The Blackwell sisters are known for being the first women to lead a hospital in the United States. They paved the way for many more women to take leadership roles in the health care setting, include three female CEOs at UnityPoint Health.
Getting a Degree and Opening a Hospital
May 12 marks the anniversary of the opening of the New York Infirmary for Women and Children. According to the Hospitals & Health Networks publication, Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell and Dr. Emily Blackwell are credited with its creation in 1857. However, the road to opening that hospital was no easy task. The women both earned medical degrees from different institutions. They succeeded in their education, but dealt with segregation in lectures and being excluded from labs. The two women, along with a third female doctor, found it difficult to find a job in the male-dominated medical field and decided to pave their own way by opening their own hospital.
It was Emily Blackwell who stayed with the project for over 40 years. She succeeded in funding the medical facility, which grew from a rented, 16-room house to a hospital building that served more than 7,000 people a year.
Strong Female Leaders at UnityPoint Health
Today, you’ll find strong female leaders across the health care field. That includes several leading ladies at UnityPoint Health. While the executive leadership is full of strong women leaders, we’ll focus on the three who’ve worked through the ranks to become known as President and CEO.
Among them is Pam Delagardelle, who leads the way at UnityPoint Health – Waterloo. She took on the role in 2013 after spending years working as the CEO of Grundy County Memorial Hospital, which is a UnityPoint Health Critical Access Affiliate. Delagardelle has a nursing background with a degree from Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids and a Master of Science in Nursing Administration from the University of Iowa in Iowa City. Delagardelle’s passion for health care has left a big influence on her family. In fact, four of her children work in health care. Delagardelle is the first woman and first nurse to lead Allen hospital as President and CEO.
Debbie Simon is another strong, female leader at UnityPoint Health. Currently, she is President and CEO of UnityPoint Health – Peoria, which includes both Methodist Medical Center and Proctor Hospital. She began her nursing career with Methodist Medical Center in the 1976 and has served in administrative leadership roles within the hospital since 1978, with her most recent years as Chief Operating Officer/Chief Nursing Officer. In December 2011, Simon was appointed President and CEO of UnityPoint Health – Methodist; and in 2013, upon affiliation with Proctor, was named President and CEO of UnityPoint Health – Proctor. She has a degree in nursing from the University of Illinois and an MBA from Bradley University. Since taking on her leading role, she’s been named to the list of “130 Women Hospital and Health System Leaders to Know” by the publication Becker’s Hospital Review.
Finally, Susan Thompson is currently the interim President and CEO of UnityPoint at Home. However, this isn’t her first time serving in a leadership role in the system. She was previously the President and CEO of UnityPoint Health – Fort Dodge. She was also the first Iowan to be appointed to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission by the United States Government Accountability Office. In addition to her UnityPoint at Home responsibilities, Thompson is also the Senior Vice President for Integration and Optimization for UnityPoint Health. Her education background makes her well suited for her UnityPoint Health roles. Thompson earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a Master of Science in Health Services Management from Clarkson College in Omaha. Her desire to better health care is a trait that has spread to her children, who both work for UnityPoint Health. Thompson’s son is the current CEO at UnityPoint Health-affiliated Story County Medical Center, and her daughter is studying psychiatry and planning to work at Berryhill Center in Fort Dodge in June.
Join Our Team
While these three women serve as a major influence at UnityPoint Health, there are many other women who’ve made their way into the Senior Leadership Group. If you’re a strong woman who would like to join the UnityPoint Health team, we’d encourage you to view our current job openings.