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From Nurse to CEO

From Nurse to CEO. Susan Currin, CEO, San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center. Photo courtesy of SFGH.Susan Currin, CEO, San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center. Photo courtesy of SFGH.

For Susan Currin (B.S., ’78), a tragedy also held seeds for the future. When she was 12, her father was shot during a workplace robbery. "My mother was Japanese and didn’t speak a lot of English," says Currin. "There was a nurse in the ICU who really took care of us and prepared us for my father’s death."

Inspired by the care her family received, Currin decided to pursue a nursinsg career. She chose San Francisco State because it developed "nurse leaders" who see their work as a profession, not just a job. "San Francisco State had a fantastic program," says Currin. "It was really the foundation of everything I’ve done in my career in nursing."

In addition to the hands-on training in the learning lab, clinical rotations at nearly every hospital in San Francisco, and training in public health nursing at the Silver Avenue Health Center, Currin learned leadership skills. That experience prepared her to effectively manage people with decades of technical expertise. "It’s not bossing them around," she says. "It’s asking them, ‘What do you need?’ and getting those resources for them. It taught me how to bring people together as a team to get things done."

Currin became a staff nurse at San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center (SFGH), mostly caring for burn patients. Over the next three decades, she earned her master’s degree from the University of California, San Francisco and was promoted many times. In 2009, she was appointed CEO of SFGH by Mitchell Katz, M.D., head of the Department of Public Health for the City and County of San Francisco. "Sue is a mission-driven professional," says Katz. "She successfully brings people together to solve difficult problems."

Among other achievements, she has led development of a ward specially designed for the needs of older hospitalized patients, as well as a palliative care program tailored to vulnerable populations.

Currin also included doctors, nurses, social workers, dieticians and others in designing a new, seismically safe hospital building which is currently under construction. Patient rooms will be arranged in an easily visible circle around nurses’ stations, and each room will have a handrail leading from the bed to the bathroom to reduce patient falls. "Because I’m a nurse, I wanted caregivers to do the design with the architects," says Currin. "It’s very patient-centered, and it’s going to be great."

In addition to operating the city’s only level 1 trauma center, SFGH is the major health care provider for uninsured San Franciscans. "I really believe that health care is a right, not a privilege," says Currin. "It doesn’t matter who they are, or where they come from. Everybody has a right to health care --hopefully in my lifetime."

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