Debbie DeMeo EDCN Interview
Kindred cares for the most medically complex and rehab-intensive patients. We provide solutions for this unique subset of patients through partnerships with hospitals, payors and other providers in the healthcare continuum. The ongoing and significant rise in patients who are more medically complex with multiple chronic diseases demands specialized clinicians and care to treat the whole person. Our Mission is to help our patients reach their highest potential for health and healing with intensive medical and rehabilitative care through a compassionate patient experience. Kindred Healthcare is a leader in Long Term Acute Care Hospitals, Rehab Services and Behavioral Health.
I began my journey in healthcare as a hospital Licensed Master Social Worker and used those skills to transition into a Business Development role. I have been in this role for 8 years but have been with Kindred for a total of 16. In my role as the Business Development Director, I am responsible for the design and execution of the Sales and Marketing Strategy and oversee a team of 3 Directors and 26 Clinical Liaisons. I also work in collaboration with the Senior Vice President of Sales and Business Development and the District Chief Financial Officer to drive the overall District performance. Very recently, I was promoted into the Chief Operating Officer role for the Houston District while still maintaining my Business Development role. As the COO, I am responsible for the efficient and profitable operation of the District facilities in collaboration with the facility CEO’s. I work collaboratively with Quality, Human Resources and Finance to develop goals for quality care, employee retention and financial performance and monitor performance for achievement of goals and for improvement, and take corrective action when necessary.
Having been with Kindred for many years, I have always taken the opportunity to get involved inside and outside my organization. My goal for the year has been to focus on improving my leadership skills as I work to expand my leadership role within my organization. I have focused on getting outside of my comfort zone, learn something new and get involved in something that I am passionate about that aligns with an organizational initiative. To that end, I applied to be a part of the ACHE Thomas Dolan Executive Diversity Program. I was confident that the insight I gained from this program would help me better navigate challenges related to diversity issues and inequities in the workplace, and prepare me to take a more invested role in positive change.
Having been recently promoted into an operations role, I feel like I am heading in the right direction on my leadership journey. Inside of my first 100 days in this role, I am embracing all the new facets of my responsibilities and really taking time to digest the transition.
On my journey, one of the most insightful things I did for myself was to come up with a personal strategy of making myself “UNCOMFORTABLE”, meaning pushing or challenging myself to go beyond what I considered my limits. To solidify this and hold myself accountable, I made a concerted effort to get this message to leaders within Kindred so that I had their support.
My drive to excel has always helped guide me along the way. In addition, having supportive peers and surrounding myself with those who had my best interest in mind also helped keep me on this path for healthcare leadership position.
I have used professional societies to get more involved in the professional community. This is a great way to broaden your sphere of influence and to make impactful, meaningful relationships with other individuals who may be on a similar path. One of the organizations that has been integral to my recent success is ACHE. As stated earlier, I was selected into the Thomas Dolan Executive Diversity Program and as part of that, I also had the opportunity to be in the 2021 Executive Program. Over the last year I have been involved nationally and locally with this organization and have the opportunity to meet highly successful leaders who will help shape how I am as a leader moving forward.
I think the best advice I ever received was to stay true to yourself.
It was not until this year that I have worked formally with a Mentor and this was through the ACHE Thomas Dolan Executive Diversity Program. My Mentor created a space where I could be vulnerable, sharing my fears and challenges about how I wanted to develop as a leader and where I wanted to go on my journey. She challenged me to think differently, frequently asking questions and providing feedback. One of the first things I remember her telling me is, “leverage what you are good at in order to facilitate growth”. In short time, I did become a more confident leader and determined where my path should lead. During my time in the program with ACHE and working with my Mentor, an opportunity arose for me to move into an Operations role and the first person I called to talk it through was my Mentor.
Some leadership lessons I have learned throughout my career journey is to always challenge yourself, think “outside the box”, get involved in organizations that can help build your network and take time to invest in yourself.
My family, health and faith are important to me and every day I work to make those a priority. Having these 3 things aligned make it easier for me to be successful in the workplace.
Having grown up in a family of Mexican, Spanish and Finnish descent, I have experienced how diversity can affect people firsthand. For example, my mother did not teach me or my siblings Spanish, which was her first language, for fear that we would be discriminated against just as she had been as a child. I also learned that these differences make us unique and embracing them is beneficial to your growth as an individual. In my family, I was the first to go to college and the first to have progressed into an executive role. In my current position, I am actively engaged in Diversity and Inclusion initiatives, including the Women’s Employee Resource Group, the Black Employee Resource Group and the LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group. My experience in those settings has shown me the positive impact that diverse points of view can have on an organization’s decision-making. In that regard, I along with my counter parts are the only all-female team in my company. In addition, I have worked to recognize and promote diverse members of my team by the nomination of three individuals from diverse cultures into a Sales Leadership program and will continue to support and recommend individuals for Leadership programs in the future. Finally, the nature of health care requires an appreciation of diversity in order to serve our patients fully.