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[Interview] Lorenzo Suter, Regional President & CEO of UnityPoint Health–Sioux City

Nov 24, 2021 07:00AM ● By Med Magazine

This past summer, Lorenzo Suter became the Regional President and CEO of UnityPoint Health–Sioux City and Senior VP of UnityPoint Health. Suter, a Kentucky native who grew up homeless, started his tenure by scheduling one-on-one meetings with every one of his 1,700 employees. We caught up with him between meetings to find out more about his management style, his first few months in Sioux City, and his hopes for the future. 

MED: Both the board chairman and the CEO of UnityPoint Health made a point of mentioning your people-centered leadership style. What shaped your approach to management?

LS: I grew up homeless in a small community in Kentucky. My mom was a single mom. We literally lived under a bridge and I was surrounded by drugs and alcohol. But there were also some awesome people in that community who encouraged me not to settle and helped build my character. My early years taught me that, in order to help people, you have to meet them where they are. I see myself as someone who works for the staff that shows up every day to do what's right for our community. They and the community are my bosses.

MED: You trained as a nurse before moving into administration. What drew you to healthcare?

LS: My grandmother was killed by a caregiver at a skilled nursing facility when I was about 13. I had assumed that you are supposed to be treated well at a healthcare facility. That incident really made me want to be an agent of change. I wanted to be a different kind of caregiver. I wanted to go to medical school, but I was broke. So I started as a CNA then got a BSN and enrolled in an NP program. I worked in the ICU, the OR, and CCU, and as a travelling nurse. 

MED: How did you end up in administration?

LS: At some point in my NP program, an administrator noticed that I could write well and suggested that I meet with a CEO. At the time, I had some assumptions about administrators. I thought they just wore suits and walked around. But this CEO was bringing in new services and it intrigued me. I decided that was what I really wanted to do, so I changed to a Masters in Healthcare Administration. 

MED: What attracted you to Sioux City?

LS: The first thing that attracted me to the community is the size. I have lived in downtown Chicago and that was intense. I didn't know my neighbors there for two years. But when I moved here, my neighbors brought me baked goods! I also appreciated the access to critical access hospitals in the region. These are so important. Third, I researched the UnityPoint Health System and found that they really cared about the people in their communities. I would not be in my role today without the support of caring people in my community, so that meant a lot to me. 

MED: What excites you most about the things that are happening at UnityPoint right now?

LS: I'm most excited about our 2022 strategic plan. We have a new approach that's coming down from corporate around the concept of 'Onward'. We are moving onward to provide the best possible care to our community. That means that more resources are going to be invested and more services are going to be brought into our region. The idea of putting more dollars and strategy into new services in the community excites me. 

MED: What are some of your top goals for the organization over the next year or so?

LS: One goal is to step up promotion of our women's service line. We are the only hospital delivering babies in our primary service area. One unique thing that we offer is treatment for postpartum depression. We are also bringing pelvic floor care into our facility. This is something that doesn't exist in our region and, given that we are considered a women's services hospital, we need to be offering it.

We are also going to be more aggressive in recruiting new physicians in different disciplines to serve our community. And we just built a new urgent care at Sunnybrook. This is good for population health and our accountable care organization. Going forward, we plan to double down on that commitment, either by expanding Sunnybroook or by bringing in new services.