Kelly Braverman: Zionsville Resident Named President/CEO of Witham Health Services
This month we are pleased to feature, on our last cover of 2021, Zionsville resident Kelly Braverman, who officially began her duties as Witham Health Services’ new president and CEO at the beginning of December. Braverman succeeds the esteemed Dr. Raymond Ingham after 24 years at the helm.
Witham’s Board of Trustees selected Braverman as Ingham’s successor based on her unique skills, knowledge and passion to lead Witham’s future success in the complex, ever-changing health care industry—especially amid a global pandemic.
A Background in Health Care Administration
Braverman graduated from Indiana University with a Bachelor of Science in recreational therapy and a Master of Health Administration. She also holds many other certificates in health administration and is board certified in health care management as a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives.
In 2003, Braverman became special assistant to the CEO of IU Health and worked on operational planning and management of IU Health system, later holding the position of vice president of operations for the general medical and surgical center at three academic hospitals. She was also the COO of University Hospital. Her 18 years in these positions at IU Health culminated in the most recent position of president of IU Health, Frankfort.
At the start of her career, Braverman found helping patients to be very satisfying.
“I also found myself gravitating toward leading projects and found that was also pretty satisfying,” Braverman shared. “I liked the projects that ended up making things easier for the teammates that I had, and I started paying a different level of attention to the directors, managers and leaders that were around me. I realized that they all had different [leadership styles] and ways of communicating as well. I had the opportunity, at a young age, to be exposed to the importance of leadership and the impact that it can have on people around them.”
Developing Leadership Skills
After earning a Master of Health Administration, Braverman’s career began to focus more on that part of the health care industry.
“Because of those early exposures I mentioned, I feel like I focused a lot on how to treat people, and by doing that well or trying to do that well, you have a great team as a result of that because they also care about how they treat people. There’s always hard conversations and hard choices. How you deliver that message and how you make someone feel when you deliver that message is really important.”
Braverman shared a particular special chapter in her professional story and the lessons she learned from one of her mentors. She has continued to implement those throughout her career.
“I had a job in grad school when I was going through a master’s program,” Braverman said. “My boss was Thomas DeCoster, PhD. I still remember our first meeting—I had a notebook and was taking notes. I had at least two pages’ worth of expectations that he had of me. I’m sure my eyes were big as I was thinking about how I was going to do all of this through grad school. As I stood up to leave and thanked him [DeCoster], he said, ‘Oh no, please sit down. I’m not done yet.’ And I thought, ‘Oh my, what have I done?’ I sat down, and he said, ‘Now, I need to tell you what you can expect of me.’”
Braverman continued, “He shared that we were a team and that he was going to work just as hard investing in me and my development. He was going to help make me successful. We sat there for an even longer amount of time, and I have never left a meeting feeling so invested in and so appreciated. So, I try really hard in my professional life to invest back into my teams, helping them develop and grow.”
Building Her Own Legacy
When asked if the culture of excellence and service that Witham is known for is one of the reasons why Braverman accepted her current position, she replied, “The [culture] was absolutely the driving factor in my accepting this position. Without exception, every single person with whom I’ve spoken with or interviewed with during the [hiring] process consistently and proactively discussed why they covet the culture.”
Braverman plans on building upon the foundation from which her predecessor, Dr. Raymond Ingham, built his legacy.
“Ray did a fantastic job and was so involved in the [Boone County] community,” Braverman expressed. “He was out there seeking input and guidance, and I think that’s part of the foundation of Witham’s success. The whole [Witham] team has been so successful under Ray’s leadership because they understand what the community needs, what’s going on, and that’s a really solid baseline that will be very important for me to continue to build from.”
The Challenges of Being a County Hospital During COVID-19
County hospitals face any number of challenges when not navigating through a global pandemic. Braverman shared some of the specific and immediate challenges that Witham Health Services faces as a result of the ongoing pandemic—the greatest challenge being workforce shortages.
“Yes, the pandemic has changed a lot of things [in the health care industry], but what has not changed is Witham’s commitment to providing exceptional care,” Braverman emphasized. “That is at the forefront of all the decisions that have been made and we are making. We care about our patients and we want to continue that high level of care regardless of the pandemic.”
Braverman shared one aspect that has changed is the general public’s understanding of “diversion” and how that affects the hospitals and patients.
“It’s rather unfortunate, but [diversion] has become a more common reality within hospital emergency departments,” Braverman stated. “At the most basic level, diversion is initiated because a hospital can’t temporarily provide a certain type of care. Before the pandemic, diversion was often initiated because of something technical, like a broken CT scan, and typically the hospital would have it back up and running within a number of hours.”
Since the pandemic, and often because hospitals don’t have enough employees on a shift and don’t have enough inpatient beds, hospitals throughout Central Indiana have been on diversion for much longer time periods. Additionally, hospitals have been putting patients in beds in emergency department hallways after being admitted due to a lack of available inpatient beds—a practice that is known as “boarding.”
“I personally know that our nurses are spending hours cold-calling every hospital they can to see who is accepting patients who have been waiting for hours,” Braverman stated. “That persistence speaks to the dedication of our nurses that they have for our patients. The pandemic has been hard because of COVID-19 itself, but it’s also been hard because many in our coveted health care professions—especially those closest to retirement age—are saying they can’t do this anymore and are burned out. These are some of the things that the pandemic is doing [to the health care industry] right now, and if we could have fewer patients with COVID-19, we would have those opportunities to serve people that are presenting non-COVID-19 symptoms.”
A silver lining in all of this is the fact that Witham Health Services consistently receives stellar reviews from many of its patients—another testament to Witham’s impeccable reputation for excellent customer service.
“I’ve got to be honest. Witham has some of the highest patient satisfaction scores I have ever seen,” Braverman said with sincerity. “This is not conjecture—these are the numbers.”
Braverman explained that she will continue to work closely with the board of trustees, administrators and staff as she continues her acclimation into the new year. Braverman added, “In short, I will be working with them to gain an understanding of our strengths and how we’re able to leverage them better.”
The Work/Life Balance
Braverman lives in Zionsville with her spouse, Michael, and two sons, Parker and Oliver. She is deeply involved in United Schools of Indianapolis, is an officer of the Indiana Healthcare Executive Network and serves as ACHE Regent for Indiana.
“I have the absolute pleasure of being mom to two amazing boys,” Braverman shared. “Both of them love playing sports, and so when my husband and I are not at work, we find ourselves dividing and conquering to and from practices, sitting on benches at games, cheering on our kids. Lives have chapters, and the chapter we’re in right now is busy and chaotic, but I absolutely love it.”