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Sutton Steps Up to Lead North Oaks Health System

  • Category: In The News
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  • Written By: Nanette White

When Michele Kidd Sutton came to North Oaks Health System 28 years ago, she never imagined that one day she would be responsible for overseeing a nationally recognized health care organization with 2,600 employees.

But in January, Sutton will assume the position as North Oaks President/Chief Executive Officer. She is replacing James E. Cathey Jr., who is transitioning into a yet-to-be defined role with the organization after 30 years of service at the helm.

“I’m honored to be the new CEO of this outstanding organization,” Sutton shares, “and excited to be working with our amazing team of employees and clinicians to care for our community.”

Sutton, 53, is a graduate of Southeastern Louisiana University and a Metairie native, but she and her husband Wayne have called Hammond home for years. She also has an extensive resume of community service and honors, including being an active member of the Rotary Club of Hammond and her beloved FeLions.

“My heart and soul have been in this community for decades. This is where I chose to live as a young professional entering the work force, and I’ve never regretted that decision.”

After receiving both a bachelor’s degree in Marketing and a master’s degree in Business Administration from SLU, Sutton joined a local bank as a marketing officer. In 1988, she came to North Oaks (or Seventh Ward General Hospital as it was known then) as Community Resources Officer, a position she held for 18 years. During that time, she also taught Marketing at her alma mater. A little known fact – she also has been certified as an Emergency Medical Technician!

In 2006, Sutton was promoted to senior management as Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer. With a zest for professional development and continuing education, she completed a fellowship program with the American College of Healthcare Executives and became board certified in Healthcare Administration in 2009. An added responsibility was presented to Sutton in 2012 when she was named Administrator/Chief Executive Officer of North Oaks Medical Center, the system’s 330-bed acute care hospital.

The rapidly changing environment of health care is challenging, but Cathey touts Sutton’s track record of success as evidence she is up to navigating the complexities of the industry.

“Be assured that North Oaks is in the most competent of hands,” Cathey notes. “Michele’s leadership and insight have been a large factor in the growth of the health system. Her experience and background have given her the foundation to successfully lead this organization into the future.”

When she first arrived at North Oaks, 100 physicians were on staff. Today, under Sutton’s guidance, the number of doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants exceeds 400. Sutton also played an integral role in development of the strategic plan to initiate the health system’s recent $250 million expansion project, as well as numerous new product and service lines.

In the inaugural days of her new role, Sutton plans to hold internal forums with staff, schedule civic presentations and sponsor town halls for the public. She also will create consumer councils and add community members to North Oaks’ quality committees.

Open communication and collaboration with the community are priorities for Sutton. “I’m going to be asking for lots of input from the public,” she explains. “There is no question that community support is key to our continued success.”

She’s especially enthusiastic about town hall meetings.

“It will be a great chance for people to let us know what’s important to them in terms of wellness and health care. And in turn, we will be sharing news about North Oaks. Some might say that we’ve hidden our light under the bushel basket -- I don’t think that everyone is fully aware of the breadth of services and quality of health care North Oaks offers.”

Sutton offers up the medical center’s recent designation as a trauma center as an example.

“This is a game-changer for those suffering traumatic injuries in our region, because receiving immediate care vastly increases the odds of survival and recovery.”

Additionally, the organization has been recognized by leading health care groups for excellence in maternal and child care, inpatient and outpatient medical rehabilitation and fighting infections.

“Did you know that North Oaks is in the top 3 percent in the world for successfully helping people recover from stroke and traumatic brain injuries? Or that patients rank our clinics and diagnostic services in the top 10 percent in the nation for excellent patient experience? We are very honored by the recognition, but I’m proudest of our incredibly dedicated team,” she adds.

Sutton credits North Oaks’ organizational values as the foundation for its success: a focus on caring, compassion, communication and commitment. And, she intends to make sure those values continue to guide the delivery high quality care and patient experiences.

“Our culture is at the heart of what we do. We are committed to be at our best when you, your family or your friends are at their most vulnerable and need help,” Sutton remarks. “With the support of our community and our employees and physicians, North Oaks Health System will realize its vision to be our region’s most trusted partner for exceptional quality, safety and experience.”