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est assignment, as president and CEO of Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton.
She takes the helm at CDH after a lengthy stint as chief medical officer for the Baptist Health System/Tenet Healthcare – Texas Group, and arrives at an obviously stressful, tenuous, and uncertain time for all healthcare pro- viders, one still dominated in every way by the COVID-19 pandemic and its latest surge.
Watkins, who arrived at the hospital on Sept. 27, brings to this challenge, and CDH, a wealth of experience. Like a growing number of those leading hospitals and healthcare systems, she has made the transition from direct patient care to managing those who provide that care. For her, it was a seis- mic but, in many ways, natural change.
“While there’s been a
lot of challenge and a
lot of sadness during the pandemic, there’s also
been some wonderful lessons and teachings in the resilience of people.”
“Many people have asked if the transition was difficult, and I’ve said that it was not,” she explained. “That’s because I found myself at peace mov- ing from a clinical role to one that still has clinical elements, but instead of being the one-on-one patient-phy- sician relationship, which is incred- ibly treasured, it’s one where I have
the ability to impact multiple patients and improve the working lives of staff, medical staff, and other providers. I can make a bigger impact on a broader scale.”
She said there were many factors that went into her decision to come
to CDH, summing them up with that often-used phrase “it was a perfect fit.” Elaborating, she said the area served by Cooley Dickinson, mostly Hampshire and Franklin counties, is one with a great deal of need, and she has experi- ence working with such populations, as we’ll see.
Beyond that, she said this opportu- nity allows her an opportunity to take what she has learned at many different stops during her career and apply them to what will be a different — and obvi- ously significant — challenge.
Watkins said the learning process has continued through COVID, which she believes has brought out the very best in those working in healthcare, while also putting an even greater focus on teamwork, collaboration, and innovation.
“While there’s been a lot of chal- lenge and a lot of sadness during the pandemic, there’s also been some wonderful lessons and teachings in
the resilience of people, resilience of systems, the importance of self-care and downtime, and the importance of working with others and understand- ing that it’s OK to say, ‘I need help,’” she explained. “What this has also done is challenged us to innovate, whether it’s in processes, such as supply-chain ini- tiatives with PPE or the distribution of vaccinations and other pharmaceuti- cals such as monoclonal antibody infu- sions, or working together in groups to really take care of our community.
“That resilience, that collaboration, that innovation, that devotion to self and others have really been positive,” she went on. “The patience and work-
ing with a team have really helped me grow — as an individual, as a physi- cian, and as a healthcare leader.”
For this issue, BusinessWest talked at length with Watkins about her lat- est assignment, why she came to CDH, and ... how being her father’s daughter will help her as she takes on this latest career challenge.
Background — Check
In some ways, Watkins said, com- ing to CDH is like coming home — or at least coming back to that part of the country where she did her residency.
Specifically, that would be Mass Eye and Ear in Boston. But she did get out
to the Northampton area on several occasions during those residency years, so she’s not a total stranger to the 413.
There were several career stops between Boston and CDH, including a lengthy stint back at Mass Eye and Ear, where, from 1999 to 2004, she directed the Emergency Ophthalmology Service and walk-in clinic and was an attend- ing physician in the Ophthalmic Plastic Surgery Service. And Watkins said all of them have helped her grow as both a provider of care and a manager of peo- ple. And she intends to put all of that experience to work at CDH.
Our story starts in Missouri, where Watkins, as noted, became intent on
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