66 ISE Magazine | www.iise.org/ISEmagazine
with Jennifer Hooks
Jennifer Hooks is director of performance
improvement for the Medical University of
South Carolina (MUSC), Charleston, and
serves as an adjunct faculty member at the
university’s College of Health Professions
and College of Nursing. An accomplished
trainer and speaker, she also manages Six
Sigma black and green belts to develop
education, projects and strategies for
MUSC. Hooks is a retired Air Force E9
chief master sergeant and a certified Six
Sigma master black belt with a lean sensei
certification. She has extensive experience
in clinical, administrative and performance
improvement in hospital, ambulatory
care and dental facilities worldwide. She
holds a master’s in human resources
from Trident University International and
a bachelor’s in occupational education
health administration from Wayland
Baptist University.
What led you to MUSC as head of performance improvement?
I have been in healthcare for over 35 years, and believe it or not, I started my
healthcare journey at MUSC (Medical University of South Carolina) as part of
Trident Technical College Dental Assisting program. I was scheduled to retire from
the Air Force in November 2010; however, I decided I didnt want to fully retire
and stay at home. I began looking for healthcare jobs in Charleston and MUSC
posted a position with the responsibility of developing performance improvement
strategies and training for MUSC. One thing that caught my attention was MUSC
starting a new venture using lean and Six Sigma, and I was all in and applied.
How does your military background apply to your career?
I have lived by the Air Force core values of integrity first, service before self and
excellence in all we do my entire AF career. These core values transitioned with
me in the work I do in performance improvement at MUSC.
How have you applied your experience to a healthcare setting?
Performance improvement must be integrated within an organizations strategic
objectives. All industries have different missions, visions and processes to lead to their
ultimate industry goals. My experience has shown me that regardless of industry,
reviewing processes to make a change for the better in any industry is universal.
How are you using lean and Six Sigma principles?
Continuous performance improvement success at MUSC is based on three factors:
being results-oriented, involving the total Medical Center Care team and a sustained
and deliberate application of lean and Six Sigma principles. The focus on hospital
effectiveness, efficiency and the elimination of waste applies to all staff. Many of
our processes have evolved over time, often incrementally and in reaction to limited
objectives or one-time problems. The Total Medical Center Care team has changed
its mindset from “that is the way we have always done things” to continually seeking
the best way to accomplish daily work.
What is your strategy for engaging students?
I teach lean and Six Sigma, change management as well as emotional intelligence
courses. My overarching goal: Make students a part of the learning experience.
Three core elements are embedded in all my teaching: Realistic examples, interac-
tive learning and having fun in the classroom. Students learn best if the material is
relevant and interesting with hands-on techniques and having fun helps with long-
term memory of concepts.
What is the next big innovation in healthcare services?
As our healthcare systems transition, we must remember change can become dif-
ficult if we dont begin thinking differently and training our healthcare team mem-
bers to become more prepared for change. The biggest systems improvement for the
healthcare industry is to begin the journey of becoming a high reliability industry.
To improve the delivery of healthcare services, leadership engagement is needed to
drive a safety culture that is built on robust process improvement.
How has your IISE membership helped you at MUSC?
IISE is my external network. Being a member has continued to strengthen my lead-
ership skills as I share experiences, challenges and successes with new professional
contacts, mentors and friends.
— Interview by Tammy Whiteside
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