Each week in March, learn from the life and career experiences of one of our female leaders at UK HealthCare.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 8, 2021) — In honor of Women's History Month, we are getting to know some of the amazing female leaders at UK HealthCare. Dr. Emily Sedgwick, executive chief medical officer, shares her experience and insights as a leader in the medical field, how she has found balance in her roles as a professional leader and a parent, and her tips for career growth.
What is it like to be the first or one of the few women in the role that you serve?
One of the reasons I was so excited to be offered the position of executive chief medical officer was because of UK HealthCare’s DIReCT values and how well they align with my own values. UK HealthCare’s commitment to its values was reflected in my interviews, where I was asked by many different people about my work to support a diverse workforce. It was clear UK HealthCare recognizes the importance of diversity and appreciated my work to ensure the health care teams I had led reflected the diversity of the population they served. I look forward to working with UK HealthCare team members in the recruitment and development of a diverse workforce to improve care for our patients.
What was your journey to get to this point?
When I left for my first babysitting gig at the age of 12, my mother told me, “Always leave a place better than you found it.” It’s been a personal and professional guideline for me. I have a passion for trying to help others be better – whether that means helping a patient, staff or faculty member, or organization. As a breast imaging specialist, I led a team that created a same-day breast biopsy program, where women could have additional mammogram images and, if necessary, a breast biopsy on the same day. The radiologist called the patient with the results the next day. Patients and referring physicians loved the efficient, patient-centered process. With the same-day biopsy program, I learned about the impact of innovative, patient-centered care, which caused me to obtain additional quality training, start quality and safety continuing medical education conferences, and pursue leadership roles such as chief quality officer and chief medical officer in Houston, Texas. The executive chief medical officer role with UK HealthCare is a phenomenal opportunity to work with caregivers passionate about innovative, high-quality, patient-centered care.
What kernels of wisdom would you share for other women?
Don’t be afraid to put your hand up and say, “I’ll do it!” when someone needs a job done, even if you’re not exactly sure how to do it. Try new things outside of your comfort zone. Learn about things you don’t know anything about. You’ll be amazed about how these experiences will come back to help you in unexpected ways.
What inspired you to take on expanded roles in leadership outside of nursing- and physician-typical roles at the bedside?
I had worked at a hospital where I saw relatives of physicians being treated like VIPs, while other patients were receiving a different level of care. Health care equity is very important to me. I was inspired to join another hospital system to pursue a leadership position where I could lead a program to ensure all patients are treated like VIPs. As executive chief medical officer for UK HealthCare in Lexington, I will collaborate with staff, faculty and the community to ensure patient care is the best it can be for each Kentuckian.
As a female in a leadership role, what has been the most significant barrier in your career? What steps have you taken to overcome that barrier?
I am not sure I would call it a barrier, but one of the biggest challenges I’ve had as a woman is ensuring that I’m being the best mother and wife I can be while being the best physician leader I can be. I have learned that “good enough” is preferred over “perfect” to strike a balance between work and home. I also realized the need to be mentally present when my children or husband are talking to me. My time with them is key to my resilience and effectiveness at work. My work as a physician leader has helped me to have a happy marriage with a partner who respects what I do and children who view gender equality as a norm. And, to be honest, I learned that you can get a lot of work done in the early morning hours while everyone else is asleep!
As a female leader, if you had to start over from scratch, what (if anything) would you do differently based on what you now know?
I would have taken bigger risks earlier in my career and personal life. Don’t be afraid to fail. Everyone fails. Just learn from it and try again.
What challenges do future female leaders face in your career field, and what suggestions do you have for overcoming them?
We still have a long way to go to have equitable opportunities for all people. Be alert to how you can help others to achieve their goals. By helping others, you have the chance to learn from people with different backgrounds and skillsets, which can help you become a better leader.