Steering system’s turnaround
When Alyson Pitman Giles became president and CEO of CMC Healthcare System in Manchester, N.H., 13 years ago, she inherited an organization losing $6 million a year.
It offered only an emergency room, one medical-surgical unit and an open-heart surgery program. No significant capital or programmatic improvements had been made in about seven years, and staff morale had deteriorated along with the physical plant.
As she stepped down from her post in early 2012, Cmc—with flagship 233-bed Catholic Medical Center—had grown from about 600 to 2,100 employees, more than quadrupled in size from 166,000 to 706,000 total square feet, quintupled in gross revenue from $15 million to $75 million, earned the designation as one of the top cardiac-care hospitals in the country accord- ing to Healthgrades, added a cancer center from Dartmouth College and added a special-care nursery in which families could stay with their babies.
“My legacy is bringing CMC back from the wrecking ball, if you will, to a first-class medical center,” says Giles, 58, who began her professional life as an occupational therapist before getting onto an executive track that included stops as president of Lake Shore Hospital, a psychiatric facility in Manchester, and president and CEO of New London (N.H.) Hospital.
“I understand the business clinically,” she says. “I’m also a mother of two children and two stepchildren. I always kid (the staff) that I lead as a mother—i’m hugely encouraging, I give tons of autonomy, I like to have a lot of fun and laugh. But don’t forget that I’m still the mother, and if you misbehave, I will know about it.”
Giles takes great pride in the mentoring she’s done for other women leaders, three of whom are now CEOS. When she started out, “I was told at the time that a woman wouldn’t be accepted as a COO,” she says. “Now, I don’t think it makes any difference what your gender is, as a COO or CEO.”
Giles, who has received the American College of Healthcare Executives’ Gold Medal Award for a healthcare delivery organization, was a New Hampshire regent for the ACHE before becoming a governor from 2004 to 2006 and then served in the national leadership track, including serving as chair, from 2006 to 2009.
“For me, it was just a life-changing experience in getting to know leaders throughout the country, whom I consider to be friends,” she says. “You get so comfortable getting to know people from all walks of life, all over the country.”