Remembering and Mourning Nate Hurle, a Healthcare Improvement Champion

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I was stunned and saddened on Monday morning to learn of the sudden passing of a friend and a colleague, Nathan (Nate) Hurle, who was a Senior Director of Enterprise Continuous Improvement at the Cleveland Clinic. He had just turned 47 this month. His obituary can be found here.

The terrible news was shared publicly Monday afternoon by his colleague — a close collaborator and a close friend — Dr. Lisa Yerian:

Nate Hurle, Cleveland Clinic

If you click through to Twitter, or to her post on LinkedIn, you'll see a number of colleagues sharing their condolences and memories of Nate.

Going back through my email history, I believe I met Nate in 2015 at the Mid-Atlantic Lean Conference. He invited me to visit Cleveland Clinic to see their work and I was able to take him up on that later that year.

I remember how Nate was incredibly gracious in that he would always give credit to his colleagues. He never boasted or took credit — it was always about what others were doing (under his tutelage and coaching). It was always about the patients.

We would sometimes get to cross paths at Lean healthcare conferences — the annual Society for Health Systems event (he was an Industrial Engineer, like me) or the Catalysis Lean Healthcare Transformation Summit. Nate was one of the keynote speakers at this year's SHS event.

There were, I think, two more visits to Cleveland Clinic to spend time with Nate, Lisa, and their colleagues. I remember a number of deep conversations about continuous improvement, statistical methods, and the importance of healthcare improvement. I'm grateful that he arranged for a group of us to get tickets to a Cleveland Indians baseball game so we could hang out and share a good time (interspersed with shop talk).

I'm bummed that I can't find a photo of us together… but I do have many photos of the impressive work that was the result of Nate's leadership, even if he didn't seek or claim the credit.

Pictured below (from a 2017 site visit that I wrote about) is a board that was being used in a Cleveland Clinic hospital department, chock full of small “Kaizen” improvements and more complex “A3s” is a testament to the impact of Nate's work… a legacy that will live on throughout their system (not just Ohio, but also in Florida).


Nate's Blog Post and Podcasts

To remember and appreciate Nate's work (and his continual willingness to share), here is a guest post that he wrote here on the blog back in 2017:

He also co-authored an excellent white paper that was published through our mutual friends at Catalysis:

Nate was also my guest on the Lean Blog Interviews podcast twice.

The first time, together with Dr. Yerian:

And again, earlier this year, talking about the important process design and improvement work that he was helping with during the Covid pandemic:

I want to express my deepest condolences to Nate's family and other loved ones, and to his colleagues at Cleveland Clinic and beyond.

I don't say this lightly, that Nate was one of my favorite people in the “Lean Healthcare” world. He was always open to learning and he was always willing to share with others. Always curious, always helping.

You'll be missed, Nate. You were taken from us all way too soon.

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Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. His latest book is Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. He also published the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.

3 Comments
  1. Cinnamon Dixon says

    Beautifully written Mark. Nate treasured your friendship and thought leadership. We are devastated by this loss. Having worked side by side with him for many years, I take solace in knowing that his exuberant passion & energy for continuous improvement will always push us to go further, think deeper and have fun wherever & whenever we can.
    Cinnamon Dixon

    1. Mark Graban says

      Thank you, Cinnamon. My deepest condolences to you, as somebody who worked closely with him for so long. Thank you for reminder that his work and legacy will live on through others…

    2. Tim Pettry says

      Well said Cinnamon, and thanks Mark for sharing this tribute to Nate. His passion and his leadership helped to make the CI team a valued contributor to not only the Cleveland Clinic caregivers and patients, but also to the broader CI community.

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