Bellwether League, Inc.Peggy Styer

Peggy Styer
Healthcare/Supply Chain Management Experience:

I (nominator Patrick Carroll) met Peggy in 1980 when I moved up to Northern California. I asked several people (suppliers, directors of materials management, administrators) who was the sharpest materials management person in the area, and everyone I talked to mentioned Peggy Styer. We had dinner and discussed supply chain concepts. I came away very impressed and remained so in the intervening 36 years.

While Peggy has been a model of supply chain excellence throughout her long career my focus is towards the early part of her career. In the late 1970s and early 1980s supply chain leadership was not strong and very few women held those roles. Peggy’s excellence was, in my mind, gender-neutral as her critical thinking was exceptional. Perhaps even more importantly, her excellence in planning translated into operational excellence. While at Alta Bates Hospital in the late 1970s and early 1980s she was the second Enterprise Systems Inc. (ESI) installation and met with Founder and CEO Tom Pirelli (Bellwether Class of 2008) to discuss and strategize adding a revenue cycle (then it was called patient charging) to the ESI portfolio. She was also helpful to me, and others, in developing the first Northern California Chapter of AHRMM, then ASHMM.

While it is helpful to be smart, as she is a Phi Beta Kappa, it is even more important to be able to communicate your plans to inspire confidence in colleagues, senior management, subordinates, suppliers, and importantly, clinicians. Certainly ahead of the curve, Peggy understood the significance of relationship management, change management and, most importantly, the intersection of how best to adeptly align and tailor theses skill sets into the operating fabric of all initiatives she was called up to lead. Of all of Peggy’s strengths, and there are many, I believe her exceptional communication skills have served her best, particularly with physicians.

Before it became commonplace, Peggy engaged physicians in discussions about the supply chain, physician preferences, and their practices. She earned their respect not only with her intelligence and breadth of knowledge of supply chain, but her mastery of other areas of healthcare management and her understanding of their problems and challenges. One word that can be used to describe Peggy’s ability to foster enduring relationships (be it physician, senior management and staff) is authenticity. Peggy is recognized and regarded by all (both provider and industry colleagues) as a trusted source. Peggy’s honesty and dedication to serve the organizations she has worked for from a patient centric approach became and stands today as one of Peggy’s signature difference.

Another important attribute demonstrating why Peggy certainly merits Honoree status: Courage. Peggy established herself as a prominent leader during an era of male-dominated leadership in healthcare supply chain, and that was no small mountain to climb. Peggy’s courage to stand tall as a voice of reason, intelligence and advocacy of supply chain contributions in the delivery of healthcare services set the standard for women to follow, which in turn has enriched and enhanced our profession and contributions as Supply Chain leaders. Peggy truly “leaned in” well before it became fashionable.  

A lot of what Peggy accomplished would be considered executing daily operations in today’s environment.  However, she began doing it before the Tax Equalization and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982 when hospitals were largely cost-based reimbursement.

What Peggy accomplished those early days at Alta Bates were sustained and enhanced later in her career at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, St. Joseph Medical Center in Phoenix, independent consulting, consulting for BD Healthcare/Concepts in Healthcare, Catholic Healthcare West/Dignity Health, and Phoenix Children’s Hospital. She has worked internationally as well as a subcontractor to the United States State Department to implement materials management concepts for 86 hospitals in Portugal.

Hall of Fame-worthy accomplishments:

Among Peggy’s accomplishments worthy of “hall of fame” consideration are the following. Many of these activities were considered pioneering based on when they were accomplished.

Industry impact:

Early in her career, virtually everything Peggy was doing was considered leading edge because very few others were doing it or even attempting to do it. As her career progressed she continued to be leading edge in her cultivation of physician relationships integral to supply chain management. Later she partnered with Revenue Cycle for CHW/Dignity Health at a time before most supply chain leaders were involved in revenue cycle.

If you looked at Peggy’s interventions then they would be expectations of a leading supply chain executive today. But even more important is that Peggy was intervening in areas at a time before it became popular or an expectation. In that regard, she helped to redesign the role and the expectations of a leading edge supply chain management.

After Peggy retired from Dignity Health, she joined Phoenix Children’s Hospital as a part-time project manager. Her return-on-investment was 5:1 due to her ability to work with surgeons to reduce implant expense.

Commitment to ethical standards, honesty and integrity:

Peggy has been long regarded as an individual of high ethical standards by her colleagues, subordinates, senior management, physicians and supplier community. Peggy’s quiet demeanor belies her strength of character and conviction. Colleagues, physicians, suppliers, senior management, etc., all regard Peggy with a high level of integrity.

Commitment to mentoring, education, and/or advocacy: 

Mentoring has been part of Peggy’s “standard operating procedure” since her first leadership position at Alta Bates in the late 1970s. She is particularly proud of her mentorship of Jane Beaver, Max Villalobos and Dee Donatelli (Bellwether Class of 2015) to leadership positions in the healthcare supply chain.

Demonstrations of innovation and leadership:

Peggy’s undergraduate degree from UC Davis was in Economics. Starting in the late 1970s she used economic models to rationalize the supply chain at Alta Bates Hospital including centralizing materials management, selecting and implementing the Enterprise Systems’ information systems and collaborating with its founder, Tom Pirelli for revenue cycle applications. She also developed within her staff a customer service approach, which had been lacking.

