Corner Office: Coral Gables CEO Cristina Jimenez on the importance of embracing change as a veteran healthcare leader

After spending 30 years progressing through the ranks and helping drive improvements at Coral Gables (Fla.) Hospital, Cristina Jimenez saw her efforts recognized in March 2017 when she was promoted to CEO.

Ms. Jimenez began her career at the hospital more than three decades ago as a student intern focusing on her Bachelors in medical technology. Upon completion of the internship, she was asked to stay as a laboratory technologist. Although she left briefly for three months, she was immediately asked to return. Since that day, she has spent her entire career at Coral Gables.

Over the years, the healthcare veteran has served as Coral Gables' COO, chief standards officer, associate administrator and risk manager, among others.

Since Ms. Jimenez took the helm, the 245-bed hospital has achieved significant milestones. For example, in 2018, Coral Gables became the top Tenet hospital for patient satisfaction in the Miami-Dade market. In 2017, Coral Gables became first hospital in the area to achieve certification for both total hip and total knee replacement from the Joint Commission.

Here, Ms. Jimenez discusses more about her 30-year career by answering Becker's seven Corner Office questions.

Editor's Note: Responses have been edited for length and clarity

Question: What is one thing that piqued your interest in healthcare?

Cristina Jimenez: As I was growing up, both my father and grandfather worked in the healthcare industry. Thanks to them, I have always been passionate about healthcare. Even from a young age, I wanted to help people and make sure I made a difference in their lives. When patients are hospitalized, it can be a vulnerable moment in their lives and being able to help people gives me a lot of satisfaction.   

Growing up, I never thought I would be a healthcare leader. However, my career and the steps I took prepared me to develop into one.  I was able to demonstrate my skills, devotion and interest and I was able to prove myself.  Tenet trusted me, they gave me the opportunity to grow and I was selected to be part of a leadership development program. That led me to earning my MBA with a specialization in healthcare.

Q: What do you enjoy most about the city of Coral Gables?

CJ: Coral Gables is a great city filled with rich history and beautiful architecture. It has a Mediterranean style, which is very intriguing to me. Additionally, after looking into the history of Coral Gables, I found out that George Merrick established the city and he had ties to Latin America. That history has allowed Coral Gables to evolve while still maintaining that international pride. The hospital carries the name of the city and we're very honored by that, because much like the city, it is international and multicultural.

Q: If you could eliminate one of the healthcare industry's problems overnight, which would it be? 

CJ: While much progress has been made, I'd want to eliminate all preventable medical errors. I think it could be achieved by more research and improving technology as an industry. If we could implement more technology, we would be able to further eliminate medication errors and improve patient safety, which is a top priority for everyone in healthcare. It would be a great accomplishment. I also think that if we had more automated systems and if the government provided incentives to the hospitals to implement new technologies, we'd be better off as a whole.

Q: What do you consider your greatest talent or skill outside of the C-suite?

CJ: I love to cook. I've never been professionally trained, but when I was a child my grandmother was a great cook and she taught me. I enjoy cooking so much that when I'm not at the hospital or when I'm on vacation, I cook as a hobby of mine. I love cooking a lot of different dishes, but I would have to say my specialty is the shrimp creole — I add a bit of sugar to the sauce.

Q: How do you revitalize yourself?

CJ: I belong to a wellness program and make sure to exercise regularly. I think exercise is good for the mind and good for the soul. I also prioritize time with my family when I'm not at the hospital.  I recently became a grandmother, so I enjoy time with my grandson.  He gives me great joy, and revitalizes me when I'm not here at the hospital.

Q: What is one piece of advice you remember most clearly?

CJ: It's very important that you embrace change in healthcare, because the industry is very dynamic. One thing someone told me a long time ago is that healthcare is ever-changing and leaders in healthcare need to be able to adapt to those changes and embrace them. If you don't, then you and your organization won't evolve. That's something I've always taken to heart. Meaning, even though I've been at Coral Gables for a long time, I adapt to change and I'm not one of those people to say, "Oh, we've done it like this for 30 years, so we have to continue doing it this way." On the contrary, I always search for new ways to do things. If a new method works better, I'm the first one to make sure my team complies.

Q: What do you consider your greatest achievement at Coral Gables Hospital so far?

CJ: One thing I consider a great personal accomplishment is the longstanding career I've had at Coral Gables. I think it's something that should be highlighted, especially being a female and having the opportunity to grow and evolve into the CEO. I know that's something I should be very proud of, and something my family takes pride in. I'm sure that my dad, if he was still alive, would be very proud of what I've been able to accomplish.

Beyond that, as CEO I have a few great accomplishments. Since I took over, our patient satisfaction scores have improved significantly. In the last two years, we were able to be in the top quartile for all Tenet facilities. Then last year, we were in the top 10 and we finished with the highest patient satisfaction score of all Tenet hospitals in the Miami-Dade market. The team has worked very diligently making sure that we give our patients the respect, dignity and satisfaction they deserve.

In addition, I am also very proud of our orthopedic program and the work of our Orthopedic Center of Excellence Director Gilbert Beauperthuy-Rojas, DO, who helped start the program. Even though this was not something that was started by me — it was part of my transition as a CEO — I was here when the program first achieved the Joint Commission accreditation. That was a huge accomplishment for the facility and we are currently in the process to obtain the Advance Certification.

I also want to highlight that we just started our robotics program for general surgery, urology and gynecological services, among others. So far, we have had great success and we are currently in the process of applying for Surgical Review Corporation (SRC) certification for robotics, which is something I am very proud of.

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