Washington, D.C. native Deborah Addo took the reins of Inova Mount Vernon Hospital in June 2014. In November, just a few months into her tenure, the new Mark and Brenda Moore Patient Tower was opened. The main lobby is currently under renovation and there are plans to break ground on an emergency department expansion later this summer.
“When I walked in, one of the things I said was we need to make sure the facility mirrors the work that we're doing inside, because there really had not been a lot of attention to some of the aesthetics,” Addo said.
“We are a facility that is almost 40 years old. Sometimes I liken it to a woman which is going to turn 40: Sometimes you look around and say, ‘Well maybe there's some work to be done.’”
Aesthetics are critical to recruitment, she said, and creating an overall environment that is more conducive to healing.
Approaching her one-year anniversary as CEO, the 2015 Chesapeake Physician Magazine “Trailblazing Woman in Health Care” explained her motivation to come to Mount Vernon, the challenges still facing the hospital and her vision for the future.
Current Position: CEO, Inova Mount Vernon Hospital
Born: Washington, D.C.
Residence: Old Town area of Alexandria
Spouse: Paul Samuels
Children: Step daughter Tasha who resides in Jamaica
Education: Bachelor’s degree in psychology from Georgetown University, master’s degree in public health from Walden University
Previous Organizations: Before coming to Inova Mount Vernon Hospital, Addo served as chief operating officer and senior vice president at Meritus Health Care in Hagerstown, Md., the largest healthcare provider in western Maryland. Previous to that, she served in leadership positions at Children’s National Medical Center and Greater Southeast Community Hospital in Washington, D.C.
What attracted you to this hospital?
One was the Invoa name is well-known when you think about health care that's state of the art, visionary. I really do credit [Inova chief executive officer J] Knox Singleton a lot for that, and [Inova president and chief operating officer] Mark Stauder. When you look at what he has built here, it's incredible. That kind of thing is attractive. I wanted to go. somewhere I felt was prepared for health care for the future.
What does it mean to be a community hospital?
The people you are caring for are the same people that you see in the grocery store, in the ballpark, see on the trail — because it's this connection. That's what community hospitals have to offer, it's us caring for us. I found that this community is very much engaged in what happens here.
How has the community reached out to you?
Before I started, [Mount Vernon supervisor] Gerry Hyland wanted to meet with me. He wanted to ensure that I knew the community’s position on this hospital. At some point they wanted to close down Mount Vernon hospital. Then you know, sometimes if there's a level of distrust, where that comes from. I realize several years ago this might've been an issue, but the fact that we've invested $80 million in the facility says to you that we're here to stay. I want to be able to put that to rest. Inova is committed to Inova Mount Vernon, to this community, and we are looking at making sure we're providing services that this community needs.
In addition to the aesthetics, what are some challenges you’re facing?
We live in an age of transparency, there's a good thing about that. We live in an age of immediacy, there's a good thing about that. Now you can go on almost any website and find out things about us, who we are, how well we perform, how we compare to others, what people are saying about us, how people rate us. It does put you on notice. I think it's a good thing for hospitals. It forces us to do the things we should do right and we should do well anyway, but you can no longer hide it even if you wanted to.
How do you see the hospital performing — what is going well and where can you improve?
Where we have not cracked the nut yet is on the patient experience. I want 90 percent or more of our patients saying that yes, I would recommend you, yes I would choose you. All kinds of elements go into that. I’m pleased with where we are in the emergency department, not yet with where we are in acute care. So that's a place we're going to spend quite a bit of focus time, understanding exactly what our customer requirements are and making sure we're putting together the systems to meet those requirements.
What steps are you taking?
In June will be the first meeting of our Patient and Family Advisory Committee, made up of six community representatives and different staff members working with them. We’re seeking the input from the people that we serve. Our executive for patient experience is a vehicle if they want to get a message to us, to funnel patient complaints and compliments.
How would you assess the hospital’s behavioral health unit?
The behavioral health unit, rehab unit, total joint program, general medical surgical services — I would say we are doing well in many of those areas. Psych is a challenge anywhere. We do a good job here. I think in general we, society, don't have enough access for people in general. Also I think that in general we're underdiagnosed.
You’ve forged a career in healthcare leadership. What do you love about this line of work?
Last week when I walked in we had the harpist playing outside because someone was transitioning. It’s something that's simple, and just so cool. That was a moment that we had an opportunity to make a difference in a family’s life. We’re there all along the way, there when you take your first breath, when you take your last breath, every step in between. Through those moments that are happy, that are not happy, throughout that process, what we do is kind of that connection. Not many people get to do that.