2022 HSSF Executive Conference

Champions Made Here! Notes from the HSSF 2022 Executive Conference

It’s impossible in this short description to communicate what attendees experienced over the two days. For more detail, HSSF members can log on to the member portal to access the recordings from select streamed presentations, as well as the slides from all presentations. Click here to log on and access the recordings and slides.

UCLA Health Showed Us How 

UCLA’s slogan is “Champions Made Here”, reflecting 119 NCAA sports team championships as well as impressive achievements by academics, alumni, and its health system. On October 26 and 27, at HSSF’s 15th Executive Conference for support services leaders, the team at UCLA Health showed attendees how excellence in non-clinical disciplines help to make its flagship hospital #5 on US News and World Report’s 2022-2023 Best Hospital’s Honor Roll. They were joined by presenters from hospitals and systems across the country. 

Ronald Reagan UCLA Health Medical CenterPerfect sunny weather and the gorgeous UCLA campus provided an energizing backdrop for Day 1’s sessions at the wonderful Luskin Conference Center and Hotel and Day 2’s at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. 

Norm Lantz, Senior Director General Services UCLA Health, was our host, assisted by Anush Arakelyan. They organized two engaging days showcasing UCLA Health’s abilities in general services including executive management, EVS, food and nutrition, patient logistics, facilities, construction and real estate, infection control, sustainability, health equity, and employee support. Two receptions and a dinner in Westwood Village gave participants time to get to know their colleagues. 

Echoes of COVID

When we began planning this conference we were excited to think that the restrictions that COVID brought, forcing us to postpone the 2021 conference, were history. We believed that our colleagues were ready to spring out of their office chairs and travel to be back with their peers in-person. While this was true of many who attended in-person, it was also true that COVID’s aftershocks in the form of financial pressures and staffing shortages made traveling to the conference difficult. Consequently, late in the planning we decided to stream select sessions so that those confined to their offices could join for part of the experience. UCLA’s AV team did a good job of merging in-person and remote audiences, and now we have recordings of the online sessions members can access, along with presentations from all sessions. I hope it will be easier to get together in 2023.


To get a flavor of what transpired, check out this photo montage to recap two information-packed and fun days in two minutes.

There are too many highlights to include here, but here are some themes that stuck out for me:

Martin JarmondInspiration: Martin Jarmond, Director of Athletics for UCLA ignited our drives to make ourselves and those around us better. He reminded us “our most important jobs are talent acquisition and talent development”, and shared how his ELITE method of improving athletics can be applied to how we manage our support services teams. Several times during the conference participants recalled Martin’s lessons such as “next play”, the importance of getting past day-to-day setbacks, resetting, and refocusing on the job at hand. 

Mentoring, growing, onboarding, stayboarding, nurturing: If there was a recurring topic on everyone’s minds, it’s staffing challenges of every kind: recruiting, onboarding, training, retaining, and developing staff. All appreciated tips and tricks presented for attracting the best talent and nurturing it. Furthermore, today’s environment creates stress among our people, and UCLA Health showed how we as leaders can make use of available resources to mitigate it. We concluded the conference with a discussion about using alternative staffing models to help smooth out disruptions caused by callouts and uneven daily workloads.

Command, control, and measurement: Throughout, participants saw how UCLA Health harnesses the power of information. UCLA Health Command Center Norm began the conference by sharing a recording of one of his Active Daily Management sessions, complete with color-coded summaries of KPI status for General Services. Each department head shared the dashboard they use to assess what’s going on, forecast workloads, and anticipate needs. We heard from Scott Jahnke in patient logistics how UCLA is increasingly using analytics to direct transporters and reduce turnaround time. Most impressive was a visit to the Command Center, a well-equipped Mission Control-style room of managers monitoring status and allocating resources for bed management, transfers, patient flow, and other critical tasks. One of the best such facilities in the country, I’m sure. 

Support services’ role in the community: We learned about UCLA Health’s involvement in the Healthcare Anchor Network, a collaboration of healthcare systems building more inclusive and sustainable local economies. Later, a panel discussed what their organizations are doing to make progress on deficiencies in health equity, diversity, and inclusion. UCLA Health also taught us about opportunities to advance sustainability by managing waste streams and increasing reprocessing.

Leadership: Richard Azar, COO for UCLA Health told us about his path from support services leader to the C-suite (I always said HSSF membership boosts your career!). In a personally thought-provoking session, we were challenged to use the MAGIC model to understand and increase our own engagement in our work as well as in others.

Nuts and bolts solutions: Conference participants went home with concrete ideas for how to improve in many areas, for example:

  • Daily planning huddles (UCLA Health’s Active Daily Management)
  • Centralized command center operations
  • Innovative menu planning
  • Use of UV and other methods to sanitize items and prevent infection
  • Meeting support services’ needs in planning new construction

Plant ForwardFun, Food, and Wellness, Too: First, thanks and kudos to Genesis Robinson, Director Food and Nutrition, UCLA Health, and her team for the fine dining she gave us on Day 2. Over the years conference hosts have competed to show what they can do, and Genesis and company raised the bar with an amazingly beautiful and tasty plant forward breakfast and a delicious lunch buffet with three (!!) carving stations: stuffed salmon, turkey and roast beef. And it wouldn’t have been a California experience without a reminder of the importance of taking care of our physical and mental health. UCLA Health rejuvenated us throughout the two days with exercises, laugh yoga, time with dog friends, and even dance (No embarrassing photos here - what happened at UCLA stays at UCLA.)

Wrapping Up

Was the HSSF 2022 Executive Conference worthwhile, you ask? Here are some unadulterated quotes (seriously) from attendees:

 “An incredible conference. Top notch.”

“Thank you for such a wonderful conference!  Looking forward to many more.”

“The mix of presenters and diverse topics was perfect and the hospitality and food were incredible. The dance/stretch breaks were hilarious, wonderfully awkward and invigorating. Norm, your passion for your hospital, team and mission are truly inspiring and clearly unite and uplift everyone on your team and throughout the organization.”

“This is a great opportunity to network and information share. Regardless of your experience, you will find consideration for improvement in your own program or management strategies.”

Convinced? See you at next year’s conference.


Many thanks Norm Lantz, Anush Arakelyan, UCLA Health General Services, and the greater UCLA team. Norm Lantz and Anush Arakelyan, UCLA HealthThey were generous with their time and an inspiring group to get to know. And I am pleased at their comment that through hosting this conference they strengthened their bonds.

Thanks also to the conference sponsors, who helped make it possible: Surfacide, Aethon, and Freepoint Eco-Systems. It was a pleasure to have their representatives with us at the receptions and dinner. And thanks to Carrie Kuempel (HSSF’s VP Membership Services and my wife!).

Stay tuned for announcements about next year’s conference as well as other HSSF activities. If you’re not a member and would like to learn more, contact me.

Jeff Wickham
Managing Director, HSSF
[email protected]

Founding Sponsor Surfacide

AethonFreepoint Eco-Systems