Janette Edwards ’11 MBA: Making Patients Better Faster

HBJ 40 under Forty Honoree Janette Edwards '11 MBA (Nathan Oldham / UConn School of Business)
HBJ 40 under Forty Honoree Janette Edwards ’11 MBA (Nathan Oldham / UConn School of Business)

As vice president of operations at Hartford HealthCare, UConn alumna Janette Edwards ’11 MBA, oversees three acute-care hospitals, in Meriden, New Britain, and Southington.

Hundreds of thousands of patients received medical care at the three medical centers in fiscal year 2019.

On a recent walk through the Meriden hospital, Edwards found time to speak with nervous patients, give directions to visitors, and greet physicians and other medical staff.

“To those of us who work here, it seems like an average Tuesday morning, but for our patients and visitors it may be one of their scariest days,” said Edwards, 36. “Today is the day they have to come for blood work, they’re delivering a baby, or they unexpectedly ended up in the Emergency Room. For them, this is not just an average Tuesday.”

Edwards is quick to point out that this is perhaps the best time to be a patient, as well as a healthcare employee. Technology, including robotic-assisted surgery, has enabled care that wasn’t on the horizon just a few years ago.

“We have incredible, new, minimally invasive surgery. Some patients having joint replacement can go home the same day, or leave after just one night. Not long ago, those procedures required days of hospitalization,” she said. “Our goal is to provide cutting-edge medicine to make people better faster.”

UConn MBA Provided Essential Financial Insight

As an undergraduate biology and sociology major at Assumption College, Edwards had planned to become a physician. But a college excursion to a remote village in Mexico made her rethink her career choice. The turning point came during an exchange with local women and families. Children had never seen someone brushing their teeth, and the women were hopeful that their visitors were nurses. It was then that Edwards felt a calling to work to enhance healthcare access.

She enrolled in a graduate program at Dartmouth, earning her master’s degree in public health, then returned to Connecticut to work at Backus Hospital in Norwich. There, she assisted with the hospital’s transition to the Hartford HealthCare network.

While well-versed in healthcare, Edwards recognized that she needed to deepen her financial knowledge. She enrolled in the part-time MBA class at UConn. Attending night, weekend and summer classes, she was able to complete her degree in three years.

“For me the part-time program was the right choice,” she said. “I can’t imagine not working while pursuing an MBA. The courses and the real world experience complement each other so well.”

“To be able to understand the financial health of the organization is imperative,” said Edwards, who oversees operating budgets for the three hospitals that, combined, totaled $700 million in fiscal year 2019.

Three years ago, she led a management action-plan process that identified $98 million in savings for Hartford HealthCare.

“We look a year ahead at every detail, big and small, from purchasing new technology to building new programs,” she said. “We have the mindset that we can always do things better. We can push ourselves. All departments can contribute, whether its finding a cheaper way to buy copy paper or building a new, more efficient vascular center.”

One of the things that Edwards said she has learned on the job is the value of investigating recommendations brought forth by the people in the field.

“I’ve found that some of the best things happen when you say ‘Yes.’ It is easy to default to saying, ‘No. We can’t do that.’ But sometimes the best answer is, ‘Let’s try to figure it out.’

That’s been impressive to Gary Havican, President of the Central Region of Hartford HealthCare and Edwards’ boss.

“Janette is a consummate professional who, in two short years, has really made an impact as our Vice President of Operations,” he said. “In her role, Janette is responsible for the daily oversight of hospital operations which includes capital needs assessment, analysis of current and future needs of our inpatient and outpatient facilities, and the coordination and oversight of major projects for our three acute care hospitals,” he said.

“Janette is currently overseeing a variety of projects including a $40 million dollar renovation of MidState Medical Center’s operating room and central sterile processing facilities,” he continued. “Janette’s ability to interpret and translate analytics into functional projects continues to bring new and innovative services to our facilities, our physicians, and, ultimately, our patients.”

The Hartford Business Journal recently honored Edwards, an Enfield native, with its “40 under Forty” Award, recognizing outstanding achievement among young professionals in Greater Hartford.

Even a Water Main Break Didn’t Stop Surgeries

How does she juggle responsibilities at three hospitals?

“Sometimes I’d like a clone,” Edwards said, laughing. “I think the key is to set priorities and also to be flexible. I try to determine what’s important to accomplish today, but recognize that can quickly be disrupted. Many days you have to adapt and change course.”

Last April, a water-main break left the Meriden hospital with no water. It impacted almost every aspect of the business, from surgeons who needed to wash their hands, to the cafeteria that needed water to cook, to patients who needed to flush toilets. She and her team arranged for tanker trucks to bring in water, and had cases of drinking water delivered. Despite the hardship, they were able to adhere to their surgical schedule without interruption. Power outages, floods, heat waves, and broken air conditioning, she’s experienced it all.

“I love everything about my job,” Edwards said. “Every day and every hour is different. I get to see the entire organization and how every piece comes together to help our patients. From the people who do our registration, to those who clean the rooms, from nutritionists to surgeons, we’re all working together for the same goal.”

“I think it’s important for patients to know there’s an entire team of people behind them, helping our patients,” she said. “You might only see a few, but there are 30,000 people who wake up every day and try to make sure that our patients have the best outcomes possible.”

Her work days are divided between MidState and the Hospital of Central Connecticut, which operates two campuses in New Britain and Southington. Both hospitals, which employ more than 3,200 people, are enjoying tremendous success.

MidState is growing rapidly with the addition of 60 orthopedic surgeons and other key physician partnerships. The hospital now performs 4,000 orthopedic surgeries annually. The addition of three new operating rooms will mark the fifth expansion of the hospital since it was built in 1998. Across the three hospital campuses, more than 200 new providers, including more than 90 surgeons, have joined the ranks.

All three hospitals have had their most successful year since 2012, scoring well on patient satisfaction, quality standards, and financial success.

Advice for Women: Don’t Be Afraid to Speak Up

“My days are very long but I have an incredible husband, James, and he’s my counterbalance,” said Edwards, who lives in Hebron. “He’s very understanding. We both make sure the other finds time to ‘disconnect’ and plan something fun on the weekends. I like to cook, ski and travel. It’s important to focus on the things you enjoy.”

Hartford HealthCare values both talent and personal growth, said Edwards, and that has been professionally appealing. The organization emphasizes leadership behaviors ranging from a culture of mutual respect, to accountability, to expecting all employees to “go the extra mile.”

The leadership team is also expected to devote substantial energy toward mentoring and coaching employees about their career goals and how they can leverage their strengths. That’s a value that has benefitted Edwards, and something she tries to implement with employees at work, and in her role as a board member at the YWCA in New Britain.

When asked what her career advice is for students or women seeking to further their careers, she said it is vital to be unafraid to speak up.

“You have a voice and you need to use it. Ask for what you want and contribute in a way that’s meaningful to you. Be assertive and confident in your abilities,” Edwards said. “I wouldn’t let being a woman stop me from doing anything!”