Forward Thinking

The UVA Health Leadership Institute takes off. 


With the strategic goals of cultivating the next generation of leaders in academic medicine and continuing to advance the organization as a best place to work, UVA Health has launched an ambitious new initiative: the UVA Health Leadership Institute (HLI). In this Q&A, we explore its genesis and ambitions featuring key voices spearheading the HLI, including Jason Lineen, chief strategy officer for UVA Health; C. Michael Valentine (Med ’84), MD, MACC, general cardiology professor of medicine, and senior director of this endeavor; Susan Pollart (Med ’82), MD, MS, FAAFP, senior associate dean for faculty affairs and faculty development at UVA School of Medicine and the Ruth E. Murdaugh Professor of Family Medicine; and Brian Hunter (Col ’01), the Leadership Institute’s newly appointed executive director. The HLI will shape the future of executive leadership in academic medicine, setting a benchmark nationally and globally.

It is the beginning of an exciting journey for UVA Health, supported by an unwavering commitment to its mission of “transforming health and inspiring hope for all Virginians and beyond.” 

three people sit around a table talking

Q: How will the Leadership Institute support UVA Health’s strategic vision to be the nation’s leading public academic health system and best place to work? And what was the impetus for this idea? 

Jason Lineen: Similar to all other components of UVA Health’s new 10-year strategic plan, we have an extremely bold vision for the newly launched HLI. First and foremost, we want to cultivate and develop the next generation of outstanding leaders from within UVA Health. Achieving our vision of becoming “the nation’s leading public academic health system and a best place to work” will require exceptional leadership across all four of our mission areas—patient care, research, education, and community. UVA Health is rapidly expanding in these areas, creating many opportunities for new leaders to serve in meaningful roles. 

Second, through collaboration with leaders and luminary faculty across Grounds including, but not limited to, Darden School of Business, McIntire School of Commerce, and Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, we see an incredible opportunity to build and grow HLI into the nation’s preeminent leadership development program for administrators and clinicians aspiring to become health system C-suite leaders. This leadership development program will train the next generation of health system executives who will lead these complex and rapidly changing organizations in the 21st century. Most importantly, UVA and UVA Health have incredible expertise to develop a nationally recognized program. 

Q: Dr. Mike Valentine and Dr. Susan Pollart: What were your backgrounds and roles in developing and executing this concept? 

Dr. Valentine: I was fortunate to be involved in similar leadership development programs at the American College of Cardiology and Centra Health in Lynchburg. During our planning process here, we heard from many people that they needed career development, mentorship, and leadership programs to help them progress. So, we looked at what UVA had to offer— not only do we have a renowned health system, but we also have the renowned Darden School of Business, McIntire School of Commerce, and Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. So, we started discussing leadership programs to help our employees build their careers and partner with the strengths across Grounds. The response was overwhelmingly positive. 

Dr. Pollart: We’re always in learning mode as team members at an educational institution. My colleagues and I have participated in local, regional, and national leadership programs, giving us a strong background for moving forward with the Leadership Institute. My experiences have been in the discipline of family medicine and in professional development programs offered by the Association of American Medical Colleges, where I have taught in their early-career women’s development seminar since 2016, and the Healthcare Executive Diversity and Inclusion Certificate (HEDIC) program since its inception in 2013. I also teach at the Drexel University Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine (ELAM) and Executive Leadership in Healthcare (ELH programs), renowned women’s leadership programs that have been highly successful in preparing women for leadership roles in healthcare and academic medicine. Through work in these programs, I’ve seen women grow from early-career faculty members to department chairs and deans. 

Q: Brian Hunter, please tell us about your experience, what brought you here, and your vision for this program?

Brian: I fell in love with this community and the University as an undergraduate here at UVA, and I’m thrilled to be back in Charlottesville. I spent the last 11-plus years working in strategy and business development at UNC Health, so I was particularly excited about leveraging my background to develop UVA Health’s Leadership Institute.

As Jason and Dr. Valentine mentioned, the institute’s vision is to cultivate future leaders from within. It will help to make UVA a place where we can attract and retain top talent and ultimately become nationally recognized for this program. 

Jason: Rapidly launching and expanding the HLI is a strategic imperative for UVA Health. We are fortunate to have Dr. Valentine and Dr. Pollart working with us, as they have exceptional physician leadership experience. Additionally, we recently completed a highly competitive national search to find an executive director for the HLI. We’re thrilled that Brian Hunter has joined us, and he has quickly hit the ground running. I also want to highlight a key team member, Liza Khutsishvili, who has joined as a recent McIntire alumna. A distinguished graduate, Liza has international work experience and an entrepreneurial drive that have helped shape the HLI launch. 

Q: Who is participating in this program, and what are their career development goals and interests? 

Jason: UVA Health has grown rapidly in recent years with multiple hospital acquisitions and new strategic alliances across the commonwealth. Our new Leadership Institute is one of many ways we are building the “One UVA Health” culture throughout a growing statewide enterprise. The HLI is a system-wide initiative that has been designed to bring cross-functional teams (from clinicians to administrators to researchers and beyond) together to learn leadership skills relevant to the academic healthcare environment. A testament to the enthusiasm for this new program, we had an incredible response with over 250 applicants for our inaugural HLI cohort. The individuals who applied are early- to mid-careerists that span all aspects of UVA Health— from clinicians in our emergency department at Prince William Medical Center to faculty members in our Schools of Medicine and Nursing to Claude Moore Health Sciences Library staff to University Medical Center and University Physicians Group (UPG) nurses, managers, and many more. They will learn more about our institution, build connections with colleagues across UVA Health, and develop their leadership competencies. 

