Dr. Leigha Clarkson, MD, Named Recipient of the United Hospital Fund’s Excellence in Health Care Award for Quality Improvement Champions

Providing quality patient care is at the heart of our organization. Impacting the lives of over nine million patients annually, our clinicians go above and beyond to ensure every patient receives the best possible care. It is with pride we share Leigha Clarkson, MD, has been selected as the 2023 recipient of the United Hospital Fund’s Excellence in Health Care Award for Quality Improvement Champions at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital. The award is given to leaders who have vision and set out to accomplish improvements in quality of care, patient safety, and patient experience.


“It is a great honor to receive this award,” said Dr. Clarkson. “Although I was very surprised when I learned I was selected as the recipient for our hospital, the award serves as positive reinforcement that the hard work my team and I are putting in is being noticed and making a difference. It motivates me to press forward and take on additional projects so we may continue to improve the quality care our team is delivering every day.”


It may have been a surprise to Dr. Clarkson, but it was no surprise to her colleagues and hospital administration given her commitment to quality patient care. Dr. Clarkson serves as the Medical Director for St. John’s and has found deep purpose in ensuring her team feels supported.


“We have a great group of clinicians here at St. John’s,” said Dr. Clarkson. “In my role as Medical Director my goal is to have open communication and collaboration with all the hospital staff so that we may work as a unified front to accomplish our goals.”


As a west coast native, Dr. Clarkson found herself on the opposite side of the country to pursue her education and athletic career at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. After completing her undergraduate studies, she continued to St. George’s University in Grenada for medical school. Returning to the east coast for residency at the Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York, Dr. Clarkson elected to establish roots in the city and signed on at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in the borough of Queens.


“St. John’s is such a unique place to work because you really feel like part of the community, a feeling that can be easily lost being in a big city like New York,” said Dr. Clarkson. “The community we serve is very family-forward so we will treat several members of one family which helps us to stay connected with our patients and really invest in their well-being.”


Since stepping into her role as Medical Director, and previously serving as the Assistant Medical Director, Dr. Clarkson has capitalized on the resources provided by USACS to aid in fulfilling her calling of providing excellent care to patients. Currently she is participating in the USACS Director’s Edge program which provides additional leadership training and allows for connections to be made with other directors across the organization. As a result of her participation, Dr. Clarkson has implemented a bi-weekly newsletter to her staff that incorporates metrics and data to illustrate areas of improvement while simultaneously highlighting the great work of her staff through a patient shout-out section.


Though there have been several challenges Dr. Clarkson has faced during her first year as director, like the fire that shut down an entire floor of St. John’s causing a cascade of issues to manage, she has persevered and found ways to tackle anything that comes her way.


“No matter the circumstance, whether it be space constraints, staffing shortages, or even a global pandemic, I am confident my staff will always keep quality care and the patient experience at the top of their priority list,” stated Dr. Clarkson. “It is a privilege to serve this community, and I plan to display this award in my office as the perfect reminder that we are making a difference and will continue to improve to best support our patients.”