In his role as chief post-acute care officer and chief of staff at Keck Medicine of USC, Felipe Osorno provides executive oversight of the post-acute care (PAC) service line, working closely with hospital leaders across the system to develop long-term strategies involving PAC partnerships, technology solutions and management of the overall performance of the service line.

Additionally, Osorno creates and nurtures skilled nursing facility and home health agency partnerships, as well as coordinating and arranging appropriate in-patient rehabilitation facility and long-term care hospital access for all Keck Medicine patients.

Osorno also serves as a chief of staff for the president and CEO of USC Health. In this capacity, he develops and leads systemwide strategic and performance improvement initiatives, working with clinical and operational leaders across the enterprise.

In his nine-year tenure at USC, Osorno has developed and implemented his vision of a process improvement culture. His team’s collaborative efforts with clinicians resulted in a 25% improvement in length-of-stay performance at Keck Medical Center.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, he also led the university-wide vaccination efforts — including stepping up the operations to deliver 107,000 shots at Keck Medicine. In 2016, Osorno helped to establish the enterprise’s Keck Pride employee inclusion resource group (ERG). He is also the executive sponsor of La Voz, the health system’s Hispanic and Latinx ERG.

Osorno holds a Bachelor of Engineering degree from McGill University in Montreal and a Master of Science degree in chemical engineering practice from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Recently, Osorno answered questions about his approach to leadership and what keeps him inspired.

How did you get started in the health care industry? 

I did not have a linear path into health care or the role I am in. My undergraduate and graduate studies were both in chemical engineering. During undergrad at McGill University in Montreal, I volunteered at the Royal Victoria Hospital in the oncology ward. I would visit long-term patients and keep them company. One of the patients I spent the most time with died, leaving behind a 5-year old son. That was devastating and a lesson that being in direct patient care would not be the best fit for me.

After grad school, I joined a consulting firm, starting up operational excellence programs and developing strategies for clients in many different industries and geographies. My first health care project was at an emergency department in Sacramento. Everything came together and into focus — my engineering background to improve processes, and my passion for engaging and developing people in an industry that serves people at the most vulnerable times of their lives. I knew at that moment that I wanted to spend the rest of my career in health care.

What is your personal philosophy on leadership and management?

First, I believe leadership and management are two very distinct skills. For leadership, I believe my first priority is to engage, inspire and develop my team. Secondly, I believe that approaching every challenge with humility and tremendous curiosity, to listen and understand different perspectives before moving forward, is vital. Third, I believe humor and good energy is essential to leadership — the work that we do is complex and hard, it’s important to have fun while doing it.

In terms of management, I believe in working with the team to set a strategic vision and empowering them to figure out how to get things done. We don’t grow when we don’t have the room do to things ourselves. I am a big fan of spending time on the frontline and not in your office — there is nothing more valuable than hearing directly from our caregivers what their challenges are and to be able to engage patients and learn what we are doing well and what we can do better.

I love our leadership five-star rounds because it allows us to do just that in a structured environment in which we get to connect with our colleagues as well.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

Alignment for change! Everyone comes to Keck Medicine with incredible skills, talent and heart. Every single caregiver works tremendously hard and has the best intentions to provide phenomenal care.

As we all come to work with our different perspectives based on our experiences, sometimes we have friendly disagreements on how to tackle different situations. Being able to bring all these perspectives to the table, then form a vision and a plan together which we are all going to support, is tough. It takes patience, humility and understanding.

However, when we take the extra time to build our alignment based on trust and teamwork, that is when we see magic happen!

Who is someone you admire, and why?

Saying this will sound cliché, but it’s my parents. The reason I admire them so much is the tremendous clarity they have about what their values are, and the tenacity they have demonstrated to live those values; especially when tough decisions have arisen. They have lived their lives in a very intentional manner, making sacrifices when needed and prioritizing their family over money or jobs.

Now I have a deeper appreciation for them as I am raising my two daughters and I know just how difficult parenting is — it’s the toughest thing I do every day, without a doubt.

Are you reading any books right now?

This will not be a surprise to many, but I’m a big bookworm. I love reading and always have. I try to mix up fiction, historical books and leadership books in Spanish and English so I can keep my brain active in multiple areas. I am reading “Zoologico Humano” by Ricardo Silva Romero, a Colombian author which describes after-death experiences of folks who died and then came back to life. It’s a little convoluted, but definitely made me ponder some existential questions.

I am also reading “Paris: The Novel” by Edward Rutherfurd, a historical fictional account of Paris since the 800s until today, told through the lives of three families — it’s fantastic. He has a similar book about New York I read earlier in the year, which I simply couldn’t put down.

What is something about you that people might not know? 

Behind my process-minded and structure-making role at work, I hide a creative side. I love photography and like taking my DSLR camera out with me to capture everything from daily life — my kids’ lives, nature, buildings, people and everything in between.

And many colleagues have not witnessed this before, but I live up to the Colombian stereotype — my hips don’t lie and I love dancing salsa, merengue, bachata and reggaeton!

You’ve just had a long work week and now find yourself with a completely free Saturday. How do you spend the day?

I have 8 and 6 year-old daughters; my Saturdays are not free any more. If I’m not driving them around to tennis, softball, horseback riding or birthday parties, you will find me in one of two places: the tennis courts — I have played since I was 8 and absolutely love it — or in one of the dozens of hiking trails around La Cañada, where we live.

What do you see as some of the big challenges ahead for Keck Medicine?

It is not a secret that health care is tough, and we are at a very unique juncture emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic into gigantic shifts in the labor market and historic inflationary pressures, among other issues. We continue to have issues with care affordability and we are just trying to scratch the surface on the issues of health disparities in our society.

Trying to balance all of these external forces while continuing to make Keck Medicine the best place to practice medicine as well as the best place to receive care is a constant challenge. We are in an extremely competitive health care market in Los Angeles, with many strong competitors and a very fragmented payer market.

How we continue to prepare ourselves for the inevitable (though slow) shift to value-based care while delivering excellent outcomes and attracting the top talent will keep us on our toes for decades to come.

— Matthew Vasiliauskas

This interview was originally published in the June edition of Keck Medicine’s monthly Health System Highlights newsletter. To read the newsletter, including the article’s original version, click here (Keck Medicine sign-on required).