New Leader: Dr. Heather Signorelli of HCA Healthcare

Did you have any specialty in mind when you entered medical school?

When I watch my young children dream of what they want to be when they grow up, it reminds me of how I dreamed of becoming a doctor at about 11 years old. When I entered medical school, I saw myself as an OB/GYN, so my dad was an OB/GYN. And as a born extrovert, that seemed like a good fit. But over time, during my studies at the medical institute, I was drawn to pathology, because I like to know a little about everything and solve problems for several narrow specialties.

What attracted you to the clinical laboratory and pathology?

During my residency, I quickly became aware of my love for the business side of medicine, and it seemed natural for a clinical laboratory. I also liked the normative aspect of the lab. The opportunity to receive lab consulting early on in my residency training prepared me to really understand how to improve quality and operations as a hospital team partner.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic most affected how you manage your lab?

When the pandemic hit, I remember the sheer amount of work required to get testing done in our hospitals. The first thing we did was take inventory of the equipment, facilities, and skill sets in our labs so we could start testing. It was very important that we work together not only in our own system, but also with others. We were able to share equipment, reagents and facilities in the US, which was critical at the start of the pandemic. While it was far from perfect, this healthcare partnership has allowed 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 critical to have a robust process for setting goals for the year that furthers our commitment to improving patient care and operations. Once these goals are set and prioritized, we must hold each other accountable, but in a way that supports each other. We all went into medicine because we wanted to make a difference, but what keeps us going is the people we work with every day.

What advice would you give to other aspiring leaders?

Enjoy every moment you get with mentors and take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. I cannot thank the mentors I have had enough for helping me in my career. Also, know that you cannot do everything in one day, one month or one year. It is important to learn how to prioritize and get down to business day after day. When you launch new initiatives, remember to enlist the support of key stakeholders, as meaningful leadership really needs a village. And finally, keep paying upfront to others along the way.

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