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Exceptional citizens

Susanna Speier //May 1, 2011//

Exceptional citizens

Susanna Speier //May 1, 2011//

Athena Award finalists are women who have spent the better part of their lives not only building careers and often families, but building communities.
This year’s honorees exemplify the spirit of career ambition and social responsibility that is synonymous with the award, presented annually by the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce.

Nominations for the Athena Award are submitted by the Colorado business community, and a panel of business and community leaders selects the finalists.

We think you’ll enjoy learning about the paths this year’s honorees took to reach this point as career women and as citizens. A case in point: Athena Award recipient Mimi Roberson spent 11 years as an attorney specializing in medical malpractice arbitration in Louisiana and at the same time seeking opportunities to volunteer, ultimately becoming chairwoman of a hospital board in Lafayette, La.

Roberson, president and CEO of Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center and Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children, is profiled on the following pages.
Also profiled along with her are this year’s four other finalists: Dr. Jandel Allen-Davis, vice president of government and external relations for Kaiser Permanente Colorado; Marcia Benshoof, president of IMA of Colorado; Barbara Brohl, corporate counsel for CenturyLink (formerly Qwest); and Kristin Russell, secretary of technology an chief information officer for the state of Colorado.


Athena award winner
Mimi Roberson
Hospital CEO began as medical-
malpractice attorney

As president and CEO of Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center and Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children, Mimi Roberson oversees 1,800 employees, including 80 managers and directors.

“There are thousands of people whose dream it is to be CEO of a hospital, and they’ll spend 15 or 20 years working toward being given that chance,” Roberson says.

Yet Roberson didn’t start her career as one of those hopeful thousands. A practicing attorney for 11 years, she specialized in medical malpractice arbitration in Louisiana. Her involvement with the local chamber of commerce and pursuit of volunteer opportunities started her on the path to becoming a hospital CEO.

Initially a volunteer board member at Women’s & Children’s Hospital and Medical Center of Southwest in Lafayette, La., Roberson later was tabbed as volunteer chairwoman. And when the president and CEO position was offered to her, she accepted.

Thus Roberson says, “I entered the industry without the intent of entering it.” While the opportunity may have come as a surprise, the career achievement was hardly due to chance.

“I’m a very goal-oriented person,” she says, looking back on her early law career in Louisiana. As a solo practitioner and mother – she and husband Ed have four children – volunteer projects had to matter “personally and professionally,” she says.

“That’s a rule for any woman wishing to be involved in any industry,” she says. “Everything you choose to do should matter.”

Roberson, who assumed her role at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center and Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children in 2000, attributes her career success to the trust bestowed upon her by colleagues.

“Don’t undermine yourself if others recognize a skill set you yourself didn’t recognize,” she advises. “Accept that gift of trust. Believe in yourself and move forward. It’s people recognizing that you have competencies and passion.”

The Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce is one of many chambers she has enjoyed being a part of.

“Commit to these organizations,” she says, “because (in doing so) you are surrounded by talented and nice people. The best and most important relationships I’ve had are with friends that I’ve met through chambers.”

Although Roberson finds that the health-care industry now has a relatively even male/female ratio, she says the gender imbalance of some chamber boards is another reason why women chambers are important.

With a demanding daily schedule that sometimes begins as early as 4 a.m., Roberson strives to remain accessible to those who need her.
“It’s about responding,” she says. “And if you can’t respond, it’s about responding that you couldn’t. You don’t want something going into a void. If someone needs to ask (for help), you need to respond. It’s not rocket science.”

Roberson stresses that “common courtesy, common sense and respect” are fundamental tenets of her position.
“Any time someone confides in me that they need help, that, in and of itself, is reason to do it,” Roberson says. “The goal is to help them. That’s what philanthropy is about. You always answer.”{pagebreak:Page 1}