An award for excellence in leadership in the health industry is a powerful two-edged sword in that it validates both the skills of that individual as well as the institution represented. In the opinion of the Chicago Health Executives Forum, Gina Sharp, who is president of Linden Oaks at Edward, is an example of that perfect combination.
On Feb. 11, Sharp, 38, was honored as one of the 2013 CHEF Award winners for the metropolitan Chicago area during its 38th meeting at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.
“For someone like myself to receive this award, its underscores for the community that we have strong leadership and that we are continuing to work to be at the leading edge in terms of what’s happening in health care reform,” Sharp said. “Hopefully this gives the public confidence about where we’re headed to meet their needs.
CHEF is the largest independent chapter of the American College of Health Executives. Its awards recognize teamwork, service, innovation, and community health leadership for those younger than 40.
Mary Lou Mastro, who serves as the president of Elmhurst Memorial Healthcare, isn’t surprised Sharp was honored with the award. The former president of Linden Oaks, who has known Sharp for 10 years, recruited her as a financial analyst.
“She is definitely a rising star, and she brings a lot of enthusiasm to her job and has a great work ethic,” Mastro said. “She has risen rapidly through the system and is creative. I think this award is a great reflection on her as well as on the organization.”
Clearly, Sharp has been recognized as a young up-and-comer who has spent almost all of her professional life working at Edward.
“I grew up in Darien and went to the University of Illinois Champaign where I got a degree in science and health administration and then got an MBA in finance from DePaul University,” Sharp said. “My first job was with Gottlieb Hospital in Melrose Park where I was an analyst for managed care for two years, and then I moved to Edward in 1999.”
Sharp continued to work as a financial analyst at Edward through 2004 and then moved to Linden Oaks as its controller. From there, she began working in operations and physicians practice where she oversaw three psychiatrists and eventually expanded the practice to 15 professionals. She oversaw the intake department and various administrative issues and was then promoted to executive director of Linden Oaks before becoming its president July 1.
Sharp said she always considered working in hospitals from an early age but that “things like blood and needles” make her a little squeamish.
“My mom worked in a hospital, and I was always around health care when I was young,” she said. “I was a little leery of being a nurse, but I liked math and accounting and numbers, and I thought that would be a good fit. You need a strong financial background to understand and improve an organization, and so I was drawn to the financial side of the organization.”
Sharp says she has taken a particular interest in the psychological end of things and has a passion for the Linden Oaks program. She said she continues to want to improve it, as well as remove the “stigma” she believes is still attached to those suffering from some sort of psychological condition.
“The facts are that today one in four Americans has some type of mental health illness, including anxiety or depression, and it’s difficult for people to come forward and even admit it, whereas no one is afraid to talk about diabetes or cancer,” she said. “It would certainly help the treatment process if we could get people to be more accepting of mental health issues.”
Sharp and her family, which includes her husband and three small children, have made Naperville their home since 2000.
“I love the community here in Naperville, as well as the culture we have here at Edward,” she said. “I value the leadership, and this is a great place to work. ”