Meet Johnese Spisso-From Critical Care Nurse to CEO

In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.
Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.

Sheryl Sandberg

Meet Johnese Spisso

I am proud to introduce to you a close friend and one of the most inspirational leaders in the healthcare world. She’s a humanitarian hero and an amazing Gal Pal to so many.  

Meet Johnese Spisso, the President of UCLA Health, CEO of UCLA Hospital System, and Associate Vice Chancellor of UCLA Health Sciences in 2016.  See her interview below. 

This incredible woman has climbed the ranks, broken the glass ceiling by motivating those around her— as she sets the stage for the next generation of female leaders and has proven why there shouldn’t be any gender bias. 

She is a nationally recognized academic healthcare leader with more than 30 years of experience. Johnese oversees all UCLA’s clinics, hospitals, and the health system’s regional outreach strategy.

The great news is that Johnese has a significant influence on the future of healthcare.

Why It’s So Important To Have Women Leaders In Medicine

As the medical industry changes at an accelerated pace, the foundation of caring for patients will never change.  It’s  healthcare leaders like Johnese who understands the value of weaving empathy into the fabric of the care for all. 

Women make 80% of all buying and usage decisions for their families, it goes to reason that there should be more women in healthcare leadership positions. 

That way women can advocate and provide input for those who have direct and intimate knowledge of the industry’s pain points.

One Of The Most Influential & Powerful Women
  In The Healthcare Industry Today

Johnese is one of the most influential people in the healthcare industry with a long list of awards to boot. 

She was most recently named Modern Healthcare’s Top 25 Most Influential Women Leaders in 2019, LA Business Journal’s 500 Most Influential Leaders in Los Angeles in 2020, Modern Healthcare’s Top 50 Clinical Leaders of 2020 in the U.S., and the Los Angeles Business Journal Women of Influence Award for Health Care in 2021.

As a community shepherd she served from 2016-2018 as the Los Angeles Community Chair for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Light the Night Walk. In 2017, the Los Angeles Community Chair for the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women Luncheon. If there is a way for her to make a difference, she is all in. 


I’ve had the opportunity to work at every level —- from the bedside up.

UCLA Health event

From A Critical- Care Nurse to CEO

 She began her career as a critical-care nurse in the medical, surgical, and transplant intensive care unit at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Presbyterian. 

As a registered nurse, Johnese rose through the ranks over 12 years at the University of California, Davis Medical Center and directed the critical care, trauma and burn center, emergency services and the Life Flight Air-Medical Program. 

She earned her master’s degree in health care administration and public administration from the University of San Francisco and a bachelor’s degree in health sciences from Chapman College. 

Johnese spent 22 years at UW Medicine in Seattle, Washington, where she was promoted from Chief Nursing Officer to Chief Operating Officer to Chief Health System Officer and Vice President of Medical Affairs for the University of Washington.

This last year during Covid:  Johnese shared her expertise as a commander and chief of a large command center (UCLA Health Organization). She was center stage on CNN and many media outlets.  

Her leadership in effectively managing a crisis was on the national stage as UCLA Health was among the first in the country to develop its COVID-19 test, administering it to nearly 150,000 people since March 2020. I was  comforted to see her on TV throughout the crises. 

With all of her accolades, Johnese remains to be one of the most down-to-earth people I know. She’s an authentic woman who radiates humble confidence. 

As an intrinsically self-motivated soul, she oozes sincere compassion, empathy, grace and is never boastful about her accomplishments. With that said, I get to brag about her here. 

Raised With Resilience

Two hard-working parents raised Johesese and her siblings. Her father was in management for a motor company, and her mother was a teacher who got her master’s degree and a doctorate. 

Her mother was a role model for Johnese- balancing life teaching, going to school, and taking care of three children. 

Johnese says that “as a career woman, my mother seemed to be able to work and successfully manage a family. So, I always had the confidence I could do that, too.”
Johnese and her sister and brother

Johnese Spisso-The Mother

I have known Johnese for nearly twenty years. I met her while working in our kids’ 1st-grade classroom. Dressed in our power suits as we escaped from our busy careers so we wouldn’t miss the special moments with our young kids. 

Despite Johnese’s success, her family always has and will always come first. 

This exceptional executive wears many hats, but her mama “crown” is the most important one.  Her greatest joy has been spending time with family and watching their daughter pursue her goals. 

What is so profound about Johnese is that she possesses all of the essential qualities of great pacesetters— but uniquely gifted with a big heart and extraordinary dedication to lifting those around her. She does this with humility, grace, and perseverance. 



