Inova Loudoun Hospital has a new leader at the top, and it’s a very familiar face.
After briefly serving in the position on an interim basis, Susan Carroll was named as the hospital’s new president last week, following Deborah Addo’s resignation over the summer. What sets Carroll apart from her predecessors at Inova Loudoun is that she requires little introduction at all. In fact, system-wide, Carroll has become a familiar face to many of Inova Health System’s thousands of employees.
That’s because Carroll holds the rare, perhaps unheard of, position of having run at one point or another all five of Inova’s hospitals—Fairfax, Fair Oaks, Mount Vernon, Alexandria, and Loudoun. Some of those assignments were on an interim basis, while others were longer stays. That distinction has earned Carroll plenty of friends and accolades, not to mention a wealth of knowledge she looks to utilize as she takes the top leadership spot at her neighborhood hospital.
Carroll began her healthcare career more than 20 years ago, at Inova Loudoun, when it was still Loudoun Hospital Center. She was the hospital’s director of business affairs and saw firsthand some of its struggles before becoming part of the Inova system.
“What I loved about [the job], even though it was hard, and truly why my husband and I decided to move out here, Loudoun was a sense of community that was very different from anything I had experienced before. This is the unique perspective I have. I honestly believe we are privileged to serve the community we live in. Being able to be here, being able to take care of your neighbors, your team members, your friends, the people who go to your kids’ school, even though you’re part of a larger system we do have a sense of community here and I want to continue that culture,” she said.
Culture was a big part of her predecessor Addo’s mantra, and Carroll said it should be that way for all leaders.
“I think culture should probably be the first word out of every leader’s mouth. It’s always leader-led. If you’re not focused on the culture there’s no building project or strategic plan that’s ever going to work,” she said.
To that end, Carroll said she wants to focus on the foundation already in place at Inova Loudoun. She acknowledges the incredible physical growth at the hospital over the past five years to catch up with the community’s growing population. Now, she said, the focus must turn to programmatic growth, and bringing more services to the community. She points to the coming arrival of the new cancer program in February as one example. But Carroll looks specifically at the changing demographics of the community, with now many senior citizens choosing to retire in Loudoun, and adult living communities proliferating.
“When you look at the fabric of the community you are in you have to adjust healthcare services. That’s what I want to do from a strategic standpoint—a heavier investment in cardiology, cardiac care, neurology, and of course we’re hoping by the end of 2022 we’ll be able to go for our Level II trauma certification,” she said.
On her distinction of leading each of Inova’s five hospitals during her career, Carroll has assembled a robust mental notebook, not to mention important relationships.
“Every hospital is unique. We really do try to build a culture for Inova, but every hospital has something that’s a little special to it. Over the last 12 years being able to experience each one I’ve always used it as a learning opportunity,” she said.
Carroll also has been able to cultivate professional relationships with all of the hospital system’s service line presidents.
“So it’s a very easy phone call to say I need more [of a certain service],” she said. “Health care is still about relationships.”
Carroll said her top priority as president is preparing for the next wave of COVID-19, with the Delta variant a particularly brutal and contagious foe. Understanding patient flow, access to care, and how the hospital is able to prepare for that all goes into her planning, she said. She said the hospital currently has an adequate supply of beds in its Intensive Care Unit to treat the most critical COVID cases, which are still largely coming from those who are not vaccinated. The hospital is about to roll out its annual campaign to encourage community members to receive the flu shot, and plans to tie that in with continued conversation about receiving the COVID vaccine for those age groups that are currently eligible.
“The COVID vaccine and flu vaccine are the best tools we have from a public health perspective. We want to make sure we’re out there in the community educating about both vaccines,” Carroll said.
She points out that Inova Health System was the first health care system in Virginia to require that all its team members be vaccinated for COVID-19, with a deadline for doing so of Sept. 1.
Carroll said the pandemic has taken a toll on healthcare workers globally, and Inova is not immune to that. With that in mind, she said taking care of her team members also is a top priority. That includes everyone from her specialists and administrators to housekeeping and food service workers, and everyone in between.
“This has been such a difficult year and a half for everyone. I really want to make sure that there’s care for the caregiver. We have to be focused on that,” she said.
Another priority harkens back on her desire to focus on programmatic growth—“what are the gaps we really want to make sure we’re filling to serve the community that we’re in,” Carroll said.
As she begins her new, and yet familiar, role with Inova Loudoun Hospital, Carroll said she is excited to lead her neighborhood hospital.
“This has always been my community hospital even though I’ve worked in all four other hospitals,” she said. “This is where both my boys were born. Being able to come back to the hospital that is part of my community is really special.”