Award-winning Instructor’s Passion for Health Quality Is Infectious

“GW has always been a part of my life,” Deneen Richmond, MHA often tells her students. Richmond took her first breaths at George Washington University (GW) Hospital’s maternity ward. The hospital was located across the street from its present location on 23rd Street when Richmond was born, and it hadn’t yet moved when she began working there as a newly minted nurse with a BSN. Richmond went on to earn her Masters in Health Administration (MHA) from GW, studying part-time while she cared for patients with HIV/AIDS at a time when scant information existed regarding how the disease was spread and how caregivers could be protected.

“I always knew I wanted to be able to combine my ability to care with my interest in administration and having a larger impact,” says Richmond. Her career over the past 25 years attests that she has achieved that goal on an impressive scale. Her first position as a health administrator was at GW, and she served in a number of different healthcare organizations in DC, Maryland and Virginia before landing at her current position as the vice president for Quality & Performance Improvement at Inova, Northern Virginia’s leading not-for-profit health system. Since 2014, Richmond has also been influencing the next generations of health administrators as an adjunct instructor for the GW Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH).

This spring, Richmond received the Milken Institute SPH’s Excellence In Teaching Masters Level Online award, thanks to nominations from students in the school’s MHA@GW program. The testaments to her profound impact read at this year’s commencement ceremony included these observations: "Professor Richmond is extremely invested in ensuring that the students in her class can understand and apply quality improvement principles in a real-world healthcare environment. She makes students with no quality improvement knowledge feel comfortable with the subject matter. She prepares thoroughly for each class and includes examples of class lessons from the Inova Health System. She is extremely willing to give of her personal time to support students to advance their career opportunities or to solve current quality-related issues in their full-time employment positions. She supports the MHA program by attending MHA@GW immersion dinners and presentations."

The quality bug
Richmond’s focus on healthcare quality and compliance dates back to her days as a graduate student. As part of her nursing position with the university’s Department of Health Care Sciences, she was tapped to work on the university’s early Total Quality Management (TQM) strategic planning initiative. What she learned from her work on the initiative resonated with what she was studying in her MHA program. This inspired her to invest time studying the industrial concepts described by the master management theorist W. Edwards Deming—whose work with Toyota and other Japanese industries was credited with playing a key role in the “Japanese post-war economic miracle”—which were at the time being translated into the health administration arena.

Over the years, Richmond’s achievements have included helping the Baltimore Medical System close up gaps in compliance within the community they served, such as children who didn’t have their childhood immunizations by age 2. At the National Committee for Quality Assurance, she facilitated the consensus-building needed to create the nation’s first results-driven quality accreditation system. Her efforts to maximize staff performance at the Delmarva Foundation, where she was the executive director for the Delmarva Foundation for the District of Columbia, doubled the percentage of staff indicating it was “the best place to work” to 100 percent.

As the vice president for Quality and Care Management for Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, Md., from 2007 to 2009, she restructured systems and implemented change that led to significant improvements in the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services core measures and patient experiences. And for Inova, her current employer, she is a key executive leader for the development and ongoing oversight of quality and patient safety, facilitating a number of initiatives that have significantly decreased patient harm and led to better patient outcomes, as well as improved employees’ perceptions of the patient safety culture, making it a better workplace. She also earned awards from Modern Healthcare and the National Association of Health Service Executives along the way.

“Do no harm is a defining mandate for those who devote their lives to caring for others’ health,” Richmond says. “Healthcare is inherently a high risk industry, and there are so many ways we can perfect the way we deliver care to achieve the outcomes that we want and decrease errors.” One of the reasons she believes that this is an exciting time to be in healthcare administration is because of the focus on value-based healthcare and the need to understand the intersection between quality, cost, and the patient experience. Learn more about why she believes that now is an exciting time for healthcare administrators here.

“GWU is fortunate to have a faculty member such as Deneen Richmond,” says Kurt J. Darr, JD, MHA, ScD, who co-taught the MHA@GW program’s inaugural quality and performance improvement course with Richmond. Darr is widely respected for his success in translating W. Edwards Deming’s concepts into the health administration arena. He has been one of the authors of a key textbook on this subject, Managing Health Services Organizations and Systems, since 1985. The sixth edition came out in 2014, and Darr is now an emeritus professor.

“She was an enthusiastic instructor who interacted effectively with students,” Darr says. “It was a pleasure to see how her energy not only connected with our students, but it was obvious they left the course intending to implement the lessons they had learned. Ms. Richmond’s experience in applying quality principles in the work place gives her a special connection with our students, one it is obvious they appreciate.”

Richmond is looking forward to the students she will meet the next times she teaches for GW. “I believe an MHA degree is one of the best things that can equip you with that solid foundation, a core knowledge base, and the ability to look at how to apply the information to continue to help our communities… and really make sure that we are a patient-centered industry,” she says.