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Diane Brockmeier: Making Her Mark on Mid-America Transplant

Posted May 10, 2016 in News Category

diane-1crop5x7webres300pxBefore Diane Brockmeier was named the second President and Chief Executive Officer of Mid-America Transplant, she had outlined a plan for her first 100 days. With 30 years of experience and 100 days as the top executive of the organization in the books on May 10, she’s well on her way to making an indelible imprint on Mid-America Transplant and the donation and transplantation industry. 

Diane is a collaborative and authentic leader who naturally and genuinely connects with people. She’s inspired by donor families, transplant patients, medical professionals, and the employees at Mid-America Transplant. But as you’ll see in the question-and-answers below, Diane’s passion for our mission – Saving Lives Through Excellence in Organ and Tissue Donation – is what motivates her to lead Mid-America Transplant, which comes off an exceptional year in which we achieved record performance for organ and tissue donation and the organization received the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

To provide more insight into her motivation and personality, Diane took a few minutes to answer a few questions for the Corporate Communications department. Here is what she had to say:

How did you start at Mid-America?
I responded to a newspaper article in Cape Girardeau. Mid-America was looking for a coordinator to be housed in the Cape area to do organ and tissue donation work in the southern part of the service area. The position was funded through a grant from CMS, so it was a one-year opportunity. I interviewed for the position and was awarded the job. I did hospital development, clinical call, tissue recovery, cornea preservation, public education … we did a little bit of everything. It ended up being a great primer (for the President and CEO role) when we talk about enterprise-wide knowledge. When you’ve lived and grown up in the enterprise, it gives you a broad perspective.

Did you ever imagine you would become CEO at Mid-America?
No thought at all. When I started, I thought the mission was a really cool thing to be a part of. And that’s stuck for 30 years. This mission has never lost its appeal to me.

diane-5-1cropped-z6gWhen did you know Mid-America was the right fit for you?
My first day was October 20, 1986 and my first solo case was Christmas Eve of 1986. I can still visualize the donor and his family. I think I knew for sure then, just eight weeks in, that this was the right thing for me.

I stayed in contact with his family for years.

What has been the most exciting aspect of your first 100 days as President and CEO?
The Quest for Excellence Conference, where we received the Baldrige award. I remember working with (consultant) Mac Maguire, and he said to us, “One day, you’ll have the chance to put organ and tissue donation on the national stage.” And we did just that. 

At the award ceremony, when the room was dark and they were calling out our names, they said, “Ladies and gentlemen, the role model organizations for the United States of America.” I still get goosebumps. That was the highlight of the week.

How has your family impacted your professional career?
When I first said I wanted to go to nursing school, I was 16 years old. My dad said to me, “You know, there are two kinds of nurses. All the nurses know how to take your blood pressure, but only a few nurses get you the cup of coffee when you’re sitting up all night with someone who is sick. I want you to be that kind of nurse.” He has a story about being in the hospital with my granddad when his hip was broken. All the nurses would come in and do their job, but not everyone took the time to show you that extra bit of kindness. That was a big influence on my career. I don’t know how many cups of coffee I offered, but it was a lot because my daddy said so.

What are the unique challenges of leading Mid-America Transplant?
The unique challenges for an organization this size – and most important decisions for me personally – are all of those that deal with the people and the future of the organization. Many of those are internal things we have control over: Ensuring we have great benefits, trying to have transparent communication, and taking care of our people. Some of those decisions are managing the uncharted waters like the proposed broader allocation for livers. So what I do and how I’m involved with those national decisions ultimately impacts our people, our community, and how organs are shared here. If you make these decisions with the thought of the people in your heart, you’ll usually end up at the right decision.

dsc7796webresHow do you foster creative and innovative thinking at Mid-America Transplant?
I think it starts with allowing people to be creative and innovative. That’s been a learning for us: Recognizing there is value in other things aside from your day-to-day job description or required responsibilities. That may be participating in an innovation committee or being interviewed during a Baldrige visit. That participation is outside, in some ways, of the scope of traditional work but creates those opportunities for innovative ideas. I want to create a culture of lifelong learners, which feeds innovation. Knowledge is key to innovation, and you gain knowledge by learning from other people.

Personally, I’ve served on the Standards and Accreditation Committee and several other UNOS committees over my tenure. I have visited other OPOs and observed what others do; I’ve attended national meetings and had the opportunity to speak. These experiences have validated, for me, that we do have the best organization. But I never fail to learn something. I think that’s a key: Recognizing that as good as we are, we can still learn from others.  

Describe your personal connection to donation.
Donation is an everyday word in our house. Our blended family has had five personal experiences with tissue donation. I think this has given me some insight. I’ve not lost my own child, and I wasn’t married to my daughter Natalie’s dad when he died, but watching them go through the process has given me a deep understanding about how it impacts people. Donation has been a godsend for Natalie. Her dad could be a hero. It’s a personal mantra for her, and she is inspired by our mission. 

What fun facts would you like us to know about your family?
We are St. Louis Blues and Kansas City Chiefs fans. My favorite sport is basketball; I love Kansas Jayhawks basketball. We love both so much that we have a Christmas tree we put up every year decorated half Chiefs and half Jayhawks. And we have a big moose of a Newfoundland dog, named Delaney.

I enjoy scrapbooking; I’m an avid reader; and I’m involved in my church and my daughter’s sorority Mom’s Club. 

What do you see on the horizon at Mid-America Transplant?
I see an organization with much continued success that will be an industry leader many years into the future. Our innovation and aptitude will ensure that. We’ll have some rough spots, as far as working through broader sharing of organs and working through what that does to our community. But mostly, I see sunshine. We’re poised to do great things as we come off the Baldrige recognition and a record year. Our remarkable leadership team and workforce will make that happen.

On a personal level, I’d be thrilled to know we have another record year of saving lives, and we’re able to do that with the highest levels of staff engagement we’ve ever had. I want people to feel really good about working here. Is everyone going to be happy every single day? No. None of us are. But I want to capture what is important to people and work to make those things come about.

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