Q&A: Sarah Patterson, Executive Director of the Virginia Mason Institute

The local health care leader has been with Virginia Mason Institute since 1984

This article appears in the May 2018 issue. Click here for a free subscription.

Tell us what your company does and what attracted you to this business.

Virginia Mason Institute provides lean training, coaching and solution-based products to organizations worldwide to improve patient safety, quality and efficiency. We strive to deliver training that inspires, prepares and guides health care professionals and others, and helps organizations solve their most urgent and persisting problems. 

As a 30-plus year health care leader, I am passionate about helping health care organizations change how they do their work in order to dramatically improve their patients’ and team members’ lives.

I joined Virginia Mason in 1984 and have held numerous leadership roles with the health system. I was the executive accountable for the health system’s initial implementation of its innovative management system, the Virginia Mason Production System (VMPS), and its progressive approach to improving health care in the early 2000s.

In 2016, I transitioned from executive vice president and chief operating officer of Virginia Mason to executive sensei (teacher) at the institute. I was named executive director of the Virginia Mason Institute in January, after having served as interim executive director since July 2017.

What book/TV show/podcast are you reading/watching/listening to and why?

I love watching the Netflix series Stranger Things. The cast is outstanding and features many very talented young actors as well as veterans.

What’s your favorite spot in Seattle?

Not sure if it’s a “spot” but I love being on a plane flying in to Sea-Tac Airport and seeing Puget Sound, the Olympics and Mount Rainier out the window. I always feel so incredibly lucky to be in this little corner of the world.

What kind of car do you drive and why?

I drive an Audi Q5 SUV. It is a great car for getting to the mountains and taking our sports equipment. It has lots of pep and handles really well. It also has a fantastic panoramic sunroof for stargazing.

Tell us something people don’t know about you.

I grew up in Boston but people won’t believe me when I tell them because I don’t have a Boston accent. I think Boston and Seattle have many similarities, with the exception of the accent!

Also, as part of my work, I have toured factories that manufacture cars, pianos, motorcycles, mattresses, jet engines, heavy equipment and electronic components. Each time I could see that the same concepts used in manufacturing can be applied to improve health care processes. 

What are you passionate about outside of work?

My husband and I love hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing, and escaping to the Methow Valley to do all of these things.

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