When Peggy moved to Cedars-Sinai in the early 1980s, she recognized the cost drivers were the physicians. At Cedars-Sinai she engaged physicians in supply chain efforts which were unique and innovative at the time. Peggy was ahead of her time in implementing strategic supply chain models long before they became popular and even accepted.

Peggy has demonstrated consistent and exceptional leadership throughout her career. True leaders not only identify innovative concepts, but are able to “sell” their concepts to their constituents (doctors, senior management, staff, suppliers, etc.).  As witnessed by her long tenure in leadership positions, Peggy has demonstrated her leadership capabilities at an outstanding level for nearly 40 years. This included the following:

Peggy’s degree of influence extends beyond her facilities and her clients (in the consulting role) evidenced by her numerous speaking engagements. Importantly, she donated her vacation time for her mercy missions to Guatemala on behalf of CHW.  Peggy co-led international medical missions to Guatemala that focused on improving the health of the rural poor, educating local caregivers and mothers, and setting up a referral network for patients. For her volunteer efforts CHW recognized and needed her leadership.

Peggy’s numerous speaking engagements have provided evidence of her advocacy. In addition, Peggy served on the editorial board of HPN and board of directors for Healthcare Executive Forum. Her advocacy is best evidenced by the exceptional quality of her work and willingness to share her efforts with colleagues and others.

Application of Hall of Fame-level of knowledge and experience:

Peggy’s implementation of centralized materials management programs nearly 40 years ago showcases her capabilities. She is masterful in all aspects of supply chain and other areas of support services, such as dietary, environmental services and biomedical engineering. Further, Peggy has demonstrated masterful skill in capital planning and acquisition, healthcare finance and revenue cycle.

Professional worthiness

Peggy clearly lived up to her professional reputation as one of the “best” materials management executives in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1980. She was thinking “out of the box” and has continued to do so consistently and effectively for almost 40 years. Peggy’s quiet demeanor may belie her strengths, capabilities and accomplishments. In 2007 noted industry veteran Fred Crans wrote an article in HPN regarding five people he would hire to run his supply chain. One of those people was Peggy Styer. His requirements for a supply chain leader were:

Crans’ comments on Peggy:

“I met Peggy Styer around the same time I met Nick Gaich [Bellwether Class of 2013]. If there is a person who contains all of the elements of the previous four, it would be Peggy. I don’t know exactly how or when I met her, but as the DeRoyal Materials Healthcare Executive Forum was being formed, I actually nominated her, having met her only briefly. Like Afshin [Fatholahi], Peggy is engaging and friendly. Like Nick Gaich, she has worked in immensely complicated organizations and has led project on a scale that cannot be contemplated by the average Supply Chain Executive. Catholic Healthcare West is huge, and huge organizations have a multiplier effect for every challenge. Peggy is one of the very few supply chain leaders I have ever encountered with significant overseas experience. Like Carl Manley [Bellwether Class of 2012], she can get things done, not just think them up. And like Dick Seim, she has that reserve and calm that very few people possess – you know, the folks whose heartbeat slows down in moments of stress.”

In Her Own Words…

What do you think about Bellwether League Inc.’s mission and philosophy and how do you feel about becoming an Honoree?

I am overwhelmed to be honored by an organization that promotes integrity and excellence in our profession while encouraging the next generation of leaders who can elevate supply chain’s contributions and build effective healthcare across the world.

What attracted and motivated you to join the healthcare supply chain management field when you did?

I confess that my entry into hospital materials management, as it was known way back then, was completely by accident. After my husband and I were married, he still had a year to complete his master’s degree at UC Berkeley. I needed a job and responded to an ad for a “storeroom supervisor” at Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley. So it was the luckiest accident of my life!

For what one contribution would you like to be most remembered?

I hope to be remembered by people who worked with me as a mentor who encouraged everyone to keep sharpening their abilities and to openly debate issues from varying perspectives so we could develop the best solution. I also hope that I have imparted the need for integrity and persistence in doing what is right for the organization and society.

If you were to encourage people – either outside of healthcare or just out of school – to enter healthcare supply chain management and strive to be a future Bellwether League Inc. Honoree, what would you tell them?

I would emphasize that despite being in healthcare supply chain for over 40 years, I have learned something new every single work day. In order to be successful, the supply chain professional must be grounded in sound financial and analytical skills and be able to build relationships at all levels of the organization. In order to excel in an environment that changes rapidly due to technological innovation and regulatory mandates, you need to be able to make decisions on “enough” information instead of exhaustive research and second-guessing. Then you need to be able to admit it if you were wrong and move on.

What is the one industry challenge you would like to see solved during your lifetime?

I would be elated if the competing incentives of different U.S. healthcare stakeholders were removed so that we could all focus on providing effective patient care across our communities. 

How important is effective and innovative supply chain management during tough economic times?

Of course, supply chain management rises in importance during times that forces us to do more with less. And, generally, it is easier for the supply chain manager to gain support for change and efficiency during stressful times. However, it is just as important to establish a strong foundation when times are good. Intelligent, evidence-based decisions are always important. We cannot be lazy when the economy is sound. If we want to maintain fiscal health, we have to keep setting the bar higher.

In two sentences or less, what defines healthcare supply chain leadership?

Healthcare supply chain leadership is inspiring excellence and demanding integrity throughout the organization. 

If you traveled back in time to when you just started in healthcare what would you tell yourself?

I would say that I was fortunate to land in the right profession because it provides the environment to rise to meet continuing challenges, enhance critical thinking skills and help society.