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Nancy Schlichting ’79 named to Modern Healthcare Hall of Fame

An exemplar of unconventional leadership, Nancy Schlichting ’79 will be inducted into the Modern Healthcare Hall of Fame. The acclaimed health system executive and author is an alumnus and longtime supporter of the Sloan Program in Health Administration, now part of the Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy.

“The Cornell Sloan Program, one of the first graduate programs in healthcare administration in the United States, played a key role in my preparation for a wonderful career,” Schlichting said. “I am honored to be inducted, and to follow in the footsteps of Percy Allen, II a fellow Sloan alumnus (’75), who was inducted in 2011.” 

The award is one of the healthcare industry’s most prestigious honors. A partnership between Modern Healthcare, an industry business publication, and the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE), the Hall of Fame inductees have made “outstanding and lasting contributions to the healthcare industry.”

Schlichting joins 112 others already in the Hall of Fame and her name will be included on a plaque at Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia, the nation’s first hospital founded by Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Bond.

She was nominated for the award by two Cornellians, Brooke Hollis ’78 and Joe Tasse ’79.  Both are active in the Sloan Alumni Association and Hollis teaches courses in the program. They highlighted Schlichting’s many contributions to the program’s success, including her service as a mentor to students and her tenure as Executive-in-Residence.

“Sloan has always had outstanding students and faculty, and there has never been a more important time for students to consider a career in healthcare leadership,” Schlichting said. “It is not only extremely meaningful to provide leadership in healthcare, but also incredibly rewarding to work with remarkable people and to serve communities. The pandemic and the focus on healthcare equity have highlighted the critical role of healthcare in our world, and the need for the best leaders to drive needed changes.”  

Schlichting received her undergraduate degree from Duke University and then, at Cornell, her MBA and Sloan Certificate in Hospital and Health Services Administration. That credential is now offered as a Master of Health Administration through the Brooks School. She retired in 2017 after a 35-year career in senior level executive positions at major teaching hospitals and as Chief Executive Officer of the 27,000-employee Henry Ford Health System (HFHS).

She guided the Detroit-based health system through a dramatic financial turnaround and directed award-winning patient safety, customer service and diversity initiatives. Under her leadership, HFHS earned the 2011 Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award. Among her many other distinctions were her roles in the revitalization efforts in the City of Detroit in community development and her chairing President Obama’s Commission on Healthcare in 2015 to strategically organize the Veterans' Health Administration, locate health care resources and deliver care to veterans.

Schlichting authored a well-received book, “Unconventional Leadership,” that described her style of confronting reality and leading headlong through adversity. “Being a woman on the rise in a male-dominated domain and a closeted lesbian running a region of Catholic hospitals are two pieces in a larger puzzle of experiences that made courage and confidence mandatory for me,” she wrote. “They are also a part of why I am considered unconventional – because I’m different and I have come to see that as a major advantage. It has given me the license to depart from business norms and traditions that are no longer effective.”

Modern Healthcare Hall of Fame inductees are formally honored in a ceremony in Chicago during the ACHE Congress on Healthcare Leadership.   

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