This post originally appeared on the Good Notes blog.
My family and career have taken me from the Midwest to both coasts and a few places in between. After nine years with Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, having my first child and finishing my doctorate, I accepted a position at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU). Over the next eight years, I had the opportunity to support various frontline and clinical departments at OHSU. I grew in ways I could have never imagined.
Supporting those closest to the patients
I was a hospital volunteer in high school before becoming a nursing assistant for high-risk obstetrics and labor and delivery. I feel extremely lucky that I still get to support those teams closest to the patients in my role as chief operating officer for University of Utah Health Hospitals and Clinics. My experience as a nursing assistant has helped me in understanding what our teams experience every day.
I remember telling my nurse manager that I would do anything but baby baths—I was so scared. I could get cases ready for deliveries and stock rooms but caring for a newborn was intimidating. Eventually, I did it. And like many things in health care, I learned that what seems daunting at first, can usually be resolved with help, understanding and effort.
Art of listening and collaboration
At Hopkins, I oversaw clinical operations, performance improvement and facilities for the hospital and school of medicine in neurosciences. It is an integrated system with leaders who span both sides of the clinical and research realms. As I worked with a wide variety of stakeholders, I learned there is a real art to listening and collaboration.
Applying these skills proved critical when I was charged with reactivating a heart transplant program and leading as incident commander during COVID at OHSU. There is common ground to be found among even the most diverse roles and teams, and sometimes it is about looking for the small wins and getting there together.
I love being in health care and academic medicine. Regardless of your role, we know the work can be difficult, but it can also be extremely rewarding thanks to those around you.
It is all about the people
My dad used to say, “Let the work show for itself.” I really believe that. I have learned the value of rolling up your sleeves and getting the work done, and that has served me well in my career. But I cannot overlook the importance of great teams and the people you surround yourself with. Whether personally (my husband, kids and family) or professionally (teams and colleagues), those people all motivate me to work hard and be kind and fair. It is because of them that I am the leader I am today.
I believe that 90% of what we do as leaders comes down to people. Every team member and every patient is unique. It is important to consider that we all have our own viewpoints and experiences. I am motivated by the great work that I see our teams performing. They contribute to the work environment and culture of U of U Health. I want to do everything I can to meet people where they are and to make this a wonderful place to work, learn and receive care—even in difficult times.
Everything we do is ultimately about our patients. I never want to lose sight of how important any of our roles are in caring for people when they need us most. My belief in the importance of individuals and their experiences drives me to work hard for our patients at their most vulnerable times.
With my experiences in patient care, administration and teaching, I also like to think about how we can improve our systems and communities. I am incredibly excited about our work with West Valley and believe greater access to health care will be amazing for the community and overall population health. It is important to meet patients and loved ones where they are, and to realize that systems and health care delivery do not need to stay the way they have been.
The U of U Health community is amazing, and they have been through a lot in recent years. What matters most is how we best support our teams and communities. In my short time here, I have already been impressed with the people, quality of care and the work invested at every level of this organization. I am thrilled to be part of this community and looking forward to the future of U of U Health.
Gina Hawley, DrPH, MHA
Gina Hawley is chief operating officer for University of Utah Health Hospitals and Clinics. Hawley is responsible for the operations and execution of key strategies across the health system. Previously, she was the vice president of Professional and Support Services at Oregon Health and Science University, where she oversaw allied health, clinical and support services departments. She received an MHA from the University of Minnesota and a DrPH in Health Management and Leadership from Johns Hopkins University.