Wright Lassiter III, President & CEO, Henry Ford Health System

“I have one goal,” says Wright L. Lassiter, III: “Reduce the gap between today and what’s possible.” It’s a lifelong mantra he’s using more than ever as President and CEO of Detroit-based Henry Ford Health System, a $6 billion healthcare organization. “We must keep our eyes on what’s possible and keep moving toward that end. Otherwise, we’re not doing our jobs,” says Lassiter, who joined Henry Ford in December 2014. With more than 30,000 employees, Henry Ford is comprised of eight hospitals, including five acute care hospitals, three behavioral health hospitals, more than 200 ambulatory care sites, an insurance company, as well as several retail, pharmacy and other non-acute care services.

Lassiter, 54, was born in a “prototypical” American home, in Tuskegee, Ala., also the home of historic African American figures Booker T. Washington, George Washington Carver and the Tuskegee Airmen. His parents were both professionals who stressed education, but he also derived many of his leadership philosophies from sports like basketball, which he played at LeMoyne College in Syracuse, N.Y. Reflecting his continuing life-balance focus, Lassiter’s scholarship was evenly split between basketball and academics. After receiving an undergraduate chemistry degree from LeMoyne, he earned a master’s in Healthcare Administration from Indiana University.

Lassiter has more than 20 years of experience working in large, complex health systems, including Methodist Health System in Dallas and JPS Health Network in Fort Worth. In 2005, he became top executive at Alameda Health System in Oakland, California, where he led an expansion and turnaround of the $865 million public health system, achieving eight years of positive financial performance with operating margins as high as 19 percent. Alameda garnered The Joint Commission Top Performer status, increased patient engagement from the 1st percentile to the 80th percentile and twice received the Press Ganey Spirit of Excellence award for employee engagement. Lassiter also led efforts to improve quality and patient safety, including an 18-month effort that reduced patient harm across AHS by 50 percent. He now brings that experience to Henry Ford, which pioneered the integrated health-system model four decades ago.