6 hospital CEOs recall their mentors

Adviser, counselor, teacher, guide — in both personal and professional life, everyone needs a mentor.

The importance of mentorship in the workplace is ever-increasing and, according to CEO.com, companies should now focus on setting up specific mentor-mentee relationships within the framework of their teams.

Numerous CEOs we have spoken with have shared their thoughts on mentorship and how it has impacted them. Whether a colleague, a friend, or even a parent, the following CEOs have undoubtedly had influential mentors in their lives.

Here, six CEOs remember those who have inspired and mentored them over the years.

Marna Borgstrom
President and CEO of Yale New Haven (Conn.) Health System and CEO of Yale-New Haven Hospital
"Just say no." My predecessor and mentor told me to stay focused and to not over-commit. People will pull you into doing a lot of different things and they're all fun and interesting, but then you find yourself pulled in too many directions, and you can't do any of it well. Organizations that may want you to participate on boards are still likely to want you later when you will be able to give them more time. Pace yourself and remember what your "day job" is.

Louis Shapiro
CEO of Hospital for Special Surgery (New York)
My first year working, 31 years ago, I was told by my first mentor and current friend that I need more than one tool (a hammer) in my toolbox. The second piece of advice was also a compliment, and that had to do with being a normal human being as CEO and treating all people the same — whether the person is doing the very important work of keeping the hospital clean or is a board member. 

Jean Keeler, JD
CEO of Grand View Hospital and Health Foundation (Sellersville, Pa.)
I didn't have any, but then again I had many. I didn't have a female mentor. There just were not many women practicing law before the wave of us hit Bucks County. And yet, I learned a great deal from many men along the way. I went to a practically all male school and went to professional schools where [women] were pretty much in the minority. We're very familiar working with and competing with men — we've been doing it our entire lives.

The woman I admire the most is my mother, a homemaker. She always told me I could be anything I wanted to be. I think that's a good message to pass on to all young women. Speak to our friends' daughters, at our colleges and reinforce it to our daughters and collective daughters. I also think we need to raise our boys to understand women are their equals, they deserve respect and they should be just as excited for women's careers [as they are theirs].

Dr. David Feinberg
CEO of UCLA Health System (Los Angeles)
I had great mentors. One of them is a gentleman named William Simon Jr. He said to me, when I got this job, "You're going to have thousands of decisions coming at you everyday. You need to focus on one or two things and that's all you can really change." So this idea of singular focus has stayed with me. I chose to focus on improving our connection in a human level with our patients. My family is also really supportive. My parents are really good with people, and my wife is a great partner.

Christine Schuster, RN, MBA
President and CEO of Emerson Hospital (Concord, Mass.)
My dad, who passed away nine years ago, used to own a small pharmacy. When I was a little kid I used to go to work with him and it always impressed me how he always put the patient who came in for medicine at the center. He also had to have a retail part of the store to make money. He had a soda fountain, he sold seasonal things; ultimately, he kept the store alive by being innovative and creative.

I currently have a board member, Mike Zak, who is a partner at Charles River Ventures. What I love about Mike is that he constantly challenges me to be innovative, take risks and have the courage to try creative things. He's a mentor in many ways and I feel the hospital and our community have benefited from him challenging me, and subsequently me challenging my team and always pushing the envelope. He taught me it's okay to try things even if they don't work, but in the end, they usually do. That's why we've been so successful.

Sandra Bruce, MHA
President and CEO of Presence Health (Chicago)
My biggest inspiration is Sister Carol Keehan, president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association of the United States. She had the courage to stand up for her convictions to help bring about the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. I admire her strength in standing up for what she believed and she has been applauded across the United States for having secured the necessary votes.

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