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The Right Woman For The Job

The Right Woman For The JobUnder the leadership of CEO Ellen Zane, Tufts-New England Medical Center is a top competitor in Boston’s healthcare market.

Boston [02.24.06] Magnetic. Practical. Strategic. When asked recently by The Boston Globe to describe her, Ellen Zane’s colleagues, family members and friends had no trouble finding the right words. They painted a picture of the Tufts-New England Medical Center CEO whose magnetism, practicality and strategic vision for the hospital have enabled her to orchestrate a major turnaround at Tufts-NEMC in just two years.

"This job isn't done yet," Zane, a former Partners HealthCare System executive, told The Boston Globe about her ongoing effort to improve the hospital’s financial situation and position Tufts-NEMC as a top player in Boston’s healthcare market. "The bleeding has stopped, but I still take nothing for granted because the market is very competitive and it can churn on you in a minute."

According to the Globe, after a decade of losing money (nearly $250 million in total), Tufts-NEMC climbed into the black last year under Zane’s leadership. But a number of challenges remain on her plate, including a new marketing initiative “to revive the hospital's brand,” the newspaper reported.

Zane, who is also a clinical assistant professor at Tufts School of Medicine, admits that she saw a tough road ahead when she took the job. Speaking recently to a continuing education class at the Harvard School of Public Health, the 54-year-old talked about her initial reaction to Tufts University President Lawrence S. Bacow’s invitation to consider the position, according to the Globe.

"He said they were recruiting a new CEO for New England Medical Center, and he talked about my skills set fitting their needs. [He added that] there were 5,000 jobs at stake, it was the economic engine of Chinatown, and sustained Tufts medical school," Zane told the class, the Globe reported. "I said I didn't think so.”

But after talking the offer over with her husband, Zane reconsidered and agreed to take on what the Globe called “the challenge of a lifetime.”

"I decided to do this because it's important," she told the class, which was comprised of 30 fellow healthcare CEOs. And, she told Globe, “I was 52 and wasn't ready to go play golf. It isn't what gets my juices flowing.”

What does excite Zane is helping Tufts-NEMC evolve.

Highlights of the hospital’s progress, the Globe reports, are a “40-bed neonatal intensive care unit for critically ill newborns, …technological advancements in the cardiac arrhythmia center; the 26-bed bone marrow transplant unit of Tufts-NEMC's cancer treatment and research program; and Neely House, 16 plush apartments for cancer patients and their families” that Boston Bruins legend Cam Neely donated to the hospital.

With a variety of improvements already in place at Tufts-NEMC and more on the horizon (Neely plans to fund the expansion of the hospital’s neurosurgery department in the future, according to the Globe), Zane’s life is, indeed, hectic.

But that is exactly what makes her tick.

"There are so many moving parts in a job like this," Zane told the Globe. "It takes your breath away it's so interesting."



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