He’s a strong advocate for Lean. He’s had a wealth of health care experience even though he’s only 50. He’s passionate about patient and family-centred health care.

But what don’t we know about Dan Florizone, the new president and CEO of Saskatoon Health Region? That’s what we set out to uncover as we sat down with him on his first day on the job.

Florizone’s career began in 1983 in Prince Albert, working at Victoria Hospital. He worked with occupational and recreational therapy in mental health, long term care and medicine units, and immediately knew that health care was for him.

Dan Florizone

Saskatoon Health Region’s new president and CEO, Dan Florizone, sat down with Region Reporter on his first day of work on January 5.

“That first position really gave me a sense of a lot of professionalism, excitement and innovation – there was a lot about health care that was appealing to me,” he said.

But he also felt that there was a need for leadership, for connecting people and for improving care and service. This need made him want to get more involved.

While he considered other professions in health care, administration was what fascinated him.

“I felt that I could make a contribution there,” he said. He enrolled in the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Commerce health care administration course.

Students in the course were offered opportunities in the summer months to go into small, rural hospitals and write their policy manuals. One of those opportunities had a bit of a twist to it. The CEO of Oxbow Hospital wanted a student to come in and run the hospital while he wrote the hospital’s policy manual.

“I jumped in my car and I drove there,” Florizone smiled. “I didn’t realize it was five hours away from Saskatoon. But that was my first job in administration.”

What’s the best thing about working in health care?

“It’s never boring. It’s always interesting. There’s always excitement and action. There’s always opportunity, and I’ve never had a situation where I could sit back and say, ‘we finished.’ I love that ability to just continually look at the next thing, the next improvement,” he said, adding that the the real draw for him are the people in health care, employees and physicians at all levels.

“I’ve had this great experience throughout the province, working with some remarkable teams,” he noted.

Lean

He’s believed in Lean as a management system since 2005, after taking part in a Rapid Process Improvement Workshop (RPIW) at Virginia-Mason Hospital in Seattle, Washington. He had a major “a-ha” moment, he said, seeing a management system that focused on the people in each workplace coming up with ideas for immediate improvements.

What he loves about Lean is its unwavering commitment towards quality and patient and family-centred care, two of his passions.

“I’d never witnessed that in action. What I first saw at Virginia Mason was unification, articulation, demonstration, and full deployment of patient and family-centred care. All of a sudden it came together. And I’ve been moving Lean forward as a management system ever since,” he stated.

He likes the learning aspect of Lean – how it doesn’t just encourage fixing a problem, but understanding the deeper whys of how it occurred in the first place to come up with a sustainable solution.

Florizone, who grew up in Prince Albert, has spent his entire career in Saskatchewan.

“Saskatchewan has been home,” he said simply as to why he stayed here when he could have gone elsewhere. “And while it may appear appealing to go, I’ve always had opportunities here; I’ve always been able to have that next challenge at the right time and the right place.”

What’s the best part about living in this province?

“The people. And I know that sounds corny,” he smiled. “But there’s nothing like Saskatchewan people. They’re friendly, and down to earth. Sure, we complain a lot about the weather, but we have a lot in common. I think it comes from our agricultural roots.”

You can do things in Saskatchewan you can’t do anywhere else on this planet, he added, including make significant changes.

“Our ability to get things done sets us apart from any other place,” he said, adding that we have some fundamental issues that we still face, including social determinants of health. He plans to continue working with partner agencies to action positive health for all.

Home Life

Outside of work, Florizone loves to read, to drive, and to get his hands a little dirty working on both houses and cars.

“I’m constantly renovating something,” he said, “I have a list of projects to finish in Moose Jaw before we make the final move here. That will be about a three-month transition.”

His wife, Karen, is a home care nurse in Moose Jaw, where they have lived for the last 17 years. Over the next several months, she’ll be wrapping up their life there in preparation to relocate to Saskatoon, which is actually her home town.

“She’s excited to come back,” Florizone said, though he admitted it will be difficult to leave Moose Jaw behind.

The Florizones have three children; a daughter, 23, who is working in Infection Control for Regina-Qu’Appelle Health Region; a son, 20, who is attending the University of Saskatchewan, and another son, 19, who is just out of high school.

“The middle guy lives with me now, because I moved in with him for the short-term,” Florizone smiled. “What I like to do, every hour or so, is just to ask him what we’re doing tonight,” he joked.

Florizone is very much looking forward to reconnecting with loved ones in Saskatoon. His parents, in-laws and sister also all live here, as do many of his friends.

“I really do feel like I’m coming home,” he said.

On the Gemba…

In his first week on the job, Saskatoon Health Region president and CEO Dan Florizone has been, as promised, visiting facilities all over the Region. It’s his goal to meet with as many of staff as possible to hear about what changes would have the biggest positive impact for patients and staff.This week, Florizone has already attended the Regional Wall Walk and Senior Leadership Team meetings, and he will be touring rural facilities in Humboldt, Watson, Wadena and Wynyard, and long term care facilities in Saskatoon.

His preliminary schedule over the coming weeks has him joining each vice-president for Gemba visits in a variety of facilities, as well as meeting with the Saskatoon Regional Health Authority and other provincial health leaders.