Member Spotlight – Debbie Demeo

Please tell us a little about your background.

I was born in Tripoli, Libya and raised in California and Houston, but I have been in Houston for the majority of my life.  I have 2 brothers and 2 sisters, all of whom also live in the Houston area.  During high school I took a psychology course and knew then that I wanted to go into a profession where I could focus on helping others.  I went to Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas and graduated with a BA in Psychology.  During college, I worked at a home for abused and neglected children and that experience was eye-opening.  I decided that I would pursue a degree in Social Work with the full intention of working with children.  Upon graduation, I returned to Texas for graduate school and received a master’s degree in social work from the University of Texas at Arlington.  While pursuing my master’s degree, I interned at a hospital, and my career focus migrated to healthcare.  Although I am no longer a hospital social worker, I do think my social work background helped me transition into leadership roles.  I have been in the healthcare arena for 25 years, with the last 13 years in a leadership role.

What inspired you to pursue a career in healthcare?

During my master’s program, I decided to pursue a career in healthcare while fulfilling an internship at Irving Community Hospital, now Baylor Scott and White in Irving, Texas.  Although my vision had been to work with disadvantaged children, I found great rewards working with patients and families while in a time of crisis.  My mentors played a significant role in my decision to stay in healthcare.  I had several mentors, and each one provided guidance and motivation as I learned how to navigate the healthcare system. They taught me the importance of the social worker’s role in the overall success of the hospital.  In addition, I really enjoyed the teamwork and collaboration, and I felt that the environment was a perfect fit.  Ultimately, the stories I heard from patients and their families made me love my job and inspired me to do better, be more patient, figure out how to work through barriers for their benefit, and always make a difference.

What do you like to do in your free time?

In my free time I enjoy running, swimming, lifting weights, and spending time with my husband and 2 daughters, ages 8 and 17.

What was the best piece of advice you received from a mentor during your administrative career or career as a social worker?

Recently, the best piece of advice I received in my career was to take time to reflect on my actions and inactions in an effort to continuously improve on my leadership path.  Leadership is an ongoing process, so be mindful of where you are and where you want to go.

What currently is the biggest challenge that you face in healthcare leadership?

The biggest challenge that I face in healthcare leadership today is managing the workforce to deal with new expectations as we return to a bit of normalcy.  After working remotely and doing it successfully for well over a year, we are working together to get back into our pre-COVID rhythm.  What a journey we have been on!

What is your favorite aspect about being a healthcare leader in Houston?

My favorite aspect about being a healthcare leader in Houston is the healthcare community. Over the years, I have met so many individuals who have made an impact on my life, both professionally and personally, and I will forever be grateful.  You have probably heard this as well, but the healthcare world is so small.  There are 6 degrees of separation.  There is always a connection to be made!

What additional advice would you give to an early careerist, who would like to become a healthcare leader, like yourself?

The best advice I could give, and one of the best goals I have ever set for myself, is to get out of your comfort zone.  Albeit uncomfortable, putting yourself “out there” and taking risks opens up new opportunities to grow professionally.  Find a leader within your organization in whom you can confide about your willingness to learn something new, who is willing to take on a new challenge, and who will support you all the way!  I have learned that people really want others to succeed.  Let your goals be known!  Also, I think it is important to keep in mind that we are ever evolving, and the healthcare field affords many opportunities.  Just because you may begin your healthcare career in one area does not mean that you cannot find interest and grow in another!  Looking back to my early days in healthcare, I would have never thought that I would have transitioned from the social worker role to a Business Development Leadership role.  Who knows what the future holds!

-Interview by Brodus Franklin

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