Journal of Urban Health

, Volume 90, Issue 5, pp 888–901 | Cite as

The Representation of Health Professionals on Governing Boards of Health Care Organizations in New York City

  • Diana J. Mason
  • David Keepnews
  • Jessica Holmberg
  • Ellen Murray


The Representation of Health Professionals on Governing Boards of Health Care Organizations in New York City. The heightened importance of processes and outcomes of care—including their impact on health care organizations’ (HCOs) financial health—translate into greater accountability for clinical performance on the part of HCO leaders, including their boards, during an era of health care reform. Quality and safety of care are now fiduciary responsibilities of HCO board members. The participation of health professionals on HCO governing bodies may be an asset to HCO governing boards because of their deep knowledge of clinical problems, best practices, quality indicators, and other issues related to the safety and quality of care. And yet, the sparse data that exist indicate that physicians comprise more than 20 % of the governing board members of hospitals while less than 5 % are nurses and no data exist on other health professionals. The purpose of this two-phased study is to examine health professionals’ representations on HCOs—specifically hospitals, home care agencies, nursing homes, and federally qualified health centers—in New York City. Through a survey of these organizations, phase 1 of the study found that 93 % of hospitals had physicians on their governing boards, compared with 26 % with nurses, 7 % with dentists, and 4 % with social workers or psychologists. The overrepresentation of physicians declined with the other HCOs. Only 38 % of home care agencies had physicians on their governing boards, 29 % had nurses, and 24 % had social workers. Phase 2 focused on the barriers to the appointment of health professionals to governing boards of HCOs and the strategies to address these barriers. Sixteen health care leaders in the region were interviewed in this qualitative study. Barriers included invisibility of health professionals other than physicians; concerns about “special interests”; lack of financial resources for donations to the organization; and lack of knowledge and skills with regard to board governance, especially financial matters. Strategies included developing an infrastructure for preparing and getting appointed various health professionals, mentoring, and developing a personal plan of action for appointments.


Governing boards Health care organizations Health professionals New York City Physicians Nurses 



We are grateful to New York Academy of Medicine President Jo Ivey Boufford, MD, for her counsel on the study design; specifically, broadening the survey beyond physicians and nurses, and developing a sampling plan of key opinion leaders in health care. This study was supported by a grant from the Professional Staff Congress of City University of New York.


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Copyright information

© The New York Academy of Medicine 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Diana J. Mason
    • 1
  • David Keepnews
    • 2
  • Jessica Holmberg
    • 3
  • Ellen Murray
    • 4
  1. 1.Center for Health Media and PolicyHunter College, City University of New YorkNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Hunter College and City University of New York Graduate CenterNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.New York Univeristy Langone Medical CenterNew YorkUSA
  4. 4.Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute, Hunter CollegeNew YorkUSA

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