Sherie C. Hickman of Sutter Health System wins North Bay Women in Business award

Sherie C. Hickman


Novato Community Hospital, part of the Sutter Health System

180 Rowland Way, Novato 94945



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Sherie C. Hickman of Novato Community Hospital in Novato wins a North Bay Business Journal Women in Business award.

Professional background: Executive leadership roles in health care administration across the continuum of care: acute care hospital operations, ambulatory care practices, post-acute services (i,e., SNF, Home Care, Hospital, etc.), and health plan executive leadership.

Major health systems I have worked for include: Kaiser Permanente, Dignity Health, Novant Health and Sutter Health. I have worked in both Northern and Southern California as well as in North Carolina.

Education: Bachelor of Arts the University of Washington, Seattle; master's degree in hospital administration, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis

Staff: Novato Community Hospital employs 320.

Tell us about yourself and your company: My passion for health care administration started as a child when going to see my doctor and being in the hospital and realizing amazing things happen in this place.

Early experiences as a candy striper confirmed my future profession as a health care leader. I have had a very successful career, quickly rising into executive leadership positions within three major organizations before joining Sutter Health in 2017. Outside of work, my passions are alpine skiing and my husband, who I have been married to for 11 years.

I was born and raised in Seattle, leaving when I went off to Minneapolis, MN for graduate school. Since then, I have lived in Southern California, North Carolina and now Northern California, where I have resided since 2001.

Sutter Health is an integrated health care system that owns and operates physician practices, acute care hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers and post-acute care services as part of its system.

While primarily in Northern California, the system has services in Hawaii, Utah and in Southern California. Sutter Health's mission is that “We enhance the well-being of people in the communities we service through a not-for-profit commitment to compassion and excellence in health care services”.

Is there a major accomplishment in the past year or so that you would like to share?

Novato Community Hospital earned the distinction of becoming only the 6th hospital in California and the only hospital in Marin County to receive Advanced Certification in Total Hip and Total Knee Replacement Procedures from the Joint Commission, the accrediting agency for hospitals.

This distinction reflects outstanding levels of care and service provided by the hospital for patients receiving total joint replacements. The hospital was also rated as a "high performer" in knee replacement procedures by U.S. News and World Reports in its 2017 Best Hospitals report.

What is the achievement you are most proud of?

With the onset of the Napa and Sonoma County fires on Oct. 9, the census of Novato Community Hospital doubled within a matter of hours as the hospital received patients transferred from our Santa Rosa sister facility and from patients coming to the hospital's emergency department. The hospital effectively and efficiently triaged and accommodated these patients with no adverse outcomes and excellent continuity of care. Throughout the next few weeks, Novato Community Hospital worked with physicians and patients displaced from their regular places of care to deliver urgently needed surgical and other medical services.

I was so very proud of our staff and physicians, and the above and beyond care they showed to those in need and to our community at large. Many of our staff were affected by the fires, including three who lost their homes, and their colleagues stepped up to cover for them when needed, donate to their need for housing, clothing and other basic needs, and made sure when they came back they knew the team was here for them.

What is your biggest challenge today?

Recruiting and hiring primary care physicians into our Sutter Health Medical Foundation to provide needed care to our community, and to support the specialists who provide services through the hospital.

What words best describe you?: Tenacious. Direct and clear. Fair. Comfortable with ambiguity and change. Leader. Friend. Companion.

As a successful female professional, what were the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?

The biggest obstacle I have faced as a woman is working with men who don't take me seriously, or who don't think this 5' 2” black woman has the experience or leadership skills to be taken seriously. I have consistently overcome by demonstrating my expertise through the significant, positive results I have achieved in each of the leadership positions I have held.

How do you think your profession will change in the next five years?

The consumer is driving the change is health care, with the expectation of being more informed and involved; wanting care that is convenient and easy, including utilizing all of the current technology available (video and telephone visits, online care management tools, etc.); and shopping for the best “value” for their healthcare dollar.

All of this is changing the way people select care providers and access care. The role of the leader then will be to lean in and respond quickly to this change and advocate/market in a completely different way. How do we demonstrate value to the purchaser? How do we align various parts of the health care delivery system to demonstrate this value? How do we anticipate needs and make the care experience exceptional?

Who was your most important mentor?

My father, George Hickman, was my most important mentor. He raised me and all of his children to be inquisitive and be critical thinkers, with the confidence that “you are a Hickman and you can do anything”.

He exposed us to a variety of experiences (food, travel, music, religion, etc.) and raised us to appreciate the differences in people. My father overcame the adversity of poverty, racism and discrimination (as did my mother) and became a very successful engineering executive with the Boeing Company. He also served our country as a Tuskegee Airman in World War II. He and my mother gave us an exceptional foundation from which to build our lives from.

What advice would you give to a young woman entering your profession or the work world today?

Follow your passions and don't let anyone tell you you can't achieve what you truly want to. Just know it will take hard work, determination, and some luck! All of which will come your way if you stay true to yourself.

Most admired businessperson outside your organization: Oprah Winfrey

Typical day at the office:

? Meets, lots of them, with leaders, staff, physicians, community. In my job, there really isn't anything you do alone. It is important to hear all voices, engage your partners and customers, and leverage of synergies of the amazing team I work with every day.

? Answering, sending and following up on emails. It's the way so much of our work gets done now.

? Planning for the future: defining and executing on strategic priorities.

? Ensuring the hospital is on track to deliver on our annual goals in the areas of quality/patient safety, patient/customer experience, staff engagement and financial performance. Validating and course correcting as required.

Best place to work outside of your office: In my home office with my slippers on!

Current reading: “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”

Most want to meet: Barack and Michelle Obama

Social media you most use: Facebook

Stress relievers: Cleaning and organizing (if at home), or sunbathing or skiing as preferred stress relieving vacations.

Favorite hobbies: Alpine skiing, swimming (in warm tropical water!), hiking

What would parents or significant others say if asked to brag about you?

“My daughter lives her life with integrity and has always stayed focused on her goals, which is one of the reasons for her success. She has a strong love of family and of her true friends, and ensures we are a priority in her life. She thrives on order, and walks through the world with confidence. She is driven by a strong set of values, and in particular, has no tolerance for inhumanity. She places a high value on fairness.”

“My wife is the best: smart, efficient, caring and understanding. She is also a perfectionist, which at times is hard to live with! She is a loving partner and my very best friend.”

Is there something we didn't ask that you would like to add?

I feel infinitely blessed and wake up each day in gratitude for my many blessings.

Sherie C. Hickman


Novato Community Hospital, part of the Sutter Health System

180 Rowland Way, Novato 94945



Read more profiles of 2018 Women in Business winners:

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