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Women in Leadership: Gina R. Hawley

While Women’s History Month has come to an end, the Women in Health, Medicine, and Science (WiHMS) series highlighting women in leadership at University of Utah Health has not. WiHMS is delighted to make this a regularly occurring feature about the journeys and accomplishments of the women who lead in our academic, clinical, and research spaces.

For this Women in Leadership feature, we recognize the work, achievements, and leadership of Dr. Gina R. Hawley:

Gina R. Hawley, Dr.P.H., M.H.A.

Chief Operating Officer, University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics

Assistant Professor Adjunct, Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health

Adjunct Faculty, Oregon Health Sciences University, Division of Management

portrait of Gina R. Hawley

What or who inspired you to pursue a career in health care administration and public health?

I really looked up to my father who was a physician. He grew up in India and later immigrated to the US where he went to the University of Nebraska Medical Center for his residency. He ended up staying in Omaha practicing as an orthopedic surgeon. So, I wanted to be a physician like my dad, but I was miserable as a pre-med student!

Luckily at the same time, I was a certified nursing assistant for a high-risk OB and Labor & Delivery hospital unit. I started noticing more what my nurse manager was doing along with enjoying business courses in college, thus changed paths into health administration. I thought I would go into non-profit or policy work but started working in a health system in Minneapolis after graduate school. The right fit just ended up happening naturally and brought me to where I am today.

What are the challenges of being a leader in health care?

I'm lucky to work with such great teams in my role, where I support operations and strategies within our five hospitals and 12 community clinics. It can be a challenge because you have a wide breadth of areas and are constantly working on how to best direct teams in a way that is supportive, but also creates clear strategy and operations for the needs of our patients and community.

One of the other biggest challenges is trying to keep on top of everything. I have younger kids and teach and work which I all love. But as a working parent and being in academic medicine, you are constantly juggling priorities. It's important to look at how you prioritize while consistently keeping your eye on what’s most important to you and holding yourself accountable. Having my family and a good support system really helps me ground myself as well.

What are the highlights of being a woman leader in health care?

Being a leader that is a little bit different—whether it's being a woman or coming from a dissimilar background —you have the chance to pave the path for someone else who may have a different background too. It’s also gratifying to have such an amazing community of women leaders in health care. I believe due to our overall missions of patient care and well-being; our community is amazing where we help each other be the best we can be.

Please share with us the best pieces of advice you have ever received.

One of my previous bosses told me that 90% of our roles are about people, and it is so true. Having a certain level of empathy and emotional intelligence has really helped me. You must know your business as you work through your career, but if you can truly understand where people are coming from, their differences, and what brings us together, it can set you up on a positive path.

For anyone with various priorities in life (whether it’s having kids, caring for your parents, and/or working different jobs), there is an analogy about how life is like juggling various glass balls in the air. It’s totally ok if a ball drops, but you want to make sure whatever ball drops is the least priority for you personally. This analogy I believe is integral in remembering the importance of being patient and giving oneself grace in today’s world.