“There were a few classes I wasn't so sure about, but I don't know if I was even concerned about it at the time,” says the senior vice president of finance and chief financial officer at Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center, Sioux Falls, S.D. “It was more an outgrowth of working to the best of my abilities. I attempt to put my all into everything that I'm doing and take it from there.”
As for building the EHR system, Norton says that took a lot of effort, but she adds that getting it done in the way it was done was rewarding. “I led the general ledger and financial reporting team,” Norton recalls. “It became my life. It was a large undertaking, but you could see the benefits you were going to get, and that made it all worth it.”
By starting from scratch, Norton explains, the team was able to challenge past ways of thinking, and listen to what people needed and then build a system based on those needs.
As the 38-year-old CFO of a regional healthcare network with 115 locations scattered among 54 communities in four states, Norton says she spends much of her day in meetings explaining how everything fits together for the 5,000 employees of the system, which takes in $965 million a year.
In his letter nominating Norton for the Up & Comer recognition, Avera McKennan Regional President Fred Slunecka writes about how Norton took over last November just as the organization's CFO for 13 years left to join a larger system and as investment losses, bad debt and lower patient volume began to take their toll. Although across-the-board pay cuts were instituted, layoffs were avoided. “Through this process, we found Julie's counsel to be extremely valuable,” Slunecka writes. “Julie's calm, professional demeanor and confidence remain constant no matter what situation she's facing.”
Norton joined Avera McKennan in 1999 as a controller, but her career path to the healthcare industry went through PricewaterhouseCoopers where she performed and supervised financial audits. “Originally, I started out with plans to be an actuary, but one of our clients at PricewaterhouseCoopers was a children's hospital and working with them really engaged me, and I wanted to be part of such an organization,” she recalls.
Norton seeks the same rewards as a volunteer board member of the Sioux Falls-area Court Appointed Special Advocate program, which advocates on behalf of abused and neglected children.