Feature Article

UT Southwestern Prism Award

UT Southwestern (“UTSW”) was honored and proud to receive the 2012 non-profit division Prism Award from the ICF- North Texas Chapter. We believe this award recognizes the commitment by UT Southwestern to develop leaders for both the present and future in a rapidly changing healthcare environment. Our challenges are particularly interesting due to our academic mission; i.e., how to maintain our commitment to science and education as we expand our efforts in clinical service and patient care. These challenges will require leadership skills from both faculty and staff that traditionally have not been considered essential parts of their roles.

UT Southwestern Medical Center is one of the premier academic and research institutions in the US with a top 20 Medical School, five Nobel Laureates, a large faculty practice plan and a University Hospital.

In 2004 UTSW decided to place more emphasis on its clinical enterprise and expand its scope into hospital ownership and operations. As part of its key strategy to develop a clinical enterprise, UT Southwestern implemented an innovative and comprehensive leadership development program for faculty and administrative leaders. This program was designed to, and has been successful in, re-defining the roles of administrative and faculty leaders and giving them the education, training and development necessary to manage a “business-like” enterprise (vs. the traditional academic/ research components of the University). It may be the only one of its kind within a medical school based academic medical center.

The UT Southwestern leadership development program is innovative and makes extensive use of coaching in order to anchor the learning:

  1. Coaching is an integral part of the on-boarding (new hire orientation/ assimilation) process for newly hired or promoted middle and senior administrative and medical leaders.
  2. UT Southwestern has partnered with the University of Texas at Dallas to establish a customized on-site Masters in Management degree program (now in its second cohort), designed specifically for high-potential administrative and physician leaders at UT Southwestern. As part of the program, all first year students (25 this year) receive 7 months of executive coaching aimed at developing the leadership skills taught in the Masters Program.
  3. A new Program for “Aspiring Leaders” has been established for those deemed capable and desiring to move into a management role. The program includes work with a coach for 12 months.
  4. All hospital managers at UT Southwestern have been assigned a coach to assist them with their ongoing development as leaders.
  5. The VP for Human Resources at UT Southwestern is personally coaching several internal leaders, including new hire executives and department chairs, high-potential leaders, physicians, and minorities in leadership roles.
  6. The VP for Human Resources completed the UT Dallas Graduate Certificate in Executive and Professional Coaching and is an ICF ACC credentialed coach. He has also received executive coaching (from an MCC coach) as part of his development as an expert coach since 2008.
  7. These coaching initiatives are part of a comprehensive leadership development initiative which includes several training programs and makes use of various assessment tools such as the DiSC, the Winslow, the Thomas-Kilman Conflict Inventory, and 360 degree feedback instruments.
  8. Physicians will play increasingly important roles in leading healthcare delivery (and addressing healthcare reform); as such UT Southwestern is seeking to develop their skills as managers and leaders. Skills training alone, however, is not sufficient to develop the new competencies. Therefore, executive coaching has been included as a critical aspect of their development as leaders.
  9. Moving up in the ranks and/or joining a new organization is often a difficult process. UT Southwestern has decided to provide executive coaching to leaders in new roles to help them orient to and assimilate into their new roles and cultures.

As a result of these efforts, we have accomplished several important outcomes:

  • Patient Satisfaction scores as measured on a national Press-Ganey survey have steadily increased, especially with respect to provider satisfaction. The UTSW clinics have risen in rank from the 70th percentile in 2005 to above the 90th percentile in overall satisfaction in 2011, and its hospitals have improved from ranking in the teens to current rank in the 80th and 99th percentiles.
  • The University Hospitals’ financial performance has significantly improved from a loss of nearly a million dollars a week in 2005, to significant profitability in 2010 and 2011.
  • Three promotions have occurred among those in the Masters Program.
  • Although still relatively new, the various coaching initiatives have been well-received by the “clients” and they have quickly gained new insights into their leadership styles and opportunities for improvement. Several of the physician leaders have reported, and their supervisors have commented that their interpersonal skills have dramatically improved and they are more effective in their roles.
  • There has been no turnover of new leaders who have received the on-boarding coaching (previously the organization had experienced significant turnover and difficulty adapting among the new leaders)

Coaching has played an integral part in the development of our staff and leaders, and will continue to be essential to our evolution as a top tier academic medical center. We are just now beginning to see the tangible effects of coaching on our organization and look forward to being a role model for other similar organizations.


William (Bill) Behrendt, PhD, ACC, currently serves as Vice President for Human Resources at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, where he is responsible for all “people” issues at the Medical School, and its University Hospitals and Clinics. Prior to coming to Dallas in 2003, Dr. Behrendt served as Vice President for Human Resources for CareGroup Health System and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston Massachusetts. He previously held the role of Senior Vice President for Human Resources at the BJC Healthcare System in St. Louis, Missouri. He also served as President of Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital in St. Louis.

Dr. Behrendt earned a B.S. in Psychology from Tulane University in New Orleans, and his PhD in Clinical Psychology from Washington University in St. Louis, and completed a psychology internship at UT Southwestern in Dallas. He is also a graduate of the Certificate in Executive Coaching Program at University of Texas at Dallas, and an Associate Certified Coach member of the International Coach Federation.