded in 1997 as a nonprofit research, education, publishing, and conference company with a mission to advance lean thinking around the world. We teach courses, hold management seminars, write and publish books and workbooks, and organize public and private conferences. We use the surplus revenues from these activities to conduct research projects and to support other lean initiatives such as the Lean Education Academic Network and the Lean Global Network. For more information visit the LEI website at https://www.lean.org.

For More Information:

Nicole Singer

(414) 270-3000, ext. 231