The MedStar Health Experience

The MedStar Health Experience

Synergy founder and CEO Kenneth R. Cohen, Ph.D.

This discussion of what makes great healthcare leaders is the next in a series of posts that will appear regularly in this space. Authored by The Synergy Organization’s nationally-recognized founder and CEO Dr. Kenneth R. Cohen, the series reveals insights into executive performance that Ken has gleaned in three decades of executive search service to the healthcare industry.
Ken invites your comments and will share many of them in future articles. You can reach him at

Why we’ve been called “the eHarmony of healthcare executive search.”

In my first several posts we looked at many of the findings from three decades of our organization’s research with top healthcare CEOs.

In this post, we’re going to focus on exactly why “evidence-based” executive search works so well by looking at a specific case study—MedStar Health. Columbia, MD-based MedStar is the largest healthcare provider in Maryland and the Washington, D.C. region.

And, in the process you’ll see why one of MedStar’s top executives has suggested that we’re “the eHarmony of healthcare executive search.”

For starters, we used our usual six-step process:

  1. Needs Analysis
  2. Candidate Recruitment
  3. Candidate Screening
  4. Candidate Presentation
  5. Candidate Selection by Client
  6. Follow-Up

We worked directly with Loretta Young Walker, MedStar’s Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer. Loretta oversees all HR activities for 31,000 associates across MedStar’s 10 hospitals, outpatient care locations and diversified operations.

Loretta Young Walker, MedStar’s Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer.

Here is some of what she shared with us after the first time we worked together:

  • For starters, we had been highly recommended by Loretta’s predecessor and several other executives at MedStar. (We had completed more than 30 searches for MedStar prior to Loretta coming on board.)
  • She had used several national search firms in her career over the years, “but never experienced anything like this evidence-based search…”
  • The information we provided in advance of the interviews was so “thorough, accurate, and of such high quality,” Loretta “almost felt as though I didn’t need to interview the candidates.”

She also shared that while she has found that traditional national search firms “talk about” how carefully they pre-screen and match, Synergy actually “does it.”

Perhaps best of all, Loretta told us that our Synergy Search System® allows us to “operate like the eHarmony of executive search firms,” with the result that MedStar saved “thousands of dollars in direct expenses and many hours of (their) senior executives’ time.”

Loretta’s bottom line was that we made it “easy and enjoyable” for her to “hire the right leaders the first time.”

FYI: We conducted three successive leadership searches for Loretta and she “eagerly hired the first candidate they (Synergy) referred to us.”

I hope you’ll stay with us in the weeks ahead as we continue to look at what makes top healthcare executives successful and continue to share stories about the many successful searches we’ve undertaken.

/s/ Ken

Don’t miss Ken’s next post in which he’ll react to Sam Walker’s recent Wall Street Journal interview with the late Sergio Marchionne who ran Fiat Chrysler with “an eccentric, unorthodox style.” Ken will discuss Walker’s conclusion that “the future belongs to challenge-driven leaders.”


For more information about The Synergy Organization’s unsurpassed track record in healthcare executive placement, please visit us at