Let’s honor the inclusive leadership of women in healthcare

March 8, 2023 |  Home Care, Nursing, Industry Leaders, Hospice, International Women's Day

Women leaders of different experiences and backgrounds offer each other support.

It’s hard to imagine what healthcare would look like without the contributions of women. In my career as a nurse leader, I’ve met so many amazing people who have brought their unique perspectives, intellect, and compassion to the work that we do. The impact of their diverse contributions to healthcare cannot be overstated.

For this International Women’s Day, I wanted to recognize just a few of the women who inspire me to take on new challenges and keep moving forward toward a more inclusive, equitable, caring world.

Sanaz Riahi, RN, DNP, PhD
Vice President, Clinical, Practice & Chief Nursing Executive
Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences 

Sanaz has long been known as a champion of nursing education, mental health wellness, and EHR optimization. She helped lead her organization toward the HIMSS Davies Award of Excellence and multiple HIMSS EMRAM Stage 7 revalidations, making Ontario Shores the first hospital in Canada to receive these awards. 

In 2018 while serving in a senior leadership role, Sanaz completed her PhD in Nursing at the University of Central Lancashire - one of her proudest moments. She credits her former boss, Barb Mildon, as one of her biggest supporters.

“Barb really taught me amazing leadership skills, enabling me to span my wings and grow,” Sanaz said. “She provided me with encouragement and also helped me stretch as a leader. I certainly contribute many of my successes to her support and mentorship.”

Sanaz believes it is critical for women leaders to find opportunities to collaborate and share experiences. “It is so easy in our day-to-day routines to become isolated and work in silos,” she said. “Being able to share our learnings and success factors with other women can help all of us to reach our utmost potential.”

Lindsay Doak, MBA
Director of Research

Lindsay is a seasoned healthcare leader, with over 15 years experience in healthcare education, business intelligence, and patient satisfaction initiatives. In her role at BerryDunn, she spearheaded the 2021 National Healthcare at Home Best Practices and Future Insights Study. She also currently serves on the Education Committee for the National Association for Home Care and Hospice. Lindsay will be one of the keynote speakers at MEDITECH’s virtual Home Care Symposium later this month. 

Lindsay shared how her recent experience as her dad’s caregiver gave her a new perspective on the importance of hospice. “I have grown an even greater appreciation for the caregivers and hospice staff who take on these roles every day,” she said. 

One of the most significant mentors in Lindsay’s life is Bob Fazzi, a pioneer of home health patient satisfaction services. “Bob taught me how to be a caring and empathetic leader. When I first started my career, he allowed me a seat at the table to share ideas and provide input,” she said. “He has always had my back, given me opportunities to grow, and persuaded me to go outside my comfort zone.”

Sometimes fear can hold women leaders back from supporting their peers as often as they should, Lindsay observed. “For much of my career, there was this concept that there was only one seat at the table for females in leadership roles, and we all needed to compete for it. Today I realize how that set us all back,” she said. “We as women are the best advocates for other women. It is our job to ensure there are enough seats at the table for all of us.” 

Jennifer Laughlin Mueller, MBA, RHIA, SHIMSS, FACHE, FAHIMA
Vice President and Privacy Officer
Wisconsin Hospital Association 
AHIMA President

Jennifer is a passionate advocate for health literacy, interoperability, and EHR technologies. In addition to her leadership role at AHIMA, she is also responsible for the overall direction and oversight of the Wisconsin Hospital Association Information Center. She says one of her biggest accomplishments was completing her MBA at the Lubar College of Business, while also working full time and raising her 8-year-old daughter. 

“My role model in life is my dad. He inspired me my entire life by his work ethic and raising three daughters. He always told me that I could be or do anything that I wanted in life,” Jennifer said. “Another mentor was my former CEO at Watertown Regional Medical Center, where I worked for 19 years. I needed an advanced degree to be in executive leadership, so he encouraged and supported me while I pursued it.” 

