Former Healthcare CEO Cindy Nuesslein joins Mazzetti to work toward the same mission of delivering exceptional patient care, just through a different lens.
After 32 years of dedicated service to LCMC Health, serving as the CEO of the Interim LSU Hospital the last 2 1/2 years and safely transitioning the organization to the new University Medical Center, Cindy Nuesslein, is embarking on a new adventure in her career, joining the Mazzetti Team as a Principal.
LCMC Health CEO, Gregory Feirn, speaks to Cindy’s departure. “Cindy is leaving the new [University Medical Center] UMC in the best possible hands of the team she has helped create and is supremely confident in the continuing success of this amazing facility and the incredible caretakers that bring it to life.”
Cindy will officially start with Mazzetti at the end of the month, after the completion of UMC’s opening, launch and initial Joint Commission review.
“I’ve always been interested in the built environment as it can be a powerful and integral part of healing. Looking through my clinical lens, it is analogous to the human body with its skeletal frame and thousands of miles of vessels including both the ‘guts’ of the building and the aesthetics. The facility and environment can accelerate the patient care more so than even the available technical expertise. Floor-to-floor ceiling windows looking out at green space…. It’s a powerful healer and makes staff feel better so they perform better.” – Cindy
Walt Vernon, Mazzetti CEO, shares, “We are so honored to have Cindy join our Mazzetti Team. Though she is in New Orleans, her role is of a national capacity. She’s coming on board to help us build a strategic planning service for our healthcare clients. We have long offered this type of service at various levels but having someone of her experience and talent will help us take it to the next level.”
We sat down with Cindy so that we could try to encapsulate her inspirational story to share with you…
Cindy, we know you had a pretty impressive career journey—starting with boots on the ground as a Nursing Assistant in ‘78, then as a RN and eventually leading you to Children’s Hospital in New Orleans in ’83, working your way up to VP status in 2013, and President & CEO of University Medical Center of New Orleans (UMCNO) from 2013 until now. You’re about to transition into a Principal role at Mazzetti, a nationally recognized firm engineering better, sustainable environments, particularly in the Healthcare arena.
How did Mazzetti appear on your radar?
I typically seek out the people I want to work with: creative, talented, willing to think differently, problem solvers. Mazzetti has been able to attract that high caliber of talent. As an Owner’s Rep for construction at Children’s Hospital, I got to know some of the Mazzetti talent. I have tremendous respect for them.
What specifically attracted you to Mazzetti?
Two reasons: 1) It was through my “building” of relationships with Mazzetti people. It’s an honor and privilege to be asked to come to Mazzetti at this level. I’ve seen first hand how the firm innovates by allowing its people to innovate. That’s important to me. 2) I saw this opportunity as a way to look at healthcare built environments through other lenses. How can I help advance the healthcare quality agenda. How can I help someone in the position I’ve been in have a better comfort level that the investment required will generate reciprocal value. I feel my eclectic experiences can add some of that value… A chance for me to give back differently to my profession of over 30 years.
What comes to mind when you hear Mazzetti foursight and the four lenses: Research & Policy, Planning, Project Delivery, Financing?
Vision. I have had the privilege of doing so many different things in my career as a nurse, manager and executive. I see the importance of having the vision to understand you can’t operate in a silo… You have to see the big picture to do your part well. Mazzetti embodies this vision, as is evidenced through its long history of significant accomplishments.
What excites you most about coming to Mazzetti?
The focus on innovative solutions. Everything is doable…all about solutions.
Looking back on your 32 years with LCMC, what’s your greatest accomplishment?
Recruiting and developing great people. My entire career has focused on patient safety, advancing the quality agenda, doing what’s right and doing it well. During Katrina, another hospital in a flooded part of town was struggling with the emergency power needed to support the transfer of two critically ill, severely premature infants to our hospital. We were asked to figure out some way to transport the babies. We had no access to EMS, limited communication and would require the use of a boat to get the babies to an elevated expressway. A determined team of 10, from a wide variety of disciplines, managed to pull it off safely. It’s quite a remarkable story given the combined weight of these babies was only 2.5 pounds.
I also coordinated the successful evacuation of a hospital after Katrina in under 22 hours, relocating 103 children to nine different destinations. Every child survived. It was a massive effort by more than a hundred people and a great story of stellar performance under dire conditions.
Just recently, I was responsible for the relocation transition of our organization. The planning and training was a herculean effort. But, on August 1st, with over 400 staff, partners, and volunteers, we safely moved 131 patients in under 7.5 hours without one adverse patient event. The following weekend we moved all clinic operations and saw 721 patients on the following Monday.
One person can’t take credit for this success. It’s not about me. It’s about the team of people you trust, that you build and develop to let them do what they do best. People make you look good. I’ve been fortunate to work with remarkable teams of people, directing them to monumental achievements.
Alternatively, what were some of your greatest challenges and lessons learned?
Hurricane Katrina. I had experienced several emergency events leading up to this and had been through several hurricanes over the course of many years. Additionally, we had invested heavily in the hardening of our facility so that we could safely shelter in place. However, I severely underestimated the amount of civil unrest that would occur with a catastrophic event. We all know that you cannot deprive a community of its basic needs—food, shelter, water and expect people to tolerate it quietly. I just never anticipated d how scary it would be for our families, patients and staff. Furthermore, I learned that you can’t assume how such an event will impact people… When the hospital reopened, we spent considerable time just making sure people were okay. It wasn’t our job to assess their reaction to the situation. People have a right to have their own response… We needed to be respectful and help them manage it.
As a female CEO, do you have any advice for younger females aspiring to senior leadership positions in the healthcare arena?
Integrity and commitment. My journey hasn’t been as difficult as some. I happened to start in a younger organization (Children’s) that was beginning to grow rapidly. That allowed me to move into leadership roles fairly quickly. I was educated but sought experiences to be dually credentialed. There was no responsibility I wouldn’t take on.
I always strive to be active, demonstrate a multitude of talents and never have preconceived ideas of a job. Though female hospital CEOs are a small minority, I was able to build a foundation of credibility, beginning with my clinical background and, over time, augment with a wealth of other experiences. I’ve always had a strong desire to move “up”. My willingness to solve problems and a “do whatever it takes” disposition has positioned me well over the years. Every piece is critical to success.
Where do you see the Healthcare Industry in 5/10/20 years? Your predictions?
The science of health is evolving rapidly. As we cure more and more disease and we have the opportunity to live longer quality lives, we will discover yet unknown health issues. Yet, can we afford every technology that our imaginations can create? Can we find a cure for free-will when we choose unhealthy behaviors? From my perspective, we will continue to deal with the value proposition for the foreseeable future both in medicine and sustainable environments that allow us to deliver that care.
Tell us about the Cindy outside of the office. What does she value most? Enjoy doing in her spare time?
Family and friends come first. Although I have only one daughter, I have many “quasi” adopted children. I come from a large family, six older brothers and one sister. It gives me great joy to entertain the kids. Some nieces and nephews think spending time at my home is better than going to Disney World. So I’m incredibly excited that I will meet my first grandchild in December!
Other interests include playing tennis (as time allows) and watching the NFL. (There is no more endearing pro football team than the Saints!) I can also read for hours at a time (I’m somewhat of a best-selling fiction junkie.) And I also really love to laugh and make others laugh.