A True Humanitarian

Among her friends, she is referred to as the “angel,” guarding and guiding those around her. She’s highly empathetic, responsive, and always available to help anyone in need. Johnese Spisso is a true humanitarian. 

If there is an opportunity to mentor, open doors and, support her colleagues and friends, she will always make it her priority. 

In fact, Johnese has advanced female executives, including hiring five new senior leaders and bringing three new female faculty chairs to UCLA. Two women she mentored were hired to president/CEO positions in 2018.

Her life’s work has impacted thousands of lives in so many ways, making a difference with the meaning and purpose of helping and healing others.

Everything A Woman In Business Should be

I have had the honor of working with Johnese as an outside Marketing Consultant and had the unique opportunity to watch Spisso do her magic on an executive level. 

She is everything that every woman in business should aim to be, cracking the glass ceiling by being her authentic self. She has succeeded because she is an exceptional leader and people want to work for her.

Driven with purpose and grace, she’s a beacon of light and inspiration and joy for women everywhere.

The Never Give Up Attitude

Like many highly successful leaders, Johnese focuses on staying optimistic with a “never give up” attitude. Spisso is a chieftain who knows what she wants and is so determined that she never lets temporary difficulties hinder her from achieving her goals or fulfilling the mission and purpose.

Warrior of Light

My Gal Pal Johnese has somehow managed to face intense determination and a strong will to create this warrior of light and role model for others.

With that said, she knows how to enjoy life and have fun with those close to her. Her genuine inner beauty comes forth when she spends time with her family and friends.

She is a constant. With that, I mean, I can always expect Johnese to be her authentic self every time I see her, even if it’s been months. Every time I spend time with my Gal Pal Johnese, I am honored with her presence. She remains true to herself and her style.

Johnese and her daughter Veronica

Her Beauty and Style

Johnese is just as beautiful on the outside as she is on the inside. Many people compare her to Amal Clooney, with her extreme intelligence and beauty. Seriously, they look so much alike. 

Let’s talk style, ladies. Johnese always dresses in a minimal classic fashion. Never overly embellished, just tailored and timeless. Her wardrobe reflects her classic beauty, from her St. John suits to her cute t-shirt and jeans outfits. Clean, bold, and on-point always.

Just Remember Ladies….

The next time you feel like you’re unable to do something or it feels out of reach, look to women like Johnese Spisso for inspiration because we do not doubt that you will be inspired to do better, be better, and create the change you want to see in the world.

On Living A Beautiful Life


How do you be your authentic, beautiful self?

I try to always be genuine and lead with consistent values so that people always know what they can count on when interacting with me. I think authenticity is so important, walking the talk and demonstrating your words with actions that reflect those!!



What is the best advice about life you have ever received?

My best advice came from my parents, they taught me to always work hard, be generous, be humble and appreciative. My work ethic comes from them and their role modeling.  They always led efforts that helped care for the community and those in need.  


What age do you feel like you are right now? And why?

I always feel at the best age, what I have learned through life experiences and where I am in my career and with my family!!


What’s your beauty secret?

I need to learn a few beauty secrets!! Mostly I try to eat healthy, get rest and exercise daily.  I love to walk in Los Angeles, it clears my mind and allows me to think.  I love the weather and the beautiful city.

Living With Purpose


What woman has inspired you the most and why?

Definitely my mother, she was a role model for her time for working women who had a career and family, at a time when most women didn’t work outside the home.  She was a teacher and a principal of a school district and was a remarkable community leader, educator and the best mother to us.


What life-changing events have shaped you?

My career journey, starting as a critical care registered nurse and advancing all the way up to CEO of a health system, working at every level getting here, has given me such great perspective.  Being married and having a wonderful daughter gives me such great joy in life. Having great friends and supportive colleagues enriches life as well.


What drives you?

Making a difference one person at a time and watching the ripple effects of that. With having now lost both my parents, I want to live my life in a way that honors their legacy of being people who were compassionate, caring, strong, loving, supportive and made a difference in the lives of so many people.

On Grace


What does grace mean to you?

The ability to manage things well and keeping everyone around you calm.


What issues and missions do you hold close to your heart?

I am a huge advocate for health care access, children’s services and giving back to the community.

On Joy


What brings you joy?

Definitely my family


What keeps you up at night?

When things get hectic with my career I sometimes get less sleep, but I make a real effort to exercise as that reduces my stress


What is the daily routine that brings you joy?

Having dinner with family and friends, going on long walks



Where is your happy place and why?

I love to be outdoors especially in the beautiful LA sunshine and the spectacular beaches here.

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