Margaret Gustafson

President, Children’s Hospital of Illinois
Photography by Kira Kwon

A dedicated servant, leading the Children’s Hospital through today’s complex healthcare landscape

I’ve been privileged to serve as the first woman to lead the Children’s Hospital of Illinois in its 20-plus year history. Prior to my arrival in June 2012, I was the chief executive officer at Kewanee Hospital for 11 years. During my tenure, I led Kewanee Hospital to attain “Critical Access Hospital” status and oversaw the financing and construction of a full-replacement hospital facility in 2008. With more than 22 years of experience in healthcare and hospital administration, I have managed a broad range of healthcare issues, from business outreach and managed care contracting to practice management, compliance, safety and foundation planning.

In the hospital community, I’ve often taken on the role of advocate, especially for small and rural hospitals. I believe in the roots of the Children’s Hospital organization and try to live our mission of serving with the greatest care and love. Our history and our Sisters’ faith are important parts of who we are. The Sisters laid the foundation more than 137 years ago and provide the daily inspiration to do what is best for children. Their earliest days were spent caring for children in the orphanages. I cannot think of a more inspirational place to work.

I attended Northern Illinois University and later St. Ambrose University, obtaining my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business. My family includes my husband, Craig, president of Union Federal Savings and Loan, and our three children: Matthew, a freshman at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana; Ali, a junior at Kewanee High School; and Lizzy, an eighth grader at Central Junior High in Kewanee.

Please list and reflect upon your major accomplishments of 2013.
I have been privileged to attend the Ministry Formation program within OSF this year. This new program complements ongoing initiatives and offers lay leaders a direct link to our Sisters’ vocation of service. These formative programs greatly enrich me as a leader and are positively impacting my approach to my profession and responsibilities. I have also had the pleasure of representing Children’s Hospital and OSF Saint Francis Medical Center at many community events. It’s important to connect to the larger community and share the vision and values of our Children’s Hospital. I enjoy our community and its wonderful people. Our Sisters, lay leaders, caregivers, coworkers and volunteers are constant sources of inspiration. We have a wonderful environment to provide care to children and their families!

We serve thousands of children from much of the State of Illinois. We strive to have the most advanced and sustainable children’s hospital in downstate Illinois. We’re dedicated to constantly improving our care and care delivery while collaborating with other hospitals and community healthcare providers. The complexity of the healthcare landscape and uncertainties related to healthcare reform necessitate a multifaceted and continuous approach to planning and an overabundance of communication. During this last year, our leadership team spent a great deal of time working with hundreds of stakeholders evaluating our environment and strategies. The Children’s Hospital offers care over a vast continuum, from activities to prevent injury and promote wellness to the compassionate care of very sick children in our 56 intensive care rooms. It’s a privilege to serve these children. As our Sisters did many years ago, we commit ourselves to the best care for each and every one. We will build on the amazing work that occurred in the past and ensure future strength through planning, collaboration and implementation of sound strategies.

Our children are cared for by hundreds of physicians, nurses, therapists, pharmacists, technicians, counselors and other caregivers trained in caring for pediatric patients. They set our Children’s Hospital apart from other hospitals. By continuing to engage these professionals, we have embarked on new and very meaningful initiatives that will directly benefit our patients and reflect our Ministry’s aspirations for top-tier pediatric primary, specialty and sub-specialty care.

In my short time here, I have really tried to ensure that the entire team feels confident and comfortable contributing to our future course. During each encounter with our staff, I strive to reinforce their value and encourage increased engagement. We have a very impressive team, and they are fiercely determined in their care of our children.

Finally, my moments interacting with our patients and their families have been the most precious. They are well worth our hard work and tireless efforts to offer the best care in the best environment!

What is your secret to maintaining a balance between your work and personal life?
I wish I could say that I’ve mastered maintaining a balance. The best that I can do is stress that I owe a lot to the people in my life who prop me up and put up with me! My thankfulness begins with my husband and our three children.

What is your leadership philosophy?
I hope that we all uncover even better parts of ourselves through our leadership experiences. I hope that we will all help each other sustain our courage for the leadership challenges ahead. I hope that our personal growth will help our Ministry transform care for our patients and our communities.

The current leadership challenges in healthcare require that we become master facilitators of clear, truthful and thoughtful conversations as we pursue transparent goals that are true to our mission.

Did you have a mentor in the early stages of your career?
Early in life, my sources of inspiration were my parents and grandparents, who worked hard and cared about others. I admire people who never hesitate to act with kindness. I’ve been blessed to know many who exemplified these virtues.

What advice would you give to a young, up-and-coming female professional?
Take time to quietly reflect. Work hard on building meaningful relationships. Invite new and unique people into your world and learn from them. Consciously and deliberately maintain a balance between your professional and personal commitments. Don’t forget to pray.

How do you unwind after a long day of work?
I look forward to the time with my family. My children are all very involved in school and community activities. Craig and I make them our priority. It’s a joy to be with them and support them in every way we can. I especially like seeing them grow as young adult leaders.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
It is common and expected for our leaders to begin meetings, care conferences and other interactions with a prayer. Below is a simple prayer that I wrote for one of our Ministry Formation sessions for leaders. It helps to illustrate our aspirations to be true servant leaders.

Heavenly Father, we strive to fulfill the Mission you have set before us. We know that You are with us always in this journey. Help us to serve others as your Son, Jesus Christ, served as Servants, Shepherds and Stewards.

Lord, we thank You for the strength and faith of our Sisters. We are grateful for the examples of compassion and courage demonstrated by our co-workers and our patients. Please grant them all Your peace.

Holy Spirit, guide us as we lead. Grant us wisdom, prudence and fortitude as we help chart the future course of our Ministry. iBi