National Minority Health Month Featured Contributors

Dana M. Weston, MHA, FACHE

President & CEO, UNC Rockingham Health Care

Eden, North Carolina

“This organization has both a CEO and a janitor. If one of us doesn’t show up three days in row, which one do you think the organization will miss?”Dana Weston heard those words from her father, Ronald, when she was a girl helping him clean buildings. Now, Weston is the president and chief executive officer of UNC Rockingham Health Care, which includes a 108-bed, community hospital and a 121-bed skilled nursing facility in Eden, North Carolina. Her father’s advice continues to inform her leadership style and the value she places on everyone in her organization.“Every single person that’s here is critical to patient outcomes,” Weston says. “Growing up cleaning buildings with my dad was one of the things that made me a much better leader.”Originally from St. Louis, Weston, who is 36, took the helm of Morehead Memorial Hospital in 2015.  She led the hospital through a Chapter 11 bankruptcy that resulted in a partnership with the nationally acclaimed UNC Health Care system. It also preserved the rural community’s largest employer.UNC Health Care immediately tapped Weston to be president and CEO of the hospital that was renamed UNC Rockingham Health Care.  Her leadership skills have not been overlooked. A fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives, Weston was recently named Young Healthcare Executive of the Year by the National Association of Health Service Executives (NAHSE).  She’s become an advocate for rural healthcare and a sought-after public speaker across North CarolinaThroughout her career, Weston’s youth, gender and race have placed her in the minority, a role she’s adjusted to by being flexible, building relationships and keeping the focus on the things people share. For Weston, those relationship-building opportunities don’t happen behind a desk.“From an early age, many of us have been told that we have to be twice as good to get ahead,” says Weston. “So we’re in our offices trying to do that, and we miss the opportunity to form relationships.“When promotions come along, it’s not solely talent that’s being discussed; it’s the fact that we (diverse executives) really haven’t connected with anybody,” she says. “It’s often the folks who are forming relationships over dinner or on the golf course who are being tapped for the next opportunity.”Building relationships, finding mentors and using sites like the EDC Navigator help close gaps that many qualified, diverse executives experience, she adds.“The way the Navigator is set up, it outlines four focus areas: knowing yourself, mastering your job, leveraging relationships and gaining visibility,” she says. “The Navigator is the ‘FUBU’ of career sites: It’s for us and by us. It’s not people who haven’t experienced the journey trying to tell you what it’s like to be a minority in an executive world. It’s people who have lived it. That’s what makes it useful and different.”

Heriberto “Eddie” Cruz, FACHE

Vice President of Operations Access Community Health Network

Chicago, IL

Eddie Cruz is an experienced senior executive with extensive health care background, who currently serves as the Vice President of Operations for Access Community Health Network.  ACCESS is one of the nation’s largest federally qualified health center organizations. With 36 community health centers, ACCESS provides primary and preventive health care services for more than 176,000 patients throughout Chicago, as well as Cook and DuPage counties.Eddie’s career reflects his diligence and tenacity.  He began his career in health care immediately after high school, working as a hospital orderly and then as a patient care technician in his hometown of Milwaukee, WI.  After moving to Chicago and holding a support position in a hospital’s critical care unit, Eddie accepted a position at Advocate Medical Group, where he increasingly assumed greater levels of responsibility and rose to the position of Practice Manager.Eddie joined ACCESS in 2003 as a regional operations director to assume responsibility for the operations of 16 ambulatory, multi-specialty health centers including several support departments. In 2009, he was promoted to the newly created position of Deputy Operations Administrator.  In his current role as Vice President of Operations, Eddie is responsible for all health center operations.In 2013, Eddie was selected as one of six scholars for the inaugural American College of Healthcare Executives Thomas C. Dolan Executive Diversity Program and received the National Association of Latino Healthcare Executives 2013 Emerging Leader Award. Most recently, he was recognized by the American College of Healthcare Executives with its 2014 Regent Healthcare Leadership Award.Eddie is bilingual and holds a Bachelor of Science in Commerce from DePaul University and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from National-Louis University.

Commentary

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Charles Henderson, MHA

Connected Health Coordinator at VHA,

Expanding Access for Veterans with Technology

Rapid City, South Dakota

United States Air Force Veteran with over 5 years of progressive global military experience. Proudly served in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) campaigns. Received awards for Air Force Achievement, Outstanding Health Service Inspection & AMC Medical Logistics account of the year 2008. Skilled management and operations professional that possesses a broad background in both strategic and tactical activities. Great at communication, organization, time management, coaching, and employee development. Established ability to perform in a variety of complex and austere environments, working with diverse populations while maintaining an objective and mission focus.

Commentary

Working with a Mentor

Astrid Gonzalez-Parrilla, OTD, MBA, FACHE

Executive Director, Rehabilitation Services

Jacksonville, Florida

There are several publications and studies that propose the interrelation between social identity and language.  Some theories have established that social identity and ethnicity are established and maintain through language.Considering that spoken language is the primary mode that is used to communicate our needs and emotions, it is then easy to say that it has a significant impact on our personal and social identity.  English is my second language, and acquiring vocabulary was my main goal when I move to the United States.  I remember how comforting it was every time I heard someone speaking in Spanish, and my social network was composed primarily of people that were fluent in Spanish. As I gain confidence, and became fluent in English my social network expanded; English was no longer just a “business language”, it became my primary mode of communication and part of my personal and social identity.Being bilingual has served me well.  I have been able to be a voice for those who are unable to express their needs and I have been able to help others navigate the healthcare system when they were unable. Since it may take me a longer time to understand the different vernaculars and accents, I have developed the ability to listen with intent, and pay attention to the nonverbal communication.  This has contributed significantly to making emotional connections with my staff, colleagues and most important with our patients.  I have embraced the power that language has in defining who I am, socially and personally.  One of my favorites quotes is from Nancie O’Neill;  “when different talents and ideas rub up against each other, there is friction; yes, but also spark, fire, light, and eventually-brilliance”.  It is my aspiration to be the spark that can ignite the courage and conviction needed to be an inclusive healthcare executive in the context of cultural diversity.Astrid Gonzalez-Parrilla has dedicated her career to the advancement of post-acute care services and neuro-rehabilitation. She was inspired to become an occupational therapist after her mother survived a major stroke. During the early years as an occupational therapist, Astrid realized that in order to make a difference in the care delivery system it was important to be at the table when important decisions were made; it was then when she initiated her journey as a healthcare leader.  Astrid completed a master’s degree in healthcare administration, and became board certified as a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executive in 2013.  In 2014, she earned a post-professional doctorate in Occupational Therapy with concentration in administration and practice management.  Astrid currently serves as Executive Director of the Rehabilitation Service Line at Halifax/Brooks in Daytona Beach.

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