New CEO taking JRMC into future
By Caitlin Davis, Senior Staff Writer
Aug 27, 2013, 11:38
HOPEWELL — It was not a path that Suzanne Jackson originally started on. It was a path that had many twists and turns and bumps along the way, but it was a path that brought Jackson to Hopewell to become the new chief executive officer of John Randolph Medical Center. With her first month behind her, Jackson is already looking to the future of the hospital and her future in the health-care industry.
While she was growing up, Jackson may not have known exactly what she wanted to do, but she did know that she wanted to have an impact on those around her. Jackson’s path to John Randolph began when she was in high school and she volunteered at a hospital as a nursing assistant. Though she might have been young, Jackson knew immediately she could not be in patient care.
A man she had been taking care of had passed away in a matter of weeks and it just weighed too heavily on Jackson’s heart. As she recalled the story, Jackson admitted that she could not detach from the patients.
Though it changed the course of her journey into health care, she stayed on the path and decided to go into the study of biomedical engineering to make prosthetics. Jackson went to an engineering camp and then entered into college at the University of Illinois to begin to study engineering and again, her path began to take another turn. During her time in the engineering classes, Jackson found the classes did not match her spirit and then began to look for a different direction to take academically.
It was during one chemistry class when she received word of a summer internship at the University of Michigan for minority students who wanted to learn about health administration. It was then she reached out to her father, Michel, for guidance. He gave his daughter his blessing, telling her those are people who get to make decisions in a hospital.
Jackson’s father, Michel, immigrated to the country from Haiti and had believed in his daughter. She said her father pushed her to go away to school, to pursue her dreams and to make the most of the life she was given. It is apparent she held up his wishes, as Jackson holds him close to her heart.
While she was at her internship in Michigan, her father lost his battle with cancer. When he was diagnosed before she was to go to college, he was given three months to live. It was two years later that he would pass away, and it was also during that internship that Jackson realized she was exactly where she needed to be in life.
“For me, working in health care is much more personal than just a job,” Jackson said. “It’s what I feel is a calling, a calling for me to be here and to an advocate, whether it be for the employees, whether it be for the community, whether it be for my medical staff or a patient, that’s what I feel like I’m here to do.”
Many years later, Jackson can still remember the lessons she gained from that summer internship, lessons that she still keeps close to her as she continues on her path as a CEO. She was making her rounds of the medical center of the university’s campus with the CEO, and as they were walking around, Jackson recalls she was surprised he knew the name of everyone at the hospital.
“He said the most important thing is for you to know the people and let everyone understand that every position is important in this hospital, that the hospital can’t function if one piece falls out; the whole machine is not going to work,” Jackson said. “In that moment, that matches with my personal mission of wanting to make a difference and impact people and that still stays with me.”
And that was the path on which Jackson stayed. From there, Jackson earned her Bachelor of Science in Community Health from the University of Illinois, and then a master’s degree in Health Services Administration from the University of Michigan.
Jackson then began her career as a health care consultant in Chicago at Cap Gemini Ernst & Young. She has also served on the administrative teams at Westside Regional Medical Center in Plantation, Fla., and at Aventura Hospital and Medical Center in Aventura, Fla.,
Jackson became CEO and ethics officer at Columbia Hospital, a 250-bed HCA facility in West Palm Beach, Fla. More recently, Jackson served as chief executive officer of Dominion Hospital in Falls Church. Dominion Hospital is a 100-bed facility that has been operating as a mental health hospital.
When the opportunity came along for Jackson to change her path and come to Hopewell, she relished in the chance to make the change, both personally and professionally.
Her husband, Corey, had been working in the area at General Electric and was spending more time on the road commuting than at home with their two young daughters, Taylor Michele, 3, and Zoe Noel, 20 months. Jackson could tell her daughters were missing their father and that became a priority for her to bring her family closer together.
Professionally, Jackson saw an opportunity at John Randolph to build upon a foundation that had be laid by former CEO, Dia Nichols. She saw the chance to bring the hospital into the future and impact more lives, a mission in Jackson’s career.
“It’s exciting to know that I can have an opportunity to impact more lives, more people, be able to change the perception of an organization in the community and help revitalize it,” Jackson said. “That’s exciting to me. That’s the true essence of why I wanted to get into health care, so I can help people. I have an opportunity to really transform people’s experience.”
Among the changes Jackson is working toward at John Randolph is a landscaping project that she said “will be creating a new face to the hospital.” The project includes new plants, such as trees and flowers, and a resurfacing of the parking lot.
Another outdoor project that is planned is an outdoor café terrace. Jackson said this will allow the community to take advantage of the beautiful views the hospital has to offer.
Jackson is also working on creating a new behavioral health center. This center will be moved from the hospital to the area where the old nursing home used to be. Jackson is also working with the numerous surgeons at the hospital to inquire on their various needs and what would help them in the future.
“People are committed to making improvements,” Jackson said. “I want to have a roadshow and get out there and tell the community about what we are doing here and the quality of care that they are able to receive when they’re here.”
In terms of the emergency room visits, Jackson is working on tailoring the services more to pediatric care, as over 7,000 visits to the ER last year were the pediatric population in the area.
Although it has only been a month since Jackson took over at the hospital, she already feels welcome in the city. She said the community has been “warm and gracious” in extending their hands out to her. With one month down, Jackson is moving full steam ahead as her enthusiastic spirit and commitment as a CEO drive her into the future at the hospital and in the city of Hopewell.
“I’m excited,” Jackson said. “There’s so much ahead. It’s been a long road. There’s going to be bumps along the way, it’s going to be tough. But I’m committed to this organization, to the employees. I take this job very seriously. I know people’s livelihood depends on me making the right decisions.”