Emerging Leader: Dr. Heather Signorelli of HCA Healthcare
Did you have a specialty in mind when you entered medical school?
As I watch my own young children dream of what they want to be when they grow up, it reminds me of when I dreamed of becoming a doctor around the age of 11. Going into medical school, I saw myself becoming an OB-GYN, because my father was an OB-GYN. And as a natural extrovert, it seemed like a good fit. But over time during my medical studies, I turned to pathology, because I like to know a little about everything and solve the problems of several subspecialties.
What drew you to clinical laboratory and pathology work?
During my residency, I quickly realized my love for the business side of medicine, and it seemed like a natural fit for the clinical lab. I also appreciated the regulatory aspect of the laboratory. Getting into lab counseling early in my residency training prepared me to really understand how to improve quality and operations as a partner of the hospital team.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic most affected the way you manage lab operations?
When the pandemic hit, I remember the volume of work it took to get the tests to our hospitals. The first thing we did was take inventory of the equipment, capacity and skills of our laboratories so that we could operationalize the tests. It was essential that we worked together not only within our own system, but with others. We were able to share equipment, reagents, and capabilities across the United States, which was essential at the start of the pandemic. While far from perfect, this partnership across healthcare has enabled us to diagnose patients and protect our healthcare workers.
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How would you describe your leadership style?
I would say that I focus on two things: responsibility and team culture. It is essential to have a solid process for creating goals for the year that reinforce our commitment to improving patient care and operations. Once these goals are defined and prioritized, we need to hold each other accountable, but in a way that is mutually supportive. We all went into medicine because we wanted to make a difference, but what makes us stay are the people we work with every day.
What advice would you give to other emerging leaders?
Immerse yourself in every moment spent with mentors and seize all the opportunities that come your way. I cannot thank the mentors I have had enough for helping me in my career. Also, know that you cannot accomplish everything in a day, a month or a year. It is important to learn to prioritize and take it one day at a time. When implementing new initiatives, remember to get buy-in from key stakeholders, because it really does take a village to lead in a meaningful way. And finally, keep passing it on to others along the way.