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Hard-Won Lessons Shared at Women in Leadership Panel

By Dan Seals MBA, MPP, Vice President, Business Development, MPA Healthcare and Georgia Casciato, FACHE, Managing Director-Healthcare, Patina Solutions

“Women in Leadership,” the latest edition of CHEF’s Leadership Education Series, filled the room with energy, passion and fortitude in delivering a dynamic interactive program.

Four extremely talented and accomplished women came together on October 11th at Rush University to share tumultuous stories that forged their career paths of opportunity and personal fulfillment.

The four Panelists were:

  • Sharon C. Allen MBA, CDM, author and Adjunct Instructor at Columbia College of Missouri
  • Antoinette Hardy-Waller, RN, BSN, CEO of The Leverage Network
  • Barbara Johnson MBA, FACHE of Johnson Consulting
  • Elizabeth Wick, MD, FACS, Colorectal Surgeon at the University of California at San Francisco.

The panel was moderated by Georgia Casciato FACHE, Managing Director for Healthcare at Patina Solutions, a current CHEF Board member and twice-elected CHEF President (2016 & 2009.)  Several themes emerged as part of an up close and personal discussion with the audience.

Ms. Hardy-Waller shared stories of opportunity.  As a nurse she developed skills that resulted in her ownership of a home health company that was eventually sold to a health system.   As an entrepreneur, she talked about the importance of connecting with people who didn’t necessarily look or think like she does.  “I had to learn how to make strong relationships with my client,” she said.  “It is deliberate.”  As a black woman with white male clients, she feels her ability to build strong relationships that go beyond her demographic is vital to her success.  She then spoke of her personal reinvention and how that led to her current adventure: founding the Leverage Network.

With a rich history in healthcare business development, Ms. Johnson’s career has been augmented by joining several large hospital boards as well as volunteer leadership with CHEF and ACHE. She focused many of her comments on the need to retool professional skills to stay connected with the contemporary business opportunities in healthcare.  Ms. Johnson recalled that in one of her first jobs, she joined a team of 80 people, only to find that 78 of them were men.  But she persevered, feeling if she kept delivering results an opportunity would come. “Most of us don’t plan to be leaders,” Ms. Johnson said, “but when your opportunity comes you have to take it.”

Dr. Wick’s discussion of work/life balance was riveting. Being a surgeon while being married to a surgeon and having two young children is a lot of work.  She also shared the importance of finding a differentiator in your professional life to help you stand out amongst your peers. She is very involved in high-level quality initiatives and has authored or coauthored more than 100 articles.  Dr. Wick talked about how to behave when your opportunity to lead arrives.  “In the long run being true to yourself is better than trying to conform,” she said.

A very powerful story of overcoming life obstacles was shared by Sharon C. Allen. “I remember hiding with my brother and sisters as my father beat my mother. The suffering that my mother endured became my resolve to make a better life for myself.”

Ms. Allen emphasized the importance of team.   As a team leader, she said “you can transfer a duty but you can’t transfer responsibility.  That means understanding the people that you rely on for success.  Get to know each member of your team.  Meet with them separately.”

While the stories shared at the event came from the panelists’ experiences as women in healthcare, the advice that they gave was universal in its application.   Perhaps Ms. Allen summed it up best when she described a quality found in leaders of all backgrounds.  “I love to win,” stated Ms. Allen.  “I can lose gracefully, but I love to win.”

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