Jennifer agrees that it’s important for women in healthcare (and especially women in IT) to support each other professionally.  “There are not a lot of women health IT leaders, even though our numbers are growing,” she said. “Sharing what we have learned along the way can be so helpful in giving each other confidence. We need to be there for each other, to lend an ear and offer our experience and advice.”

Former Chief Nursing Officer
Office of the National Coordinator

Judy is an internationally recognized expert in nursing informatics. She spent over three decades at Aurora Healthcare, first as a staff nurse and informaticist, eventually working her way up to vice president of Information Services. When a new opportunity on the national stage came along in 2011, she was ready.

“After 36 years living in the same city and working at the same healthcare organization, I took a leap and went to work for the ONC in Washington, DC,” she said. “It was one of the most important ways I was able to influence nursing’s role and help improve healthcare delivery.”  

One of Judy’s vital mentors was Patricia Flatley Brennan, RN, PhD, and the current director of the National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health. “Patti provided me with a clear vision of all the working parts of the health informatics landscape and professions. She showed me value of engaging in activities outside my paid position,” Judy said. 

“Many career and life skills are not learned in the classroom or on the job. A great way for women to support each other is through formal and informal mentorship - role modeling from close and afar, providing suggestions and listening, sitting down for that simple discussion over coffee.”

Sherry Teague, MS
Co-Owner, Founder & CFO
K&K Health Care Solutions

Sherry has been a successful business owner/entrepreneur for over 25 years. With her partners, she established a home care consulting company led and staffed entirely by women. This enterprise is now celebrating 10 years of training and support for community-based care agencies. Her colleague and co-founder Cindy Krafft will be one of our keynote speakers at MEDITECH’s virtual Home Care Symposium

One of the foundations for Sherry’s success has been her background in team sports. “Nothing I’ve accomplished would have been possible without the things I learned playing and coaching competitive softball, and having an athletic scholarship to pay for my education,” she said. 

Her most influential mentor was her college softball coach, Bettye Jean Williams. “Bettye Jean taught us that ‘practice makes permanent’ and nothing can replace good preparation and hustle,” she said. “Our society has conditioned women to compete professionally, but not necessarily to honor each other in ways that can help all of us succeed. It’s so important for women to lift one another up.”

Sherry Montileone
Chief Information Officer
Citizens Memorial Hospital

Sherry was just getting started implementing virtual visits at Citizens Memorial Hospital when COVID-19 hit in 2020. From there, she took the lead in expediting the initiative - using their technology to maintain critical bonds between providers and patients during an unprecedented time of isolation. 

Sherry faced these new challenges with a solid foundation of experience and mentorship. “I credit our previous CIO, Denni McColm, for her visionary leadership at Citizens,” she said. “It was inspiring to see how her approach led to us winning the HIMSS Davies Award of Excellence, as well as gaining recognition as one of the top rural hospitals nationwide."

But Sherry also believes that her personal road to success was paved early on, through the unconditional support of family. “I was fortunate to have a great childhood that promoted happiness, hard work, and independence,” Sherry said. “My husband and I have passed that sense of confidence on to our two adult daughters. They worked all through high school and college, and today have successful careers. Best of all, they are really good people that we love to be around.” 

Sherry feels that people of all backgrounds and experiences working in our industry have the opportunity to contribute to healthcare and make it better for everyone:  “The gains we make today will benefit generations to come, and that includes all of us.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Happy International Women’s Day! 

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Written by Cathy Turner, BSN, MBA, RN-BC, Chief Marketing and Nursing Executive, MEDITECH

Cathy Turner, BSN, MBA, RN-BC is a member of the Healthcare Information Management System Society (HIMSS) and the American Nursing Informatics Association (ANIA), as well as chief executive of MEDITECH’s marketing and nursing departments. Cathy has been named a recipient of the 2023 HIMSS Changemaker in Health Award.
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