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Catherine Fickes, at right, receives her Outstanding Healthcare CEO award from Olivia Gertz, executive director of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Fickes, a Mount trustee and CEO of St. Vincent Medical Center, was one of the winners honored at the 2013 Los Angeles Business Journal's "Healthcare Leadership Awards."

MSMU trustee receives recognition for her life's calling

The Los Angeles Business Journal recently announced its 2013 Healthcare Leadership Awards, with this year’s Outstanding Healthcare CEO Award going to Mount Saint Mary’s University trustee Catherine Fickes.

Fickes has served as president and CEO of St. Vincent Medical Center in downtown Los Angeles for the past seven years, where more than 1,300 associates and 470 physicians are employed.

“I’m delighted and I really feel honored to receive this award, but it really isn’t about me,” she says. “This award is validation for all the associates that serve here. Whatever role each of us has at St. Vincent, we have the opportunity to serve the sick and their families. This hospital wouldn’t exist without the work of each person here.”

In addition to being a College trustee, Fickes also attended Mount St. Mary’s for the first two years of her undergraduate degree. She says the College’s Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet (CSJs) originally inspired her to pursue nursing and a life of helping others in need.

“The Sisters gave me the vision and helped me see where I was meant to go,” Fickes says. “I was trained by the Sisters there and I worked beside them for many years as my career began. They were just amazing women to learn from, and the time I spent with them is one of the joys of my life.”

She started working as a nurse at one of the hospitals that the CSJs used to operate. Later, she would become interim CEO for Daniel Freeman Hospitals in Los Angeles, leading the business development of two hospitals that were part of the Carondelet Health System.

During her career, Fickes also served as a CEO and CIO at hospitals in Alabama and Nevada. Before coming to St. Vincent Medical Center, she was most recently the CEO in charge of several health systems with Cambio Health Solutions.

Her background in nursing, Fickes says, is what has shaped her approach as a CEO. “I was an Emergency Room nurse, so that tells you a little bit about what I like,” she says with a laugh. “I love not knowing what’s coming in the door next. Making order out of chaos.”

That drive has led Fickes to improve access to highly specialized care, working to establish the St. Vincent Spine Institute and the St. Vincent Cardiac Care Institute. And she still takes the time to make her own rounds at the medical center, providing patients with her cell phone number as she does.

“I want to make sure each patient is getting the care they deserve,” Fickes says. “The opportunity to serve people like this is a precious gift. There are a lot of people who have helped make me who I am. I’m just fulfilling the calling that God placed out there for me.”

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