Whoever said "Familiarity breeds contempt" should do lunch with Marna Borgstrom. After all, Yale-New Haven (Conn.) Hospital is still her second home, the same place she has worked since 1992 when she was named an Up & Comer at age 39.
Back then, she was senior vice president of administration. Fifteen years later she is still at the 851-bed facility, one of the nation's oldest voluntary hospitals. Now, at 53, she is president and chief executive officer of the hospital and of Yale-New Haven Health System—the first woman to hold that position in the hospital's 181-year history.
“I've been fortunate,” she says. “I've been given a lot of different opportunities within the same organization, which has worked very well for me.”
Back in 1992, Borgstrom said she never expected to stay at Yale after graduating from Yale University's School of Medicine in 1979 with a Master of Public Health degree in hospital administration. She thought she would work at a hospital for a few years and then move into another field, she said. But every few years, her career responsibilities at the academic medical center shifted and she never felt bored.
Perhaps Yale-New Haven is just that type of place. After all, Joseph Zaccagnino, who preceded Borgstrom as president and CEO and who helped recruit her, was at the organization for 35 years before he retired.
“If the individual can continue to grow and develop and stagnation is avoided by the inflow of new people and new ideas, a dynamic place like a medical center benefits from the continuity that a leader with a history in the organization can provide,” Zaccagnino says. “I think Marna has not only been committed to that direction over time, but I also think the end result demonstrated that she made good choices along the way.”
Borgstrom says Zaccagnino's willingness to share responsibility—which allowed her to pursue both strategic and operational opportunities—was part of what kept her at Yale-New Haven all these years. Before becoming CEO in 2005, Borgstrom was executive vice president and chief operating officer for 12 years. She also served as vice president of administration from 1985 to 1992.
Not only is she dedicated and articulate, but she also is a “pioneer” among women who have achieved top management positions at academic medical centers, Zaccagnino says.
Among her achievements at Yale-New Haven was overseeing the construction of the $156 million Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital, which opened in 1993. “That was an exquisite opportunity,” Borgstrom says, because she was able to oversee the project from initial planning through occupancy.
She is also proud of a $430 million project Yale-New Haven is undertaking to consolidate its cancer care into one location. The result will be a 14-story building integrating inpatient and outpatient oncology for adults and children. The building is expected to open by the end of 2009, she says.
When asked whether she regrets not moving to another hospital or system to try something new, Borgstrom is philosophical. “I don't know if I can say it's a good or bad thing,” she says. “My feeling is I got the best of both worlds. I got to continue to learn, evolve my thinking, evolve my style and strategies, and I got to do it with a team of people I knew well.”