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Director, Safe Surgery/ Safe Systems Program

Ariadne Labs is a joint center for health systems innovation at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. Our goal is to drive scalable solutions for better care at critical moments in people’s lives everywhere. Better care means better health outcomes, lower costs, and more actual caring. Critical means solving health systems failures that have major impact, typically touching people by the millions. Ariadne Labs currently has research programs in the areas of childbirth, surgery, palliative care, and primary care.

The Director of the Safe Surgery/ Safe Systems Program at Ariadne Labs is responsible for leading and growing our portfolio of safe surgery and other cross-disciplinary safety related programs such as team-training, safety culture interventions, and safety programs for system expansions including mergers and acquisitions. Reporting to the Chief Medical Officer, s/he has the opportunity to lead a growing team committed to reducing surgical complications and associated surgical mortality and improve patient outcomes worldwide through innovation and research.

At the center of our work thus far has been the development of the WHO Surgical Safety Checklist and testing of its implementation in settings as diverse as South Carolina, Scotland, and Ethiopia. In addition to our flagship intervention, we are committed to and engaged in a broad portfolio of research and implementation efforts in the US and abroad focused on scalable solutions to improve the safety and outcomes of surgical care as well as other broad-based systems that cut across health care fields. The Program’s activities  are funded through a mix of grants, contracts, and philanthropy. We have three primary outputs:

  • Ideas: We test and share scientific idea and insights that transform the understanding of how to deliver surgical care and operate health systems safely and effectively.
  • Tools: We create scalable tools, and pathways for implementing them, proven to enable teams to deliver surgical care and operate health systems significantly more safely and with better outcomes.
  • Community: We are committed to building and supporting a community of researchers, innovators, and external partners who are advancing the science of improving surgical and health system safety and outcomes.

The Organization. ​Ariadne Labs was founded in 2012 as a joint center for health systems innovation at Brigham & Women’s Hospital and the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. Our mission is to save lives and reduce suffering through systems innovation–the design, testing, and spread of simple, scalable solutions for better care at the most critical moments in people’s lives everywhere. Our work has produced simple interventions to enable better care in childbirth, surgical care, and serious illness, and is already achieving enormous impact nationally and internationally. We are growing rapidly as a result – from 15 staff and researchers in 2012 to more than 100 today working on multiple projects across the U.S. and the world. We anticipate that the organization will continue its growth trajectory.

Ariadne Labs is a matrixed organization, with a growing portfolio of projects, both domestic and international, in various stages of development and three centers of expertise, known as platforms, that provide thought leadership, project guidance, and technical support at every stage of work (research and design, testing, and implementation).

The Safe Surgery Program at Ariadne Labs was the first program of the organization and much of its work pre-dates the founding of the Lab. In many ways, the work of Safe Surgery program established the template for how projects at the Lab are envisioned, structured, and executed. The Program consists of the Director, a Senior Project Manager, three full time Fellows, two project managers, and six part time faculty engaged in projects ranging from assessment of patient-centered outcomes using new technologies to efforts to develop a surgical coaching curriculum for technical and nontechnical performance.

In addition to ongoing work based on the Surgical Safety Checklist, current projects include:

  • A project in partnership with Johnson & Johnson centering around the design and testing of tools and methods for their global salesforce to improve safety when new devices are introduced in the operating room, starting with a nationwide pilot in Singapore.
  • A 100+ hospital collaborative jointly managed with Stanford to implement “Emergency Manuals” for Intraoperative Care shown to reduce errors in crisis events by 75%.
  • A four-hospital evaluation in Boston of a standardized coaching program for surgeons to improve their technical and nontechnical skills, including communication and leadership.
  • Development and testing of a low cost method for large scale teamwork training in hospitals, in partnership with the American Hospital Association.
  • Implementation and testing of tools for health system leaders that we developed to address major patient safety risks that occur during the expansion of health systems through mergers, acquisitions and affiliations, in partnership with CRICO (Harvard’s malpractice insurer)
  • Leadership of a CRICO/Harvard Surgical Chief’s Task Force Safety Collaborative involving projects to address priority patient safety risks identified through annual review of malpractice claims and safety incidents.

Our Values

Our core values are:

  • Respect for the Ariadne Labs mission, our community, each other, and ourselves;
  • Stewardship of our work and resources;
  • Pursuit of excellence, with a focus on continual improvement;
  • A belief in a collaborative, multidisciplinary approach to our work;
  • A commitment to meaningful diversity and inclusion in our work and in the Ariadne Labs community.


Characteristics of leaders who are most successful at Ariadne Labs include:

  • Humility about the limits of one’s own expertise and experience
  • Intellectual curiosity and agility
  • Openness and generosity
  • Self discipline
  • Service orientation


The Role:

The Director of Safe Surgery/Safe Systems Program at Ariadne Labs is positioned to build on the success of Ariadne’s flagship program to continue developing innovations and tools that lead to improved surgical outcomes, while expanding the scope of the program to include our growing portfolio of broader systems innovations that improve patient safety and outcomes in the overall operation of health systems.  While Safe Surgery will remain an integral part of the program, we are looking for a leader with the vision to widen the program focus to include the safety of hospitals and health systems more generally.

The Director will be responsible for:

  • developing a vision and strategic plan for the Program’s future including the stewardship of the WHO Safe Surgery Checklist at scale;
  • sustaining and expanding the program’s portfolio of research and innovation, its faculty, fellows, and staff, and its partnerships;  
  • identifying, cultivating and/or maintaining and expanding the relationship with funders and other key partners to support the program and to scale implementation of the Surgical safety checklist and other interventions developed by the Program;
  • in collaboration with the Senior Program Manager, leading multiple faculty members currently engaged in multiple projects across the program, as well as developing new projects and talent;
  • actively mentoring and advising the program’s faculty and fellows;
  • representing Ariadne Labs and the Safe Surgery/Safe Systems program as a thought leader through writing, speaking, and participating in public events, meetings, and the press.

The Director works closely with Ariadne Labs’ platform leaders and Ariadne Leadership to ensure the smooth execution of the Program’s projects and to build the scientific infrastructure that will supports excellence, learning, communication and teamwork. As a member of the Ariadne Labs leadership team, the Director contributes to Ariadne Labs’ strategic direction and delivery of its overall priorities.

This position is a minimum 60% non-clinical position, based at Ariadne Labs.

Required Skills and Competencies:

  • Clinician or Patient Safety expert with a reputation for clinical and/or academic  excellence;
  • Able to lead and manage people, teams, and projects in a spirit of collaboration and collegiality
  • Skilled at building and maintaining positive working relationships at all levels within organizations as well as externally with partners
  • Committed to building and mentoring multidisciplinary teams
  • Possess an aptitude and enthusiasm for building strategic partnerships and successfully pursuing external funding opportunities.
  • Excellent writing skills and superb interpersonal and verbal communication skills, including presenting ideas and results to diverse audiences
  • Excellent ability to multitask, prioritize, and recognize when concerns need to be escalated in a fast-paced environment
  • Flexible and open to new ways of thinking and working in a rapidly developing new organization
  • Critical thinking, intellectual curiosity, and a commitment to ongoing professional growth
  • Ability to link across clinical, educational, and policy domains
  • Engaged listener and learner.


MD, PhD, RN, DNP or other relevant terminal degree preferred. If candidates qualify for an academic appointment, a secondary vetting process through the relevant BWH department and/or Harvard Medical School will be required.

To apply: Please submit a Curriculum Vitae, cover letter, and three references to:

Kit Nichols, Director of Talent Development, Ariadne Labs at