Focus on the Future
Meet Deborah Wilson: Lawrence General Hospital’s New CEO
In early February, Lawrence General Hospital (LGH) named Deborah Wilson president and CEO following a four-month search. Wilson, who has more than three decades of experience in the health care industry, had been serving as interim CEO during the search.
Promoted just one month before the coronavirus outbreak, the new CEO feels honored to be working with the hospital staff during these trying times. “Every single day there was an unpredictable set of new challenges,” Wilson says. “But it is a privilege to be part of this amazing team at Lawrence General during the height of this crisis.”
Lawrence General has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. There have been more than 17,000 confirmed cases in Essex County, and close to 4,000 in Lawrence alone. According to Wilson, the hospital treated a large number of COVID-positive patients — at times, 70% to 80% of in-patients had the virus.
While the situation made intense demands on the LGH supporting team, Wilson was inspired during this difficult time in the overwhelming support the hospital received from the community.
“Our community really rallied to help us,” Wilson says. “They were making so many necessary donations of PPE [personal protective equipment] and food to show their gratitude for the work that our team was doing to serve in this crisis.”
Her extensive experience in the health care industry helped Wilson prepare for her new role. After graduating from Boston College in 1983, her first client as an auditor was Brigham and Women’s Hospital. In 1988, Wilson joined a large multispecialty group, where she stayed for 12 years.
Wilson is no stranger to LGH, having worked at the hospital for more than nine years as a senior vice president, chief financial officer and executive vice president, a position she assumed in 2017.
Bob Gilbert, Lawrence General’s chair of the board of trustees, is confident in Wilson’s experience and familiarity with the hospital. “Board members determined that Deb has the leadership qualities, talent and experience to lead the organization most effectively into the future,” Gilbert said in a press release from LGH. “We are fortunate to have had such a strong internal candidate, who not only has the breadth of experience and skills, but also knows the hospital so well.”
“The transition for me, having such an incredible level of support and dedication, was a very positive experience,” Wilson says. She notes that, despite witnessing the ravages of COVID, she also recognized the humanity and the dedication of the team.
As CEO, Wilson wants to ensure the safety and stability of Lawrence General in the midst of the pandemic and also plans to fight for health care equality. She has been vocal in her support and dedication to the health equity issues faced by the community.
“When I look forward, I want to make sure that we can continue our positive trajectory of growth and that I can enhance the patient care services that we provide to this community,” Wilson says. “As part of that, my focus will be health equity issues that we face in this community. There are racial disparities in health care, and it’s very real. I will be fighting for fair reimbursement so that this community will have the same resources that other communities already have.”
When it comes to the future, and the hospital’s preparation for a possible second wave of COVID-19, Wilson hopes to continue putting the community first. “We’ve now been able to turn our attention to the very sick in-patients,” Wilson says. “We are going forward focused on resuming operations and communicating to our patients that we are ready, we are safe and we are strong.”