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Women leaders share experiences, career advice

Apr. 4, 2019, 9:01 AM

From left, VUMC administrative leaders Zeena Abdulahad, MPA, Sarah Hagovsky, MBA, Renee Boggs, MSN, RN, CPN, and Teresa Dail, RN, CMRP, recently participated in the Women’s History Month panel, spoke about their experiences in the workplace, and shared career advice.
From left, VUMC administrative leaders Zeena Abdulahad, MPA, Sarah Hagovsky, MBA, Renee Boggs, MSN, RN, CPN, and Teresa Dail, RN, CMRP, recently participated in the Women’s History Month panel, spoke about their experiences in the workplace, and shared career advice. (photo by Anne Rayner)

by Kathy Whitney

Those attending Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Women’s History Month panel on March 27 were schooled on the importance of risk taking, mentoring, self-care and how to advance in historically male-dominated fields such as information technology and supply chain management.

Moderated by Leadership and Organization Development Principal Consultant Stephanie Brodtrick, PhD, MBA, the panel comprised four female VUMC leaders who shared their experiences and career advice.

When asked to describe a time during their career when they took a risk, Chief Supply Chain Officer Teresa Dail, RN, CMRP reflected on her transition from the bedside to the business side of patient care. Dail’s nursing background is in critical care, perioperative leadership and practice administration.

“The biggest risk was walking away from the bedside…going into the business side, into the supply chain side. I was extremely nervous about doing that because it was extending me well beyond anything I had done professionally, and I had a lot of self-doubt about that, but what it did was open doors for me professionally. It’s been a great experience; it’s been a journey and every day of my life I learn something,” said Dail who is also the president of Vanderbilt Health Supply Chain Solutions and president of Vanderbilt Health Purchasing Collaborative.

A lifelong New Yorker, Zeena Abdulahad, MPA, Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer, who assumed her role at VUMC in September 2018, said moving to Nashville was a risk.

“So far, the result has been great. This is a really welcoming place. The leadership is dedicated to growing our philanthropic enterprise, which is really exciting for me.”

Abdulahad oversees VUMC’s philanthropic support activity and a staff of 70. She is responsible for creating a multi-year development plan that will help fund the Medical Center’s strategic priorities. She spoke to the importance of women supporting each other and leaders allowing flexibility to tend to family and personal issues.

When prompted to reflect on advice they would give to their younger selves, Renee Boggs, MSN, RN, CPN and Sarah Hagovsky, MBA, both stressed the importance of self care.

“When I was a nurse, my focus was the patient. I did not take the moment I needed to take. The exposure to different emergency room atmospheres and patients, unexpected outcomes with pediatric patients, and my time in the military during Desert Storm built something inside of me I wasn’t able to take care of,” said Boggs, who has been a nurse at VUMC for 20 years and is the director of the Psychiatric Assessment Service unit, which has provided a much-needed service in the behavioral health community.

“I began symptoms of PTSD while I was an ER nurse. I swept it under the rug and did what I needed to, and I think it hit me hard at one point to where I had to fix it. I consider myself good now at self-care, knowing what my triggers are and knowing when to walk away.”

Hagovsky, Chief Information Officer responsible for directional alignment between business operations and VUMC IT, echoed the need to effectively manage stress.

“If I could pick one thing in my life, so far, that I could point to as being life changing for me, it has been starting a daily meditation practice. It makes me aware of the amount of time and energy I spent on anxiety and worry and on storytelling that really took energy away from things I could put toward more productively.”

Each of the women stressed the importance of identifying mentors for themselves and serving in that role for others.

“I’ve tried to be strategic about my mentors,” said Hagovsky who has 19 years of experience in HR, business excellence, business operations and IT. “I have two mentors. One is a leader who used to be my boss. He enabled advocacy for me as I was moving into different roles in the organization, and he had context of the players, and he had context of my performance. Those three things made him productive for me as a mentor. I also have a female mentor who is an entrepreneur and CEO of a consulting firm in Nashville and she provides global context around career development. I feel very fortunate that I have both of them.”

“My first mentor, if I ever came to her to talk through a situation and get to an end point I felt comfortable with, I was the most important person in the room,” said Boggs. “To this day, in work environments, if I have a scheduled one-to-one with a staff member, or if they pop in to talk about something, nothing else exists. The door shuts, the phone can ring off the hook, I don’t pick up my cell phone or answer texts, and I maintain eye contact. They seem like small things, but I’ve noticed that giving individuals respect during their moments has allowed me to have challenging conversations that end up positive.”

Dail recalled powerful words from a VUMC mentor that still ring true for her.

“He told me, as I was talking to him about some ideas, ‘Teresa, don’t think small.’ It’s so easy to think safe and think small instead of really thinking about what the possibilities could be.”

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