Spokane Journal of Business

In challenging times, health care leaders work to spur positivity

Three executives here explain how they support the industry

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In the face of financial strain in the industry exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, three leaders in Spokane’s health care and biosciences industries say they’ve found emphasizing connection is vital for keeping employees motivated, delivering care to patients, and fostering the growth of those industries here.

Alex Jackson, chief executive for the Inland Northwest Region for MultiCare Health System, says he’s kept a strong focus on building and supporting teams within MultiCare to ensure operations run smoothly. 

“The challenges that health care is currently facing cannot be solved by one person, but it will take a collaborative effort of the community,” Jackson says. “Health care is a team industry.”

Facilitating teamwork is a major part of Jackson’s role as a leader.

“One of the things that I don't take lightly is to hire great people and empower those people to lead teams in a meaningful way,” Jackson says.

Most people working in health care are passionate about their work and have something valuable to teach, he says.

“I’ve learned from every single person I’ve worked for,” Jackson says. “I want to make sure I learn every day. Every person has a story that I can learn from if that person has a chance to tell her or his story.”

Marcelo Morales, founder of Allele Diagnostics Inc. and A4Ventures LLC and co-founder of Amend Health Inc., says he views his role in Spokane’s life sciences community as that of player-coach—participating in advancing the industry here as well as advising and investing in the work of others in the industry.

He came to Spokane in 2008 to use his management consulting and science background to lead pharmaceutical manufacturing and packaging company Jubilant HollisterStier as its CEO. Morales founded a few companies here, two of which he still owns, and has become enmeshed in the life sciences community of Spokane. In 2014, he launched private life sciences investment and management group A4Ventures.

“My role is to continue some of the infrastructural momentum we have in life sciences in Spokane,” Morales says.

Morales says he finds it valuable to learn about challenges as much as possible when they arise. Educating himself, observing, and keeping a cool head have helped him through the pandemic, he says. 

“Listen to what’s going on,” Morales says. “Read a ton. Immerse yourself in knowledge. In tumultuous periods like this, try to be steady and not panic.” 

Shelby Stokoe, chief financial officer for the Inland Northwest Washington service area of Providence, says she realized early in her career that she could use her accounting knowledge and skills in health care settings to help her community.

“I inherently like to make a difference, I like to contribute,” Stokoe says.

She’s learned that a calm, upbeat mindset is one of the most valuable tools a health care leader can use.

“Positivity is very important to me as we approach challenges as a team,” Stokoe says. “I’m a big believer that … all problems are solvable.”

That attitude has been especially important for her throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Stokoe says.

“If the finance person is saying doom and gloom, it’s hard for other people to see that as a team we can be successful,” Stokoe says.

Stokoe says that it’s important for hospitals to be able to describe dynamics that impact operations, and that’s where her narrative abilities play a role.

“I consider myself a storyteller,” Stokoe says. “That probably sounds unconventional for a finance and accounting professional.”

Stokoe says that some people feel intimidated when presented with data, and their anxiety can prevent them from understanding the full situation.

“I like to sit with people and explain that the numbers are telling a story,” Stokoe says. “Through that conversation, I become a bit of a translator in helping people connect their work with the (hospital’s) finances.”

Virginia Thomas
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Reporter Virginia Thomas has worked at the Journal since 2017 and covers the health care industry. As a reporter, she loves learning about Spokane's many growing industries. She enjoys traveling with her husband, snuggling with her cats, and cross stitching.

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