Katie Galbraith, Lankenau Medical Center's newest president, grew up like most children with altering career aspirations before she found her path. Younger Galbraith once dreamed of becoming an actress or broadcast journalist. She eventually worked in print journalism after graduating with a journalism degree from Northwestern University outside Chicago, but soon made the career switch to healthcare.
Before joining Lankenau in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania—part of the Main Line Health system—Galbraith served as president since 2014 at Duke Regional Hospital, in Durham, North Carolina. Her healthcare career spans more than 25 years. Galbraith participated in a Q&A to discuss her interests, favorite pastimes and what inspires her.
When did you know that you wanted a career in healthcare?
When I went back to school I had to decide if I wanted to pursue a master of healthcare administration (MHA) or a master of business administration (MBA). I chose the MBA program for the flexibility because I wasn't 100% sure at that point that I wanted to stay in healthcare. It was partway through the program where I began to think beyond marketing and communications. It was at that point that I realized I actually would like to be able to continue to serve and grow in healthcare.
I'm always a little bit jealous of those who knew from the time they were three years old that they wanted to be a nurse or a doctor or be in healthcare. I always knew I wanted to help people. Healthcare at its core is people helping people and people caring for people.
How does working in healthcare inspire you?
I'm inspired by the stories I hear every day shared by this amazing team, particularly over the last 3 years and what our teams in healthcare have been through—what our world has been through.
Our team members have come back day after day and have made so many sacrifices and given so much of themselves, all because they want to care for our patients and care for our community. And that's just incredibly inspiring.
Any career milestones you're most proud of?
The milestone for me was really the building of a new behavioral health center and expansion of Duke Regional's emergency department. This multi-year $102.4 million construction project—the largest project in the history of the hospital—brought together inpatient, outpatient, emergency and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) behavioral health services on one campus designed by and for behavioral health patients. The services are now co-located to be much closer to the community, allowing for better continuity of care for patients. And we did that construction on time through COVID.
If your 10-year-old self could meet you today, what do you think she'd say?
I'd like to think that that 10-year-old girl would be humbled but impressed with where I've gone, and, again, what we have been able to accomplish.
Where are you from originally? What has it been like to live on different parts of the east coast? What are some of the similarities and differences you've experienced?
I grew up in Massachusetts on Cape Cod. I was born in Washington, D.C. and then I grew up on the Cape. I moved there when I was a year old, and then I went to school in Chicago. I spent the last 26 years in North Carolina.
The Philadelphia area is beautiful. I have never spent any time in this region and I'm so excited to be here and to be able to explore. Philadelphia is a world class city. It's got great things going on.
[As it pertains to healthcare] we're all facing similar challenges. We're all trying to do the same things. We're all trying to make a difference in our community.
The regional cuisine may be different, but people are still people and people care for each other and want to do the best.
What experiences or who molded you into the person you are today?
That's a great question. I mean, so many people—of course starting with my parents. I think I have a little bit of my mom in me and a little bit of my dad in me. My dad was very calm under pressure and great at seeing the big picture. I certainly have that in me.
I've learned from so many amazing leaders over the years, and I've probably learned even more from our frontline team members and our providers and, of course, our patients. But I've also had great mentors along the way.
Do you have a favorite personal memory that always brings you joy and puts a smile on your face?
Anytime on the beach on Cape Cod, and usually in the offseason. There's a stretch of beach near where I grew up, it's just down the street. And that's sort of our special place to go and walk as a family. When I need to decompress, that's what I think of.
When you're working, what does the day look like for you?
It's so varied and that's what I love about this. That was true in journalism too. You never knew what story was going to come in and I think in some respects, that's true in healthcare.
Things come up during the day and you just never know where you're going to be needed. I spend a lot of time in meetings. Unfortunately, these days, I spend a lot of time in virtual meetings. I'd much rather be in person. I try to get out as much as I can. I don't get to do that every day, but I try to at least get out a little bit into the halls every day to see our team members, thank them and recognize them. I like to hear what's going well and where we still have opportunities to improve.
If you weren't in healthcare, what other work would you be doing?
Probably a writer of some sort. Or working for Disney. I worked as a studio guide for Universal Studios shortly after college, and it was a blast, but I always wanted to work with the Mouse.
What's on your travel bucket list?
I think Italy is on everyone's bucket list at some point. Iceland and Ireland were on my bucket list and we've been able to get to both of those—both were amazing.
Finish this sentence: A talent I wish I had is…
Singing. I wish I could sing.