GABRIELA SAENZ, 35
Vice president of advocacy and publicpolicy Christus Health
“She’s exactly what healthcare needs right now.” —Abby McNeil, director of communications and public affairs
Gabriela Saenz concedes she was never the best dancer. Still, she can’t forget the advice given by the instructor of a folkloric Mexican dance troupe she performed with as a child. “Just smile and go after it,” she recalls him saying. “No matter what, just keep dancing.”
Saenz said those encouraging words have remained motivational ever since. Over 11 years with faith-based, not-for-profit Christus Health, Saenz has helped save Christus hospitals $25 million through work to defeat a Texas budget provision that would have negatively impacted reimbursements, and diverted $8 million in Medicaid cuts to a Christus hospital in Louisiana.
Trained as a lawyer, Saenz also volunteers with various charities. Her legal savvy and compassion made her a standout to Abby McNeil, the system’s director of communications and public affairs, who nominated Saenz. “She’s exactly what healthcare needs right now,” McNeil said. “Someone who can look at what’s best, from both the business and people perspectives.”
Saenz said she welcomes greater challenges, because they only help her keep her footing and get stronger. “Keep after it until you fall,” she advised. “You learn how far you have to lean, and what shoes to wear to make it happen.”