Dr. Pollart: It was a challenge narrowing the field of applicants and selecting the first cohort members! For example, we had many outstanding applicants pursuing advanced degrees, and we hoped they would finish those programs and bring that learning to a future HLI cohort. We also considered individuals’ careers, how they had advanced, and where they saw themselves in five years. 

five people sit looking at a computer

Q: How are you collaborating with the various partners across the University? 

Jason: The HLI advisory council is helping to oversee and shape all aspects of the Leadership Institute. It includes clinical and administrative executives from UVA Health and exceptional thought leaders from Batten, Darden, and McIntire. We are so fortunate to have the opportunity to collaborate across Grounds to tap into such eminence on the topic of leadership development. We would not have been able to make such great progress without the guidance and contributions of our advisory council. 

Dr. Pollart: We’ve talked with our partners about the importance of healthcare leadership in this country. Each of these groups brings to that conversation ways we might connect and thoughts about the UVA Health Leadership Institute. This collaboration may also help develop ideas for new programs, seminars, or workshops. It strengthens the potential of all of us to be united under this umbrella. 

Q: What are your plans for expanding this program in the future? 

Dr. Valentine: We are planning many cohorts in the future, but it was essential to get the first one off the ground and build from there. Although we could only accommodate around 25% of the individuals who applied, we are engaging all applicants with other opportunities. 

Dr. Pollart: When we launched the program, we determined that there are times we should bring people with different disciplines together for a program and other times when we could aggregate individuals by their area of specialty due to the unique nature of those specialties. That will be something we will move toward in the future. There are many amazing possibilities to build this program. 

We have our internal view of this program, but donors and corporate partners could help us think about what else is possible—things we haven’t considered. So, we look forward to connecting with them to build a more robust institute. 

Jason: This is where visionary donors and partners who are passionate about this program could help us expand. Our aim is to build a nationally renowned leadership development program for aspiring health system C-suite leaders. There is a wide range of opportunities for potential donors interested in supporting the Leadership Institute’s expansion—from sponsoring lectureship series to funding entire cohorts and beyond. We envision programming that will include highly customized tracks focused on various professional backgrounds, including nursing, administrative, physician, and more. 

In addition to philanthropic support, we are meeting with a wide range of distinguished UVA alumni with significant leadership experience outside of healthcare to glean insights and leadership lessons that can be applied to the hospital sector. 

Q: Could you describe the experiential learning components of this program? 

Dr. Valentine: The students have capstone projects in a variety of fascinating areas. Not only are they learning, developing, and growing our culture, but they will be helping us solve some of the significant challenges in our health system. 

We also see the multiple levels of development opportunities, including lectureships and partnerships with the Darden, McIntire, and Batten Schools. 

Q: Please tell us your thoughts on leading this program. 

Brian: It’s the art of the possible. We will learn from the first cohort and other experts who study and teach leadership. Our faculty are preeminent leaders and will help us evolve the curriculum, programs, offerings, and services. The potential is incredible. As Jason noted, we have a tremendous advisory council with broad representation from across Grounds and the health system guiding our efforts. We know some strong candidates weren’t chosen for the first cohort, but we aim to keep them engaged and provide additional learning opportunities. 

Dr. Valentine: We also met with one of our advisory council members, Gabrielle Adams, an associate professor at the Darden and Batten Schools; she brought a perspective about how to train people and get them engaged through the Darden/Batten lens of leadership. So, I think this cross-collaboration will make us much more effective. 

Q: What kind of commitment is it for the students, and how will they balance the program with their current work obligations? 

Dr. Valentine: We are looking for committed leaders, and we were pleased to see the support from their managers and supervisors. This is an eight-month program with two all-day and six half-day sessions. We supply them with a wealth of reading materials and lots of engagement outside of the classroom. It is student-centered learning involving casework, problem-solving, and learning through collaboration. 

Q: What are your final thoughts? 

Dr. Valentine: This initiative has gained the full support of the top leadership at UVA Health, the Board of Visitors, Dr. Kent, and our entire leadership team at UVA Health. They’re incredibly excited and supportive, which is why we’ve made significant progress. We hope our generous, visionary UVA supporters will help us on this vital journey. With their support and vision, we will make this a world-class, innovative healthcare leadership institute. 

Jason: Peter Drucker, one of the most influential thinkers in the field of management and leadership in the 20th century, once said, “Healthcare organizations are the most complex human organizations ever derived.” The U.S. hospitals and health systems need exceptionally talented leaders to navigate the challenges and opportunities ahead in the 21st century. UVA has the right ingredients to build a world-class leadership development program for UVA Health team members and beyond. Ultimately, our vision is for UVA to be nationally recognized as the training ground for future healthcare leaders.

Meet members of the first cohort from the UVA Health Leadership Institute

Learn more about the UVA Health Leadership Institute and how you can support this vital program by contacting Ashley Cullop, Principal Gift Officer, UVA Health Development, at or call us at 434.924.8432 or 800.297.0102.