Dr. E.J. Imafidon, DPT, MBA, PMP, FACHE EDCN Interview
White Plains Hospital (WPH) is a voluntary, not-for-profit health care organization. WPH’s primary mission is offering high-quality acute health care and preventive medical care to all people who live in, work in, or visit Westchester County and its surrounding areas. In the past five years, WPH has expanded its surgical and radiology services. As Assistant Vice President of Administration, one of my many responsibilities is to work with these clinical services departments to achieve operational execution of strategic and organizational goals.
Growing up, my parents instilled in us the value of education, a lifelong curiosity for constantly learning new things, translating this lifelong curiosity to a life of purpose to positively impact your community. Even though I grew up in challenging environments, this value has stayed with me and fueled my desire to pursue a healthcare career. I started my career as a physical therapist at St. Barnabas Hospital Health System (SBH), providing rehabilitation services to underserved populations in the Bronx. I was honored early on to have the opportunity to progressively move to various operations leadership roles across the continuum of care. I have always approached my career journey strategically while learning diverse skills, which has made a difference. I have also been fortunate to work with outstanding teams in my career journey. I learned early on in healthcare that it takes a team to transform the health of a community. As I look forward to my career, I continue to ask to be professionally challenged and look for leadership opportunities to serve.
As an early careerist, to have the opportunities to learn from other healthcare leaders, I joined professional societies, like the American College of Executive (ACHE), the National Association of Health Services Executive (NAHSE), and the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). These professional societies were critical resources in my career journey; they provided me with several learning opportunities. But, more importantly, they provided me with an opportunity to network with healthcare leaders from diverse backgrounds. I also was provided the opportunity to be mentored and sponsored by healthcare leaders I met at these networking events. As a result, I developed several mentoring relationships with these leaders, and they continued to push me to be the best leader I can be.
I would say that there were specific experiences that shaped me as a leader. For example, I didn’t have adequate healthcare and often had terrible experiences growing up when I engaged healthcare systems for various reasons. Those experiences certainly shape me as a leader. So, as I have navigated my career journey as a healthcare leader, I remember those experiences. Consequently, my determination is to focus as a leader to ensure that we create a healthcare delivery operation accessible to all and create a culture that everyone who comes into our healthcare spaces has the space and peace to heal.
In terms of advice that someone gave me that has shaped me as a leader, I have received countless pieces of advice. But, I would say the one that comes to mind is that I should work to be the best leader I can be from a competency standpoint, but more importantly, to be someone that people want to work with. This advice has helped me throughout my career journey to achieve collective success for our patients and community.
I have been very fortunate to have mentors and sponsors that have helped me along my career journey. Several years, ago I met a mentor at an ACHE – Health Leaders of New York (HLNY) CEO Panel event on a cold winter day in New York City. We began a networking relationship that evolved into a mentoring relationship. I have to say that this mentoring relationship provided a seasoned executive leader to coach me through some critical career crossroads. My mentor also went out of their way to set up networking connections with other executive leaders in their network—the mentorship and sponsorship from this seasoned leader over the years have been critical and life-changing. So, these positive mentoring and sponsorship experiences in my career journey have also propelled me to pay it forward by mentoring and sponsoring others. I am happy to mentor young people working with organizations, helping first-generation students from low-income backgrounds through education and career journey because my mentoring and sponsoring relationship changed the course of my career journey.
There are several leadership lessons I have learned throughout my career journey. One of those lessons is that you must be intentional about your personal and career development. It would help if you continued to develop your leadership competencies, and there are many trusted resources. For example, ACHE and NAHSE have several valuable, trusted resources that are helpful for your career development strategies. Another leadership lesson is that you must also learn to take risks and be comfortable with failing, and when you fail, think through while you fail and learn from these failures. Finally, I also think you must recognize why you decided to go into healthcare and let that purpose for helping people be your compass, pushing you to get better and serve during difficult days (such as leading during the COVID pandemic).
My parting words to healthcare leaders is that we must continue improving healthcare delivery globally by bringing diverse views and perspectives to the table. The COVID Pandemic has shown the world how interconnected we are. So, leadership now and ever requires us to focus on building diverse teams, mentoring next-generation leaders to reach out of their comfort zones. Leaders who build successful teams and create an inclusive learning culture embracing mentoring and diverse viewpoints can collaboratively solve complex healthcare challenges. Many healthcare leaders are working intentionally now to create an environment that embraces these principles. My optimism about the future of healthcare is inspired by the fact that we are embracing these diverse, inclusive principles and growing leaders who will continue to address complex challenges (health equity, social determinants of health, etc.) to improve the healthcare delivery system.