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Marla Sillman – Spirit of Innovation

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Senior Executive Officer Florida Hospital for Children and Florida Hospital for Women

According to Marla Silliman, there is a paradigm-shift taking place in the science of women’s health that some would call revolutionary. It can be summed up in the recognition that much of the clinical research and even drug testing that has been done historically was on males, yet women access more healthcare services. The medical community however is realizing the differences between genders goes far beyond the traditional scope of gynecology, right down to the cellular and genetic level. The impact of this understanding is so far reaching that recently the Florida Hospital for Women opened its doors to bring a special focus on this groundbreaking understanding, not only there, but across the spectrum of Florida Hospital’s medical system. Leading this effort is 34-year healthcare veteran Marla Silliman.

A registered nurse at just 19, Silliman immediately knew that women’s and children’s medicine was where she wanted to focus her career and planned to go on to medical school to become a doctor. However, being promoted into management while still in her early 20’s, she found she enjoyed the leadership dynamic. Then came a tipping point experience. She was trying to explain a better operational procedure to an assistant administrator of the hospital she worked at in New York, whom she described, “did not have a very nice way about him.” He contemptuously responded to her recommendations with, “If you’re so smart why don’t you go get your MBA and run this place?” For Silliman, a light went off and she thought, “Maybe I will.”

Building a Brand Promise

The hospitals where she worked paid 100 percent of her MBA studies, and though she was still considering medical school, she kept being promoted and “never looked back.” She continued doing clinical work, but eventually stopped to devote herself to the leadership/management side of healthcare delivery. “What I do is so important to so many that I don’t have to be directly involved in clinicals to be energized and to know I am making a difference. Women and children often go hand in hand, though most of it when I started was OB/GYN, but all that is changing and I was able to grow with the times.”

She came to Florida Hospital initially to advance clinical excellence and do institute development in areas like cardiac and cancer. “After a year they promoted me and asked me to lead the strategic plan for children first and then women. It all coalesced around our 100-year anniversary, and the knowledge of what we have been for the last 100 years and what we can and should be in the next 100. We provided a tremendous amount of care for children and women, but we weren’t recognized as having the credibility as experts in those fields. With children, if our mission is to ‘extend the healing ministry of Christ,’ that can’t start at 21, it has to start at zero. We also wanted to bring the same focus on women.”

“We knew Orlando needed more beds, but we didn’t want to just generically provide more capacity. We wanted to strategically focus on women throughout our network and created the promise and the brand of Florida Hospital for Women. We are learning new things about medical application for women all the time; we are looking at everything different. Women’s health isn’t about one new building or OB – it covers every medical specialty,” Silliman said.

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