Celebrating women leaders during Women's History Month: a conversation with Marie Vienneau
In celebration of Women's History Month we are honororing women leaders in healthcare. Marie Vienneau, BSN, MHA, FACHE, senior vice president, Northern Light Health, and president, Northern Light CA Dean and Mayo Hospitals, recently shared her perspective on women in leadership and her leadership journey.
Marie’s connections to rural Maine run deep. She grew up in Millinocket and East Millinocket, and her father was a millworker for 40 years. Marie was appointed CEO of Millinocket Regional Hospital in 2002 and provided steady leadership as the area’s two paper mills went bankrupt, leaving a third of the community uninsured. She joined what was then known as Mayo Regional Hospital in 2014 and added CA Dean Hospital to her leadership responsibilities when Mayo Hospital joined Northern Light Health in 2020.
1. Who inspired you to become a leader?
The first career decision I made was to become a nurse. I made that decision when I was very young, but Florence Nightingale and her work in the Crimean War inspired me. I did a report on her in seventh grade. Early in my career I was influenced by my very first nurse manager in Boston. I had two very influential leaders when I took my first leadership position. One was the hospital’s chief operating officer who had hit the glass ceiling; she was overlooked for the CEO role multiple times. I became pretty determined I would break that ceiling on her behalf, and I did!
2. Have you always wanted to be a leader?
No! When I started out, I wanted to be a nurse anesthetist (CRNA), but circumstances put me in positions that led me to leadership roles when there were voids, and I always said “yes.”
3. What do you enjoy most about leading others?
I enjoy giving people the resources to provide high quality rural healthcare and watching them excel to the benefit of our patients and community. I have always been blessed with high performing teams.
4. What are the benefits to having women in leadership?
I think that having diversity in leadership is important. That includes, but is not limited to, women. We need people of all backgrounds with many ideas to solve the very complex problems we face every day in healthcare.
5. What has been the most significant barrier in your career?
I think the most significant barrier to developing women leaders and in my own career is a culture that at first didn’t consider women capable of leadership. I was the first female CEO at two of the three organizations I have led, and it was a culture shift for them to have a capable female leader.
6. How have you built resiliency over the course of your career?
I think that I am just the type of person who is always looking for the next challenge or accomplishment. When I feel I’m getting stagnant in a role, I look for a change and a new challenge to continue to grow.
7. What advice would you give your 25-year-old self?
Make time to take care of yourself. I had a large family and a lot of competing priorities. Take the time. You’re worth it!
8. What advice would you give to the next generation of women healthcare leaders??
Healthcare has a variety of opportunities and so many varied roles. It is a very rewarding career and I recommend it. Whatever your dream is, go for it!
9. What does Women’s History Month mean to you?
Women’s History Month is a time to celebrate pioneers in many fields. There are so many interesting leaders to hear about!