She's been a nurse and a director of cardiovascular services, a mental health hospital leader and a hospital CEO, and now Mary Lou Mastro is rising to her next leadership role -- CEO of Edward-Elmhurst Health.
Until June 30, she's sharing the position with retiring CEO Pam Davis, with whom she has worked for nearly 30 years in executive positions at hospitals in Naperville and Elmhurst that merged in 2013.
Spurred by a caring nature and a positive experience at a hospital when she needed surgery as a college student, Mastro, 62, of Palos Park, has made health care her career for more than 35 years.
She takes the reins of the Edward-Elmhurst system after years of growth including development of a heart hospital, a hospital in Plainfield, walk-in clinics in grocery stores and immediate care clinics in several communities. Now Mastro says it's time for Edward-Elmhurst to turn its focus to process improvements so it can better serve patients.
Mastro recently sat down with the Daily Herald and shared some of her plans. Here's an edited version of the conversation.
Q. How is the transition going from Pam Davis' tenure as CEO to yours?
A. It's nice that she's around and I'm able to ask questions and tap into her expertise. The fact that I spent many years at Edward Hospital and 10 years at Linden Oaks (Behavioral Health) and then four years at Elmhurst Hospital has given me this broad perspective of the system, so I think that's really helped with the transition as well.
Pam and I have worked really closely together and I think share a lot of the same vision and passion for the job. I do think my clinical background will really help as we try to look at transforming the patient experience to make it safe, seamless and personal.
Q. How will you improve the experiences of patients?
A. We're looking at shifting away from the traditional hospital focus on acute care and hospital care to focusing on health. How do we keep the population healthy? How do we teach people to stay healthy, identify risk factors and diseases earlier and get them treated earlier so they don't really need to use the hospital.
Q. How will you work to lower the costs of health care?
A. Within the course of a patient's treatment, we're looking at how many steps there are and how we can reduce that number. Do we need to do every lab test? Do we need to do every imaging procedure? Could we get to the same diagnosis with fewer steps?
We also have to follow best practices. There's science out there about the best way to do things and we have to get our physicians and clinicians to agree and ensure that everyone who's taking care of patients complies.
Q. You came to Edward Hospital in 1988. What was your first role like?
A. I was the director of cardiovascular services, but there weren't any. So you could say it was a blank, white board. It was fun because we worked very closely with our partners and we opened up our first cath lab (short for catheterization laboratory, which has equipment to diagnose and treat heart abnormalities.) We were the last hospital in DuPage County to have cardiac cath services and the last hospital to have open-heart surgery services, so we knew that we had a lot of ground to make up.
We were very aggressive about how we grew the services. We were the last in DuPage County to have those services and now we're the first to have a complete heart hospital. It's pretty exciting.
Q. During your time at Linden Oaks Behavioral Health, you helped bring Mental Health First Aid to Naperville. Why launch that program and how has it helped?
A. When I first heard about Mental Health First Aid, which started in Australia, what really excited me was "let's start the dialogue. Let's talk about mental illness. Let's put it out there. Let's get more people talking about it and understanding it so we can begin to eliminate some of this negative stigma."
The program teaches people that if someone has a mental illness, it's really no different from having a physical illness -- people need help, they need support.
We're teaching the symptoms of five major categories of mental illnesses and here's what you can do to help. To think that we've educated 9,000 people in mental health first aid shows we've opened up the dialogue.
Q. What else intrigues you about the health care field?
A. Current estimates are that the volume of information doubles every six years. So we have seen exponential growth in treatment, technology, pharmaceuticals, research.
Keeping up with all that information can be a real challenge, and making sure our staff members are constantly being educated on all of the new initiatives -- not to mention the equipment; even the equipment changes ... You have to be a constant learner to be able to be effective in this industry.