BLUFFTON — Twenty-five years ago, no one would have envisioned a pharmacy intern becoming the president of Mercy Health St. Rita’s Medical Center.
That journey was shared by Ronda Lehman on Tuesday during her keynote address at the Bluffton University Presidential Leadership Forum.
“It’s fairly uncommon to have someone who has started truly from the very beginning as an intern in an organization become later the president of the organization. It was about a 24-year journey, but that’s unique … . Females in the president’s role of large health systems is a minority as well,” said Lehman.
So what has she learned along the way?
“I’ve learned a ton about relationships between people. I’ve learned a ton about our patients and their expectations in healthcare and I’ve learned a whole lot about our communities,” she said.
What advice does Lehman have for students?
“Leadership and healthcare is a wonderful pursuit. There is a lot of benefits and it’s certainly a life well-lived, I believe, to be able to make a difference in the communities that we live in and the health of those people. Health care, to me is something that ultimately touches everyone, and is a wonderful opportunity to have impact. So I would say, follow your heart and definitely follow the path God has for you.”
Being a woman who is in charge of the Mercy Health properties in the Lima market is a rarity.
“I would say that, yes, the glass ceiling still exists. I think some of the challenges are working alongside people and then be moving into a leadership role over people you’d previously worked alongside, and just earning that trust and making sure that they know who you are and what you stand for. That was a challenge at different points along the way, but by and large, people were very supportive of me,” said Lehman.
So what is her view of the future of health care?
“I think that we’re going to see a lot more emphasis on social determinants of health and aspects of people’s health that we probably have ignored as an industry for a long time. Some more of our basic needs — whether that’s housing, food, shelter — some of those things that are going to be a bigger emphasis from health care providers,” Lehman added.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.