“Healthcare is very complex, and what I enjoy most is identifying where we have some issues and some barriers and then removing those barriers to get the patient the right care at the right time and in the right places,” she says.
Freese-Decker has a master's in industrial engineering from the University of Iowa and with that background, she says she looks at the problems facing healthcare as a kind of puzzle. She also holds a master's of health administration from the University of Iowa, as well as an undergraduate degree in finance from Iowa State University.
The American College of Healthcare Executives will present Freese-Decker with its 2013 Robert S. Hudgens Memorial Award for Young Healthcare Executive of the Year. The honor recognizes CEOs or chief operating officers younger than 40.
One of her major accomplishments that earned her the award was launching a physician-relations program to improve engagement with physicians at her facilities.
Communication is key, says Freese-Decker, who works to gain insight on issues from the front lines by regularly conferring with nurses, cafeteria workers and other staff members. “I ask them how they're doing and I talk to patients to see what issues are important to them,” she says.
Mary Kay VanDriel, president of Value Health Partners, a Grand Rapids, Mich.-based alliance of seven Michigan health systems that includes Spectrum, nominated Freese-Decker for the award because of her work in building the local ACHE chapter. The alliance's members work in concert to address regional disparities in care while also representing their communities on policy issues affecting public health.
VanDriel calls Freese-Decker “very intentional,” meaning she always has specific reasons for her actions. She cited Freese-Decker's role in growing the organization into a vibrant chapter and developing a strategic plan that was later adopted at the larger Detroit chapter. She says Freese-Decker's vision and enthusiasm make her a valuable team member always dedicated to finding solutions that seem to elude everyone else.