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Karen Inspires Shefali in Her Health Care Career

Mar 3 2022

During Women’s History Month, we’re sharing the stories of women celebrating women across our organization. Read Shefali Chudgar’s (pictured above, left) reflections on the impact Karen Schwartz (pictured above, right) has had on her life.

“A woman that inspires me to be the best version of myself is Karen Schwartz, VP of operations in the Bon Secours St. Francis Health System. I worked with Karen for more than seven years and was her direct report for half of that time. She was an excellent supervisor, role model and mentor. She was able to pass down a lot of skills and wisdom from her 39 years of experience. I’m proud to say that we have remained good friends and colleagues even though we don’t work directly with each other anymore. I am also good friends with her two sons and daughters-in-law and have played with her four grandchildren. She has spent some time with my family as well.

Karen and I have always connected over our deep-rooted faith in the mission, vision and values of Bon Secours. She is Catholic and I am Hindu, yet our spirituality and belief in God has aligned us despite our diverse backgrounds. She has always encouraged me to the best version of myself by challenging me to think outside of the box in a visionary, strategic way.

When Karen’s role expanded to include performance management, she recruited me to St. Francis to serve as the director of performance management in 2015. I wouldn’t be where I am in my career without her giving me the opportunity to utilize my gifts and talents to contribute to the ministry.

Karen has always promoted my growth and development as an emerging leader, including supporting me to earn my Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certification and participate in programs such as the South Carolina Hospital Association (SCHA) Management Academy and the Bon Secours Legacy and Leadership ministry formation program. Through these programs, I gained additional knowledge in my field of expertise while expanding my management and leadership skills. I also serve with Karen on the South Carolina American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) Board of Directors.

Karen inspires me every day, but a specific moment when she really inspired me was when she led a market-wide strategic planning and visioning session at St. Francis as part of a lean initiative that our team was leading. There were about 100 leaders that participated in the two-day offsite session, and a lot of coordination, planning and organization went into the preparations. The event was executed without a hitch and we received a lot of feedback from the executive leadership team on how they felt that the session was successful and time well spent. This moment was just one of many examples of Karen’s leadership abilities and how she shines in the spotlight, even though she prefers to not be in it!

Karen has this unique ability to navigate the spectrum of health care administration by putting the patient first while continuously balancing the operational, strategic, quality and financial needs of the organization. She is a visionary leader who can see the big picture and the small details at the same time. Her educational background is a registered dietician, but her vast experience in hospital operations and Lean Six Sigma makes her knowledgeable about all areas, or at least, just enough to be dangerous! She also seeks first to understand and leads humbly as she is called to serve in the ministry. Her bubbly and bright personality makes her very approachable, and her ability to actively listen with an open-door policy gives other leaders an opportunity to use her as a sounding board or shoulder to lean on. She inspires me every day to follow in her footsteps as a leader.

I would like to tell Karen that I am so proud to be her work daughter and I am thankful that she is my work mother! Thank you for inspiring me and so many other leaders on your team and in your work environment. It is because of women leaders like you that I know we can succeed in this field. I appreciate all that you have done for my career and I miss working with you in Greenville, but I look forward to continuing our work together to promote the future success of our ministry.

Women supporting and encouraging other women is the best thing we can do for each other … We should lift each other up and support growth and development as health care leaders. Women share a common experience, regardless of race and ethnicity, and it is this challenge that unites us as a gender. If you want to make a difference and inspire other women, start with working on yourself and leading your life with humility, gratitude and dedication. It is often the small things and not the big things that inspire us each day, so ensure that you are setting the example for other women by demonstrating the ministry leadership and core culture behaviors daily.”

Visit our website to learn more about our ministry and the health care services we offer at Bon Secours.

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