CEO Gwen M. MacKenzie: Reversing Losses, Realizing Excellence at Sarasota Memorial Health Care

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Gwen MacKenzie serves as president and CEO of Sarasota (Fla.) Memorial Health Care System. The health system includes an 806-bed regional medical center, physician practices and a network of specialized medical campuses and clinics. The hospital is the only public hospital in the four-county Southwest Florida region and Sarasota County's second largest employer.

Gwen MacKenzie Reverses Losses, Realizes Excellence at Sarasota Memorial Health CareAs president and CEO, Ms. MacKenzie handles the challenges of leading Sarasota County's only safety-net hospital for the uninsured and underinsured with ease. Since becoming CEO in 2005, she has worked to reverse Sarasota Memorial's financial losses while guiding the organization to high honors in nursing and clinical excellence.

In order to improve the hospital's finances, Ms. Mackenzie pursued growth opportunities and cost-saving measures. For instance, she guided the hospital through an ER initiative reducing patient waiting times from "door to doctor" to 30 minutes. The organization's positive financial performance has improved its bond-ratings and paved the way for the hospital's $250 million campus improvement project. Additionally, she oversaw the opening of five new outpatient centers, including a freestanding emergency room and healthcare center.

Under Ms. Mackenzie's leadership, Sarasota Memorial Hospital has been one of the only hospitals in the region to receive Magnet Nursing Services Recognition for excellence in nursing, a top one percent rating from HealthGrades for consistency in clinical excellence and a top 15 national ranking for the lowest heart failure readmission rates based on CMS data.

"I started my career as an oncology nurse, which gave me a real understanding of how hospitals work, [as well as] the challenges our physicians, nurses and staff face every day as they work around the clock to care for patients," says Ms. MacKenzie. "Having that background in direct patient care helps me better anticipate challenges and work through potential solutions. Among many other skills, nurses are trained to listen, observe and communicate efficiently and effectively in a fast-paced, often demanding environment — skills that are invaluable as a leader."

Ms. Mackenzie's 25 years of experience at the nine-hospital Detroit Medical Center taught her how to effectively lead and manage in the healthcare industry. She started as an advanced nurse practitioner and worked her way to executive vice president and COO of DMC. Ms. Mackenzie also served as president of a number of the DMC hospitals, even serving as interim CEO of the system, before coming to Sarasota Memorial Health Care.

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