Kathie Powell

CEO, Petaluma Health Center

1179 N. McDowell Blvd., Petaluma 94954; 707-559-7500; phealthcenter.org

Age: 58

Residence: Petaluma

Professional background: 35 years in Health Care Administration, 15 years as administrator and strategic planning consultant in the for-profit hospital industry and 20 years ambulatory care and community health center administrator

Positions: CEO, Petaluma Health Center, 12 years; CEO, Southeast Lancaster Health Services, Penn., five years; president and CEO, Physicians Regional Hospital, Texas, seven years; hospital consulting and management companies, Texas, 11 years

Education: M.S., health care administration, Texas Woman’s University; M.A., medical anthropology, Southern Methodist University; B.A. anthropology and Spanish, State University of New York, Oswego

Number of staff: 254 today, 315 by Aug. 1

Tell us about yourself and your company: Petaluma Health Center is a not-for-profit health center. Over the course of my leadership, Petaluma Health Center has blossomed from a small, struggling $5.5 million federally qualified health center to a thriving $27 million innovative, nationally-recognized, patient-centered health center. Petaluma Health Center provides over 130,000 prevention-focused health care visits to over 27,000 people in southern Sonoma County every year. Our mission is that every person in our community has access to prevention-focused, patient-centered health care. We pride ourselves in providing comprehensive primary care services, dental, obstetrics and gynecology, mental and behavioral health, nutrition. We also provide a wide array of “integrative” health, wellness, and prevention services — such as intensive case management and patient navigation services, and depression, anxiety, and chronic pain management and exercise classes. With 35 years of background in health care administration, I know that our success as an organization and our improved patient outcomes are a result of our team’s dedication. As such, we strive to create a vibrant and healthy work environment. Our vision to foster a healthy community goes full circle: a happy, healthy workforce translates to happier and healthier patients.

Words that best describe you: Compassionate, solutions-oriented, caring, tenacious, focused and driven.

What is a major accomplishment in the past year or so?: Petaluma Health Center celebrates two major accomplishments in the past year that are closely intertwined. PHC has ranked in the top 3 percent of health centers in the nation for quality outcomes, and we will be opening a new, state-of-the art health center in Rohnert Park to provide comprehensive primary and preventive care to an additional 20,000 medically-underserved individuals in our community.

What is your biggest challenge today?: One our biggest challenges as a patient-centered health organization is developing an improved model of health care that reduces per capita cost that also enhances the patient experience. This system will need to survive in today’s reimbursement environment, and, ultimately, thrive in tomorrow’s environment. We are confident that through our strong team work and innovation, we can adapt to industry changes and develop a strong system to maximize clinical effectiveness and enhanced patient experience.

How do you think your profession will change in the next five years?: I foresee that leaders of Federally Qualified Health Centers will need a stronger basic business foundation. Passion for healthcare is important, but it will not suffice as industry changes come to fruition. I envision that health centers will merge into larger, more efficient organizations, and their leaders will need to remain abreast of industry changes and be the catalysts of innovation.

As more health centers across the nation adopt the patient-centered medical home model, leaders will also need to acknowledge and promote the health and wellness of their own employees—as that will ultimately improve patient health outcomes.

As a successful female professional, what have been the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?: I do not believe I have encountered professional obstacles by virtue of being a woman. The only time I felt like I was viewed as a stereotypical woman was when my father questioned my motives for pursuing a degree in anything other than nursing or teaching. After all, as a woman, I would “get married, stay at home and have children, so nursing or teaching would more useful.” Of course, I just laughed, brushed it off, and pursued my academic and professional aspirations.

My greatest obstacle, as a female professional, however, was attempting to be “Superwoman.” I worked endless hours and tried my best to bring my family more energy than I physically had left. My family and personal wellness were often sacrificed to achieve the high standards of excellence that I set for myself and the organizations that I have represented. To this day, I struggle a bit with maintaining that important balance.

What advice would you give to a young woman entering your profession or the work world today?: I would advise her to seek a female mentor to establish strong work-life equilibrium early on in her career. Don’t try to be a superwoman because you will end up sacrificing something: your career, your family and/or your health. She should seek a healthy sense of integration among the different facets of her life to avoid burning out her energy and be the best that she can be.

Current reading: Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande

Stress-relievers: Centering myself to be mindful and present; meditation, and walking.

Favorite hobbies: Researching and Learning (everything), reading and ethnic cooking.