First of four stories on the 2018 Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame honorees.
WATERLOO — Pam Delagardelle doesn’t carry a stethoscope when she makes the rounds at UnityPoint Health-Allen Hospital, but she’s always listening to the heart sounds of the organization she leads.
“Communication is key in any business or organization, and good leaders know listening is vital. I make the rounds of every department regularly and talk to employees. I ask ‘what can we be doing better?,’ and I listen to their ideas and concerns. ‘Who should I recognize today for a job well done?’ I want to empower our people,” said Delagardelle, chief executive officer of UnityPoint Health-Waterloo, which includes Allen Hospital.
Delagardelle will be inducted into the Junior Achievement Hall of Eastern Iowa Business Hall of Fame at the 24th annual ceremony Oct. 30 at Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center.
Initially she thought the call from JA was about reserving a table at the event, but is deeply honored by the recognition she has received from an organization she participated in as a high school student.
“It was hard to wrap my head around being honored. I have a fabulous team that works hard and is very visionary, so it’s not just about me. It’s very humbling. I’m deeply appreciative.”
Delagardelle has been in health care for 35 years and began her career as a nurse. She received her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids and earned her master’s degree in nursing administration at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.
“My mom was a nurse, and I wanted to be on the front lines caring for people. No one really wakes up thinking they want to be a CEO of a major health organization. My career evolved. Opportunities came along, doors opened, and I took advantage of what was available to me.”
Her experience as a nurse and clinician has proven invaluable, she said. “I’m better able to see the vision and understand the strategy of where we’re going as a health care organization.
“Health care is broken. It’s in critical condition, and we have to reform and transform the industry. Medical debt is the biggest reason for bankruptcy filings in the U.S. At UnityPoint, we’re focusing on how to build the infrastructure to make people healthy, to provide high-quality care and access to health care at an affordable price.”
Innovation is key, Delagardelle said. In addition to pushing out more services to clinics offsite from the hospital, such as urgent care and outpatient surgery and working with partner physicians to lower the cost of procedures, UnityPoint is focusing on ways to surround people with health care options.
“Patients and employees are at the center of the plan. You work the plan, measure the plan, track the plan, figure out what we can do better, tap into the best outcome,” she explained. “It’s important to take care of your staff, to coach and mentor employees. People want to be held accountable and rewarded, too.”
As a leader, Delagardelle took to heart a piece of advice she heard from a guest speaker while in college. “He said honesty and integrity are critical as a leader. I’ve found it works to be open and honest with the team, to communicate and to be authentic about who I am,” she said.
“It’s all about the team and surrounding yourself with people who have different talents, who work well together, who are willing to take risks and make mistakes. That’s how you learn.”
‘It’s important to take care of your staff, to coach and mentor employees. People want to be held accountable and rewarded, too.’