February 23, 2022

Meet medicine leadership in 2022, a series: Get to know Jason Alexander

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artwork 01 6In the "Meet medicine leadership" series, key leaders share their stories and vision for UAB as we move ahead in 2022. While Selwyn M. Vickers, M.D., FACS, transitions to his new role as dean of the Heersink School of Medicine, CEO of UAB Health System and CEO of the UAB/Ascension St. Vincent’s Alliance, trusted and seasoned leaders are critical to our success.

A significant facet for the future of health care in Birmingham and around the State is expanding the capability to take care of more patients.

To do this, the UAB/Ascension St. Vincent’s Alliance will improve the health of the communities they serve, especially around health equity. The Alliance will increase access to high-quality medical care through the combined resources of UAB Health System and Ascension St. Vincent's.

This week, the communications team sat down with Ascension St. Vincent’s CEO Jason Alexander to talk about how he plans to work with UAB in the coming year, what excites him about the Alliance, and how he stays well through stress.

Since 1995, Jason Alexander has innovatively shaped health care across the southeast. With multiple positions in leadership across several organizations, Jason knows the important elements of health care delivery.

Now, with Alliance plans on the brink and with UAB Health System CEO and Heersink School of Medicine Dean Selwyn M. Vickers’ transition to the dual role, Jason is excited about the endless possibilities that can result from the Alliance.

UAB alum to CEO

Jason Alexander did not plan to one day become CEO of a major health system in the southeast. Nonetheless, he said his experience in hospital operations, multiple service lines and development led him there.

Jason graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of South Alabama and is a two-time UAB alumnus with master’s degrees in Healthcare Administration and Business Administration.

“During my master’s program, the hot topic in the early 90s was physician practices. From 1993-2000, MedPartners developed in Birmingham, and I remember that being a big deal. I focused on physician practices first, right out of graduate school, but quickly realized I wanted to pursue service line management and development,” he said.

Jason enthusiastically recalls that it didn’t take him long to notice the type of environment he was meant to work in: “It also didn’t take me long to figure out I am not really an operations person, but more of a strategy and development person.”

His professional background included experience in physician practices, ambulatory services, service lines, and hospital operations before becoming CEO of Ascension St. Vincent’s in 2017.

“It’s helpful to have had direct experience in so many areas of health care for my role now,” he said.

“I’ve worked in the for-profit world, the non-profit world, faith-based world, and government world. Where I have not worked is the academic world. So, the Alliance is giving me an opportunity to understand it and the differences between academic and community-facing health care.”

An unconventional approach to leadership

When asked what a typical day looks like for him, he said there is not a regular, routine day, nor does he want to have one. Jason's leadership style thrives on big ideas and visionary problem-solving. "I am more interested in pursuing growth than having a consistent routine," he explained.

“I like to frame topics and address issues as they come up in real-time,” he said. "I know my work style is different, but I like to operate from a place of big ideas."

artwork 03 5Jason, who said he gets bored quite easily, is excited about the many opportunities to work with Vickers and the executive team—Dawn Bulgarella, Reid Jones, Vickers, and Jason—as the Alliance forms a strategic plan and identifies top priorities.

When asked how he plans to work with Vickers, he laughed and said, "Well, it could be scary, or it could be a good thing because we are a lot alike!”

“The team at UAB is very structured, and the UAB Health System is structured,” he said. “It has to be that way because a system that large can’t function without structure. Ascension is a large system as well, with a significant amount of structure. I am excited to work with Dr. Vickers because it will be two disupters coming together to challenge the status quo with new ideas,” he explained.

Staying well by running off stress

After his work day, Jason said one of his favorite hobbies has been participating in triathlons, but he has slowed down recently.

"I like to run and go to the gym. I would like to think I do these things because I’m driven, but honestly I need it, and it reduces my stress,” he said. I particularly enjoy running through the various parks and trails around the Birmingham area, especially along the shaded Vulcan Trail in the summertime.

He also mentioned that he and his wife are recently empty nesters as their sons are enrolled at Auburn University. "We like to travel," he said.

Excited for the endless Alliance opportunities

As for Jason’s take on the Alliance, he said that, from day one, there has never been a misunderstanding between leadership about why UAB and St. Vincent’s will and are working together. "The faith-based history of Ascension St. Vincent's is different, but other than that, we are seeking the same things as UAB. We want to care for the most vulnerable in our communities," he explained.

The Alliance executive team has wanted to improve quality, access, and efficiency for Alabamians from day one.

Jason recognized that people may still have questions about what the Alliance will do, but their priority has been getting to know each other and naming the "what" before determining the "how."

When it comes to building the Alliance’s plans, Jason said 2022 is the year for strategic planning. “We will be asking a lot of questions,” he said. “We are looking for the best ways to serve the community and how to accomplish that—like should we offer a particular type of patient care together or separate? We will be asking a lot of thoughtful questions about what is needed to move ahead.”

artwork 02 7Going the distance

Similarly, he said UAB and Ascension St. Vincent’s leadership will work very closely together as the vision and strategies are developed.

“There are a significant number of opportunities within the Alliance, and we need to be thoughtful in how we approach pursuing those opportunities. What I hope will happen—what I think will happen—is that we will prioritize the initiatives that are most impactful and achievable, assign an individual to be responsible for each initiative, and trust those individuals to successfully lead their respective initiatives.”

Read the Meet Medicine leadership stories of Dawn Bulgarella, Anupam Agarwal, M.D., Tony Jones, M.D., Tika Benveniste, Ph.D., and Reid Jones.