Powerful things come in small packages. That's what colleagues say about Donna McGregor, chief financial officer and vice president of finance at Health Quest, a three-hospital system in New York's mid-Hudson Valley.
McGregor, 40, was named CFO of the system in April, after having served as CFO of each of the system's hospitals: its flagship 315-bed Vassar Brothers Medical Center in Poughkeepsie; 144-bed Putnam Hospital Center in Carmel; and 68-bed Northern Dutchess Hospital in Rhinebeck.
"She has just accelerated up that ramp like wildfire, yet if you met her, she's very self-effacing, demure and petite," says Ann Armater, vice president of development at Health Quest. "She may be small in stature, but she has very broad shoulders."
Under McGregor's financial leadership, the system received an upgrade to an A bond rating from Standard & Poor's, one of just a few systems in New York to achieve such a rating.
"For 2005, the financial results have been some of the best in the organization's history," says Adil Ameer, president and chief executive officer of the system. "To the best of my knowledge, this is the highest rating in the state of New York for any healthcare system."
McGregor was recruited to Vassar Brothers in 1998 as vice president of finance. Her responsibilities grew soon after, when Vassar Brothers and Northern Dutchess Hospital joined to create Health Quest and she led the integration of the hospitals' purchasing and financial systems. In 2001, the system added Putnam Hospital Center and McGregor became vice president of finance, taking on the oversight of the finances of all three hospitals.
"As we would take on hospitals, I would really try to promote from within," McGregor says. "I really believe it's important to cultivate your staff so you have a strong succession plan and a strong staff behind you."
McGregor, who has 4-year-old twin boys, grew up in Rockland County, N.Y., less than an hour and a half from where she works today. She says she always looked up to her mother, who had a demanding business career and later became the tax collector in Rockland County, but also managed to spend time raising her family.
In 2005, McGregor and her team began to combine the three hospitals' business offices into a systemwide one. Some of the hospital CEOs didn't want to give up the staff at first, McGregor says, but she was able to present business plans that quantified the value of the project. Since 2004, the system has probably saved at least $7 million from the effort, she estimates. "We have a lot more work to do with it, but being able to execute it and get it through the system processes I think was a big success," she says.
Armater says the integration effort is just one example of how McGregor can "keep her nose to the grindstone" even under trying circumstances.