Wendy Fielding, 2023 Outstanding Women in Business recipient
Wendy is the Chief Financial Officer at Dartmouth Health
Wendy joined Dartmouth Health in 2009 as the vice president of financial planning, collaborating closely with the D-H leadership team to provide financial support for strategic decisions, most recently for significant expansion projects on D-H’s Lebanon and Manchester campuses. She teaches the fundamentals of healthcare finance in the “Leading at D-HH” leadership development program, and is a guest lecturer at the Tuck School of Business. Additionally, Wendy is a 2019 Carol Emmott Fellow and supports women leaders to advance their healthcare careers and transform healthcare. A longstanding member of the Healthcare Financial Management Association, she currently serves on the Board of New London Hospital.
What was your early career journey like?
I found out that I was very good at math. I think that love of being able to do things with numbers and, in addition, translate that into something meaningful to people who perhaps were not as fond of math as myself was really an interest for me. When I started my career, I was in the high-tech industry. But I really didn’t want to be working in an industry that is making a product. I felt the desire to do something more impactful on society.
Not being a clinician or having those skills, I thought that going into healthcare was a way for me to be supportive of an industry that actually made a difference. So, I started out in the hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and went back to get my MBA focusing on healthcare management.
I’m a very curious person, so just listening to and learning from the folks who do the important stuff of running the organization, providing care to patients, I think about how I could provide information to them about the dollar side of things that might also impact their decision-making.
In healthcare, you’re so connected to the mission, so I always like being in the hospital or a physician’s office, because you’re seeing patients and it just really reminds you of why you’re there every day.
How important is mentorship to you?
I think it makes a big difference to someone to feel like they have a friendly ear to listen to them and maybe challenge them to think differently. We do have a formal mentor program at the organization. With my own team, I encourage them to use their self-confidence. I find, oftentimes, that’s one of the worries that women leaders tend to have. You’re always kind of thinking about, did I do that right? Am I going to say something wrong? You have a lot of value to bring to the conversation, so let it out. Don’t just keep it in your head.
What advice would you give to future women business leaders?
Don’t be afraid of dipping your toe into areas that are not in your comfort zone. Part of growing as a leader is taking that step into something that you’re not super comfortable with or knowledgeable of. Use your natural curiosity, or approach it as a learning opportunity. It’s okay to be vulnerable and take the chance.
You have to get out of your own head. What’s the worst thing that’s going to happen? You’re going to learn something new. It’s pretty unlikely people are going to ridicule you. In your mind they are, but in real life they don’t do that. It is a learning process, but if we have the mentors that are able to help us push forward, I think that’s important.
What’s next for you?
This has been the most challenging couple of years of my entire career. I don’t know how much folks outside of the industry appreciate the long shadow that Covid brought to generally exposing some of the problems with the way our business was being paid for. In the industry, we are going to need to make some significant adjustments in order to be here for the long haul.
Frankly, I worry about the future of healthcare in general, where so many people will be getting older. Of course, you spend a lot of money when you’re older on healthcare. That’s just how it works. And the people who are here to take care of them are much smaller now.
How are we going to accomplish these things? How are we going to get it done? The challenge of getting through this battleground right now, and reinventing ourselves on the other side, is really exciting. I think it’s going to keep me pretty busy.